BRACERS Record Detail for 18692

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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

"My Dearest O.—You write such wonderful letters—this one especially—you can't think what a joy it is to me."

[Letter is not signed.]


Letter 102

BRACERS 18692. ALS. Texas
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 52370; next letter, BRACERS 19361
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
11 Sp. ’18.

My dearest O.

You write such wonderful letters — this one especially2 — you can’t think what a joy it is to me. I am so glad of all you say about the visit to your brother3 and its effect. — Lulworth, 22nd, I shall regard as fixed.4 It is a very warm place — I don’t think we shall freeze. I did write to you after you were here.5 Not knowing how long you would be away I sent it to Garsington — there was also a letter to Brett about her deafness — I hope she got it.6 I think it was Notre Dame de Paris.7

There’s no doubt it was a wise seed you sowed at Broughton.8 Its growth was painful, but now that it is grown I should be very sorry to be without it; Freedom: I never before really conceived it; and it is the great thing.

I have written to Miss Rinder9 telling her what I told you about my finances and saying she may tell Carr. I don’t like him to be puzzled. I had no idea of what you told me about Carr’s having collected money before.10 I didn’t need it then. I could earn, and I had much more capital.11 Also I need more for philosophy because I want to be able to have my books, which is difficult in a garret. Also it is desirable to leave Gordon Sq. All these things together make a vast difference. I did not tell the Whiteheads I had £400 a year in my marriage settlement.12  Mrs W. wrote me a worried letter, purely private and personal it seemed, and I wrote back soothing her worry.13 Never be unselfish or try to be kind! Everybody is kind to me, and I love it — but I feel the time has come for me to give up being kind in ways that interfere with my work. — By the way, I shouldn’t want the fellowship to continue when the war is over, because then I can earn money, which I prefer because it leaves me more free. (More than if I have a post, I mean.)

I am so glad you liked the little paper about my mental adventures in prison.14 Prison has its uses! — but I shall be glad when it is over.

A desperate criminal15 I got into talk with yesterday: his boy had been late for school, he had been fined and refused to pay. He had been 17 years an officer of the Salvation Army and a grocer. He said he wouldn’t have missed prison for worlds. Why? I said. Because he had found here a customer of his, in for bigamy, leaving a wife and children in distress, and my friend had been led by the Lord to undertake the financial care of the wife and children. “That was very good of you”, I said. “Yes” he replied. I was a little disconcerted, not having expected such simple truthfulness. — Quite half the inmates of the prison read my review of Kant in the Nation16 and had some sensible critical opinion about it. This is what the criminal classes are in reality. The other half are mostly debtors and bigamists and a sprinkling of men who have got drunk and committed some folly. I am not, however, turned against the existence of prisons: the visiting magistrates17 I have seen might with great advantage be shut up; they are far worse than anybody inside.

I see Litvinov and smile at him18 — I have had no chance to talk to him. Poor Russia! Gorky’s In the World19 made me understand the Russian misfortunes as nothing else had done. One must have will and the Russians have none. That seems to me the whole matter. The present condition there20 must be ghastly beyond belief.


How lovely of you to be sending me a coloured handkerchief and a bit of soap21 — and how lovely to want to “surprise and delight” me. You have done such wonderful things for me since I have been here. I have loved them.

C.A. says he has lost one lung, and must be very careful as he is definitely tuberculous. What I said of him when I saw you was not exaggerated, I fear. They have weakened his body so much that he won’t be able to achieve great things. It makes one so furious — more than the men who get killed, because it is more wanton and deliberate and cold-blooded. But it is a waste to feel furious.

It gets too near the time of coming out for me to have many ideas beyond dreaming of the joys of freedom. I wonder if Carr liked the plan of a book22 that I sent by you. I thought it rather good myself! He is a dear old Woolley23 isn’t he? The philosophers all always behave well to me. The ones I dislike are those who deceive the young and try to destroy their enthusiasms, in fact generally the ones who are not after truth. It is foolish though to bother with them.

I read Despised and Rejected;24 thought the psychology absolutely right, but the book is not well written, or good except morally. What a lot of useless cruelty there is still through superstition — the law against homosexuality25 is pure superstition. Things are getting worse in those ways: it was only 4 or 5 years ago that incest was made criminal.26 I don’t know how it can be remedied: one can’t have a trade-union of the incestuous, so there is no chance of their grievances getting heard.

This must go. I love your letter this week,27 dearest O., even more than the previous ones — and I delight in all you say of having found poise and so on, and of the effect of K. Lonsdale.28

I am very happy and very well — too busy in my thoughts for general reflections, anxious to get to activities. Goodbye with much much love.



  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from digital scans of the initialled original in BR’s hand in the Morrell papers at the University of Texas at Austin. The first sheet was folded three times; the second sheet, twice, with the verso blank except for “Lady Ottoline” written on both exposed quarter-sheets. The second sheet, whose text begins “Thurs. | How lovely of you”, was scanned with the original of Letter 70, but belongs with the present letter, for in it BR was anxious to hear of Carr’s reception of the book outline that BR sent via Ottoline (see note 22 below). Moreover, Ottoline’s week in Kirkby Lonsdale did not begin until 29 August (see note 3 below).

  • 2

    letters — this one especially Undated, the letter to which BR replied here is at BRACERS 114758.

  • 3

    visit to your brother Ottoline spent the week of 29 August to 4 September 1918 at Underley Hall, just outside Kirkby Lonsdale in the Lake District, where her brother Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (1863–1931), Conservative M.P., lived in the country house inherited by his wife, Lady Olivia. “I loved being with Henry”, she reported. “He was so dear and so human and full of kindness to Humanity so extraordinarily tender to Humanity — you know really how I love that, perhaps it is soppy of me — but he and I are alike in that and it’s the way one is made” (BRACERS 114758). Ottoline had four brothers and one half-brother. BR had met Henry, her favourite, in 1911 (Miranda Seymour, Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992], pp. 150–1). Henry shared with a handful of other Conservative politicians (Lord Hugh Cecil and Lord Parmoor most notably) serious qualms about the harsh and illiberal treatment of C.O.s.

  • 4

    Lulworth, 22nd, I shall regard as fixed Keenly anticipating this visit to the Dorset coast in late October, BR told Ottoline after his release that he was “counting on Lulworth” (3 Oct. 1918, BRACERS 18698). Despite BR’s assumption that the arrangements were settled, Ottoline 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.

  • 5

    I did write to you after you were here Probably it was Letter 89, which Ottoline did not receive.

  • 6

    letter to Brett about her deafness … hope she got it Letter 88 to Bloomsbury artist Dorothy Brett, who had suffered dramatic, progressive hearing-loss after undergoing surgery for appendicitis in 1902. She did not receive this letter.

  • 7

    I think it was Notre Dame de Paris BR’s letter to Brett was smuggled out of Brixton in a copy of this Gothic novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1831, or another book loaned to him by the Trevelyans (see Letter 88).

  • 8

    it was a wise seed you sowed at Broughton Ottoline had remembered the conversation in a Broughton churchyard of which BR reminded her in his letter of 4 September (Letter 94). Regarding the moral “wildness” that she had pressed upon BR in August 1912, Ottoline queried whether she had sown “a wise seed”, before answering, “Yes. Devil Take it. It must be — growth is essential even if it means passing through Fire” (9–10 Sept. 1918, BRACERS 114758). BR wholeheartedly agreed with this assessment of a defining moment in his emotional life, having already told her (four years previously) that “what you said entered into the depths of me and has dominated all my thought ever since” (22 Feb. 1914, BRACERS 18140).

  • 9

    I have written to Miss Rinder The letter about BR’s finances is not extant in the Russell Archives.

  • 10

    Carr’s having collected money before When on 6 September Ottoline travelled with Gladys Rinder to discuss the fellowship plan with Wildon Carr at his West Sussex home, he disclosed that he had once already raised a subscription for BR from among academic philosophers. But Carr returned the funds after being convinced by the Whiteheads that BR’s finances were much less parlous than Carr had assumed. According to Ottoline, this occurred “some months ago” (BRACERS 114758), probably before BR’s trial. BR readily conceded that he had been more financially secure then, but that Carr was mistaken in thinking that BR’s marriage settlement (see below) alone was worth £400 “clear” per annum. Carr drew this incorrect inference after being shown BR’s “soothing” letter to Evelyn Whitehead (see below). His misunderstanding did have some bearing on the fellowship plan, Ottoline related in the same letter, because after his prior fundraising experience, Carr “naturally now doesn’t feel inclined to start off asking again.” In explaining BR’s finances to Carr, Rinder presumably mentioned, inter alia, the capital he had gifted to T.S. Eliot. This may not have reassured Carr, who, Ottoline suspected, “thinks you play ducks and drakes with your money and give it away to Causes and if he gave you more — it would go the same way.” That Carr had reservations about the financial aspect of the proposed action on BR’s behalf does not mean, however, that he was anything less than fully supportive of it — merely that, as Rinder noted, “he won’t be responsible for collection of money for Fellowship” (6 Sept. 1918, BRACERS 79633).

  • 11

    I had much more capital The disbursements from BR’s capital since 1917 are unknown, but they may have included the gift of £3,000 in debentures to T.S. Eliot (Auto. 2: 19) and large legal expenses.

  • 12

    my marriage settlement The historic purpose of such legal agreements was to afford married women a measure of financial security of which they were deprived by the common-law doctrine of couverture. Until the late-Victorian era, wives enjoyed no legal standing separate from their husbands’ and could not hold property in their own right. A typical marriage settlement placed all or part of a bride’s dowry assets in trust. The practice persisted among the well-to-do even after the Married Women’s Property Act became law in 1882, and it was not unusual for the groom’s family to contribute to a settlement as well, and for both husband and wife to be beneficiaries — as appears to have been the case with BR and Alys, for BR had his own settlement trust. A list of the financial securities tied to BR’s marriage settlement (compiled shortly after his divorce from Alys in September 1921) shows assets of approximately £10,000 (see BRACERS 80113). The income generated by the settlement three years previously cannot be ascertained precisely, for some of the investments were held in stocks. Moreover, in indicating to Rinder that this amount was less than £400 net, BR was probably taking into account the charitable dispersal of his unearned income — which was considerable (see note 13 below) and included, several years earlier, gifts totalling several thousand pounds to the Whiteheads. The most definite information about the marriage settlement in 1918 is that the interest on a £3,600 mortgage owned by BR had increased from 4% to 5½% (see BRACERS 80113). This promised to yield an additional £54 per annum, for a sum of almost £200 gross produced from just one source of income in the marriage settlement. BR would have deducted income tax and life insurance to get net income (see Letter 12).

  • 13

    I wrote back soothing her worry In the only surviving letter from BR to Evelyn Whitehead (27 July 1917, BRACERS 119038), he had tried to assuage her concern that he was struggling financially:I still have £400 a year clear apart from what I earn. I was very hard up for a time, because I had got into the way of giving away what I don’t earn, and I couldn’t stop suddenly — I had counted on Trinity and America to keep me going and both failed simultaneously. But I succeeded in letting my flat (it is still let), and soon I found new ways of earning money, more than before — by writing and lecturing. The result is that I am better off than I was while I was at Trinity”. Clearly he did not limit the account of his income to that from his marriage settlement.

  • 14

    little paper about my mental adventures in prison I.e., Letter 90, 31 August 1918, which begins: “There never was such a place for crowding images”. Ottoline referred to it in the postscript to her previous letter (BRACERS 114757).

  • 15

    A desperate criminal He is described in BR’s “Are Criminals Worse Than Other People?” (New York American, 29 Oct. 1931, p. 15; in Mortals and Others [London: Routledge, 2009], p. 30).

  • 16

    my review of Kant in the Nation “Pure Reason at Königsberg”, a largely favourable assessment of Norman Kemp Smith, A Commentary to Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” (London: Macmillan, 1918), in The Nation 23 (20 July 1918): 426, 428; 14 in Papers 8. He concluded the review thus: “It is with a strange heartache that one looks back to the days when the Königsberg philosopher lived a life of pure reason; in our time the life of reason is more difficult and more painful.” BR almost never failed to allude, in some way, to his own situation in what he wrote in prison for publication under his own name.

  • 17

    magistrates BR had written in Roads to Freedom: “People who take a rosy view of human nature might have supposed that the duties of a magistrate would be among disagreeable trades, like cleaning sewers; but a cynic might contend that the pleasures of vindictiveness and moral superiority are so great that there is no difficulty in finding well-to-do elderly gentlemen who are willing, without pay, to send helpless wretches to the torture of prison” (London: Allen & Unwin, 1918, p. 112).

  • 18

    I see Litvinov and smile at him Early in 1918 Maxim Litvinov (1876–1951), a future Soviet foreign minister, obtained de facto recognition as Bolshevik Russia’s diplomatic representative to Britain. He and his staff were interned in Brixton for several weeks in retaliation for the arrest of Robert Bruce Lockhart, his London counterpart in Moscow, who stood accused with other British agents of conspiring to sabotage the revolution (Britain had that summer launched a military intervention against the fledgling Bolshevik regime.) But a prisoner exchange was hastily negotiated and both men were soon released and repatriated. BR and Litvinov would have acknowledged each other because they had previously met on at least three separate occasions (see Papers 14: lxxix–lxxx).

  • 19

    Gorky’s In the World Translated by Gertrude M. Foakes (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1918), this was the second volume of autobiography by Russian revolutionary and writer Maxim Gorky (1868–1936). It chronicled the grim and drab reality of the Russian lives encountered by Gorky as a runaway orphan wandering and working across the Tsarist Empire. While visiting Russia with a British Labour Delegation in May 1920, BR had a short audience with an ailing Gorky in Petrograd. He found him “the most lovable, and to me the most sympathetic, of all the Russians I saw” (The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism [London: Allen & Unwin, 1920], p. 43).

  • 20

    The present condition there Famine had gripped not only the Bolshevik heartland of Russia but also the more peripheral zones contested or controlled by Allied-backed White Russians fighting to overthrow Lenin’s regime. Shortages of fuel and consumer goods, disrupted transportation networks, and collapsing urban infrastructure only added to the woes of the Russian people during this phase of the civil war. In the spring of 1918 a raft of statist economic measures was introduced to revive industry and ease the supply of food to the towns. In the short term, however, this policy of “war communism” only exacerbated the problem of rural hoarding and brought class war to the countryside with a vengeance as peasant farmers resisted the forced requisitioning (see Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: the Russian Revolution, 1891–1924 [London: Cape, 1996], pp. 603–22).

  • 21

    a coloured handkerchief and a bit of soap Ottoline referred to her intention to send these in her letter of 25–27 August 1918 (BRACERS 114756).

  • 22

    if Carr liked the plan of a book The “plan and outline” which had been sent to the philosopher H. Wildon Carr seem to be the manuscript titled “Bertrand Russell’s Notes on the New Work Which He Intends to Undertake” (RA 210.006570; typed carbon, 210.006571; the carbon, which alone is titled, is printed in Papers 8: App. II). The piece is incorrectly dated there “the first months of 1918”. It was instead the fruit of some months of research in Brixton, and the manuscript has the prison governor’s initials, “CH”. The verso of folio 3 of the manuscript was annotated by BR: “Words, Thoughts and Things. [To be given to Wildon Carr, and shown to any one whom it may interest.]” There is a further note by BR, in pencil: “Carr per Miss Rinder, Thursday”. The manuscript begins: “If circumstances permit, the following is the work upon which I shall be engaged in the immediate future: Plan for a work on ‘Things, Words, and Thoughts’, being the section dealing with cognition in a large projected work, Analysis of Mind.” Rinder told BR in her letter of 5–6 September 1918 (BRACERS 79632) that “Dr. Carr has your notes for your projected work. Don’t understand your reference to typescript for D.W. <Dorothy Wrinch.> Does it refer to a typed copy of these notes?” It surely did so refer. It is safe to assume that this plan of BR’s projected work, written between the morning Letter 69 to Colette and the evening Letter 70 to Ottoline on 14 August 1918, was the one that Carr had in September.

  • 23

    WoolleyWildon Carr the philosopher, whom Elizabeth called the woolly Lamb.” (BR’s note at BRACERS 119473.)

  • 24

    Despised and Rejected The main character in this novel by Austrian-born British author Rose Laure Allatini (1890–1980) (writing as A.T. Fitzroy) was a homosexual composer and a C.O. imprisoned for refusing to enlist. Allatini was certainly courting controversy by tackling the themes of homosexuality and pacifism. In October 1918 the publisher of Despised and Rejected (London: C.W. Daniel, 1918) was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act, fined £100 with £10 costs and ordered to surrender his stock of the proscribed book (“‘Despised and Rejected’”, The Times, 11 Oct. 1918, p. 5).

  • 25

    law against homosexuality The Criminal Law Amendment Act (1885) reinforced the legal prohibition of male homosexuality by proscribing all sexual acts between men (but not women) as offences of gross indecency punishable by two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Convictions on such charges were much easier to secure than for the separate and more serious felony offence of sodomy, which had first been outlawed by a Tudor statute, remained a capital crime until 1861, and carried the possibility of a life sentence thereafter. As intimated to Ottoline, BR was vigorously opposed to Britain’s criminalization of homosexuality, which in Marriage and Morals (London: Allen & Unwin, 1929) he blamed on “a barbarous and ignorant superstition, in favour of which no rational argument of any sort or kind can be advanced” (p. 90). In the 1950s he joined the Homosexual Law Reform Society to help liberalize and ultimately repeal the law on homosexuality.

  • 26

    Things are getting worse … 4 or 5 years ago … incest was made criminal Until passage of the Punishment of Incest Bill in 1908, sexual relations between siblings, or parents and children or grandchildren, were not offences under the criminal law. These sexual relations had been prohibited hitherto only by English canon law — following the stern biblical injunction against incest in Leviticus 18: 6 — under which, however, penance was the sole punitive sanction. Evidently BR was far from reassured by the more stringent disciplinary powers (of imprisonment for up to seven years) conferred upon the State ten years previously (not “4 or 5 years ago”). His opposition to this measure was partly grounded in a deep-seated and lasting mistrust of all such legislative proscriptions (see, e.g., his notes for “Morals in Legislation”, a 1954 speech about obscenity law, which also mention his brother’s objections to the 1908 Act [Papers 28: 459]). Although BR certainly appreciated the social importance of the incest taboo (see New Hopes for a Changing World [London: Allen & Unwin, 1951], pp. 60–1), he also considered its power disproportionate to the harm inflicted in some cases. He illustrated this point by reference to a novel he had first read in Brixton more than thirty years beforehand (see Letter 100): “Defoe’s Moll Flanders is far from exemplary, and commits many crimes without a qualm; but when she finds that she has inadvertently married her brother she is appalled, and can no longer endure him as a husband although they had lived happily together for years. This is fiction, but it is certainly true to life” (Human Society in Ethics and Politics [London: Allen & Unwin, 1954], p. 30).

  • 27

    your letter this week See note 2 above.

  • 28

    K. Lonsdale “Her brother Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck lived at Kirkby Lonsdale.” (BR’s note at BRACERS 119473.)

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