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 


There are two condensed transcriptions of this letter:
Document .201126, record 116364.
Document .052425, record 99886.
The latter has even less text than the former.

"I have started an autobiography, for want of anything better to do. Another time I may send you bits of it, if you wish."

"There is ... some general moralizing about the Spectator review. The general moralizing is addressed to all and sundry."
There are four transcriptions of this:
Document .200299g, record 19332.
Document .200299h, record 19333.
Document .00705fb, record 93482.
Document .201179, record 116687.

"Near the end [of the book in which correspondence was hidden to smuggle out of prison] you will find some moral problems upon which I want light from Salter's subtle brain." [Probably document .201180, record 116688, which begins "I have been thinking out some casuistical conundrums...." It concerns the NCF of which Salter was a member. It is addressed to "W.G.R.", i.e. Gladys Rinder.]



Letter 52

BRACERS 19337. AL. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 46930; next letter, BRACERS 116687
Edited by Kenneth Blackwell, Andrew G. Bone, Nicholas Griffin and Sheila Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
Monday 29 July 1918.

My Darling

There is a message2 from E. about a possible job for you which has put me on tenterhooks. I should be happy if it came off. I hardly dare think of it. If you got a good solid job, I should certainly go back to my flat, perhaps after you had been there for a time. — My brother tells me he has seen Cave and I am to be let out at latest Sep. 183 — will you please put that in your green book? It is a fortnight earlier than it was to have been, so I am delighted. I did not expect anything. I gather there are other vague possibilities but I don’t know what. Isn’t it lovely that we shall have the last half of Sept? It is often a very beautiful time. If you are out of work, Ashford — if the gods grant you a job, my flat — or the Attic, if Miles is gone. And in that case we can have lovely days in the country — Merrow Down.4 Just think, if this reaches you Thursday, it will be next month I shall be out, by the time you get this. If you have had no further trouble with Mr Cubitt, I will post something to you5 Thurs. or Fri. It is all right for me, but not for you, to post things6 — and it saves so much time to be able to have question and answer within the week. This Bergson book is lovely, it holds so much.7 Please bring it back next week. Will you offer its hospitality to Demos and Wrinch for shop,8 if they desire it? You can do it through Gladys. — In the end of the book you will find a lot of letters I want kept.9 Read as many as interest you. O’s10 would interest you if you could decipher them. The transition from love to friendship, which is fearfully difficult, is now successfully accomplished with her. I am glad. This time in prison has helped to make things come right. — Please thank Miss Rinder most warmly for her letter11 and say I don’t know whether she had better write the official letter when my brother is away — she must arrange with him. I rather think not. The official letter12 has lost its importance, and he is best to do it from the point of view of respectability. — I no longer take the Times.13

Next time I see you it will be 6 weeks till I come out14 — no longer than the time you were acting Mabel.15 O how divine it would be if you had work!

Colette, the longing to be with you is such a hunger that it is very difficult to deal with.  Since I have been here, there have certainly never been 5 consecutive waking minutes that I have not thought of you — and as a rule I think of you the whole time, whatever else I may be also thinking of. I feel, now, that I really understand you, and that you and I can diminish for each other the loneliness that is the ultimate tragedy of life. It is only very lately — in fact, since I have been here — that I have felt I really understood you. I know now why you couldn’t do things for the N.C.F. when you were out of work.16 I know what you like in people, and why. Oh I am fearfully wise now! When I read your letter last Wed., I thought the one I had written you before17 seeing it might almost have been an answer. My dear one, I love you so tenderly. I am sorry I have been so rough with you at times — I want you to forget that. I want you to feel me a comrade,18 I want you to feel less alone in the world because of me. — Goodbye Beloved. I wonder if you have any idea how I love you? All the light of the world comes to me through you, and through you I can bear its darkness.

Near the end you will find some moral problems upon which I wish light from Salter’s subtle brain.19 , a — I have started an autobiography,20 for want of anything better to do. Another time I may send you bits of it, if you wish. Have proofs of Roads to Freedom gone to Garsington?21 If not, they should.

When I come out,b I shall need, for myself, an address, a room to work in, and a bed when you don’t want me (I hope not often). These I can get at Gordon Sq. if my brother will let me, and I now gather he will. If not, the cheapest way to get them is the Studio; but if you can put the Studio furniture in the Attic, it is best to give up the Studio. In any case, please tell your sister to make sure Helen Dudley22 does not want to return before November 1st, and tell your sister23 it is possible I may want my flat, for a time at least, when I come out. By that means, I can, if necessary, terminate Helen’s tenancy after I come out, when it will be easier to judge about Gordon Sq.

There is a letter to Miss Rinderc somewhere, and some general moralizing about Spectator review.24 Please pass on both after reading. The general moralizing is addressed to all and sundry.



  • 1.

    [document] The letter was edited from the unsigned, handwritten original in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. It was folded twice, at first allowing for the exposed quarters of the sheet to be blank. Then BR wrote on them. The sheet was mended with, unfortunately, cellotape.

  • 2.

    a message The message from Elizabeth Russell about Colette is contained in Frank’s letter to BR, 23–25 July 1918 (BRACERS 46929). Elizabeth noted that Colette had the prospect of a three-year engagement in London and was “delighted and excited” about it. No further details are known, and the unlikely long engagement for a struggling actress (or any actress, for that matter) did not come off. This could be an oblique reference to the Experimental Theatre. In her letter to BR of 28 July (BRACERS 113146), Colette mentioned that “E. subscribed generously” to it.

  • 3.

    My brother … seen Cave … Sep. 18 If BR had served his full sentence of six months, he would have been let out at the beginning of November; but from at least 22 June (see note 7 at Letter 24) he expected to be released a month early, on or about 2 October. For a short time, BR expected release on 18 September, i.e. six weeks earlier than the original sentence of 2 November. Frank, in his letter of 23–26 July 1918 (BRACERS 46929) wrote: “Saw Cave this afternoon — am authorised to say you shall have 6 weeks remission for work: the rest he will ‘think about’” (BRACERS 46929).  However, this was a verbal promise, perhaps even a misunderstanding. When Frank pushed for an even earlier release of early August in his letter to the Home Secretary on 29 July BRACERS 57181), Sir George Cave replied on 5 August (BRACERS 57178) granting a release date at the end of September. BR told Ottoline and Colette on 8 August it was a “blow” (Letters 61 and 62, respectively). Cave, understanding the disappointment expressed by Frank, wrote in his next letter: “I intend to re-consider the matter towards the end of August; but I am unwilling that your brother should be told this, as I must keep a free hand” (11 Aug. 1918, BRACERS 57182). In fact, BR was released at an earlier date, on 14 September. His philosophical industry in prison as well as good conduct earned him “full marks”.

  • 4.

    Merrow Down This was a favourite walk. Colette and BR took their first walk to Merrow Down, Surrey,

    in early December 1916; what was so important about this first walk is not known. However, BR recollected the day in letters he wrote c.14 April 1917 (BRACERS 19148) and on 3 December 1920 from Peking (BRACERS 19714) in which he noted that “it is almost exactly 4 years” since their first walk there. Colette mentioned meeting Roger Fry on the fringe of Merrow Down when she and BR were setting out for a walk (In the North [London: Gollancz, 1946], p. 149). She also recalls the walk from Dorking to Merrow Down as her favourite among the many country walks that they took (After Ten Years [London: Cape, 1931], p. 124).

  • 5.

    no further trouble with Mr Cubitt, I will post something to you Once BR found out that a Scotland Yard detective had been to Colette’s home investigating the Personals she had placed in The Times, he wrote that he would stop posting her letters. By that he meant putting a letter in a wrapper inside a book indicating that the letter should be mailed to her. The alternative was that the letter would be hand delivered by someone. “Ireland Cubitt” was BR’s code name for the man, first used on 20 July 1918 (see note 5 to Letter 42).

  • 6.

    all right for me, but not for you, to post things Some of the letters that BR concealed in books were put into the postal system by Frank, Gladys Rinder or others, as Colette commented in her correspondence that letters arrived from him via the post. In her letter of 18 July 1918 (BRACERS 113143), she wrote that a letter from him had just arrived but she had to put it in her handbag and go off to a luncheon. Only afterwards could she tear it open and read it. However, it would be impossible for her to mail anything to him, as he could only officially get one letter per week. Presumably BR was just stating the obvious in his remark.

  • 7.

    Bergson book is lovely, it holds so much Smuggled correspondence is what this “camouflage book” could hold in abundance. See Letter 51. These are possibly the only circumstances under which BR would describe a Bergson book as “lovely”. The particular book cannot be identified with any of the Bergson titles in Russell’s library, for none of them had any uncut pages upon arrival at McMaster.

  • 8.

    its hospitality to Demos and Wrinch for shop During the last six weeks of his imprisonment BR received at least six smuggled letters from his former logic student Dorothy Wrinch, although this correspondence was far from exclusively technical. No prison letters from Raphael Demos are extant, but he evidently talked “shop” when he visited BR in Brixton on 14 August. In Letter 70 BR lamented (but excused) the inability of his former students to grasp the philosophy he was developing in prison: “From what she <Wrinch> writes and Demos says, I see they don’t understand the new ideas I am at. It is no wonder, as my ideas are still rather vague.”

  • 9.

    letters I want kept BR was referring to letters that had been sent to him in prison — he decided that it was too risky to keep them in his cell, so he smuggled them back out.

  • 10.

    O’s Ottoline Morrell’s handwriting is notoriously hard to read.

  • 11.

    for her letter Rinder’s letter cannot be identified.

  • 12.

    official letter BR was allowed to send and receive one official letter per week.

  • 13.

    I no longer take the Times. BR no longer had a need to take the Times as Colette was no longer placing messages to him in the Personals. Her last such message was on 27 June 1918 (BRACERS 96085). He seems to have read the Daily News instead.

  • 14.

    6 weeks till I come out This projects a release time of mid-September 1918. BR was confident that his brother, Frank, would be able to secure this earlier than expected release. See note 3 above on “Sep. 18”.

  • 15.

    acting Mabel Colette had been in Manchester and then York and Scarborough for most of May and early June 1918, touring in a play called Phyl (author unknown) and playing the role of Mabel.

  • 16.

    why you couldn’t do things for the N.C.F. when you were out of work Colette did not act in London from mid-August 1916 until May 1918. However, in 1917 she acted in two film roles, Hindle Wakes and The Admirable Crichton. These roles took her out of town for long stretches of time. “I saw less and less of B.R. and the N.C.F., and more and more of the people I was working with” (After Ten Years [London: Cape, 1931], p. 122). She was doing less for the N.C.F., not because she was out of work, but because she had work.

  • 17.

    one I had written you before Possibly it was Letter 46.

  • 18.

    to feel me a comrade BR often called Colette his “heart’s comrade”.

  • 19.

    Near the end … some moral problems … Salter’s subtle brain The letter it refers to begins: “I have been thinking out some casuistical conundrums which I desire to submit to the collective wisdom of the National Committee ...” (Letter 54). BR’s successor as Acting Chairman of the NCF, Dr. Alfred Salter was an “absolutist” in matters of conscientious objection.

  • 20.

    started an autobiography BR’s final Autobiography was not published until 1967–69 (3 vols.). The earliest extant draft is “My First Fifty Years”, dictated in 1931. Nothing further is known of this prison attempt at a memoir, and the pages he wrote must have been destroyed. An autobiography BR started during his affair with Ottoline met a similar fate.

  • 21.

    proofs of Roads to Freedom … Garsington BR had completed the writing of this book before he went to prison. He wanted proofs sent to the country home of Lady Ottoline and Philip Morrell so Ottoline could read what she hadn’t heard him read aloud (Letter 61).

  • 22.

    Helen Dudley An American from Chicago with whom BR became involved during his 1914 trip to the United States. She followed him back to London, was rebuffed by him, and ended up renting his Bury Street flat in late 1916 or early 1917. In May 1918 she sublet the flat to Clare Annesley.

  • 23.

    your sister Clare Annesley (1893–1980), artist.

  • 24.

    some general moralizing about Spectator review I.e., Letter 53.

Textual Notes

  • a.

    Near the end … some moral problems … Salter’s subtle brain (This paragraph was written in the top margin.)

  • b.

    When I come out The paragraph was added sideways on a blank quarter (when folded) of the verso of the sheet.

  • c.

    There is a letter to Miss Rinder The paragraph was added sideways (and upside-down to the previous addition) on the other blank quarter of the verso of the sheet. The letter seems not to be extant, if it was indeed distinct from the “general moralizing”.

Russell letter no. 
Reel no. 
Frame no. 
Record no. 
BR to Constance Malleson, 1918/07/29-30
BR to Constance Malleson, 1918/07/29-30, verso
Transcription Public Access 
Record created 2014/10/16
Record last modified 2021/07/23
Created/last modified by blackwk