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Collection code 
Class no. 
Document no. 
Box no. 
Source if not BR 
Morrell, Ottoline
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BR's address code (if sender) 
Notes, topics or text 

"My Dearest O—It was a delight seeing you.—"

A photocopy of this letter with a typed transcription was filed as part of Rec. Acq. 69, box 2.68 (formerly box 16). It was filed chronologically, after letter number 1489l. However, the letter is not at Texas (source of Rec. Acq. 69). The letter never reached Ottoline. According to a note written by Elizabeth Trevelyan on document .053272, record 116694, the letter fell out a book in 1923, a book lent to BR when he was in prison in 1918. Elizabeth Trevelyan is identified as the writer of the note in document .047686, record 75046.


Letter 89

BRACERS 18690. ALS. McMaster. Auto. 2: 91–2
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 116694; next letter, BRACERS 131572
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
Friday 30 Aug. 18.

My dearest O

It was a delight seeing you — tho’ you do not seem in very good health — and those times are difficult for talking — letters are really more satisfactory. Your letters are the very greatest joy to me. To begin with personal things: I do trust my friends to do everything possible — no one ever had such kind and devoted friends. I am wonderfully touched by what all of you have done; the people I don’t trust are the philosophers (including Whitehead).2 They are cautious and constitutionally timid; nine out of ten hate me personally (not without reason); they consider philosophical research a foolish pursuit, only excusable when there is money in it. Before the war I fancied that quite a lot of them thought philosophy important; now I know that most of them resemble Professors Hanky and Panky in Erewhon Revisited.3

I trust G. Murray, on the whole, over this business.4 If he gets me a post, I hope it will be not very far from London — not further than Birmingham say. I don’t the least desire a post except as a way of getting round Geddes: what I desire is to do original work in philosophy, but apparently no one in Govt. circles considers that worth doing. Of course a post will interfere to some extent with research tho’ it need not interfere very much. I must have some complete holiday when I first come out of prison.a I do not want residence away from London: I would almost as soon face another term of imprisonment, for reasons which can’t be explained to G. Murray. But I am most grateful to him for all the trouble he is taking. I am not worrying in the least.

How delightful of you to think of Lulworth Cove.5 It was the very place I had been thinking of, before I came upon it in R. Brooke.6 I was only there once for a moment on a walking-tour (1912)7 and have always wanted to go back. Do stick to the plan. Latish Oct. We can settle exactly when, later. It will be glorious.

I wonder whether you quite get at Brett. I am sure her deafness is the main cause of all that you regret in her. She wrote a terrible account8 of what it means to her the other day in a letter you sent me — I don’t know whether you read it. If not I will show it you. I am very sorry about Burnley.9 It is a blow. There will be no revival of pacifism; the war will go on till the Germans admit themselves beaten, which I put end of next year.10 Then we shall have the League to Enforce Peace,11 which will require conscription everywhere. — Much interested about S.S. and munition factory; all experience may be useful. It would never occur to me to think of it as an “attitude”.12

I was sorry to refuse so many books, and also to give you the trouble of taking so many away. I believe in future I shall be able to send them by Carter Paterson.13 My cell is small and I must keep down the number of books. Between books and earwigs I have hardly had room to turn round.

Please thank Miss Bentinck14 most warmly for the lovely peaches. I think it very kind of her to send them when she thinks me so wicked. — I don’t know how long you are staying at Kirkby Lonsdale. All that region is so associated in my mind with Theodore’s death.15

Oh won’t it be glorious to be able to walk across fields and see the horizon and talk freely and be with friends. It is near enough now to believe it will come. I am settled into this existence, and fairly placid, but only because it will end soon. All kinds of delights float before my mind — above all talk, talk, TALK. I never knew how one can hunger for it. The time here has done me good, I have read a lot and thought a lot and grown collected, I am bursting with energy — but I do long for civilization and civilized talk. And I long for the SEA and wildness and wind. I hate being all tidy like a book in a library where no one reads. Prison is horribly like that. Imagine if you knew you were a delicious book, and some Jew millionaire16 bought you and bound you uniform with a lot of others and stuck you up in a shelf behind glass, where you merely illustrated the completeness of his System — and no anarchist was allowed to read you. That is what one feels like — but soon now one will be able to insist on being read. — Goodbye. Much much love — and endless thanks for your endless kindness. Do stick to Lulworth.


Letter to Brett17 elsewhere.

Please return camouflage books18 , b — Wednesday will do. But I run short of them unless they are returned.



  • 1.

    [document] The letter was edited from the initialled, twice-folded, single-sheet original in BR’s hand in the Russell Archives. This letter and Letter 88 are covered by a note on the latter in pencil in Elizabeth Trevelyan’s hand: “In 1923 these letters fell out of a book lent to B.R. when he was in prison in 1918.” The present letter was published in BR’s Autobiography, 2: 91–2. See also note 18.

  • 2.

    Whitehead There may be a touch of paranoia in BR’s extending his suspicions to his long-time friend and collaborator, but it is more likely that he wanted to make sure that Ottoline did not take even Whitehead’s support for granted. Whitehead supported the war and in March had lost a son in the fighting; this made relations painful for both parties. In fact, Whitehead opposed BR’s dismissal from Trinity College in 1916 (see his To the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge) and was prominent in efforts to have him reinstated after the war was over.

  • 3.

    Professors Hanky and Panky in Erewhon Revisited Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited Twenty Years Later, Both by the Original Discoverer of the Country and by His Son (London: Grant Richards, 1901). In this satire of religion of which BR was a fan, Hanky and Panky, Royal Professors (respectively) of Worldly and Unworldly Wisdom, were the scheming sophists of a new cult of “Sunchildism”. This had spread through Erewhon after the object of devotion (and the protagonist of Butler’s earlier novel of that name) had escaped from the fictional country by balloon twenty years previously.

  • 4.

    I trust G. Murray ... over this business I.e., the business of bringing the fellowship plan to fruition.

  • 5.

    Lulworth Cove Ottoline and BR intended to stay at this picturesque Dorset location in late October.

    While in prison, BR keenly anticipated this visit to the coast (see Letter 94) and told Ottoline after his release that he was “counting on Lulworth” (3 Oct. 1918, BRACERS 18698). But she dropped out of the planned trip on 7 October (BRACERS 114761), and BR ended up going to Lulworth with Colette instead, on 16–19 October. BR and Littlewood rented a nearby farm for the summer of 1919: “The place was extraordinarily beautiful, with wide views along the coast” (Auto. 2: 96).

  • 6.

    R. Brooke Rupert Brooke wrote “Sonnet Reversed” at Lulworth Cove. More importantly for him and BR, he discovered that Lulworth was where John Keats last stepped on English soil.

  • 7.

    a walking-tour (1912) BR went by himself in March 1912, armed with pocket volumes of Shakespeare, Blake, Keats, and probably The Oxford Book of English Verse (Monk 1: 254; Clark, p. 173).

  • 8.

    Brett … her deafness … terrible account In her letter of 25 August Ottoline expressed a measure of irritation and contempt for the Bloomsbury artist Dorothy Brett. She had suffered dramatic hearing-loss after undergoing surgery for appendicitis in 1902 and experienced since then a steady worsening of the condition. In the “terrible account” to which Letter 88 was written in a reply never received by Brett, she despairingly likened her condition to BR’s imprisonment: “I feel that prison must in some ways be curiously like the life I lead. I rather wonder which is the worst — prison I think because with an effort I can be included in a small way in human life — you are more cut off. But can you imagine what it means to see Life revolving round you — see people talking and laughing, quite meaninglessly! Like looking through a shop window or a restaurant window. It is all so hideous I sometimes wonder how I can go on” (26 Aug. 1918, BRACERS 75044).

  • 9.

    I am very sorry about Burnley. On 11 August 1918 Ottoline reported to BR that the Burnley Liberal Association was “still undecided” (BRACERS 114754) as to whether Philip Morrell would again be its candidate in the Lancashire borough constituency he had narrowly won in December 1910. Only two weeks later, however, she was “afraid Burnley is hopeless” (25 Aug., BRACERS 114756). Ottoline was responding to attacks on her husband’s anti-war dissent in the Burnley News, the local Liberal newspaper, recently acquired by a new owner. Ultimately, the Liberal nomination was given to John Grey, a local industrialist, town councillor and justice of the peace. Although Grey backed the Lloyd George Coalition, it was the Conservative candidate who would obtain its official backing in the so-called Coupon Election of 14 December, which in Burnley, in a three-way contest, resulted in victory for Labour.

  • 10.

    war will go on … end of next year In light of significant strategic gains made by the Allies during his imprisonment (see Letters 30, 44 and 60), BR’s forecasting about the war’s likely duration had become slightly more optimistic since 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).

  • 11.

    League to Enforce Peace This pressure group was founded in June 1915 by American internationalists influenced by proposals for war prevention formulated by the Bryce Group of British politicians and intellectuals (notable among whom was BR’s friend Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson). Yet pacifists on both sides of the Atlantic disliked the coercive implications of the scheme, and BR’s discomfort is reflected in the emphasis on “Enforce”. In his many subsequent discussions of world government, however, BR always accepted the need for a machinery of compulsion and, moreover, that a viable international authority must exercise monopoly control of the major weapons of war.

  • 12.

    S.S. and munition factory … as an “attitude” Siegfried Sassoon did not follow through on this plan to go “as a common workman into a munition factory at Sheffield” (Ottoline to BR, 25 Aug. 1918, BRACERS 114756), although he had also told others that he wanted to learn about the world of labour by going “as an ordinary worker in some works in a large town” (Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Siegfried Sassoon: Soldier, Poet, Lover, Friend [New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2014], p. 319). Although BR clearly regarded the soldier-poet’s intentions as sincere, Sassoon was afraid, he told Ottoline, that his wish would be scorned as an “Attitude” (i.e., a pose) (BRACERS 114756). Despite Sassoon not fulfilling the desire to which Letter 85 refers, he was soon interviewed by Winston Churchill (probably at Edward Marsh’s behest) for a quite different role in the defence establishment, at the Ministry of Munitions (ibid., p. 325). But he never assumed a position of this kind either.

  • 13.

    Carter Paterson Movers. This road haulage company was established in 1860 and headquartered in London.

  • 14.

    Miss Bentinck Violet Bentinck (1864–1932), Ottoline’s spinster cousin, with whom she had left her daughter, Julian, before travelling to Kirkby Lonsdale. She “is very nice about you”, Ottoline told BR on 27 August 1918 (BRACERS 114756).

  • 15.

    how long you are staying at Kirkby Lonsdale … region is so associated … with Theodore’s death Ottoline spent the week of 29 August to 4 September 1918 at Underley Hall, just outside Kirkby Lonsdale, where her brother Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, the Conservative politician, lived in the country house inherited by his wife, Lady Olivia. Thirteen years previously, one of BR’s closest Cambridge friends, Theodore Llewelyn Davies (1871–1905), had drowned in a swimming accident near this small town in the southern Lake District, where his father was vicar. Distraught himself, for several weeks BR comforted Theodore’s grief-stricken brother, Crompton, to whom BR was no less attached. Later, sometime after Crompton married in 1910, he distanced himself from BR for many years, so the latter believed, because “I had become so much associated with his suffering after Theodore’s death, that for a long time he found my presence painful” (Auto. 1: 58). It is noteworthy that the Brixton letters make no mention of Crompton, even as a visitor.

  • 16.

    Jew millionaire This is perhaps the most egregious example of casual anti-Semitic stereotyping that occasionally appeared in BR’s personal letters until Hitler’s rise to power. Yet BR was “in no sense an anti-Semite”, concludes Ronald Clark’s by no means exculpatory assessment of his subject’s lapses in this regard (The Life of Bertrand Russell [London: Cape and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975], p. 380). BR never tolerated institutional or informal discrimination against any racial, ethnic or national group, and as a powerful public voice of tolerance he was held in high esteem by world Jewry.

  • 17.

    Letter to Brett I.e., Letter 88.

  • 18.

    camouflage books Studies of BR and even Ottoline Morrell (Morrell, Memoirs 2: 252–3; Vellacott, p. 237; Seymour, p. 296; Papers 14: 412; Monk, 1: 526; SLBR 2: 158) remark on the way he smuggled letters out of prison in 1918. Letters were hidden in the uncut pages of books and journals. Yet concealment was sometimes too good. In 1923 the present letter to Ottoline and another of the same date to Dorothy Brett (Letter 88) fell out of a book that was meant for the former. The book belonged to Robert and Elizabeth Trevelyan, and the letters were returned to BR with a note in Elizabeth Trevelyan’s hand. BR printed both letters in his Autobiography.

Textual Notes

  • a.

    I must have … prison. Inserted.

  • b.

    Please return camouflage books In his Autobiography’s printing of this letter (2: 92), the sentence reads: “Please return commonplace books”, although BR is not known to have used a commonplace book in Brixton. The letter was typed from the original by Edith Russell, who had plenty of opportunity to query the author on questionable passages, but she or they missed seeing that the word was “camouflage”.

Russell letter no. 
Reel no. 
Frame no. 
Record no. 
BR to Ottoline Morrell, 1918/08/30
BR to Ottoline Morrell, 1918/08/30, verso
Transcription Public Access 
Record created 2014/05/23
Record last modified 2022/10/13
Created/last modified by duncana