BRACERS Record Detail

To access the original letter, email the Ready Division.

Collection code 
Class no. 
Recent acquisition no. 
Document no. 
Box no. 
Source if not BR 

Malleson, Constance

Malleson, Constance
Form of letter 
BR's address code (if sender) 
Notes, topics or text 

"Mirabeau to Sophie de Monier (copy) il te faut apprendre, ma chérie, a employer les livres comme moi je les emploie."

A typed copy was prepared for a literary collection of their letters, document .052384-.052385, no. 38, pp. 52–3, record 99847.

This letter was probably written in very early June.


Letter 11
BRACERS 19308. AL. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19310; next letter, BRACERS 46917
Edited by Kenneth Blackwell, Andrew G. Bone, Nicholas Griffin and Sheila Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
<early June 1918>2

Mirabeau to Sophie de Monier [copy]3

Il te fauta apprendre, ma chérie, à employer les livres comme moi je les emploie.4 Fais moi parvenir, je te prie, à chaque visite, un livre dont les pages ne sont past coupées, qu’on me mettra dans la main, et qui contiendra des choses intéressantes comme celles que tu as reçues dernièrement. <Si> Les lettres que tu as écrites n’arrivent pas, il faut abandonner cette méthode. Je me suis réjoui sans bornes des nouvelles qui me sont venues par les journaux et par les amis. Oui, la mer fait grandir l’âme.5 Je voudrais y être avec toi! Je me rappelle sans cesse les temps heureux avant qu’on nous a séparés par la cruauté de la loi. Le malheur personnel ne durera pas très longtemps. Avant de me trouver ici, je ne savais vraiment pas jusqu’à quel point tu fais le bonheur de ma vie. Mon coeur est à toi complètement. Je baise ton portrait;6 je prononce ton nom avec tous les petits mots du plus tendre amour; la vie m’est douce parce que tu m’aimes. Quand nous serons réunis, tu trouverab en moi un amour nouveau, plus fort, plus stable, avec ce quelquechose de massif que je donne à mes travaux; mais tu ne trouvera en même temps qu’une augmentation de la passion. Sois heureuse, ma belle amie, camarade de mon coeur. Je t’embrasse, et je te bénis de ce que tu existes.7



  • 1.

    [document] The letter was edited from BR’s unsigned, handwritten original in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. He filled a quarter-sheet (torn from a full sheet) of ruled paper in a very tiny script and folded it once horizontally.

  • 2.

    [date] In BR’s letter to Frank of 3 June 1918 (Letter 12), he noted in a message to Rinder that he had written something in French for Colette (as Percy) and that it was inside the International Journal. The present letter may be what BR was referring to; hence the date of early June. Rinder replied in a letter sent by Frank and Elizabeth of 6 June 1918 (BRACERS 46918) that she had sent the International Journal but was sorry it was unsuccessful. It must then be supposed that the present letter turned up later. At any rate, it must be contemporaneous with the start of concealing letters in books and journals.

  • 3.

    Mirabeau to Sophie de Monier [copy] Comte de Mirabeau (1749–1791), French revolutionary statesman. Sophie de Monier (sic) was the name he used for Marie Thérèse Sophie Richard de Ruffey, Marquise de Monnier (1754–1789), during their illicit affair. His letters to Sophie when he was imprisoned in the castle at Vincennes were first published in 1793. What follows is actually a love letter from BR to Colette, which also gives her instructions on how to smuggle letters in and out of prison. Later on BR began reading the original correspondence (Letter 43). In this note at the head of Colette’s typed copy of Letter 11, Colette herself explained BR’s temporary reliance on the French language: “At first, to prevent any chance of discovery, the letters were written in the form of <French> quotations.”

  • 4.

    Il te faut apprendre … à employer les livres comme moi je les emploie. Colette had been writing to BR surreptitiously, as “G.J.”,  through The Times Personals (see, e.g., note 17 to Letter 2). In addition, messages from “G.J.” and “Percy” had been placed in “official” letters received by BR from Frank and Elizabeth and Gladys Rinder. These messages may have been extracted from entire letters from Colette (e.g. BRACERS 113134), which she later confusingly designated as “official” in order to distinguish them from her later, smuggled correspondence to BR. Although she later made typescripts of what she later called “official” letters, BR would have seen them in Brixton only as messages from “G.J.” or “Percy”. Colette kept open the channels of communication to BR through his brother, sister-in-law and Rinder for a few more weeks, and the last Times Personal from “G.J.” did not appear until 27 June 1918. Both of Colette’s methods of reaching BR — along with his ruse of writing letters to her in French disguised as historical documents — were superseded by their adoption of the subterfuge recommended here. Her earliest smuggled letter to BR is probably that dated 24 June 1918 (BRACERS 113135), while he wrote to her illicitly in English for the first time on 11 June (Letter 17). Ottoline was already delivering contraband correspondence to BR, once concealing a letter, that of 28–30 May, folded many times (BRACERS 114745) in a tiny bunch of flowers (see R. Gathorne-Hardy, ed., Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1915–1918 [London: Faber and Faber, 1974], p. 252).

  • 5.

    Oui, la mer fait grandir l’âme. The sea’s function of “enlarging” the soul is in keeping with BR's ethic of impersonal self-enlargement (see K. Blackwell, The Spinozistic Ethics of Bertrand Russell [London: Allen & Unwin, 1985]). Colette wrote about the sea in her letter of 4 June (BRACERS 113134). However, that letter is not an original, so the date is not verifiable. She also wrote about the sea in a message (as G.J.) contained in Frank’s letter of 6 June (BRACERS 46918).

  • 6.

    ton portrait The photograph of Colette taken for BR in 1916 by E.O. Hoppé (1878–1972); it can be viewed above the transcription of each of his prison letters to her.

  • 7.

    Il te faut … existes. [translation:] “You need to learn, my dear, how to use books as I use them. I beg you, at each visit, to bring a book in which the pages are not cut, which I shall put in your hand, and which will contain some interesting things like those you’ve received lately. <If> the letters which you have written don’t arrive, it will be necessary to abandon this method. I am happy to receive unlimited news which comes to me from newspapers and friends. Yes, the sea enlarges the soul. I should like to be there with you. I think constantly about the happy times before we were separated by the cruelty of the law. This personal misfortune will not last long. Before finding myself here, I did not really know just how much happiness you brought into my life. My heart belongs to you completely. I kiss your picture; I pronounce your name with all the small words of the most tender love; life is sweet because you love me. When we are together again, you will find in me a new love, stronger, more stable, with something very solid that I give to my work; but you will not find at the same time an increase in passion. Be happy, my love, my heart’s comrade. I hug you, and I bless you for existing.”

Textual Notes

  • a.

    Il te faut The correct French is “Il faut t’”.

  • b.

    trouvera The correct French is “trouveras”.

Russell letter no. 
Reel no. 
Frame no. 
Record no. 
BR to Constance Malleson, 1918/06*/
Transcription Public Access 
Record created 2014/05/26
Record last modified 2021/07/24
Created/last modified by blackwk