Miss Gertrude Bell called last Sunday, & we showed her all of our finds, and she told us all hers. We parted with mutual expressions of esteem: but she told Thompson his ideas of digging were prehistoric: and so we had to squash her with a display of erudition. She was taken (in 5 minutes) over Byzantine, Crusader, Roman, Hittite, & French architecture (my part) and over Greek folk-lore, Assyrian architecture, & Mesopotamian Ethnology (by Thompson); Prehistoric pottery & telephoto lenses, Bronze Age metal technique, Meredith, Anatole France, and the Octobrists (by me): the Young Turk movement, the construct state in Arabic, the price of riding camels, Assyrian burial-customs, and German methods of excavation with the Baghdad railway (by Thompson). This was a kind of hors d’oeuvre: and when it was over (she was getting more respectful) we settled down each to seven or eight subjects & questioned her upon them. She was quite glad to have tea after an hour and a half, & on going 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 possibly have been got: she particularly admired the completeness of our note-books.
So we did for her. She was really too captious at first, coming straight from the German diggings at Kala’at Shirgat, where they lay down gravel paths wherever they want to prove an ancient floor, & where they pile up their loose stones into walls of palaces. Our digs are I hope more accurate, if less perfect. They involve no ‘reconstruction,’ which ruin all these Teutons. So we showed her that, & left her limp, but impressed. She is pleasant, about 36 [she was 43], not beautiful, (except with a veil on, perhaps). It would have been most annoying if she had denounced our methods in print. I don’t think she will.
-T.E. Lawrence to his mother, May 1911. This was written while he was in Carchemish on an archaeological dig with D.G. Hogarth and Leonard Woolley.
The photo shows T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell in Egypt, much later (I think 1919). One would hope his opinion of her had improved by that time. I am interested to see how this sort of interaction will be handled (if at all) in the upcoming Werner Herzog film.