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Perspective: Janet Wallach on Bell meeting Lawrence at the Cairo Conference

Excerpt from Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell; Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia, 1996.

“Gertrude stood in her striped silk dress and silver fox boa, looking out from beneath her flowered hat, and in the hall of the familiar Cairo train station she spotted her old chum Lawrence, come to meet them. With the huge success of Lowell Thomas’s lectures and the publication of Thomas’s book Lawrence of Arabia, T.E.L. had become world famous; for the first time since they met he was more well known than Gertrude. ‘Dear Boy,’ she cried out, extending her gloved hand to the shy and awkward fellow. ‘Gertie,’ he greeted her and looked around. ‘Every one Middle East is here,’ he said… .

During the 1920 uprising in Mesopotamia and the debate over the cost of the mandate, Lawrence had written letters to the British press, sometimes praising more often condemning the work of the civil administration in Baghdad. ‘I’m largely in agreement,’ Gertrude had written back to him at first. But as the weeks worn on, his criticism grew more hostile. …Gertrude responded angrily, rightly describing his ideas as ‘tosh’ and ‘pure nonsense.’ Now the pair enjoyed a ‘private laugh over two of her letters, one Lawrence explained ‘describing me as an angel and the other accusing me of being possessed by the devil.’’”

 

(Note: Lowell Thomas’ book, With Lawrence in Arabia, was published in 1924, three years after the Cairo Conference. —Editor)