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We have therefore in dealing with them to content ourselves with transliterations, some of which in words more or less frequently used in English have become translations, such as 'Koran,' 'kavass,' etc. She also loved her country life, in which her occupations included an absorbing amount of gardening, fox hunting--she was a bold rider to hounds--interesting herself in the people at her father's ironworks, and in her country village, making friends in every direction. She was a good deal younger than her two brothers and Gertrude, but as she grew up she was always one of Gertrude's chosen friends and companions. When Gertrude was fifteen and Maurice had gone to school, she went, first as a day scholar and afterwards as a boarder, to Queen's College in Harley Street, where a friend of her mother's, Camilla Croudace, had just been made Lady Resident. Her journeys in Arabia and her achievements in Iraq have passed into history. RED BARNS, November 25th, 1889 My gown came from Kerswell this morning-charming I am so glad I did not have a black one. The reason Sheikh Muhammad wants to travel with me is that he is anxious to have the extra protection of my three soldiers--he has two of his own--fearing a raid of Arabs on his camels on the way to Karyatein.
But even these words (there are many others, but I take these two as an example) which have almost become a part of the English language are now spelt differently by experts, and at first sight it is difficult to recognise them in 'Quran' and 'qawas'--which latter form is I believe in accordance with the standardised spelling now being officially introduced in Bagdad. Hogarth, Elizabeth Robins, and Major General Sir Percy Cox, who has had the kindness to read and correct many of the Proofs. And when she was wandering far afield (her wanderings began very early--she went to Roumania when she was twenty-two and to Persia when she was twenty-three) she was always ready to take up her urban or country life at home on her return with the same zest as before, carrying with her, wherever she was, her ardent zest for knowledge, turning the flashlight of her eagerness on to one field of the mind after another and making it her own, reading, assimilating, discussing until the years found her ranged on equal terms beside some of the foremost scholars of her time. Gertrude lived at first at 95 Sloane Street with my mother Lady Olliffe, who took her and Maurice to her heart as if they had been grandchildren of her own. I need only recall the bright promise of her college days, when the vivid, rather untidy, auburn-haired girl of seventeen first came amongst us and took our hearts by storm with her brilliant talk and her youthful confidence in her self and her belongings. Billy [Lascelles] and I sat in the garden and had a long talk so long that he only left himself a quarter of an hour to catch his train. He wanted to take me with him to Paddington and send me back in a hansom, don't be afraid, I didn't go-What would have happened if I had, it was ten o'clock! I had a delightful dancing lesson, learnt two more parts of the sword dance, began the minuet. I think it's great sport; I'm not sorry to be able to do a good turn to an Agail, and he and his Bagdadis are very interesting to talk to, with their dragoman on the box and their mules following behind the crowds of tents.
In the letters contained in this book there will be found many Eastern names, both of people and places, difficult to handle for those, like myself, not conversant with Arabic. They foreshadow the pictures given in her subsequent family letters of her gradual development on all sides through the years, garnering as she went the almost incredible variety of experiences which culminated and ended in Bagdad. Then after their father's second marriage the two Lascelles boys came into the circle as intimates and cousins, the sons of my sister Mary spoken of in the letters as Auntie Mary, wife of Sir Frank Lascelles. I found them breakfasting on dates,-camels' milk and the bitter black coffee of the Arabs--a peerless drink.
Gertrude was eight when her father and I were married. Her letters often recount what she was doing with her two little sisters who adored her. Some letters are here given that she wrote between 18 during the time spent in England in one of our two homes either in London in the house shared with my mother or at Redcar, where we lived until 1904. It was a wild looking party that was gathered round the coffee pot.
She was a child of spirit and initiative, as may be imagined. These letters are mostly about every day happenings, always lifted into something new and exciting by Gertrude's youthful zest. There's lots of negro blood in them, owing, I think, to their having negro slaves, one of whom was with them.
The same applies to the name 'Teheran' which is now always spelt 'Tehran' but of which I have preserved the former spelling. My own interpolations, inserted where required as links or elucidations, are indicated by being enclosed in square brackets [ ] and by being "indented," i.e., printed in a shorter line than the text of the letters. at the top of a letter means that it is addressed to Gertrude's father, and the heading F. But her letters show how unbreakable to the last was the bond between her and her home, and above all between her and her father. She was, I have since been told, one of the first young women at Oxford to wear brown shoes, of which she set the fashion among her contemporaries. Arthur Hassall of Christchurch, Oxford, who knew her well, records the following incident of Gertrude's 'viva voce.' I quote from his letter: "S. Gardiner, the famous historian of the times of James I and Charles I, began to 'viva voce' Miss Bell. Wakeman) to continue the 'viva voce.'" The result of the whole examination however did her so much credit that she may perhaps be forgiven this lapse into unparalleled audacity. Arthur Hassall also writes: "Gertrude went to the four balls given at Commemoration that week, of which the last was the night before her 'viva voce,' and danced all the evening looking brilliantly happy." She also writes: "she was the only girl I have ever known who took her work for the schools and her examination in a gay way." After the happy culmination of her two years at oxford she rejoined her family in London and then at Redcar. It's so hot this morning, I went into the gardens to be cool, but presently came the babies who announced that they were barons and that they intended to rob me. I started without them--a fatal step, as you will see.
The formulae beginning and ending the letters have been mostly omitted, to save space and to avoid repetition. The abiding influence in Gertrude's life from the time she was a little child was her relation to her father. She replied to his first question 'I am afraid I must differ from your estimate of Charles I.' This so horrified Professor Gardiner that he at once asked the examiner who sat next to him (I think it was Mr. My sister-Sir Frank Lascelles being at that time Minister--at Bucharest--begged me to send Gertrude to stay with them for the winter, after the return from Oxford, opining that frequenting foreign diplomatic Society might be a help for Gertrude "to get rid of her Oxfordy manner." My sister was very fond of Gertrude, whom she called her niece and treated like a daughter: they were the greatest friends. I was rather surprised at their taking this view of the functions of the aristocracy, till I found that they had just been learning the reign of Stephen. The Agail were off half an hour before, the good Sheikh Muhammad having put two water skins for me on his camel.
Full of daring, she used to lead her little brother, whose tender years were ill equipped for so much enterprise, into the most perilous adventures, such as commanding him, to his terror, to follow her example in jumping from the top of a garden wall nine feet high to the ground. Some of these early letters are to her parents, others of which fragmentary extracts are given, are to Flora Russell who remained her intimate friend all her life. They intermarry a great deal with these slaves and the son of a slave woman is as good as another.
She used to alight on her feet, he very seldom did. Flora was the elder daughter of Lord and Lady Arthur Russell, who lived in Audley Square. Sheikh Muhammad went to and fro, superintending the cooking and bringing food for us all.
I had a great Chase all over the hall and dining room to catch her and bring her to Papa. As Auntie Ada let Mopsa go down she hissed at Kitty and hunted her round to my side of the table. I send you my love and to Granmama and Auntie Florence. [At the time that the above letter was written, the two children were living with their father at Redcar on the Yorkshire coast. At Redcar she shouldered the housekeeping and also various activities among the women at the ironworks, Clarence, Often mentioned, being Bell Bros. Her letters of this time give a picture of her relation to the Younger children-her step-brother and her two Step-sisters, Hugo, Elsa and Molly. It is so heavenly here with all the things coming out and the grass growing long. Nothing but bread and dates and milk and coffee, and little enough of that.
Please Papa says will you ask Auntie Florence if she will order us some honey like her own. His unmarried sister, Ada Bell, was then living with them. Hugo was ten years Younger than Gertrude, Elsa eleven years younger, Molly thirteen years. The little girls spent all day with Hunt [their nurse] at her brother-in-laws. Molly says he was a very kind man, he gave them strawberries and cream and lots of flowers but to their surprise he had no servants though he has a conservatory! Often the bread runs short, and only dates and milk remain.
The word 'Bagdad' which used to be regarded as the English name of the town, a translation and not a transliteration, was spelt as I have given it in Gertrude's first letters long ago. Hogatth has been good enough to read the preceding pages of this Prefatory Note, and to give them his sanction. But Gertrude's keen interest in every detail concerning her home was so delightful, and present her in such a new light to many who knew her only in public that these passages have been included. Courtney gradually gave place to an increasing taste for dress, and she is remembered by more than one person who saw her during the finals of the History School appearing in different clothes every day. One suddenly finds that one had formulated some view from which it is very difficult to back out not because of one's interlocutor but because the mere fact of fitting it with words engraves it upon one's mind. The ladies of Clarence were friendly, and oh, unexpected joy ! The Agail have pitched a black tent not far from me, and stuck a lance into the ground beside it, and they are now making bread for their supper. I wish I could manage to travel on the approved lines, but the fates are against me.
It is now everywhere, even when regarded as a translation, spelt 'Baghdad' and it ought to have been so spelt in this book. He adds the following paragraph: "A more difficult question still in reproducing proper names has been raised by the vowel signs in Arabic, including that for the ain and by the diacritical points and marks which convey either nothing or a false meaning to uninstructed Western eyes." I have therefore omitted the vowel signs altogether. I am most grateful to the people who have given me counsel and help in compiling this book: Sir Valentine Chirol, Mrs. Her love for her family, for her parents, for her brothers and sisters, her joy in her home life, has always seemed to those who shared that life to be so beautiful that it is worth dwelling on by the side of more exceptional experiences, and by the side of the world-famous achievements of one whose later life especially might well have separated her in mind and sympathy as well as in person from her belongings. The parents of the candidates were admitted to the 'viva voce' part of the examination, and I have a vivid picture in my memory of Gertrude, showing no trace of nervousness sitting very upright at a table, beneath which her slender feet in neat brown shoes were crossed. Then one is reduced to the disagreeable necessity of trying even involuntarily to make the facts of one's real life fit into it thereby involving oneself in a mist of half-truths and half-falsehoods which cling about one's mind do what one will to shake them off. I had laid all my plans for coming back from Palmyra like a lady, but no! We got off rather late this morning, it was before I left Ain El Baida, and then the mules were not ready.
Those letters, varied, witty, enthralling, were a constant joy through the years to all those who read them. He gave me scales a fireplace with pans kitchen furniture. The horses drank eagerly, however, and we went on down a line of columns to the second spring which is much purer, though it, too, tastes strongly of sulphur.