Letters

12 January 1920

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

[12 January 1920] Jan 12 Baghdad Dearest Mother. First - and it clouds all other things - Reuter brings the news of Uncle Frank's death. I do grieve so much and I know you will feel as I do that there is a figure gone from our landscape, full of dignity and kindliness, which can never be replaced. When I remember how much I owed him, how many delightful experiences and how much sympathy, my heart aches with the thought that I didn't give him enough in return. I hope he was not ill long and that he did not suffer.

You say that when you open the papers the world seems tempestuous - one does not need to open the papers to realize that here. The Turks to the north of us, exasperated and embracing Bolshevik propaganda, destructive Bolshevism which is all the Turks are capable of - or the Russians either, for that matter, up to the present; the Kurds ready to anyone who holds out the hope that the massacres of Christians shall go unpunished, as in justice they should not, but we're powerless to enforce justice; the Arab Syrian state to the east of us, feeble and angry, bound to founder in financial deeps, if not in any other, and yet determined not to accept the only European help offered, namely that of France. And then Egypt, turned into a second Ireland largely by our own stupidity; and this country, which way will it go with all these agents of unrest to tempt it? I pray that the people at home may be rightly guided and realize that the only chance here is to recognize political ambitions from the first, not to try to squeeze the Arabs into our mould and have our hands forced in a year - who knows? perhaps less, the world is moving so fast - with the result that the chaos to north and east overwhelms Mesopotamia also. I wish I carried more weight. I've written to Edwin and this week I'm writing to Sir A. Hirtzel. But the truth is I'm in a minority of one in the Mesopotamian political service - or nearly - and yet I'm so sure I'm right that I would go to the stake for it - or perhaps just a little less painful form of testimony if they wish for it! But they must see, they must know at home. They can't be so blind as not to read such gigantic writing on the wall as the world at large is sitting before their eyes.

Well there! I rather wish I were at Paris this week.

I've telegraphed to Father saying I hope he'll come. I would love to show him my world here and I know if he saw if he would understand why I can't come back to England this year. If they will keep me, I must stay. I can do something, even if it is very little to preach wisdom and restraint among the young Baghdadis whose chief fault is that they are ready to take on the creation of the world tomorrow without winking and don't realize for a moment that even the creator himself made a poor job of it.

I'll go to Blanche for a month or 6 weeks in the middle of the summer.

We have no news yet who our new G.O.C. in C. is to be. It's rather a disaster at this juncture to have a new man who does not know the country, but I expect that's what it will be.

Another disaster, of a minor kind: I've broken my umbrella. It fell into the machinery of a motor launch and emerged indistinguishable from a gimlet. Would you kindly ask Mr Bodggs[?] of St James's St to let me 'ave a new one - a plain bent cane handle with an unobtrusive silver band on it. Father might bring it out. Otherwise I think it will go by post. Nothing but parcels by post ever arrive. My furniture, ordered in July, isn't here yet.

I've a delightful letter from Hugo and I'm so glad he is coming home. Dearest, much love to you. Your daughter Gertrude

By the way your big envelopes aren't strong enough vide enclosed, as it arrived.

Previous page