Letters

11 March 1902

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

[11 March 1902] Burnabat [Bornova]. Tuesday 11 Dearest Mother. These are most delightful people. Helen Whittall, the girl I met in the train, came to fetch me at 11 and we journeyed up here together. I went at the station to see M. Gaudin and thank him for all his kindness; we arranged also that I was to come and see his museum on Sunday afternoon. Then there was Mr Hatton to shake most warmly by the hand, dear old thing. Mr Whittall joined us and there were also troops of cousins, for they all live out here. The house is a great big place, with high enormous rooms, set in a garden 200 years old across which a line of splendid cypresses runs. The old mother of the tribe, Mr Whittall's mother, lives here, a very old woman who kissed me when I came in. We lunched, after which we walked about in the garden gathering bunches of roses and violets. Mrs Herbert Whittall is a very nice sweet woman, and the girl Helen a dear. It was a stormy day with sudden bursts of rain and bright sun between so we did nothing more until we had had a cheerful schoolroom tea, after which Mr and Mrs Whittall and I went to see a brother of his, Mr Edward Whittall, who is a great botanist and has a most lovely garden. He collects bulbs and sends new varieties to Kew and is well known among gardeners - an interesting man too, for he is the Vali's right hand and is consulted by him on all matters, a thing unknown before they say. But these people get on with the Turks. The old Sultan, uncle of 'Abd ul Hamed stayed in this house; it is the only private house which has received a Sultan. We found Mr E. Whittall tying up his pelargoniums; he took us all round his garden and then out into a big garden above the village where he grows bulbs for the European market and makes experiments with them. There were ranks and ranks of narcissus and daffodils and hyacinths flowering and we came away with a bundle of them. We had a long talk about irises and daffodils and next Tuesday I am to come back here and go with him to the top of a mountain where he has his hill garden for wild bulbs. I think it will be enchanting. That means that I shall leave by the Wednesday boat next week. In the dining room here are all the family portraits, bad as pictures, but most interesting as types. On one side the grandfather of Mr Whittall who was the first to come out, a stern old man in a stock, and all his sons and grandsons flanking him. On the other side his wife, a Venetian, one of those Venetians who lived in Constantinople [Istanbul] and were driven out by the Turks and settled first in Crete [Kriti], then in Athens [Athinai], then here; and her mother who was an Italian, a Capo d'Istria, both women wearing a semi Oriental costume; and their men folk in 18th century clothes.



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