BRACERS Record Detail for 46924

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Russell, Frank
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Notes and topics

This is an "official" letter. It  has the initials "CH" (Carleton Haynes, the prison governor) written at the top in ink. It contains messages for the following people: Miss Wrinch and BR's other philosophical friends, T.S. Eliot, Gladys Rinder (with messages to G.K., greetings to Mrs. Huth Jackson, and a comment on Dr. S.), Ottoline Morrell (with a message to Lucy Silcox), and Miss [Eva] Kyle. In addition to the messages, BR sends thanks to Dakyns and love to Elizabeth [Russell]. See documents .079987a-.079987e, record 116766, record 119612, record 119613, record 119614, record 119615, respectively.

BR tells Frank that he has made the index and sent it to Unwin. This must refer to the index to Roads to Freedom, which BR did not want Hilderic Cousens to index (see earlier letter).

BR is puzzled by the use of initials, noting: "Can't always make out who initials refer to. Haven't a ghost of a notion who 'S.M.' is, who has teaching post."

There are several transcriptions of this letter:

Document .079988 and its carbon .079988a, both described in record 116664.
Document .079989, record 116665.
Document .201175 and its carbon .201191, record 116666 and record 116667.
Document .201201, record 116668.

An extract of this letter is contained in "Extracts from Letters by Bertrand Russell Written in Brixton Prison". There is both a mimeo (document .080039, record 46966) and a typescript (document .080040, record 117615).


Letter 34

BRACERS 46924. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19318; next letter, BRACERS 19335
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
Monday 8 July ’18.

Dear Frank

Thanks for letter2 just come. I hope you are right in expecting me at T.H.3 in Aug. or Sept. — Find out, please, if Miss Wrinch has incurred any expenses over my books, and if so pay her on my account; and meantime give her kind messages from me. Tell her and my other philosophical friends that “Facts, Judgments, and Propositions”4 opens out — it was for its sake that I wanted to study behaviourism, because the first problem is to have a tenable theory of judgment. I see my way to a really big piece of work, and incidentally to a definition of “logic”,5 hitherto lacking. All the psychology that I have been reading and meaning to read was for the sake of logic; but I have reached a point in logic where I need theories of (a) judgment (b) symbolism, both of which are psychological problems. — Message to Eliot: Don’t want Brentano, have read him.6 Sorry for news about house,7 but even so I shall probably have to withdraw the end of this year. To Miss Rinder. Can’t always make out who initials refer to. Haven’t a ghost of a notion who “S.M.”8 is, who has teaching post. Please remember me warmly to Mrs Huth Jackson.9 It is very good of her to think of sending flowers. — Tell G.K.10 and such that I am longing for a chance to teach philosophy, and will find opportunities if allowed at large. Teaching is a passion with me. I think of advertising a course of metaphysics “intelligible to all except those who have already studied philosophy.” I can quite imagine that Dr. S. does not share my point of view.11 It is not new with me, quite. But I most vehemently repudiate the accusation of “meekness”.12

To Lady O. Very many thanks for presents, which were most delightful; also for the news of various friends that you gave me last Wednesday. Please give all sorts of messages from me to Gertler and Brett,13 and my love to Lucy Silcox. Tell her that her mistress, Miss Giles, who gets pictures framed by Boots,14 little thought that the box they came in would find its way into a prison cell to bring pleasure to a criminal; yet so it is. I am not fretting at all, on the contrary. At first I thought a good deal about my own concerns, but not (I think) more than was reasonable; now I hardly ever think about them, as I have done all I can. I read a great deal, and think about philosophy quite fruitfully. It is odd and irrational, but the fact is my spirits depend on the military situation as much as anything: when the Allies do well I feel cheerful, when they do badly I worry over all sorts of things that seem quite remote from the war. (End of message). — As for Maud Burdett, she ought to come some time with you — no doubt you remember her. If not Jy. 31, then later. I didn’t want her if I had 1 visit a month,15 but I do with 1 visit a week. If she comes with Ly. O., tell her Ly. O. is a niece of Mrs Scott of Ham.16 — Please thank Dakyns most warmly for his message.17 I look forward to seeing him. — Have made Index18 and sent it to Unwin. Sorry about Lippincott’s contract.19 Please tell Miss Kyle that in proofs sent to me quotations in footnotes often appeared without inverted commas: I hope she inserted them. — Should be glad of novels. Could do with Leonard Merrick,20 not Conrad in quest of youth or Peggy Harper which I have read. I am not set on his books — they merely occurred to me. — I feel the outlook in the world a trifle less hopeless than it was a while back — is that the view of other people?

Love to Elizabeth and thanks for her part of message. I look forward to seeing her the day after tomorrow. Hope your visit to the Pirries21 was a success! I wonder what you gleaned from him as to prospects. — Please if you possibly can get me Spectator with review of Mysticism and Logic22 — fortnight or 3 weeks ago. I particularly want it.

Yrs aff
B Russell.


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from the signed, handwritten original in the Frank Russell files in the Russell Archives. The letter covers both sides of a single sheet ruled on one side; it has three folds. It was an “official” letter, approved by “CH”, which are the initials of the Brixton Governor.

  • 2

    Thanks for letter Dated 5 July 1918 (BRACERS 116765).

  • 3

    T.H. BR’s getting to Telegraph House in August or September would have required an earlier release from Brixton than expected and that, in turn, would have required the success of Frank Russell’s efforts on his behalf.

  • 4

    “Facts, Judgments, and Propositions” These views were eventually published as “On Propositions: What They Are and How They Mean” (1919; 20 in Papers 8). Propositions, as BR now conceived them, were the objects of judgments (or belief). They were symbolic in nature because they represented possible states of affairs and psychology was involved because representation depended upon the mind. While he was in prison, BR changed his mind as to whether belief was the first problem for a theory of mind; he came to think that desire was the place to start. He discussed the matter at greater length in a message to Wrinch in Letter 51.

  • 5

    a really big piece of work … definition of “logic” Quite how big is revealed in his untitled outline of part of the project (Papers 8: App. II). (BR corrected the typescript, which was given the title “Bertrand Russell’s Notes on the New Work Which He Plans to Undertake”.) The outline, however, does not include the definition of logic. BR had considered the problem of defining logic in the final chapter of Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919) but without coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Alas, he gives little further information as to what definition he now had in mind, except the remark that “Theory of true judgments most nearly gives what is in fact being studied in what we call ‘logic’” (18g of Papers 8: 266–7), which requires considerable elaboration to make it satisfactory.

  • 6

    Message to Eliot: Don’t want Brentano, have read him In his letter of 3 June 1918 (Letter 12; BRACERS 46917), BR had asked his brother if T.S. Eliot could recommend any books on “the psychology of belief — not causes, but analysis”. In a message conveyed by Frank's letter of 5 July (BRACERS 46923), Eliot had suggested Franz Brentano’s “Classification of Psychical Phenomena” — in the original German presumably (Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene [Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1911]), as no English translation was in print. BR’s earlier psychological views had been heavily influenced by Brentano and his act–object school of psychology (which included two of BR’s teachers, G.F. Stout and James Ward), but in Analysis of Mind (1921) Brentano is one of the philosophers criticized.

  • 7

    house The Eliots rented a cottage at 31 West Street in the village of Marlow, Bucks., on 5 December 1917. BR had a financial obligation with regard to the rental, and he contributed furniture as well. (See note 12 to Letter 103.) Frank had relayed a message from Eliot. He had approached all possible acquaintances on sharing (or subletting) the cottage, but with no result.

  • 8

    S.M. “D.M.” was meant, for Dorothy Mackenzie (later Cousens).

  • 9

    remember me warmly to Mrs Huth Jackson Writer and society hostess Annabel (“Tiny”) Huth Jackson (née Grant Duff, 1870–1944) was a childhood friend of BR’s and a frequent visitor to Pembroke Lodge; she lived at York House, in Twickenham, on the opposite bank of the Thames. Although often terrorized by Frank, she remembered these excursions fondly and BR as a “solemn little boy in a blue velvet suit … always kind” (A Victorian Childhood [London: Methuen, 1932], p. 62). On 10 January 1917 she had communicated to BR her admiration of “the perfectly splendid stand you have made for principles against the whole of England” (BRACERS 1646).

  • 10

    G.K. George Kaufmann (later Adams, 1894–1963) was an “absolutist” C.O. who had been sentenced to two years’ hard labour early in 1917. He had previously studied chemistry at Christ’s College, Cambridge (from where he graduated in 1915) and served as president of the Cambridge University Socialist Society. On BR’s advice, he shifted his intellectual focus to projective geometry, while cultivating an enduring, parallel interest in the “spiritual science” of anthroposophy.

  • 11

    Dr. S. does not share my point of view The message from Rinder in Frank and Elizabeth Russell’s letter to BR of 5 July 1918 (BRACERS 46923) indicates that Letter 18 had been circulated to members of the No-Conscription Fellowship. Its Acting Chairman, the Quaker physician Dr. Alfred Salter, seems to have objected to BR’s advice that pacifist proselytizing was useless at present. “His robust optimism appears to me to have no solid foundation”, observed Rinder. Salter probably also disapproved of BR’s suggestion that imprisoned “absolutists” should now pledge to abstain from pacifist propaganda if such assurances secured their release and engagement in work of national importance. Many “absolutists” and most Quakers would have rejected civilian employment on such terms, and in all fairness Clifford Allen (no friend of NCF fanaticism) also disliked BR’s suggestion (see BRACERS 74282).

  • 12

    I … repudiate the accusation of “meekness” The “accusation” does not seem to have been levelled by Dr. Salter (see above), even though it could have been, in response to the political restraint recommended by BR in Letter 18 as a temporary tactic. In her own letter to BR written in early July, as opposed to the message in Frank and Elizabeth’s in which Salter is mentioned, Rinder had commented: “So glad to receive so good an account from your last visitors, only don’t grow too meek!” ([July 1918], BRACERS 79617). She may have been sharing a private joke with BR, derived from H.W. Massingham’s published response to BR’s conviction, which claimed that “Everybody who knows Mr. Russell knows that he would not hurt a fly, though he would freely give his body to be burned in any cause that he thought to be righteous one” (The Nation 23 [16 Feb. 1918]: 617). No doubt BR welcomed the backing of The Nation but so disliked the imputation of its editor that he remembered it over 40 years later in a passage comparing himself to Gilbert Murray. Far from being meek, BR then confessed, he had been prone to “outbreaks of savage indignation in which I wished to give pain to those whom I hated” (Gilbert Murray: an Unfinished Autobiography, ed. Jean Smith and Arnold Toynbee [London: Allen & Unwin, 1960], p. 208). See also Letter 31, in which BR insisted to Ottoline that “Hatred of some sort is quite necessary — it needn’t be towards people. But without some admixture of hate one becomes too soft and loses energy.”

  • 13

    Gertler and Brett Bloomsbury artists Mark Gertler (1891–1939) and Dorothy Brett both enjoyed the patronage of Lady Ottoline Morrell, who even set up a studio for the latter during her three-year residence at Garsington Manor (1916–19). Gertler was also a frequent visitor to the Morrells’ Oxfordshire estate, where he too painted and was one of many C.O.s to be nominally employed there in alternative service as an agricultural labourer. See Letter 88 to Brett.

  • 14

    Miss Giles … Boots Nothing has been discovered about Miss Giles other than that she was a teacher at St. Felix, the girls’ school in Southwold, Suffolk, of which BR’s friend Lucy Silcox was headmistress. It seems that a box with her name on it was used by both Silcox and Ottoline to transport some (unidentified) gifts to BR. For many decades the Boots Pure Drug Company, the retail chemist, offered picture-framing (among other non-pharmaceutical services) at its numerous High Street branches.

  • 15

    if I had 1 visit a month In Letter 3 BR assumed that weekly first division visits, which he requested, would replace fortnightly visits.

  • 16

    Lady O. is a niece of Mrs Scott of Ham. Caroline Louisa Warren Scott, née Burnaby (1832–1918), was successively the widow of Charles Bentinck, Ottoline’s brother, and of Henry Warren Scott, and was a great-grandmother to Elizabeth II.

  • 17

    thank Dakyns … for his message On 27 June 1918, Arthur Dakyns, a close friend (see Letter 41), assured BR that he would “come from the ends of the earth” to see him, even “if only for a minute or two” (BRACERS 76251). He visited BR in Brixton on 17 July.

  • 18

    index BR had sent his index for Roads to Freedom to Unwin. A Russellian index may have humorous entries: this one includes “Chewing-gum” and “Button-hooks”.

  • 19

    Lippincott’s contract Despite various efforts by Frank and suggestions by BR, the contract could not be located in the latter’s papers at Gordon Square. However, a typed carbon copy, with seals, is in the Russell Archives (BRACERS 70492) and dated 11 October 1917.

  • 20

    Could do with Leonard Merrick A British actor turned writer, Leonard Merrick (née Miller, 1864–1939) was the author of some eleven novels, including Conrad in Quest of His Youth (1903) and The Position of Peggy Harper (1911).

  • 21

    your visit to the Pirries Frank had “business relations” with William James Pirrie (1847–1924, Baron Pirrie, 1906), which were mentioned but not specified in the letter of Friday, 5 July (BRACERS 116765) in which he notified his brother that he and Elizabeth would be spending the weekend with the chairman of the giant Belfast shipbuilding concern, Harland and Wolff, and his wife, Margaret (c.1857–1935). Ten years previously, the Canadian-born Ulster businessman had been the only other peer to vote with Frank on the second reading of the latter’s Divorce Law Reform Bill.

  • 22

    Spectator with review of Mysticism and Logic The review, titled “Mysticism and Logic”, appeared in no. 4,695 (22 June 1918): 647–8. It had been brought to BR’s attention by Lucy Silcox (see BRACERS 80383). The anonymous reviewer, purportedly male, is identified in the marked copy of The Spectator as Mrs. C. Williams-Ellis, the former Amabel Strachey (1893–1984) and daughter of the Spectator’s editor, John St. Loe Strachey. Her brother was John Strachey. She was to be literary editor in 1922–23. In 1915 she married the architect Major Clough Williams-Ellis, who soon began building Portmeirion, the Italianate village close to BR’s final home in North Wales. In 1960 he prefaced a sci-fi anthology edited by Amabel, Vol. 1 of Out of This World. It’s not known, however, when they became friends or whether BR ever knew she was the reviewer. For the review’s content and BR’s response, see Letter 53.

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