Laurens Seelye

Letters from Beirut


Permission granted by Kate Seelye

Much thanks to Kate Seelye for sharing with us two letters written by her grandfather, Laurens Seelye, a professor at AUB from 1919 to 1934. The first letter of three pages tells of the visit of Prince Faisal to Beirut in 1920. The second letter of which excerpts are published here mentions the death of Howard Bliss, the President of AUB.

Dear family,

A few days ago came the word that President Bliss has died. Of course we knew during the last few weeks that he was critically ill, and everyone thought his death was all but certain, but the community, native and American, was not stirred up commensurate with the sickness as it now is with his death. The Arabic papers are saying things about “Syria’s Greatest Loss”. All through the country, up to Tripoli, in to Damascus, and down to Egypt there is the greatest sorrow. And you know from your reading of the Bible that the sorrow of the Oriental is not inarticulate. Mrs. Dale, the superintendent of the hospital (sister of Pres. Bliss), and Alice Bliss, one of the head nurses, have to be at the Dorman’s house each day to receive a multitude of calls. Some appointed member of the faculty is in the President’s office each day from three to six to receive the calls of condolence from civil, ecclesiastical, and political dignitaries and their representatives. Lest every possible group would plan memorial meetings for President Bliss the College announced that appropriate meetings would be planned, and in order to keep the number down, planned three within the next two weeks. The first is the usual Sunday service tomorrow at which there will be two or three speakers. It will be a service for the college community. A week from Sunday the students will have a service in the Assembly Hall for themselves and friends. And a week from next friday the Beirut Alumni Association will hold a public service to which something like twelve hundred invitations will be sent. This sevice, so they tell me, is likely to run for hours.


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