BRACERS Record Detail for 46928

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Class no.
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Russell, Frank
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Notes and topics

This letter has the initials "HB" at the top.

It contains messages for the following: Gladys Rinder (with messages for Percy and Dorothy Wrinch) and Ottoline Morrell.

Document .077994a, record 112391, has been created, the message for Percy (C. Malleson); document .077994b, record 119620, for the message to Rinder; document .077994c, record 119623 for the message to Morrell.

BR has been reading Mirabeau. He recommends Jeremiah XVII: 9 to Dorothy Wrinch.

There are several transcriptions of this letter:

Document .079995, and its carbon, .079995a (microfilmed without the "a"), record 116675.
Document .079996, record 116676.
Document .201117, record 116677 and its carbon, .201193, record 116678.
Document .201203, record 116679.

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 44

BRACERS 46928. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19322; next letter, BRACERS 19324
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
22 July 1918.

Dear Frank

Thank you for your letter2 — but I am sorry that after all you didn’t allow E. to fill up the back page? I imagine you told her she must do it in 3 minutes, while you looked over her shoulder? Or did Miss King3 muddle it? It is very good that the prohibited-areas order is withdrawn — thank you 1000 times. It now remains to be free to profit by the change. Please give Elizabeth all news you have as regards my affairs, before she comes on Wed. And please ask her to phone to Allen and Unwin, and find out from Stanley Unwin whether there is any doubt about Roads to Freedom appearing this autumn in England. I want very much to know on Wednesday, and when I have asked you you have been too busy to find out. To Miss Rinder. Thanks for message. Think P’s remarks on Lytton4 excellent. Please recommend to Miss Wrinch Jeremiah XVII, 9.5 It is my favourite text — Freud in nutshell. Tell her also to let me know when she can what is being discovered about Emotion. You know that in a week my brother goes to the country. I want you then, if you will, to take on the organizing of every other visit;6 also the following up of C.A’s advice7 or any other similar activities, in so far as seems necessary after my brother is gone and finished. Will you also be so very kind as to look after novels for me? Those you gave my brother last time have been a godsend. Could read a Geo. Birmingham,8 not Red Hand of Ulster, Search Party, or Lalage’s Lovers. Could you also get from Spectator Office (just by Waterloo Bridge) the number with review of my Mysticism?9 , a About 4 or 5 weeks ago. Sorry to be such a bore about novels. I have grown terribly restless and find them an immense boon. [End] To Lady O. A thousand thanks for flowers which are the greatest delight. I have finished Ld. Granville’s letters,10 with much regret — Ly. B.11 is a most delightful woman — most lovable and able. The book gives a wonderful insight into the statesmen of the period — a wretched crew, except Fox.12 I wonder politics did not lead Ld. G. and Ly. B. to quarrel. So glad of P’s letter in Nation about S.S.13 , 14 I admire S.S’s work very much indeed. The reviewer is a smug scoundrel — he must be very well off, over 50, and a member of several exceedingly comfortable Clubs. Who is the villain?15 Do you know? [End message]

I have been reading about Mirabeau. His death is amusing.16 As he was dying he said “Ah! si j’eusse vécu, que j’eusse donné de chagrin à ce Pitt!”17 which I prefer to Pitt’s last words (except in Dizzy’s version).18 They were not however quite the last words Mirabeau uttered. He went on: “Il ne reste plus qu’une chose à faire: c’est de se parfumer, de se couronner de fleurs et de s’environner de musique, afin d’entrer agréablement dans ce sommeil dont on ne se réveille plus. Legrain, qu’on se prépare à me raser, à faire ma toilette toute entière.” Then, turning to a friend who was sobbing, “Eh bien! êtes-vous content, mon cher connaisseur en belles morts?” At last, hearing some guns fired, “Sont-ce déjà les funérailles d’Achille?”19 After that, apparently, he held his tongue, thinking, I suppose, that any further remark would be an anti-climax. He illustrates the thesis I was maintaining to you last Wednesday, that all unusual energy is inspired by an unusual degree of vanity. There is just one other motive: love of power. Philip II of Spain and Sidney Webb of Grosvenor Road are not remarkable for vanity.20

The successes of the French are an immense relief.21 One holds one’s breath wondering if it will last. — I think you had better pay that tailor’s bill please. — The prison wants cash in future, not cheques; and I don’t want to run out. Could I please have £5 henceforth once a fortnight in cash, beginning next week? Then there will be something in hand when I come out which is desirable. Best love. Many many thanks for all your kindness. Have received some chocolate, want it not a present.

Yrs aff
B Russell.


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from the signed, handwritten original in the Frank Russell papers in the Russell Archives. The letter covers both sides of a single sheet ruled on one side; it has three folds. The letter was an “official” one and approved by “HB”, the Brixton governor’s deputy.

  • 2

    your letter Dated 19 July 1918 (BRACERS 46927).

  • 3

    Miss King Frank Russell’s secretary. King had muddled the previous letter (BRACERS 46925) from the Russells (see Letter 41). BR was much vexed this time.

  • 4

    P’s remarks on Lytton Colette’s remarks about Lytton Strachey’s book, Eminent Victorians, were contained in a message from “Percy” in Frank’s letter to BR of 19 July 1918 (BRACERS 46927): “It is a great thing that Lytton has done in desentimentalising Miss Nightingale. — His picture of her is ever so faintly reminiscent of C.E.M. <Catherine Marshall> but with good judgment and something really terrific inside; just that indispensable volcanic quality which seems to me to be absolutely necessary to really great achievement. The way Lytton brings out the gradual demand for expression of Manning’s mean ambitious side is a triumph of subtle observation. One can hardly quarrel with the book’s deliberate showing up of the mesquin side of these characters when their other side has I suppose been universally proclaimed, nevertheless, it leaves one saturated with ungenerosity. When I was a child Gordon was my great hero and I still have a sneaking admiration for the twisted, knobbly, pigheaded adventure of the man.” In Letter 45 BR praised her directly for the remarks.

  • 5

    Please recommend to Miss Wrinch Jeremiah XVII, 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Wrinch and Raphael Demos were together exploring the nature of the emotions.

  • 6

    take on the organizing of every other visit Rinder would be responsible for deciding which trio of BR’s friends would visit him, making sure they would make a compatible group and would be available for a visit on the day selected. Presumably transportation to Brixton was also involved, along with informing visitors about the rules to be followed.

  • 7

    the following up of C.A’s advice BR was possibly recalling the “measures … agreed on with C.A. <Clifford Allen>” before his imprisonment, about how to avoid being called up after his release yet maintain the political and moral basis of his opposition to conscription (see Letter 24). The two men had debated the perplexities of this dilemma at the Marlow home of T.S. Eliot and his wife, over the weekend of 30 March–1 April 1918. Allen addressed the matter again in a reply to Letter 18, disagreeing with BR’s contention that abstaining from pacifist propaganda was an acceptable price for imprisoned C.O.s to pay for release. BR’s comment is jarring because, immediately after meeting Allen at the Eliots’, he had forcefully stated to Gilbert Murray (BRACERS 52367) that he would make no such pledge. But Allen could “entirely agree about evading arrest” through the pursuit of “useful work” (Letter 18), which for BR meant philosophy and in Allen’s case was the “labour work” for which he was “hoping against hope that I can get well” (27 June 1918, BRACERS 74282).

  • 8

    read a Geo. Birmingham George A. Birmingham was the pen name of prolific Irish novelist and Anglican cleric, James Owen Hannay (1865–1950).

  • 9

    Spectator … number with review of my Mysticism? BR had requested this issue of the weekly paper in his last two letters to Frank (Letters 34 and 41), before eventually obtaining it from Gladys Rinder (see Letter 53). 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. In 1915 she married the architect Major Clough Williams-Ellis, who soon began building Portmeirion, the Italianate village close to BR’s last home in North Wales. In 1960 he prefaced a sci-fi anthology edited by Amabel, Vol. 1 of Out of This World. It isn’t known, however, when they became friends, or whether BR ever knew she was the reviewer. For the review’s content and BR’s response of 30 July 1918, see Letter 53.

  • 10

    Ld. Granville’s letters Lord Granville, Private Correspondence, 1781–1821, 2 vols. (London: J. Murray, 1917).

  • 11

    Ly. B. Henrietta Frances, Lady Bessborough, née Spencer (1761–1821), mistress of the politician and diplomat Lord Granville (1773–1846), by whom she had two children.

  • 12

    except Fox Charles James Fox (1749–1806), aristocratic Whig leader and outspoken critic of the repressive measures enacted during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by the administration of his arch-rival, William Pitt the Younger. As a proponent of parliamentary and other reforms, Fox was something of a mentor to the young Lord John Russell, who completed a laudatory three-volume life of his political hero, The Life and Times of Charles James Fox (1859–66).

  • 13

    P’s letter in Nation about S.S. Dated the same day as BR’s own letter of protest (Letter 39), Philip Morrell’s angry letter to the editor of The Nation (“Mr. Sassoon’s War Verses”, 23 [20 July 1918)]: 418–19) appeared two days before BR sent the present letter. Morrell called The Nation’s review of 13 July “pedantic”; the anonymous reviewer (J. Middleton Murry) should have put readers “into the mood to appreciate for themselves a moving and dramatic document.”

  • 14

    S.S. “Siegfried Sassoon.” (BR’s note at BRACERS 116675.)

  • 15

    Who is the villain? BR soon learned from Ottoline (BRACERS 114750) that “the villain” (i.e., the hostile reviewer of Siegfried Sassoon’s Counter-Attack and Other Poems) was the critic J. Middleton Murry, husband of Katherine Mansfield, and none of the things BR supposed he was. See Letter 48, note 3.

  • 16

    reading about Mirabeau. His death is amusing. In Letter 48 BR told Ottoline that he was “absorbed in a 3-volume Mémoire” of Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749–1791), but the edition has not been identified. Mirabeau was an early and moderate leader of the French Revolution who favoured transforming the monarchy along British constitutional lines rather than republican democracy. He was president of the Jacobin Club and one of the foremost orators in the National Assembly, to whose deliberations he continued to contribute until shortly before his death from pericarditis, age 42.

  • 17

    “Ah! si j’eusse vécu ... chagrin à ce Pitt!” [Translation:] “If I had lived, what grief I would have caused this Pitt!” The source is Lettres d’amour de Mirabeau, précédées d’une étude sur Mirabeau par Mario Proth (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1874), p. 52.

  • 18

    prefer to Pitt’s last words (except in Dizzy’s version) As William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) lay dying, this unyielding foe of both revolutionary and Napoleonic France supposedly proclaimed, “O my country! How I love my country”. Yet in a story related to newly elected M.P. Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) by an elderly parliamentary servant, the late Conservative Prime Minister’s final words did not attest to his patriotism but, rather, to a simple craving for a mutton pie. See Lord Rosebery, Pitt (London: Greenwood, 1891, p. 258; “What Shall I Read?”, Papers 1: 361).

  • 19

    “Il ne reste plus … funérailles d’Achille?” [Translation:] “There is only one thing left to do: to be perfumed and garlanded and enveloped by music, so as to drift pleasantly into that sleep from which one never wakes” … “Legrain, who is preparing to shave me and wash my entire body” … “Well! Are you happy, my dear connoisseur of beautiful deaths?” … “Are these the funerals of Achilles already?” The source is Lettres d’amour de Mirabeau, précédées d’une étude sur Mirabeau par Mario Proth (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1874), p. 52.

  • 20

    Philip II … Sidney Webb … Grosvenor Road … vanity Famously lacking in vanity, Philip II (1527–1598, ruled from 1556) even refused to authorize an official chronicle of his reign, during which Spain extended its colonial empire and was embroiled in damaging European conflicts with France, England, and the Protestant Dutch. From the Pearsall Smiths’ London home at 44 Grosvenor Road, Westminster, BR had been a frequent guest of Sidney and Beatrice Webb at number 41. (BR returned to the area with Edith Russell in the early 1950s, keeping a pied-à-terre on the continuation of Grosvenor Road, called Millbank.) On first meeting her future husband, Beatrice noted that Sidney, a determined and infinitely patient champion of Fabian socialism, “has no vanity and is totally unself-conscious” (14 Feb. 1890; The Diary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. 1: 1873–92, “Glitter around and Darkness within”, ed. Norman and Jeanne Mackenzie [Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap P. of Harvard U. P., 1982], p. 324).

  • 21

    The successes of the French are an immense relief. BR was referring to the early inroads made by the French-led Allied counter-attack in the second Battle of the Marne (15 July–6 Aug. 1918), which had commenced with Germany’s last major offensive on the Western Front. This assault on the French Fourth Army near Reims failed.

Textual Notes
  • a

    Mysticism Inserted.

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