[an error occurred while processing this directive] Oriental Institute | Pioneers to the Past | S.S. "Mantua"
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S.S. "Mantua"

June 19, 1920

The chair difficulty was easily settled for the captain came along and asked me how I was faring, so I took occasion to tell him I had no chair. He took me at once up on the bridge and asked me to select one of his. A sailor has now marked it as told by the captain, and placed it beside Lady Allenby’s. I don’t occupy it much, for I find in looking over my affairs that my ten days’ loafing was pretty much a dream. I have a lot of unfulfilled obligations to take care of. I promised the Civil Commissioner at Baghdad to hand him a complete plan for the organization of a Mesopotamian Department of Antiquities. What is more, if I could put my hand on young Americans of the right experience, I could also man the organization for him, and he would be very glad to get them, for there are no English Assyriologists. Garstang quite truly said to me at Jerusalem, “English Assyriology is practically non-existent”. I hope to make a draft of the plan today and get it copied, with a carbon or two, before we arrive in England.

I shall have an opportunity to mail this at Marseilles; but I shall trust nothing more than a card or two to the French mails. I have been so busy recording for you my own doings that I have neglected to tell you that I received with great joy a bundle of home letters, I believe of May 19 and 23 (they are now filed away in my big trunk). There I learn of your telephone conversation with President Judson, telling him I came round to Beyrut in an oil-tanker! That shows me that the French suppressed my full cablegram stating that we had crossed the Arab State. If they did that, it is highly probable that they got my full journal letter also. It was packed with information of value to them. I supposed war censorship had been entirely removed; moreover I had the journal registered with the daily mail of the American College. Perhaps I am all wrong, and you may have read the whole thing long ago; but all the English commanders tell me there was a very tight secret censorship by the French, and they all have no doubt the French have seized my letter. It fills me with indignation when I recall all their official assurances of every help and assistance, — assurances which General Gouraud their High Commissioner reiterated most cordially, when perhaps he had just been reading my record and profiting by the information! Allenby thinks I can recover it. “But,” he added, “as you are an American citizen, that is a matter into which I cannot mix.” You see there was nothing in the journal that could possibly injure French interests; but there was much in it which was of value to them, and if they have taken it, it is not from fear of any damage to their cause, but solely in order to secure, by fair means or foul, any information that may prove useful, even if they steal it from the scientific notes of a traveling orientalist, whom they have pledged themselves to aid! Well, they are welcome to a copy if they will return it all to me when they have finished with it, but it is extremely vexatious to me to be uncertain whether you have received any account of our extraordinary journey from Baghdad to the Mediterranean right across the new Arab State, — the first non-Moslems to cross it since its proclamation. The topographical notes which I made for historical purposes I can never reproduce nor can I ever restore the daily atmosphere and the thousand and one details of our progress written from hour to hour amid the changing moods of river and desert and Arabs as we slowly traversed the vast Arab wilderness that lies between Baghdad and the Western Sea, — a unique pilgrimage of twenty days! When I have cabled you the name of my Atlantic steamer from England to America, and you have found out the day of her arrival, do telegraph me at the ship, and let me know whether you have received the journal letter or not.

I hope the Foreign Office has succeeded in getting me an early passage home from England, for of course there is unprecedented congestion on the Atlantic. His Majesty’s Government is all-powerful in such arrangements. Wiggin came over to me at the steps of the special train and said, “You may be interested to know that a wretched Judge of the High Court came into the Residency just as I was leaving and asked for a berth to England; but I had to tell him there was absolutely no vacancy until August. You really are very lucky, you know!” I only hope things will work with equal efficiency when I reach England. I have terribly cold feet. I have been reading Mr. Britling. If I had any wreckage of idealistic hopes left in me when I left America, the spectacle of the Great Powers plotting against each other in the Near East has quite cured me of it. That reminds me that I ought to see Wells in England; I ought also to see Dr. Hogarth, the Director of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford and discuss the future of scientific work in Mesopotamia; I ought to see Sir Denison Ross, the Director of the new British School of Oriental Languages in London; I must of course see Gardiner and I am due to go to Liverpool to see what part of their museum the university there is willing to sell. If the Foreign Office secures me an early passage, I shall be hopping some to put all this through.

For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!

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