BRACERS Record Detail for 19326

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Collection code
Recent acquisition no.
Document no.
Box no.
Source if not BR
Malleson, Constance
Rinder, Gladys
Form of letter
BR's address code (if sender)
Notes and topics

"Dear Miss Rinder—Many thanks for your letter, which was full of just the things I wished to know." BR forgot to tell Frank Russell that his letters must not be circulated to any one with the messages left in.

The letter contains messages to Constance Malleson (using 4 identities: giver of the green vase, her stage initials, G.J., and Percy), Ottoline Morrell, Elizabeth Russell, Ernest H. Hunter.

There are three transcriptions of this letter:

Document .201172, record 116600.
Document .200299c, the carbon, record 19328.
Document .054844, record 79638 (condensed).
There is also an extract in mimeo .080038af, record 117607.

A separate record, 116591, has been created for the messages to Constance Malleson, and another record, 131543, for the message to Ottoline Morrell.


Letter 20

BRACERS 19326. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 18678; next letter, BRACERS 48706
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
17 June 1918.

Dear Miss Rinder —

Many thanks for your letter,2 which was full of just the things I wished to know. I think I should like you to write every other week, and I will write to you in return, if it is not putting too much trouble upon you. You are so extraordinarily kind that I fear I take your kindnesses too much for granted sometimes! — My brother came to see me to-day. No prisoner can ever have had such a helpful brother. My book3 will anyhow be published in England, and possibly also in America after all. My brother had done masses of business for me, all with wonderful success. — But there is one thing that I forgot to tell him, and that applies to all my letters, please tell him: they must not be circulated to any one with the messages left in.4 — I received from Brighton flowers and green vase, both of which drove me nearly wild with delight — please give my most enchanted thanks, and say that when the evening sun shines on the green the colour is intoxicating, onea feels colour more here than outside. — Message to C.O’N:5 Infinitely grateful for your message: agree most strongly about Tolstoyan love,6 and about the greater pity for those who have no sense of the torch-bearer. It is that pity that seems to drain one’s life. I feel mankind in these days like a pitiful dumb animal with an open wound out of which the blood drips and life is oozing away — and one’s own life must go with it, or else one must grow callous for the time. I find selfishness a rest from the unendurable pity. But only temporarily: one’s life is not life unless it is linked on to that of the world. I go round and round in my mind the possibilities of work that is constructive, but I see nothing now except what is for the moment solitary: thinking things out, being ready for peace when it comes. Message to G.J.:7 How lovely it is to think of wonderful times, like Clee Hill — how glorious if the hopes talked of there come true! I am glad Miles is having such success.8 As to work: of course London would be infinitely nicer for all parties, but one must not let private things get in the way of professional interests — I made a vow to that effect, and mean to stick to it. So one must do what is best for work, regardless of mood and pleasure. But of course if Miles’s thing comes off it will be perfect. To Percy:9 Very glad to know plans — anxious always to keep knowing the outline of events. One has no time in visits: excitement makes one brusque andb forget all one meant to ask — the time is gone at once. Afterwards one realizes how one has bungled the opportunity. Am very happy in all personal ways, only unhappy about public things. [End of message to Percy.]

To Lady O: Very many thanks for message. Will send Madame de Boigne.10 As for Rimbaud, the book about him treats his Saison d’Enfer as neo-Catholic,11 and it struck me as being so in mood. Lytton mentions him in the “Gordon”.12 Much amused about Mrs Geach.13 The £250 was a loan repaid.14 Don’t believe in revolution in this country, we are too respectful.15

Sent you a book today by my brother, which you will find interesting,16 though you may not think so at first glance. To Elizabeth: Much love — very greatly enjoyed seeing you. Could say more but await visit. [End]

Reading about royalists and émigrés 100 years ago has reminded me of our own follies and delusions. One keeps speculating as to how things will work out. My instinctive belief is that the war will go on till Germany is as utterly defeated as France was in 1814, and that that will take about another ten years.17 I don’t believe either we or the Americans will stop sooner. Probably Russia will rise against Germany some six years hence, and that will correspond to 1812.18 All pure guessing. I think of Godwin, who roughly corresponded in that war to me in this. In its later years he gave it up and wrote novels. His only effects on the next generation were two: (1) Shelley, from love of him, ran away with his daughter (2) Malthus,19 from hatred of him, invented the theory of population. The more useful of these two effects was the one inspired by hatred, but neither was enough to justify a life. Fortunately as I have no daughter,20 that part of the analogy must fail. But perhaps I shall have an effect on G.D.H. Cole comparable to that of Godwin on Malthus.21 Speriamo!22 Joking apart, feeling impotent is very horrible.

I keep on reading and thinking about behaviourism. If Wildon Carr is willing, I should like to write an Aristotelian paper on “Is introspection a source of knowledge?”23 There is a great deal to be done. The behaviourists do not tackle any of the difficult questions; yet there is something in them, though I do not think they are right. They deny images altogether:24 they say images are small movements of tongue and throat silently pronouncing words. This is obviously rot.c But I like them for throwing down a challenge and for not being conventional. James’s attack on “consciousness”, the study of animal behaviour, and Freud, all naturally belong together.25 They have got hold of some important truth, but I don’t know what, and certainly they don’t. — Many thanks to E.E.H.26 for his message on my modesty — please assure him it is mutual. — I was surprised by Tenant’sd attack on me in Camb. Review, as he used to be friendly and pacifist.27 Will someone please ask him whether as he finished his review the cock crew. Much the best review of Mysticism, the only one with distinction, was Eliot’s in Nation.28 Love to all and warm thanks to you.

B. Russell.


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from BR’s signed, handwritten original in the Frank Russell files in the Russell Archives. The single sheet was folded three times. The letter has the style of a weekly letter, but there is no indication of prison approval.

  • 2

    your letter Dated 15 June 1918 (BRACERS 79614).

  • 3

    My book Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism was published by Allen & Unwin in the UK on 1 December 1918. Henry Holt published it as Proposed Roads … in the US in March 1919.

  • 4

    must not be circulated to any one with the messages left in This reminder seems a little odd since it was Rinder, not Frank, who was in charge of circulating BR’s letters. Also, a month earlier, on 16 May 1918, BR had written Frank in Letter 5 that Rinder “will know what to cut out before sending to others.”

  • 5

    C.O’N The initials of Constance Malleson’s stage name, Colette O’Niel.

  • 6

    Tolstoyan love Rinder’s letter of 13 June 1918 (BRACERS 79614) contained a message from Colette as C.O’N: “I have reflected lately how little one’s most poignant joy and inspiration touches other human beings and that it is only by radiating a warm friendly feeling, that glowing kind of Tolstoyan love, that one reaches or is any use to the average person.”

  • 7

    G.J. “A pseudonym for Colette.” (BR’s note on Letter 5.)

  • 8

    Miles ... such success This may be a slightly premature reference to the Experimental Theatre that Miles and Colette started planning to establish later in the summer, for Gladys Rinder’s letter to BR of 15 June 1918 contained this message from Colette using her stage initials, C.O’N: “Miles may get his scheme working by the autumn. It would be ideal. The sort of thing that the red fox came and listened to on the top of Clee Hill” (BRACERS 79614).

  • 9

    Percy BR identified “Percy” in a note at BRACERS 116566: “Another pseudonym for Colette.” “Percy” was a nickname used by Colette’s family and which she continued to use in family correspondence decades later.

  • 10

    Will send Madame de Boigne I.e., M. Charles Nicoullaud, ed., Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne, 3 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1907). See also Letter 15.

  • 11

    Rimbaud, the book about him … Saison d’Enfer as neo-Catholic Probably Paterne Berrichon’s Jean-Arthur Rimbaud, le poète (1854–1873) (Paris: Mercure de France, 1912), which contains some discussion (pp. 290–1) of the Catholic tendencies exhibited by the French symbolist in Une saison en enfer, a long prose poem published in 1873. On 15 August 1918, BR instructed Colette to “Please send Paterne Berrichon on Rimbaud to Ottoline — it is hers and she wants it” (Letter 71).

  • 12

    Lytton mentions him in the “Gordon” See Eminent Victorians (London: Chatto & Windus, 1918; Russell’s library), p. 300, where Strachey quotes Rimbaud’s brief survey “with splenetic impatience of the tragedy of Khartoum”, including his judgment of British General Charles George Gordon as an “idiot”.

  • 13

    Much amused about Mrs Geach Ottoline had met the young poet E.F.A. (Eleonora) Geach (1896–1951) at a party hosted by the publisher of her small collection (—Esques [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1918]), which also featured verse written by her fellow Oxford student, Doreen Wallace. Mocking Mrs. Geach as the “Queen of Poetry in Oxford”, Ottoline “thought her quite dreadful, although very pretty” (see Gladys Rinder to BR, 15 June 1918, BRACERS 79614). Her absent husband, George Geach, a philosophy professor teaching in the Indian Education Service, had been a student of BR’s at Trinity College. Their only child, Peter Geach, became a distinguished philosopher and logician.

  • 14

    The £250 was a loan repaid. BR’s response was to this part of a message from Ottoline in Gladys Rinder’s letter to him, 15 June 1918 (BRACERS 79614): “£250. I am sure more will come in and the lamp be fed.” The evident fundraising effort is unidentified.

  • 15

    Don’t believe in revolution … too respectful In her letter of 15 June Ottoline had speculated that by placing elite decadence in the spotlight, the libel trial of Noel Pemberton Billing (see also Letter 31) might be “the Marriage de Figaro for the coming Revolution” (BRACERS 79614). BR disagreed and would, in any case, have recoiled at the prospect of a political convulsion fuelled by authoritarian populists such as Billing. After the largely peaceful overthrow of Russian Tsarism in March 1917, however, and the emergence of a provisional government committed to ending the war, BR came to believe that a synthesis between pacifism and revolution could be forged in all belligerent states, not only Britain. His response to Ottoline hints at how far his political hopes had diminished by mid-1918. BR revealed this pessimism more clearly in Roads to Freedom (London: Allen & Unwin, 1918, p. 106), where he reflected soberly that “the Millennium is not for our time. The great moment has passed, and for ourselves it is again the distant hope that must inspire us, not the immediate breathless looking for the deliverance”. BR continued to believe that socialism could and should be established peacefully in Britain (e.g. Papers 15: 149).

  • 16

    a book … which you will find interesting An unidentified book, doubtless used to smuggle a letter to Ottoline. According to Ray Monk, “The first time this ruse was used, Ottoline was puzzled to receive the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, together with a note from Russell saying that she would ‘find it very interesting’. After a good deal of bemused scrutiny, and ‘feeling certain that this very unintelligible magazine held some secret communications’, she at last turned the volume upside-down and found the letter. She, in turn, sent him several uncut books hiding long letters, and in this way they kept up a flow of affectionate and thoughtful letters that sealed the new basis of their friendship” (Bertrand Russell: the Spirit of Solitude [London: Cape, 1996], p. 526). Ottoline’s own account (from which Monk quotes) does not specify these Proceedings as the vehicle, but rather “a journal of metaphysics”. She also provides additional details about the smuggling of their letters: “At last, I found at the end some pages that were uncut and in between these pages were little thin sheets of notepaper which made a long letter from Bertie. This opened a wonderful way of communicating with him and in this way I sent him several uncut books, which the governor obviously did not scrutinize too closely, and into the uncut pages I put long letters minutely written on thin paper” (R. Gathorne-Hardy, ed., Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1915–1918 [London: Faber and Faber, 1974], pp. 252–3).

  • 17

    war will go on … another ten years In light of significant strategic gains made by the Allies in the weeks after this forlorn prediction was issued to Gladys Rinder (see Letters 30, 44 and 60), BR’s forecasting about the war’s likely duration became slightly more optimistic. By mid-August he could “see a possible end to the war” by late 1919 (Letter 70). Yet BR clearly underestimated the rapidity with which German military resistance was crumbling on the Western Front. 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).

  • 18

    Russia will rise against Germany … correspond to 1812 Crippling losses suffered by Napoleon’s Grand Army during the Russian campaign of 1812 and the ensuing retreat signalled the beginning of the end of French domination of Europe. Russia then joined a revitalized (sixth) coalition of anti-Napoleonic forces, which made steady gains in the campaigns of the following year and inflicted a crushing defeat on the French at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

  • 19

    Godwin … corresponded … to me in this … wrote novels … (1) Shelley … (2) Malthus The English author and proto-anarchist political philosopher William Godwin (1756–1836) had embraced the principles of the French Revolution in his Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793) but participated only on the margins of the British radical movement stimulated by the upheavals in France. In 1794 he completed The Adventures of Caleb Williams, the first and best-known of four novels published during the period of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. After Napoleon’s escape from exile on Elba early in 1815, Godwin published the Verax Letter, a pamphlet imploring Britain to refrain from joining yet another reactionary alliance of European powers to effect a second Bourbon restoration. Godwin’s Enquiry was much admired by the young Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), who obtained an introduction to the philosopher and his daughter Mary (1797–1851) in 1812. But the work had been ridiculed by the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834), both for its underlying assumption of human perfectibility and Godwin’s optimistic contention that population growth tended to be limited by the available means of subsistence. In An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798, rev. ed. 1803), the famously gloomy cleric and political economist argued instead that only destitution and disease prevented population pressure from outstripping the food supply.

  • 20

    I have no daughter A few years later, a daughter, Katharine Jane Russell, was born to BR and his second wife, Dora (formerly Black, 1894–1986) — on 29 December 1923. Kate married Charles Tait in 1948 and took his surname. See her My Father, Bertrand Russell (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975; Bristol: Thoemmes, 1996).

  • 21

    an effect on G.D.H. Cole comparable to that of Godwin on Malthus Labour economist and historian George Douglas Howard Cole (1889–1959) became the principal theorist of the guild socialist creed which BR had come to embrace (albeit in a form of his own: see Papers 14: xxix–xxx) as a decentralized and libertarian alternative to state socialism of either the Fabian or Marxist variety. BR’s joking reference is rather obscure since he and Cole were hardly at loggerheads ideologically, even though their guild socialist ideals were slightly different. Cole was also a C.O. and, like BR, had joined the No-Conscription Fellowship.

  • 22

    Speriamo! “We hope” (Italian).

  • 23

    “Is introspection a source of knowledge?” Carr accepted the offer of a paper. BR never gave a paper on this precise topic but did write a short version, found among his prison writings (“Introspection as a Source of Knowledge”, 18c in Papers 8). Instead, the issue was absorbed into a much more wide-ranging paper, “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean”, presented to a joint session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association on 11 July 1919 (Papers 8: 278–306), where introspection is dealt with on pp. 285–7. BR returned to the topic in The Analysis of Mind (1921), Lecture VI — with somewhat different results. He evidently intended the “On Propositions” paper as a substitute for the one on introspection because at the end of a manuscript dated 10 August 1918, “Thoughts on Language, Leading to Language on Thought” (18i in Papers 8, although the lines in question only appear in the Textual Notes at 8: 381), he wrote: “Paper for Aristotelian (Carr: not Introspection, but) Propositions: what they are and how they mean”. Thus BR already had the title of the 1919 paper a year before he gave it. Dorothy Wrinch, on 20 August 1918 (BRACERS 81967), informed BR that Carr had accepted “the alteration in the name of your paper”.

  • 24

    They deny images altogether Though BR’s philosophy of mind at this time was heavily influenced by behaviourism, he never became a behaviourist. A crucial part of behaviourist doctrine that he found it impossible to accept was its denial of images, the existence of which BR thought was directly known to us. He puts his case for them in “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean” (Papers 8: 284–7) and The Analysis of Mind (1921), pp. 116ff.

  • 25

    James’s attack on “consciousness” … all naturally belong together “James’s attack on ‘consciousness’” is to be found in the paper “Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” reprinted in Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912) by the American philosopher and psychologist, William James (1842–1910). BR had devoted much of Part I, Ch. II of Theory of Knowledge (1913) to attacking James’s view, which he now defended. BR discusses how James’s critique of consciousness belongs together with the study of animal behaviour and Freud in The Analysis of Mind (1921), Lecture I.

  • 26

    E.E.H. … message on my modesty As secretary of the No-Conscription Fellowship, Ernest E. Hunter (“E.E.H.”) had worked closely with BR when he was its Acting Chairman in 1917. After being called up, Hunter managed to evade the authorities for two years until he was apprehended just before the war ended. Even as a fugitive, however, he continued to serve the NCF and write for its weekly paper, The Tribunal (see Thomas C. Kennedy, The Hound of Conscience: a History of the No-Conscription Fellowship, 1914–1919 [Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas P., 1981], pp. 148–9). BR thanked Hunter for his message, which was relayed by Colette in her message in Frank and Elizabeth’s letter of 6 June 1918 (BRACERS 46918): “E.E.H. thinks you are too modest. ‘I feel you have been of untold value. You cannot imagine what a loss it is at the offices, but the truth you will be able to reveal through philosophy will help us all to the new valuation which will make a different world. So we must put up with the loss’.” Colette was then working under Hunter’s direction at York Buildings for the NCF.

  • 27

    Tenant’s attack on me in Camb. Review … friendly and pacifist “Mr. Russell’s Religion and Philosophy”, The Cambridge Review 39 (7 March 1918): 326–7. Although somewhat piqued by this hostile review of Mysticism and Logic, BR remembered F.R. Tennant (1866–1957) fondly decades later as “a truly liberal theological fellow of Trinity” (BRACERS 80942). Immediately before the outbreak of war, Tennant had joined more than 60 other Cambridge academics in an appeal for British neutrality for which BR himself collected signatures (Auto. 2: 15). But like most other signatories of this statement (Papers 13: App. I), Tennant shifted his position on the war. He nevertheless disagreed with the decision reached by the Trinity College Council in July 1916 to deprive BR of his lectureship (BRACERS 3238). His appraisal of Mysticism and Logic concentrated its fire on BR’s philosophy and contained nothing on his politics.

  • 28

    the best review of Mysticism … Eliot’s in Nation “Style and Thought”, The Nation 22 (23 March 1918): 768, 770. This unsigned review praised the acuity of BR’s arguments and the clarity of their exposition, which “reaches the level of the very best philosophical prose in the language”.

Textual Notes
  • a

    one Editorially altered from “One”. BR wrote the preceding comma over a period and must have overlooked the following capitalization.

  • b

    brusque and Inserted.

  • c

    rot The word is carefully and heavily printed; then BR returned to cursive writing.

  • d

    Tenant’s A misspelling of “Tennant’s”.

Transcription Public Access
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May 26, 2014
Record last modified
Nov 27, 2023
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