BRACERS Record Detail for 131590

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Collection code
Recent acquisition no.
Source if not BR
Bodleian Library, Murray Papers
Murray, Gilbert
Rinder, Gladys
BR via
Form of letter
Notes, topics or text

BR's views on his immediate future after release from Brixton seem to be reported directly at several spots throughout the letter. The text is therefore to be found in the Transcription field. The handwritten copy is prefaced: "W.G.R. → GM".


Letter 65
BRACERS 131590. AL(C), McMaster; original, Bodleian
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19342; next letter, BRACERS 18685
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1

BR is most anxious to know whether you found it possible to take any steps about his being called up.2 He said something about a “list”3 and particularly asked me to see you about it. I called at the B of E,4 only to hear you were away, and then Mr. Philip Morrell undertook to see you about both that, Geddes and the suggested Fellowship. I had intended to wait until I heard from him, but in the meantime B.R. has sent me <an> urgent message to ascertain your opinion, or rather get your advice before this weekend, when I go to stay with Lord and Lady Russell at Telegraph House Chichester, as he wants me to talk things over with Lord R. You will have heard that the restricted area order has been removed, and that B.R. is not to be allowed out till Oct. 2nd (Ld R. had this last week from Sir G. Cave)5 also that some time ago BR was ordered to present himself for medical examination.6 He is now very depressed about these three things and thinks they will call him up at once. Do you think the suggested Fellowship would help with Geddes, also is there, in your opinion, anything that should be done privately apart from your efforts? I know several people who are anxious to help him but it is so easy to make a false move, BR said he hoped we should be guided by you. — He has for some weeks found it impossible to work in prison, the atmosphere is not stimulating “makes it difficult to retain mental vigour”,7 and it seems almost impossible to obtain the philosophical books he needs.

  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from a handwritten transcription in the Russell Archives of the original in the Murray papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  • 2

    take any steps about his being called up I.e., towards implementation of the fellowship plan.

  • 3

    a “list” Having learned, even before the appeal of his conviction, that the upper-age limit for conscripts would be raised, BR discussed with Clifford Allen what “measures” to take if he was called up (see Letter 24). Immediately afterwards BR reminded Gilbert Murray that he “could not conscientiously accept alternative service. But if the Tribunal chose to recognize my work in philosophy as of national importance (!) I could simply go on doing it, and avoid prison without compromise”. To this end, he thought that “testimonials from eminent men, philosophers and others, to the effect that I ought to be allowed to do philosophy, would be necessary” (2 April 1918, SLBR 2: 142). The envelope containing this letter shows in Murray’s hand a list, dated 12 April, of sixteen such people, three of whom (Bernard Bosanquet, Herbert Wildon Carr, and James Ward) eventually appeared on an appeal for funds that was circulated shortly after BR’s release from Brixton in September. Perhaps BR, in mid-August, wished to remind Murray of some preliminary steps already taken towards fulfillment of a key part of the “suggested Fellowship”. But it was also possible that BR wanted his name added to a quite different list. Early in August Gladys Rinder informed BR that Max Plowman, an officer who had resigned his commission to become a C.O. and was then conscripted into the ranks, would not have his claim for absolute exemption challenged. Army psychologist W.H.R. Rivers had told her that the “War Office didn’t at all wish to call up people about whom fuss would be made.” It is not hard to imagine the “fuss” over an ex-officer who had already served his country or, for that matter, over a distinguished philosopher and mathematician who was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the brother of an earl. So perhaps BR hoped that Murray would exert influence in this direction, as he had tentatively suggested already: “The easiest way from the point of view of the Government,” BR wrote in his letter of 2 April (SLBR 2: 142), “might be if the Nat. Service Representative were instructed not to object to exemption in my case. Then there would be no need of a fuss.... This is a question of pulling strings”, he admitted, but then “pulling strings” had helped secure BR’s status as a first-division prisoner. On 8 August Rinder reported to BR her failure to establish contact with Murray and that, therefore, she had not yet asked “what he was doing about getting your name on that list” (BRACERS 79624).

  • 4

    the B of E I.e., the Board of Education, in Whitehall, where Murray had been working part-time since early 1917 as principal assistant secretary to the university branch and (more informally) as an advisor to the minister, his old Oxford friend H.A.L. Fisher (see Duncan Wilson, Gilbert Murray OM, 1866–1957 [Oxford: Clarendon P. 1987], pp. 230–1).

  • 5

    Ld R. had this last week from Sir G. Cave In a letter to Frank Russell of 5 August 1918 (BRACERS 57178), the Conservative Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, turned down Frank’s request of 29 July (BRACERS 57181) for an early August release date but indicated that BR, because of his “good conduct and industry”, would be eligible for release at the end of five months, one month short of the six-months’ sentence.

  • 6

    ordered to present himself for medical examination It is not known when BR received this notice, but he had foreseen it in writing to Ottoline about the anguish it would cause him: “This is not against my conscience, but it is against N.C.F. etiquette, and I shall lose the friendship and respect of that whole set, including C.A., if I am medically examined” (Letter 40).

  • 7

    mental vigour BR had told Rinder in Letter 60: “it is very difficult to preserve any initiative or mental vigour under the circumstances”.

Transcription Public Access
Record no.
Record created
Dec 18, 2017
Record last modified
Jul 01, 2023
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