BRACERS Record Detail for 18686

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Collection code
Recent acquisition no.
Document no.
Box no.
Rec. Acq. 69, Box No. 16
Source if not BR
Texas, U. of, HRC
Morrell, Ottoline
Form of letter
BR's address code (if sender)
Notes and topics

"Wed. evg." "My Dearest O.—Your letters are such a joy to me—the more you write the better pleased I shall be—I am grateful—for sympathy, and affection, and the atmosphere of friends—yes, I do find prison very difficult—I ought not, but I do."

[Continues] "Thurs."


Letter 70

BRACERS 18686. AL. Texas
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19344; next letter, BRACERS 19345
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
Wed. evg. 14.8.18.

My dearest O.

Your letters are such a joy to me — the more you write the better pleased I shall be. I am grateful — for sympathy, and affection, and the atmosphere of friends. Yes, I do find prison very difficult — I ought not, but I do. Being cut off from friends and love and talk — having no distractions, so that I think all day and am always rather tired and can only do very little work — having always to fight off an insane rage at lack of freedom which lurks waiting a chance to seize me — feeling that I had just achieved personal happiness and cannot be sure of finding it still there when I come out2 — and being quite uncertain whether I shall not have to come back to worse imprisonment till the end of the war3 — make altogether a thoroughly disagreeable situation: I can forget it when I have amusing things to read — I could forget it by work if I could work — but as it is, novels are best. I am needing novels.a The Geo. Birmingham’s have not come,4 nor Miss Wrinch’s philosophical books.5

I am so glad you and P. are taking the fellowship in hand. Now that my brother is in the country he won’t do much, and G. Murray (I am sure) is the right person for dealing with Geddes. Never mind if philosophers won’t subscribe — most of them hate me, as I have held them up to ridicule in print — plenty of others will. I am sure it will be easy to get the money, if that were all.

I am glad you have found Phil. Essays. I shouldn’t have said it was only matter — it is all MIND!6 So you are going to Swanage. If only one could begin all over again,7 and avoid the mistakes one made — but life marches on — always always fix your mind on the FUTURE, never think of the past for one half second — is the only rule of life that makes things bearable.

Real cynicism I don’t think I am falling into — a sort of fury that finds expression as cynicism, but I could never be a comfortable cynic. I grow to understand myself and others more. There is a well of fierce hate in me, which is also a well of life and energy — it would not really be good if I ceased to hate. I am just now not far from defeat — I have to summon all my reserves — and hate is among them. If I were stronger and more secure, I should not need it.

Miss Wrinch writes8 most enthusiastically about Garsington and about you. I will send you her letter when I can. From what she writes and Demos says9 I see they don’t understand the new ideas I am at. It is no wonder, as my ideas are still rather vague. I know they are very important and novel, but I can’t get expression for them yet.

I do hope the business about Geddes and calling up will be settled before I come out. I will not do one particle of work for them, but I would if necessary submit to medical examination10 — indeed I would do a great deal to be allowed to go on with philosophy. At the same time, one begins to see a possible end to the war11 — the end of next year, I should guess. But I am sure if I have another year in prison I shall never do any more original work in philosophy, though I could still write on social questions. Forgive all this self-absorption!

Please thank Lucy Silcox most warmly for her letter.12 I should love to see her on the 11th (not the 4th, which is full) — would you tell Miss Rinder in case I have no opportunity. — Quite agree about Sheppard and growth.13 Why would J.M. Murry have revelled in prison?14 What a charming person I shall be when I come out! Everything will seem so wonderful and delightful. The thing that has kept me up more than anything has been the affection that I have got — from various people. — I didn’t know Mrs Scott15 was dead. — I have only quite lately come to feel how it is worse to rob people of life than to oppress them in other ways. It is difficult for me as I have so little instinctive love of life. — Yes, I well remember the trouble over the “shocks”.16 It was when I began to realize that you were never again going off with me for the day, as we used to do before Garsington. That hurt, and made me morose. That was the whole cause. I am so thankful you are better. I will send back the Rimbaud book.17

My love, dearest O., now and always. I want to keep what we still have, and let it grow.


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from a digital scan of the unsigned, thrice-folded, single-sheet original in BR’s hand in the Morrell papers at the University of Texas at Austin. The scan was accompanied by a scan of a sheet “2”, dated “Thurs.” It was determined that this sheet belongs to Letter 102.

  • 2

    cannot be sure of finding it still there when I come out A hint of jealousy about Colette, resulting from her “wretched scrap” of a letter received that day (see Letter 71).

  • 3

    worse imprisonment till the end of the war BR was hinting at the possibility of prolonged detention in military or civil custody, should he be called up for military service after his release from Brixton, have his claim for an absolute exemption rejected, and then refuse to undertake “alternative” war work. In April 1918 the upper-age limit for British conscripts had been raised from 40 to 50 (see Letter 6).

  • 4

    Geo. Birmingham’s have not come Yet Ottoline’s letter to BR of 11 August (BRACERS 114754) indicated that some books by this author had been sent. George A. Birmingham was the pen name of prolific Irish novelist and Anglican cleric, James Owen Hannay (1865–1950).

  • 5

    nor Miss Wrinch’s philosophical books Possibly the “bound volumes of Psych. Review and Am. J. of Psych., 1912ff”, referred to in Letter 51. If these scholarly journals were, indeed, the “philosophical books” requested from Wrinch, he obviously did receive them, eventually — perhaps courtesy of G.H. Hardy, whom BR had suggested to his brother as an alternate courier. BR’s list of philosophical prison reading (Papers 8: App. III) includes 23 articles from volumes 18–23 (1911–16) of The Psychological Review, and another seven from volumes 21 and 23 (1910 and 1912) of The American Journal of Psychology.

  • 6

    found Phil. Essays ... all MIND BR’s Philosophical Essays (London: Longmans, Green, 1910), which Ottoline had reported lost (see Letter 61). Ottoline located her copy, which she prized highly, in the “Cottage” at Garsington Manor. Chastising herself for her distress at losing the book, she also wrote: “I remember you and know what you would say — and say to myself ‘It is only matter’”. BR’s jocular correction nevertheless hinted at his latest philosophical preoccupation, as reflected in much of his prison reading.

  • 7

    going to Swanage … begin all over again BR was recalling an idyllic, and keenly anticipated, three days spent with Ottoline at this Dorset seaside resort in April 1911, just as their affair was beginning (see BRACERS 17099 and 17100).

  • 8

    Miss Wrinch writes Three letters (BRACERS 81966, 81967 and 81968) from Wrinch in August 1918 are extant, but none is the letter BR sent Ottoline. Nor is that letter among Ottoline’s papers in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

  • 9

    Demos says While BR was in jail, Demos had started a rather one-sided affair with Wrinch (“it is no fun if the relation is not symmetrical”, she complained to BR). Demos had visited BR in prison earlier the day of the present letter, 14 August.

  • 10

    but I would … submit to medical examination Some “absolutist” C.O.s even refused to be medically examined to determine fitness or otherwise for military service, and in May 1916 the No-Conscription Fellowship issued a circular advising non-compliance. On 14 July BR told Ottoline that while he did not disapprove of the procedure on grounds of conscience, he was mindful of offending NCF colleagues by this breach of their “etiquette” (Letter 40).

  • 11

    see a possible end to the war In light of significant strategic gains made by the Allies during his imprisonment (see Letters 30, 44 and 60), BR’s forecasting of the war’s likely duration became slightly more optimistic — although not before his forlorn prediction to Gladys Rinder of its continuation “till Germany is as utterly defeated as France was in 1814, and that that will take about another ten years” (Letter 20). Yet BR clearly underestimated the rapidity with which German military resistance was crumbling on the Western Front. The final Allied victory was achieved extremely quickly after Germany’s previously impregnable Hindenburg Line of defences was breached at the end of September. “Was anything ever so dramatic as the collapse of the ‘enemy’”, he asked Ottoline on 9 November 1918 (BRACERS 18703).

  • 12

    her letter Silcox’s letter was dated 10 August 1918 (BRACERS 80379). In it she wrote about staying with Ottoline and about Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, mentioning BR’s “review” (presumably a reference to Letter 7). She also discussed the lack of education in village girls and suggested visiting BR on 4 or 11 September (she did so on the 11th).

  • 13

    Quite agree about Sheppard and growth John T. Sheppard (1881–1968) was a close friend of J.M. Keynes and, like the economist, a Cambridge Apostle and Fellow of King’s College, which he later served as provost (1933–54). A classical scholar, Sheppard was at this time working as a translator for the War Office. Ottoline had critiqued him thus: “He never seems to grow. He is so awfully nice and good and kind inside with a fountain of thought about old subjects, but he never seems keen or interested in new ones.”

  • 14

    J.M. Murry … revelled in prison Without explaining, Ottoline had suggested to BR that the critic and editor J. Middleton Murry would likely have “revelled in it <imprisonment> and in exile from everyone” (11 Aug. 1918, BRACERS 114754). Ottoline’s comment seems odd and a shade gratuitous, since Murry was working for the War Office at this time and therefore hardly likely to find himself in BR’s situation. For BR’s outrage at Murry’s scornful treatment of Sassoon’s poetry, see Letters 39 and 48 especially.

  • 15

    Mrs Scott “Of Ham. Ottoline’s aunt by a first marriage.” (BR’s note at BRACERS 119468.) Caroline Louisa Warren Scott, née Burnaby (1832–1918), who died 6 July, was successively the widow of Charles Bentinck, Ottoline’s brother, and of Henry Warren Scott; she was a great-grandmother to Elizabeth II.

  • 16

    I well remember the trouble over the “shocks” Shocks are sheaves of grain arranged to keep the heads off the field. On 11 August 1918 (BRACERS 114754), Ottoline wrote: “The Harvest is being got in and I have been helping to ‘shock’. Do you remember how you hated it and how hurt I was about it — when you stood and watched me!” She immensely enjoyed shocking but not BR: “I tried to get Bertie to come and help; he came one day but it was clear that he was hopelessly bored to death — his face drawn out to its full length — and longed to get away” (Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1915–1918, ed. R. Gathorne-Hardy [London: Faber and Faber, 1974], p. 47).

  • 17

    I will send back the Rimbaud book Probably Paterne Berrichon, Jean-Arthur Rimbaud, le poète (1854–1873) (Paris: Mercure de France, 1912). Next day BR instructed Colette to “Please send Paterne Berrichon on Rimbaud to Ottoline — it is hers and she wants it” (Letter 71).

Textual Notes
  • a

    I am needing novels. Inserted.

Transcription Public Access
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Oct 29, 2014
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