BRACERS Record Detail for 46926

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Class no.
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Russell, Frank
Form of letter
BR's address code (if sender)
Notes and topics

This letter has the initials "HB" at the top; previous to this letter (and except for "H.B." at record 46913) the initials "CH" appeared at the top of each letter.

It contains instructions about Lippincott, The Spectator, novels and visitors. BR is becoming irritable, unable to get on with work because the wet weather gives him a headache. He misses tobacco. There is a message for Dorothy Wrinch; see document .079991a, record 119618. BR refers to a "very kind" message from Arthur Dakyns "sent by you" (document .048817, record 76251).

The following person is now identified as St. George Lane Fox-Pitt: "I hear St. George blasphemed against mathematics. I found an extract about another Pitt (less remarkable than St. George in St. George's opinion) and mathematics...." (On 23 July 1918, record 46929, Elizabeth Russell writes that "St. George has sent a little book called Shell Shock by Professor E.C. Smith and T.H. Pear, and the Proceedings of the Physical Society June 15, and thought you might like to see them." On 29 July BR tells Frank he doesn't want a book on shell shock "or any other from St. George". Wrinch describes St. George's interventions during some philosophical meetings, document .057983, record 81965. Fox-Pitt's mother, Alice, was a Stanley and a sister of BR's mother.)

There are several transcriptions of this letter:
Document .079992 and its carbon, .079992a, both described in record 116670.
Document .201176 (condensed), record 116671 and its carbon, .201192, record 116672.
Document .201202 (condensed), record 116673.

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 41

BRACERS 46926. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 18681; next letter, BRACERS 19320
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
Jy. 15, 1918.

Dear F.

Your letter came early,2 but it was sadly short, owing to Miss King.3 Lippincott.4 If you have looked through the large cabinet and the drawers of the desk, I have nowhere to suggest. Probably his agent in London would give you a copy of the contract. But it is quite unnecessary to have it. Stanley Unwin can go on just as well without it: he only has to write to Lippincott to ask if he is open to an offer, and to the Century Co. to ask if they will make one to Lippincott direct. I am assuming all this does not affect the English publication, which is what I care for, and which I hope is to be in Oct. at latest.5 Please let me know about this. Spectator.6 You could get it from Spectator office if at all — that is best way — if not there, give it up. Novels. I beseech you bring me some novels on Wed. They are vital to my happiness! If you can’t think of anything else, bring Beresford’s God’s Counterpoint7 (Collins, 6s). But I should like several novels. Pirrie. Much interested. I agree with him, not the Canadian.8 I hope you will find time for my affairs this week. I begin to fret more. I have not got on with work — wet weather gives me headache, and one can do nothing here to alleviate it. Can’t something be done to the Duke of Rutland? Since he started praying for rain9 it has rained continuously, and unless he can be stopped there will be another Flood. Can’t he be induced to pray for something really useful (Peace, say), since evidently he has the Ear of the Authorities. I grow increasingly to want tobacco. Could you bring or send some chocolate (not as a present), as cheap as you like? It takes the place of tobacco to some extent. Dear me, dear me, what a peevish letter! Forgive me, it is the rain and lack of novels. Visits. Am keen on Mrs Hamilton coming, best next time Ly. O. comes, instead of Nevinson10 ora M. Burdett. Have M. Burdett some time — but that is mere duty. Should like Macdonald some time; Nevinson some time; Mrs Huth Jackson, 64 Rutland Gateb if she would like to come: Please thank her warmly for splendid carnations. [You knew her: she was Tiny Grant Duff at Twickenham.]11

To Miss Wrinch. Given any ω-limit it is always easy in fact to assign an ω12 which it limits. But no rule can be given. Assuming ω1 is not an ω-limit, it can I think be proved that any assigned rule will break down sooner or later. This method is therefore hopeless.13 Hope to send shortly notes on symbolism and behaviourism14 to be discussed — quite inconclusive.

[Advise you to cut off above with scissors or you may get it wrong.] Please thank Miss Rinder for her message and say I should like one or two Voltaire books15 from London Library — if she will keep the list, I will work through them gradually. [No hurry, as a lot of Mirabeau books16 have just come.]c I saw Wildon Carr Friday and much enjoyed his visit this time. I hear St. George blasphemed against mathematics.17 I found an extract about another Pitt18 (less remarkable than St. G, in St. G.’s opinion) and mathematics:d “Mr. Pitt with his wonderful Quickness of Apprehension, with his strong Understanding, with all his Literature, and his honest upright Heart, would not have made the figure he does had he not applied himself to Mathematics with the greatest Assiduity” (Lady Stafford to her son, Dec. 1789). Tell this to Miss Wrinch — it will comfort her. — I am glad to be going to see Arthur Dakyns — it was such a very kind message19 he sent by you.e Here is a letter from Canning (then in office) on Bonaparte’s accession to power:20 “… The destroyer of the National Representation of the French Republick is a public benefactor to Europe. I care not whether he restores a King or becomes himself a Despot, so that he be bloody and tyrannical enough. Heaven prosper all his projects against French liberty and Republican Principles, whatever they may be! But as to peace … No — No — No! I hope that will be easily fought off. If the old form of things … had endured and the rest of Europe had been dastardly, we might have found some difficulty in carrying on the war. But now it is our own faults if we do not take on a new lease of it.” He was the man who called liberty into existence in the New World “to redress the balance of the Old” — and at the same time swept away the Spanish monopoly of S. American trade. It is comforting to observe how much our statesmen have advanced in morals and enlightenment since that time … Love to E.

Your aff
B Russell.

Please bring money Wed. Am short.


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from the signed, handwritten original in Frank Russell’s files in the Russell Archives. The letter was approved by an unidentified prison official, “HB”.

  • 2

    Your letter came early Dated 12 July 1918 (BRACERS 46925).

  • 3

    Miss King As she explained in her note on the verso of the letter from Frank, his secretary, E.S. King, forgot to remind Elizabeth Russell to add a message of her own before the couple left Gordon Square for Telegraph House.

  • 4

    Lippincott Despite various efforts by Frank and suggestions from BR (see Letters 30, 32 and 34), the contract with Lippincott for Roads to Freedom could not be located. (See Letter 21, note 5, for the initial trouble with the Lippincott contract.) However, a typed carbon copy, with seals, is in the Russell Archives (BRACERS 70492) and dated 11 October 1917.

  • 5

    English publication … Oct. at latest Roads to Freedom was not published in Britain until 1 December 1918. See note 9 to Letter 74.

  • 6

    Spectator BR wanted it for the review of Mysticism and Logic. See note 9 to Letter 44.

  • 7

    Beresford’s God’s Counterpoint This novel (London: Collins, 1918) by the English writer and theosophist J.D. Beresford (1873­–1947) concerned the baneful effects of Puritanism, which its austere principal character, publisher’s assistant Philip Maning, eventually repudiates.

  • 8

    Pirrie … I agree with him, not the Canadian During the weekend of 6–7 July, which Frank and Elizabeth had spent as guests of Lord and Lady Pirrie (see Letter 34), the chairman of Harland and Wolff had forecast a continuation of the war “for another three years”. In this letter to his brother, Frank also informed BR that an unidentified “Canadian officer” staying with the Pirries had predicted (with slightly more accuracy) “that the fighting would be over in fifteen months” (12 July 1918). As Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding since March 1918, Pirrie was entrusted with offsetting the devastation of Britain’s merchant marine by German U-boats and was almost duty-bound to assume that the conflict would be protracted.

  • 9

    Duke of Rutland … praying for rain In a letter to The Times (“The Prayer for Rain”, 9 July 1918, p. 7), Henry Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland (1852–1925) warned that Britain’s harvest was in jeopardy from two months of drought. He therefore humorously urged the Bishops to instruct all clergy to recite the Anglican prayer for rain. When the weather did finally break a few days later, another editorial correspondent to the newspaper quipped: “Archbishops prayed for wet; their prayers were vain: / Rutland wrote to the The Times — and there was rain” (G. Stuart Robertson, “The New Elijah”, 12 July 1918, p. 9).

  • 10

    Nevinson Henry Woodd Nevinson (1856–1941), socialist, suffragist, crusading journalist and war correspondent. On 5 July 1918 Elizabeth Russell reported to BR that Nevinson had been asking after him, and five days later Rinder wrote that “Nevinson again sends you kindest regards” (BRACERS 46923 and 79618).

  • 11

    Mrs Huth Jackson … she was Tiny Grant Duff at Twickenham 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 from York House, her nearby Twickenham home. 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).

  • 12

    ω “Greek long o.” (BR’s marginal note at BRACERS 116670.)

  • 13

    To Miss Wrinch. Given any ω-limit.… This method is therefore hopeless. In a letter of July 1918 (BRACERS 81965) Wrinch wrote:
         “I am very much intrigued by this problem. Can one, sans MULT AX, specify one progression in the case of every ordinal ωω1 except those which have immediate predecessors, which is limited by the ordinal? If I can, I believe that one can prove ω1 is not an ω limit. I mean is there one way of specifying one out of each class
              ‘progressions limited by ζ
    where ζ ∈ limeszahl between ωω1.             ??
         “I am anxious about this but can’t put out exactly how it arises at the moment. Do you think it possible?”
         Wrinch’s query concerned the vexed question of how much of transfinite set theory can be salvaged without MULT AX, the Multiplicative Axiom, Whitehead and BR’s version of what is now known as the Axiom of Choice (PM, *88.03). In effect her question was whether, without the Axiom of Choice, it was possible to prove that there is a choice function on the set of limit ordinals between ω, the ordinal number of the sequence of natural numbers, and ω1, the first uncountable ordinal (PM **263, 265). (The term “limeszahl”, “limit number”, is from Hausdorff, Grundzüge der Mengenlehre [Leipzig: Veif, 1914], p. 106, which Wrinch was reading.) If it is, then she thought it might be possible to prove that ω1 was not an ω-limit. BR’s reply was not encouraging. He pointed out that, without the Axiom of Choice, one could not prove the existence of such a choice function (“no rule can be given”), even though, in any particular case, a choice could be made. Moreover, he went on to say that if one assumed, what Wrinch was hoping to prove, namely that ω1 was not an ω-limit, then he thought it could be proved that there was no such choice-function, so Wrinch’s method (of proving that there was a choice function and then proving that ω1 was not an ω-limit) was “hopeless”.
         Not surprisingly, in view of this response, Wrinch did not take up this issue in any of her subsequent publications, though she did continue to examine the consequences of abandoning the Axiom of Choice, e.g., in her work on mediate cardinals begun about this time and published as “On Mediate Cardinals”, American Journal of Mathematics 45 (1923): 87–92. (Mediate cardinals, now known as Dedekind cardinals, are too large to be mapped on to the natural numbers but too small to be mapped on to a proper subset of themselves. PM *124.61 showed that their existence was ruled out by the Multiplicative Axiom.) However, the claim that there was a choice function on the set of limit ordinals between ω and ω1, which Wrinch was hoping to prove without the Axiom of Choice, was later considered by Alonzo Church as a postulated alternative to it. Cf. Church, “Alternatives to Zermelo’s Assumption”, Transactions of the American Mathematical Society 29 (1927): 178–208.

  • 14

    notes on symbolism and behaviourism It is not clear what became of these notes. Two of the short manuscript notes written about this time and published in Papers 8, “Propositions” and “Thoughts on Language, Leading to Language of Thought” (18h and 18i of Papers 8), are on cognate topics, but they are dated 31 July (by Wrinch) and 10 August (by BR), respectively. Delays in communication from prison would allow “Propositions” to be one of the notes.

  • 15

    one or two Voltaire books Gladys Rinder, to whom BR later wrote about the French philosophe, brought him Sébastian G. Longchamp and Jean-Louis Wagnière, Mémoires sur Voltaire: et sur ses ouvrages (Paris: André, 1826), and Gustave Lanson, Voltaire (Paris: Hachette, 1906) (see BRACERS 116691, 4 Aug. 1918, and 79640, 19 Aug. 1918).

  • 16

    lot of Mirabeau books On 25 July 1918 BR told Ottoline that he was “absorbed in a 3-volume Mémoire of Mirabeau”, but the edition was not identified. Nor is it known what other books he received about Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749–1791), a French aristocrat who was rejected by his class and became, despite his moderate views, an important leader of the revolutionary National Assembly.

  • 17

    I hear St. George blasphemed against mathematics. In a gossipy letter (n.d. [July 1918], BRACERS 81965) about that year’s joint session of the Aristotelian Society, the British Psychological Association, and the Mind Association (held at the University of London Club on 5–8 July 1918), BR’s student Dorothy Wrinch complained about St. George Lane Fox-Pitt (1856–1932) and his “UTTERLY IRRELEVANT criticism” of her paper, “On the Summation of Pleasures” (later published in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 18 [1917–18]: 589–94). BR “should NOT have a cousin who says such bad things about MATHEMATICS.... He told me that Maths obscured the issue and misled people very much — and other things.” BR regarded Fox-Pitt, the son of his maternal aunt, Alice (Stanley) Lane-Fox (later Pitt-Rivers), as something of a crank. He was the defeated Liberal candidate at Wimbledon in 1906 and appeared on the platform with BR in the latter’s 1907 campaign in the same constituency (Auto. 1: 154).

  • 18

    extract about another Pitt See Lord Granville, Private Correspondence, 1781–1821 (London: J. Murray, 1917), 1: 18 (letter from Lady Stafford, 8 Dec. 1789). The mother of future diplomat Earl Granville (see note 9 to Letter 40) had been preparing her young son to meet the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, a talented mathematician who had studied the subject at Cambridge and retained an interest in it throughout his political life.

  • 19

    I am glad … Arthur Dakyns … kind message On 27 June 1918 Dakyns had told BR that he would “come from the ends of the earth to see him, even if only for a minute or two” (BRACERS 76251).

  • 20

    letter from Canning … Bonaparte’s accession to power See Lord Granville, Private Correspondence, 1781–1821 (London: J. Murray, 1917), 1: 273. Rising Tory politician George Canning (1770–1827) was a zealous opponent of revolutionary ideas and had been instrumental in establishing a publication, The Anti-Jacobin, to combat them. When he wrote to Lord Granville Leveson-Gower (19 Nov. 1799), Canning was serving as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the administration of William Pitt. As a senior statesman, at the Foreign Office (1822–27) and then (for the last four months of his life) as Prime Minister, Canning tempered the reactionary tendencies he had exhibited early in his career. Indeed, as BR hinted later in the same passage, he gained something of a liberal reputation for supporting independence movements in the Spanish Americas, backing the Greek revolt against Ottoman rule and favouring a relaxation of the Corn Laws.

Textual Notes
  • a

    Nevinson or Inserted.

  • b

    Mrs Huth Jackson, 64 Rutland Gate BR inserted her address.

  • c

    [No hurry, as a lot of Mirabeau books have just come.] BR inserted the sentence in brackets.

  • d

    mathematics: Colon editorially inserted.

  • e

    by you Replaced “you”.

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