BELL, Gertrude. The Letters, edited by Florence Bell, London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1927. 2 volumes, 8°, half-tone frontispieces after E.J. Poynter and J.S. Sargent, 29 half-tone plates, 2 maps, one folding (light spotting, a few pages marked), original green cloth, the spines lettered in gilt (spines faded, light wear to extremities, hinges cracked). Provenance: Charlotte Shaw (cf. M. Browne (ed.) Letters of T.E. Lawrence (London: 1988), p.352; sent to:) -- T.E. Lawrence (pencilled initials 'TES', and numerous pencilled annotations) -- Flight Sergeant Sidney Charles Ellis (inscription 'S.C.E. from TES. Karachi 12.5.28.' on front free endpaper; loosely-inserted photocopy of Ministry of Defence note confirming that Ellis was stationed in Karachi from 1927 to 1929) -- sale, Sotheby's London, 14 December 1989, lot 147. FIRST EDITION. O'Brien F0073.
LAWRENCE'S ANNOTATED COPY OF BELL'S LETTERS. Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) and Lawrence had first met at Carchemish in 1911, when she had visited the excavation. By this time Bell was already a well-known figure: at 19 she became the first woman to achieve the required standard for a first-class degree in History at Oxford (although as a woman she could not be awarded the degree); she had become a noted mountaineer; had mastered Persian and published a verse translation of the Poems of the Divan of Hafiz; taught herself the techniques of archeology and (with Sir W.M. Ramsay) explored the Hittite and Byzantine site of Bin-birkilisse near Isaura; and travelled widely in the Middle East, publishing the accounts The Desert and the Sown and Amurath to Amurath in 1907 and 1911 respectively.
Lawrence described this first meeting in a letter to his mother -- Bell and he discussed 'Byzantine, Crusader, Roman, Hittite, and French architecture [...] Prehistoric pottery & telephoto lenses, Bronze Age metal technique, Meredith, Anatole France and the Octobrists', and Bell 'told Thompson that he had done wonders in his digging in the time, and that she thought we had got everything out of the place that could possible be got: she particularly admired the completeness of our note-books' (M. Brown op. cit., pp.36-7). Bell, in turn, wrote to her stepmother Florence Bell that she had visited Carchemish 'and found Mr. Thompson and a young man called Lawrence (he is going to make a traveller) who had for some time been expecting that I would appear. They showed me their diggings and their finds and I spent a pleasant day with them' (pp.305-306). During the war, she did much important work in the fields of military intelligence, politics and diplomacy in Persia for the Government, and, like Lawrence, argued strongly for Arab independance at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
Following the war, Bell played a large part in the formation of the new country of Iraq, pursuing these new aims with her accustomed energy. However, the rigours of her life had diminished her strength, and she died during the the night of 11-12 July 1926 in Bagdad. By this time, Lawrence was stationed in Karachi, and was unaware of Bell's death, until the forthcoming volumes of her Letters was announced, which presumably prompted him to ask Charlotte Shaw to send the present copy, probably in October 1927, when he mentions them in a letter to her (M. Brown op. cit., p.350). In a letter of condolence to Bell's father, Sir Hugh Bell, Lawrence wrote: 'Her letters are exactly herself -- eager, interested, almost excited, always about her company and the day's events [...] I don't think I ever met anyone more entirely civilised, in the sense of her width of intellectual sympathy. And she was exciting too, for you never knew how far she would leap out in any direction, under the stimulus of some powerful expert who had engaged her mind in his direction' (M. Brown op. cit., p.353).
Lawrence's extensive pencilled annotations are generally amendments to transliterations of personal and place names, but do also include corrections of some of the more curious transcriptions: for example, the amendment of 'German Ryl' to 'German Railway' (p.252), or 'Army Reuter Orders' to 'Army ?Routine Orders'. (2)