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Gertrude Bell

  • All the earth is seamed with roads, and all the sea is furrowed with the tracks of ships, and over all the roads and all the waters a continuous stream of people passes up and down — traveling, as they say, for their pleasure. What is it, I wonder, that they go out to see?

  • There is nothing more difficult to measure than the value of visible emotion.

  • The most degrading of human passions is the fear of death. It tears away the restraints and the conventions which alone make social life possible to man; it reveals the brute in him which underlies them all. In the desperate hand-to-hand struggle for life there is no element of nobility. He who is engaged upon it throws aside honor, he throws aside self-respect, he throws aside all that would make victory worth having — he asks for nothing but bare life.

  • ... at times they are good and quiet company, the dead; they will not interrupt your musings, but when they speak, whether they be Jews or Turks or heathens, they will speak in a tongue all can understand. there are even countries where the moving, breathing people are less intelligible, dwell in a world further apart form you, than that silent population under the earth.

  • I have fallen a hopeless victim to the Turk; he is the most charming of mortals ....

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1905, in Florence Bell, ed., The Letters of Gertrude Bell, vol. 1 ()
  • It's so nice to be a spoke in the wheel, one that helps to turn, not one that hinders.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1916, in Florence Bell, ed., The Letters of Gertrude Bell, vol. 1 ()
  • I've been busy with a long memorandum about the whole of our central Arabian relations, which I've just finished. It will now go to all the High and Mighty in every part. One can't do much more than sit and record if one is of my sex, devil take it; one can get the things recorded in the right way and that means, I hope, that unconsciously people will judge events as you think they ought to be judged. But it's small change for doing things, very small change I feel at times.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1916, in Florence Bell, ed., The Letters of Gertrude Bell, vol. 1 ()
  • To wake in that desert dawn was like waking in the heart of an opal. ... See the desert on a fine morning and die — if you can!

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • in Janet E. Courtney, An Oxford Portrait Gallery ()
  • I will have no locked cupboards in my life.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • in Janet E. Courtney, An Oxford Portrait Gallery ()
  • I wonder why you care so much about me — no, I don't wonder. I only accept it as the thing at the back of all one's life that makes everything bearable and possible. But it is a singular thing to be sure.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1892, in Elsa Richmond, ed., The Earlier Letters of Gertrude Bell ()
  • [Horseback riding with Henry Cadogan, whom she loved:] Life seized us and inspired us with a mad sense of revelry. The humming wind and the teeming earth shouted 'Life! Life!' as we rode. Life! life! the bountiful, the magnificent! Age was far from us ... For us the wide plain and the limitless world, for us the beauty and the freshness of the morning!

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • letter, 1892, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [When her White Paper on Iraq was submitted to both houses of Parliament:] The general line taken by the press seems to be that it's most remarkable that a dog should be able to stand up on its hind legs — i.e. a female write a white paper. I hope they'll drop that source of wonder and pay attention to the report itself.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1921, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [On Lawrence of Arabia:] An interesting boy, he will make a traveller.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1911, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [On the desert:] Abandoned of God and man, that it how it looks. No one can travel here and come back the same. It sets its seal upon you, for good or ill.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1914, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • The world is full of camels. ... They drift across our path in thousands, grazing. It is like some immense slow river, hours wide.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1911, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [On the establishment/unification of Iraq:] Oh, if we can pull this thing off; rope together the young hotheads and the Shiah obscurantists, enthusiasts, polished old statesmen and scholars — if we can make them work together and find their own salvation for themselves, what a fine thing it would be. I see visions and dream dreams.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • letter, 1920, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • I propose to assume ... that if, in disposing of the question of the future administration of Iraq, we allow ourselves to be influenced by any consideration whatsoever other than the well being of the country itself and its people we shall be guilty of a shameless act of deliberate dishonesty rendered the more heinous and contemptible by our reiterated declarations of disinterested solicitude for the peoples concerned.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • I think we're on the edge of a pretty considerable Arab nationalist demonstration with which I'm a good deal in sympathy. ... if we leave this country to go to the dogs ... we shall have to reconsider our whole position in Asia. If Mesopotamia goes, Persia goes inevitably, and then India. And the place which we leave empty will be occupied by seven devils a good deal worse than any which existed before we came.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1920, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • Until quite recently I've been wholly cut off from them [the Shias] because their tenets forbid them to look upon an unveiled woman and my tenets don't permit me to veil.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1920, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [Working on unifying Iraq:] The credit of European civilization is gone ... How can we, who have managed our own affairs so badly, claim to teach others to manage theirs better?

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1921, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()
  • [In the desert:] On this we shook hands warmly — you can't shake hands anything but warmly when the temperature is 115.

    • Gertrude Bell,
    • 1920, in Georgina Howell, Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations ()

Gertrude Bell, English traveler, political figure

(1868 - 1926)

Full name: Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell.