BRACERS Record Detail

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Russell, Frank
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Notes, topics or text 

Because this letter was not microfilmed, it was not assigned a document number. The number was created from the letter that precedes it in the file.

"It is now decided that I am to have one visit and one letter a week."

"Days here succeed each other monotonously but not very disagreeably. I believe I missed my vocation by not being a monk in a contemplative order."

The letter is initialled by H.B., a prison official.

The letter contains messages (represented by documents .079960ab-.079960ag, record 119539, record 119540, record 119541, record 119542, record 119543, record 119544) to the following people: the Mallesons, Gladys Rinder (who is also to give G.J. his gratitude and congratulations), Dorothy Wrinch, Ottoline Morrell, Wildon Carr and A.N. Whitehead. ("G.J." was one of Colette's pseudonyms.)

This letter also contains a list of extra people for visits, in order of preference (with telephone availability indicated).

List of transcriptions of this letter:

Document .079961, record 116554 (condensed version; does not contain the visitors list).
Document .079962 and its carbon, document .079962a, both in record 116555.
Document .201167, record 116556 (condensed version).
Document .201185, record 116557, carbon of document .201167.
Document .201195, record 116558 (carbon of document .079961).
Document .201205a, record 117599 (mimeo).
Document .080038aa, record 117601 (mimeo).

RA3 Rec. Acq. 399 contains photocopies of this mimeo.


Letter 5

BRACERS 46913. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 57174; next letter, BRACERS 2076
Edited by Kenneth Blackwell, Andrew G. Bone, Nicholas Griffin and Sheila Turcon

Number 2917 Name Russell, B.
Brixton Prison.
16th May 1918.

My dear Frank

It is now decided that I am to have one visit and one letter a week.2 I assume that this does not include Withers and Wildon Carr, both of whom are business and must be seen singly. They and the question of sending MSS.3 out are still undecided. I shall hope for a visit of three (half an hour)4 every Tuesday or Wednesday. It is unnecessary for me to apply for an order if you can do it. If ever neither you nor Elizabeth can come, I dare say Whitehead would act as doyen. — Messages: Tell the Mallesons5 that if (as I suppose) they are going to be away, it is not worth while to make a long journey for the sake of visiting me: tell them that, much as I wish to see them, I am getting on perfectly happily, and would rather not put them to inconvenience. When they return to London will be time enough. Tell Miss Rinder (a) to send me such photographs as I am allowed and shall like. I think she knows what to send: I believe I am allowed three: if so I desire one of Lady Ottoline entre autres. (b) To express gratitude and congratulations to G.J.6,a — both warmly; (c) to thank the person who sent me a delicious box of chocolates from the Maison Lambert:7 I enjoyed them greatly: they are almost a substitute for tobacco.8 From the typing of the address I guess Miss Kyle knows who sent them. Tell Miss Wrinch: I received the books, for which many thanks. I want Titchener9 and Drever,10 not the other books she mentions.11 Tell her I can’t fill in the tickets she sent.12 Thank her for her letter,13 which the Governor kindly gave me. Tell her Holt14 is a fearfully shoddy book. Don’t want Psycho-Analysis just now. Do want anything good and modern on Psychology of Belief. My chief problem is: Can Belief be explained by neutral monism?15 I only wanted behaviourism as bearing on that: anything else bearing on it is equally welcome. Don’t want pure philosophy, nor Theory of Measure.16 Have already read and reviewed Laird on Himself.17 Revert to Miss Rinder: (d) to thank Miss Kyle for her letter,18 and for the books, which were infinitely welcome, and to tell her to ask Mrs Whitehead (on phone) for list of French memoirs, and get them 3 at a time out of the London Library. I want Revolution and Napoleon, rather than earlier. Lady Ottoline: I was so excited by the visit on Tuesday that I forgot most of what I meant to say and all that I meant to ask — it was an immense delight to get a few moments’ real conversation. Most of the books she mentioned came after the visit: I am very grateful for them. The French Revolution, after August 1792,19 is very like the present day: Marat is indistinguishable from Bottomley.20 End of Message to Lady Ottoline.

Extra people for Visits, in order of preference:

Gilbert Murray, 82 Woodstock Rd Oxford [important]
* C.P. Sanger, 58 Oakley Str S.W.3
* J.E. Littlewood, 42 Ovington Sq. Chelsea [in Telephone as Streatfield]b
* Desmond MacCarthy, 25 Wellington Sq., S.W.3.
* Margaret Ll. Davies [forget address]
E.H. Neville, Trin. Coll. Camb. [mark “please forward”]
* Mrs Hamilton, 21 York Blgs. Adelphi W.C.2.
T.S. Eliot, 18 Crawford Mansions, W.1.
Miss Burdett, Harley House, Marylebone Rd. N.W.1
* Francis Meynell, 67 Romney Str. S.W.1
* A.L. Dakyns, 24 Upper Wimpole Str.

Those asterisked are on phone. You won’t forget R.C. Allen if and when available [Miss Rinder will know].

I meant to have asked about the Maurice affair21 but forgot — I suppose it has strengthened the Government? — I find the Times far more interesting22 than when I could gather its contents in talk: I read with pleasure parts I never read before. But one doesn’t always understand the bearing of things one reads when there is no one to talk them over with. — Ink, fountain pen, etc. just come — hence change in writing. Many thanks. — I give the war at least another two years23 — if I am left alone, I shall get on with my Analysis of Mind,c,24 which, if successful, should be another big and important piece of work. It will need to be supplemented by a book on logic: not the one I am doing now, which is to be a text-book and uncontroversial, but one on the lines of the lectures I gave25 after Xmas: without such a supplement it would be scarcely intelligible. I foresee at least 3 years’ work on this theme: most likely I shall do as I have always done, drop it sometimes for a few months, so as to come back with a fresh point of view.26 The chief problems are belief, desire, and emphatic particulars.27 The above remarks are more for Carr and Whitehead than for you. It was maddening having so little time to talk shop with Whitehead: there were ever so many things that needed discussing.

Days here succeed each other monotonously but not very disagreeably. I believe I missed my vocation by not being a monk in a contemplative order. But on the occasion of your visit on Tuesday I realized how profoundly I miss my friends and opportunities for talk and being with people one likes. I couldn’t make the best use of the little time because I was too excited. I wanted more talk with you, but the time was gone so quickly. — Please send this letter whole to Miss Rinder — she will know what to cut out before sending to others.28 Thank you over and over again for all your exertions on my behalf: I hate to give so much trouble, but my gratitude is very great.

Your loving brother
Bertrand Russell.

Did Ada post letters29 left on my desk on May 1? If not, she should.



  • 1.

    [document] BR inherited, or was given by the legatee, Frank Russell’s letters from BR, and they are part of the Russell Archives. This letter was edited from the signed original in BR’s handwriting. Written on the blue correspondence form of the prison system, it consists of a single sheet folded once vertically; all four sides are filled. Particulars, such as BR’s name and number, were entered in an unknown hand. Prisoners’ correspondence was subject to the approval of the governor or his deputy. This letter has “HB” (for an unidentified deputy of the governor) handwritten at the top, making it an “official” letter. Among the several markings on the letter is a cumulative number (“948”) added in the late 1940s as BR was going through his papers (see K. Blackwell, “Doing Archival History with BRACERS”, Bertrand Russell Research Centre Newsletter, no. 2 [2003]: 3–4). Other Brixton letters were numbered similarly, as they were encountered in the same envelope or folder.

  • 2.

    now decided … one visit and one letter a week BR had requested visits and letters “oftener than once a fortnight” in Letter 3.

  • 3.

    They and the question of sending MSS. Seeing Carr and Withers and sending out mss. were all approved by 3 June (Letters 12 and 41).

  • 4.

    half an hour The standard visit for the first division was fifteen minutes every two weeks. By this time BR’s visits had been increased to a half hour once a week. But even with these additional privileges, there was hardly enough time to “talk shop” with Whitehead — as he complained below.

  • 5.

    Mallesons Lady Constance Malleson and Miles Malleson, Colette’s husband. Colette was touring the provinces with a theatre company — Manchester, then Scarborough and Brighton. Miles was not with her.

  • 6.

    congratulations to G.J. G.J. was “A pseudonym for Colette” (BR’s note on the original of the present letter). The congratulations were presumably in response to her message (BRACERS 96079) in The Times, 13 May 1918, where she noted that work was improving and that she was earning an extra £2 a week.

  • 7.

    thank the person … Maison Lambert According to Gladys Rinder (25 May 1918, BRACERS 79611), the gift of chocolates was from Dorothy Mackenzie (see Letter 7). The Maison Lambert, a restaurant and confectionery catering mainly to patrons of London’s theatre district, was located on Shaftesbury Avenue, close to Russell Chambers in Bury St. (now Bury Place), where BR had his apartment. Since opening in 1915 the establishment had been owned and operated by an émigré Russian, Stanislaus Lambert, who claimed to be a “Count Lubienskii” at a tribunal hearing dismissing his appeal for an exemption from military service on medical grounds (see “Count as Restaurateur”, Western Mail, 22 May 1918, p. 4).

  • 8.

    tobacco BR was a lifelong pipe-smoker since the age of nineteen (BR to Max Roseblume, 22 March 1940, BRACERS 46486; BRACERS 10395 and 14343; see also L.P. Smith to BR, 3 Dec. 1891, BRACERS 80826, Auto. 1: 90; and, for his pipe tobacco, Letter 99, note 17).

  • 9.

    Titchener Edward Bradford Titchener (1867–1927) was a British-born experimental psychologist who became a pioneer of that discipline in the US after accepting in 1892 a position at Cornell. He specialized in the study of introspection and attention. In addition to Titchener’s Lectures on the Experimental Psychology of the Thought-Processes (New York: Macmillan, 1909), which was on the list of works compiled by Dorothy Wrinch (10 May 1918, BRACERS 81964). BR read four articles by the same author in The American Journal of Psychology and another in The Psychological Review (see Papers 8: App. III).

  • 10.

    Drever James Drever (1873–1950), Scottish experimental psychologist and educationalist at the University of Edinburgh. In The Analysis of Mind (p. 55) BR referred to Drever’s work Instinct in Man: a Contribution to the Psychology of Education (London: Cambridge U. P., 1917; Russell’s library), which is the book Wrinch listed in her letter noted below.

  • 11.

    not the other books she mentions In addition to the works by Titchener, Drever and Laird (see below), Wrinch’s list included Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (presumably a German edition) and two books recommended to her by the philosopher A.E. Heath: Ralph Barton Perry, The Free Man and the Soldier: Essays on the Reconciliation of Liberty and Discipline (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916), and Harold Laski, Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty (New Haven: Yale U. P., 1917).

  • 12.

    tickets she sent Probably library forms for borrowing books.

  • 13.

    her letter Wrinch’s letter is dated 10 May 1918 (BRACERS 81964).

  • 14.

    Holt … shoddy book Edwin B. Holt, The Concept of Consciousness (London: Allen & Unwin, 1914). Holt (1875–1946) was one of the six American new realists whose programme was announced in The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 7 (21 July 1910): 393–401 (reviewed by BR, 13 in Papers 6) and in a book of papers, The New Realism: Coöperative Studies in Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1912). In 1918 Holt was a professor of psychology at Harvard. Though an early American supporter of Freud, his approach was basically behaviourist and notably so in The Concept of Consciousness. BR referred to the book without complaint in The Analysis of Mind (p. 25), but its opening chapter, promisingly entitled “The Renaissance of Logic”, gave much evidence to support the claim of shoddiness, at least on that topic.

  • 15.

    Can Belief be explained by neutral monism? BR had abandoned his earlier theory of belief, the multiple-relation theory, in the face of criticism by Wittgenstein. As he reconsidered his objection to neutral monism — the philosophy of mind held, most prominently, by William James — the question of whether it could supply an adequate theory of belief was uppermost in his mind.

  • 16.

    nor Theory of Measure In her letter to BR of 10 May 1918 (BRACERS 81964), Wrinch had suggested sending some unspecified material on “the new Borel–Lebesgue Theory of Measure”. Theory of measure was a topic on which BR, according to Wrinch, had expressed an interest the previous October. Starting from initial insights by Émile Borel in 1898 and Henri-Léon Lebesgue in 1902, measure theory had developed greatly during the next fifteen years, mainly in the hands of French mathematicians. It had no relevance to the philosophical work BR was doing in prison, but it was a crucial step in the development of modern real analysis. Measure theory would have been relevant to Principia Mathematica, the penultimate section of which dealt with measurement (though without reference to the work of Borel and Lebesgue).

  • 17.

    reviewed Laird on Himself “A Metaphysical Defence of the Soul”, an unsigned review of John Laird’s Problems of the Self (London: Macmillan, 1917) in The Nation 22 (10 Nov. 1917): supp., pp. 210, 212 (B&R C17.64); 13 in Papers 8. John Laird (1887–1946) had studied with BR at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he got a first in the moral sciences tripos in 1911. BR had thought him the most promising student that year but still weak in logic: “I had a strenuous time with Laird last night, he is off to Canada <to teach at Dalhousie U.> and I shan’t see him again. He was lapsing into stupidity, letting his mind grow sluggish. He said he found Logic too difficult and couldn’t understand it. I told him he could if he would take the trouble, and that if he wouldn’t take the trouble he had no business to teach philosophy. I made him realize all sorts of muddles he had got into, and tried to stir him up to use his faculties to the full. I put an incredible amount of energy into it, but I don’t know whether I produced any lasting effect” (BR to Ottoline, BRACERS 17615). Laird recollected with gratitude his year with BR when he returned the analysis of the soul (or ego or self) in his essay on The Analysis of Mind  (“On Certain of Russell’s Views concerning the Human Mind” in The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, ed. P.A. Schilpp [Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern U., 1944], esp. pp. 301, 315–16). In 1913–24 Laird was professor of logic and metaphysics at Queen’s University, Belfast, and then professor of moral philosophy at the University of Aberdeen until his death. Problems of the Self was his first book. BR’s review is not severely unfavourable, but he took Laird to task for making the soul (or ego) not distinguishable from the totality of an individual’s experiences and thus logically superfluous. He closed with a characterization of logic: “the better our logic, the less it will permit us to infer.”

  • 18.

    Miss Kyle for her letter Kyle wrote BR on 13 May 1918: “I wonder if you will manage to fit in your ‘half-minute’s high thinking’ during the six months” (BRACERS 1855). BR had remarked in the first of “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism” lectures (which Kyle evidently took down, typed and corrected) that “unless you are fairly self-conscious about symbols, unless you are fairly aware of the relation of the symbol to what it symbolizes, you will find yourself attributing to the thing properties which only belong to the symbol. That, of course, is especially likely in very abstract studies such as philosophical logic, because the subject-matter that you are supposed to be thinking of is so exceedingly difficult and elusive that any person who has ever tried to think about it knows you do not think about it except perhaps once in six months for half a minute. The rest of the time you think about the symbols, because they are tangible, but the thing you are supposed to be thinking about is fearfully difficult and one does not often manage to think about it. The really good philosopher is the one who does once in six months think about it for a minute” (Papers 8: 166).

  • 19.

    French Revolution, after August 1792 This was the month the monarchy fell and France was invaded by an anti-revolutionary coalition of Prussian, Austrian and French émigré forces. During this “second” and more radical French Revolution a democratic constitution was drafted and a raft of egalitarian social and economic measures introduced. But the stability of the new French republic was rocked by internal revolts and continuing external pressure, which fuelled political fears and hysteria culminating in the year-long Terror beginning in June 1793.

  • 20.

    Marat is indistinguishable from Bottomley Ultra-radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat (1743–1793) glorified revolutionary violence and was instrumental in the incitement of 1792’s September Massacres. In this eruption of the Parisian mob, more than a thousand aristocratic and royalist prisoners (and common criminals) were summarily executed. From the platform of his popular patriotic weekly, John Bull, Horatio Bottomley (1860–1933), financier, politician and publicist, gained prominence and notoriety as a wartime scourge of everything German and of British pacifists and dissenters (including BR: see Letter 100). Bottomley’s successful rabble-rousing ended just as abruptly, but not so violently, as that of Marat (who was famously murdered in his bath by a Girondin opponent), when in 1922 he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for the fraudulent use of capital invested in his own war bonds.

  • 21.

    Maurice affair BR’s speculative assessment of the final outcome of this “affair” was broadly correct, although Frank had predicted otherwise in raising the matter just as the political crisis was breaking (7 May 1918, BRACERS 46912). In a letter to The Times Major-General Sir Frederick Maurice (1871–1951), the departing Director of Military Operations, accused the British Government of falsifying information about troop levels on the Western Front in order to disguise a grave shortfall (“Ministerial Statements”, 7 May 1918, p. 7). Two days later Maurice’s charges were repeated in the Commons by Herbert Asquith, who raised the political stakes by dividing the House (for the only time during the war) in a vote which he then lost. In fact, the former Liberal Prime Minister’s intervention served to magnify his party’s divisions, rather than weaken the authority of his successor, Lloyd George, or undermine civilian control of military strategy. This principle had already been asserted in February 1918 by the dismissal, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, of another government critic (and friend of Maurice’s), General Sir William Robertson.

  • 22.

    Times far more interesting In “read<ing> with pleasure parts I never read before”, BR must have been referring to the Personals column with messages from Colette. They began on 7 May 1918 (BRACERS 96064).

  • 23.

    I give the war at least another two years 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 became slightly more optimistic — although not before his forlorn prediction to Gladys Rinder of the war’s continuation “till Germany is as utterly defeated as France was in 1814, and that that will take about another ten years” (18 June 1918, Letter 20). By mid-August, however, he could “see a possible end to the war” by late 1919 (Letter 70). BR clearly underestimated the rapidity with which German military resistance was now 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).

  • 24.

    Analysis of Mind It appears BR already had the title of his 1921 work. In “Bertrand Russell’s Notes on the New Work Which He Intends to Undertake” (1918; Papers 8: App. II), he again used the title in describing “a large projected work, Analysis of Mind”. But the projected work was on a much larger scale than the book that was published.

  • 25.

    book on logic … text-book … lectures I gave BR had had it in mind for some time to write a book on logic to expound and, presumably, defend the logic which forms the basis of Principia Mathematica and which is, as many critics have complained, too casually and informally stated in the Introduction there. Alas, it was never written. The “text-book” is the Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, written in prison and published in 1919. “<T>he lectures I gave after Xmas” made up “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism” (published in The Monist, 1918–19; 17 in Papers 8), which thus gives some idea of the scope of the book on logic which was never written. The lecture course BR gave before Christmas 1917 was on philosophy of mathematics, in contrast to the course after Christmas on philosophical logic. For the first course, there were eight lectures, 30 October to 18 December, with the course and tickets being organized by Wildon Carr. There was a printed syllabus for the first course, and presumably for the second, but no copy of either has come to light. For the second course, there were also eight lectures, 22 January to 12 March.

  • 26.

    come back with a fresh point of view BR described this stage in his writing process a little differently in “How I Write”: “I usually find that after a sufficient time my sub-conscious has done the work” (1954; Papers 28: 103).

  • 27.

    belief, desire, and emphatic particulars In The Analysis of Mind BR defended a neutral-monist metaphysics of mind, according to which both mind and matter are constructions from a more fundamental kind of stuff which is neither mind nor matter. But methodologically, his treatment of mental phenomena was, so far as possible, behaviouristic. He did, however, recognize the limitations of behaviourism and acknowledged, e.g., the existence of images — something no behaviourist could accept. Belief, desire, and emphatic particulars (which BR later called “egocentric particulars” and are now known as “indexicals”) are indeed three formidable problems for such an account, for all involve the fundamental phenomenon of intentionality, the mind’s directedness towards objects; and it is not clear how such a theory might account for this. BR had needed a new theory of belief since he abandoned his earlier multiple-relation theory in the face of Wittgenstein’s criticism in 1913. In The Analysis of Mind, and in an earlier paper “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean” (1919; 20 in Papers 8), he reintroduced propositions as the objects of belief, but this time as mental or linguistic structures of images or words capable of representing states of affairs. One might have expected him to use images also in the treatment of desire in terms of behaviour initiated by some imaged good. Instead, he treated desire entirely behaviouristically in The Analysis of Mind, in terms of behaviour-cycles, identifying the object of desire with what brings such a cycle to an end. He did not deal with emphatic particulars in the Analysis. His eventual theory on them can be found in An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940), Ch. VII, and Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948), Pt. II, Ch. IV.

  • 28.

    before sending to others Gladys Rinder was in charge of circulating suitable extracts of BR’s letters to his friends. Sometimes they were sent weekly; there were also monthly compilations. Most of them were mimeographed, but sometimes typed carbons were circulated. Twenty people were on the list to receive letters. See S. Turcon, “Like a Shattered Vase: Russell’s 1918 Prison Letters”, Russell 30 (2010): 101–25 (at 103).

  • 29.

    Ada … post letters Presumably Ada was Frank Russell’s maid. Colette mentioned Ada in her letter of 31 May 1918 (BRACERS 113133). No letters from BR dated 1 May 1918 survive in the Russell Archives, but two from the previous day do: to Ottoline (BRACERS 18675) and to Colette (BRACERS 19306). These were farewell letters and may well have been those which awaited posting. After sixteen days, BR would have expected replies, via messages in the “official” letters to him.

Textual Notes

  • a.

    G.J. Second period supplied.

  • b.

    Streatfield BR misspelt “Streatfeild”. Closing bracket supplied.

  • c.

    Analysis of Mind Originally enclosed in quotation marks.

Russell letter no. 
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Transcription Public Access 
Record created 2014/10/16
Record last modified 2019/02/08
Created/last modified by blackwk