BRACERS Record Detail for 46930

To access the original letter, email the Ready Division.

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

On the verso of the letter are the initials "HB" in ink.

It contains messages to: E. (Elizabeth Russell), Wrinch, Kyle and Lady Constance.

"Tell E. I don't want a book on shell-shock, or any other from St. George." (St. George Lane Fox-Pitt was BR's cousin.)

A separate document .079998a, record 116681, has been created for the message to Lady Constance Malleson; for E., document .079998b, record 119662; for Wrinch, document .079998c, record 119663; for Kyle, document .079998d, record 119664.

BR wants Rinder to take Frank's place if he is no longer able to visit because he is at Telegraph House. BR is glad that Elizabeth will still be able to visit.

"My dear Frank, I can't begin to tell you how profoundly grateful I am for all you have done for me since I have been here."

There are several transcriptions of this letter:

Document .079999 and its carbon, .079999a, both described in record 116682.
Document .080000, record 116683.
Document .201178, record 116684 and its carbon, .201194, record 116685.
Document .201204, record 116686.

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


Letter 51

BRACERS 46930. ALS. McMaster
Previous Brixton letter, BRACERS 19321; next letter, BRACERS 19337
Edited by K. Blackwell, A. Bone, N. Griffin and S. Turcon

<Brixton Prison>1
July 29. 1918.

Dear Frank

Your letter has just come2 — thank you for it. I feel your news by no means discouraging;3 I quite realize the unpropitiousness of the moment. What else there is to say can wait till Wednesday — except that I thank you with all my heart. — Don’t be cross with me — it is very beastly being here, and my nerves wear a bit thin as time goes on. I mind it increasingly, or rather I should if it were not that the end is in sight. — Tell E. I don’t want a book on shell-shock, or any other from St. George.4To Miss Wrinch: Quite agree that props come equally in wishes doubts etc. But my point is that all these “mental” attitudes need treating afresh, and that until they are defined props can’t be. I incline to regard the cognitive function of props as fundamental, but sometimes I put desire as the initial “mental” fact. If one is to make neutral monism or behaviourism adequate, one must have a physiological theory of symbolism,5 which is aimed at in some of my notes.6 Tell Miss Kyle to hurry up with Introduction to mathematical philosophy — she has had it quite long enough. Can’t answer your technical questions7 on spur of moment — will when can. Let me know criticisms.8 — I feel strongly that Regulation 27c should be at once extended to ducal prayers.9 Please suggest this, and say that as the suggestion is obviously valuable I demand my release as a reward, and will not be put off with a mere knighthood. — I never sat at Webb’s feet;10 you chose to think so, because I saw a great deal of him, but it was a rash inference; I have seen a great deal of you these last 2 years, but you would not wish people to think I had been sitting at your feet. — I have gone on reading about Mirabeau. The whole family had the most amazing passion for lawsuits; they bore the same relation to the Stanley family as that does to ordinary mortals.11 — £5 cash once a fortnight, beginning the day after tomorrow, will be very convenient. It is as well there should be something in hand whenever I come out.

I have been very glad to have so many novels. But I wish Miss Wrinch would get me from Camb. Univ. Library the books I have been demanding for a month, viz. bound Vols of Psych. Review and Am. J. of Psych., 1912 ff.12 G.H. Hardy, Trin.,13 would get them out if written to. I must have some philosophy to read — none has been sent me for ages.

I don’t know whether you are coming up for fortnightly visits from T.H. — I had supposed not, but your letter makes me doubtful. If not, I should like Miss Rinder to take your place — in any case, she had better arrange your fortnightly occasions, as posts are slow at T.H. If you don’t come, I hope she will. I am glad Elizabeth will still be able to come on her fortnights.14 I should miss it dreadfully if I didn’t see either of you. — My dear Frank, I can’t begin to tell you how profoundly grateful I am for all you have done for me since I have been here. Don’t please get vexed with me ever if you can help it — I have much too great an affection for you to contemplate such a thing calmly.

Please tell Lady Constance I am glad to hear from E. that she has agreeable prospects15 and I hope they will materialize. I will send back Bergson by you16 and let her call for it, please say.

Best love to E — and love and gratitude to yourself.

Yours affly.
B Russell


  • 1

    [document] The letter was edited from the signed, handwritten original in Frank Russell’s files in the Russell Archives. On thin, laid paper, it was folded three times and was approved by the Brixton governor’s deputy, whose initials “HB” are on the verso.

  • 2

    Your letter has just come Dated 23–26 July 1918 (BRACERS 46929).

  • 3

    your news by no means discouraging After meeting the Home Secretary on 26 July, Frank added this note to his letter: “Saw <Sir George> Cave this afternoon — am authorised to say you shall have 6 weeks remission for work: the rest he will ‘think about’” (BRACERS 46929). BR did get the six weeks’ remission, in addition to good behaviour, “for work” — which must be most unusual for a philosopher.

  • 4

    I don’t want a book on shell-shock, or any other from St. George The book was Grafton Eliot Smith and T.H. Pear, Shell Shock and Its Lessons (Manchester U. P., 1917). In part of the incoming letter from Frank, Elizabeth Russell informed her brother-in-law on 25 July that St. George Fox-Pitt (1856–1932) had sent her both this work and some Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, thinking that BR, his cousin, “might like to see them” (see BRACERS 46929). Although disdaining the recommendations of somebody he regarded as a crank, BR was later intrigued by the Freudian approach to shell-shock of British psychologist and anthropologist W.H.R. Rivers (see “Instinct and the Unconscious”, 77 in Papers 15).

  • 5

    props come equally in wishes doubts etc. … desire as the initial “mental” fact  physiological theory of symbolism Here “equally” means “as well as in belief, knowledge, and understanding etc.” These states are all now known to philosophers as “propositional attitudes” (terminology that BR introduced around this time [Papers 8: 200, 268–9]). Interestingly, BR indicated that he “sometimes” treated desire as “the initial, ‘mental’ fact”, even though his inclination was to take the cognitive propositional attitudes (paradigmatically, belief, knowledge, and understanding) as such. However, in The Analysis of Mind (1921), in which all this work culminated, he treated desire behaviouristically and not as a propositional attitude at all. Wrinch’s approach (which would have been BR’s before 1910) was that one should start with propositions and then, as it were, build on the psychological component. BR’s current approach was that one must do the psychological work first, because propositions themselves are psychological entities, composed of words or (more fundamentally) images which represent the objects which make up the putative state of affairs that the proposition expresses. Indeed, as he went on to say, if neutral monism or behaviourism is to work, we need a “physiological theory of symbolism”, which would relate propositions to facts without any neutral intermediary. The closest BR ever got to one is in Appendix C of the second edition of Principia Mathematica.

  • 6

    aimed at in some of my notes E.g., “Three Subjects” (the subjects being facts, judgments and propositions) and “Propositions” discuss BR’s theory of symbolism (18g and 18h in Papers 8).

  • 7

    your technical questions The technical questions were posed by Wrinch in her message contained in Frank Russell’s letter of 23–26 July 1918 (BRACERS 46929): “Very many points are coming up with regard to your work on Facts, Judgments, and Propositions, which I want to put out for you if you feel inclined. One might want, I think, something beyond facts and propositions — if propositions are to be defined as symbols for judgments, as propositions as sometimes used occur in wishes, hopes, commands, fears, decisions, doubts, denials, supposings, suggestings, knowings … and from many other acts; and the occurrence of propositions in judgments does not appear any more fundamental than occurrences in other acts. The difficulty I want to put to you is this: if a proposition is always merely the symbol of a judgment — and if such a thing always has a subject term and some relation peculiar to judging, then what becomes of the similarity between one term (if propositions are genuine constituents) of a judgment and one term of a hope, a doubt, a supposing …, or between constructed terms, (if propositions are not genuine constituents)? If it, on the other hand, does not have a relation peculiar to judging in it, how can it be derived from judgings, rather than from any other kind of act? Can one not have another kind of thing neutral between judgings … and hopes, desires, etc. For then judgments will be correct (say) when propositions are true, hopes … fulfilled … and so on. Then if ϕp is an act of judging or hoping, etc. a certain fact such as ‘p is true’ will entail χ(ϕp) where χ will vary with ϕ. Thus if ϕ is judging, χ will be correct, or if ϕ is hoping, χ might be is realised. This might also make it plausible to explain the fact that <gap> judge it will rain, and hope it may rain, and doubt whether it will rain, are of slightly different form, by the difference in the ϕ. But all this is only to suggest that it might be satisfactory to make the proposition common to judgings, fearings, etc. instead of derivative from judgment alone. And, would not all stuff about differences of correspondence between judgments and facts apply equally to those between hopes, fears, … and facts … and does this not point to the desirability of introducing something common to all these acts? Whether the propositions as you used to use the term is an entity or a logical construction, is not it that which you are discussing and not something having a relation to judgments which it does not have to other acts? I put these suggestions very tentatively. I am finding the MSS most interesting and stimulating. I would like to write more to you about them.”

  • 8

    criticisms BR sent his answers to Wrinch’s technical questions on 31 July in a short manuscript called “Propositions” (18h in Papers 8). Wrinch sent criticisms as part of a long philosophical letter dated August 1918 (BRACERS 81966). It was probably in response to that that BR told Ottoline Morrell on 14 August (Letter 70) that Wrinch did not understand “the new ideas that I am at. It is no wonder, as my ideas are still rather vague.… I can’t get expression for them yet.”

  • 9

    Regulation 27c should be ... extended to ducal prayers BR was humorously urging the suppression of further prayers for rain by the Duke of Rutland (see Letter 41). Not to be confused with Defence of the Realm Regulation 27 (under which BR had twice been prosecuted and convicted), 27C imposed an even more contentious constraint over freedom of expression. Pertaining exclusively to the printing and distribution of leaflets, Regulation 27C, as initially implemented by Order in Council on 16 November 1917, stipulated that all such material be sent to and passed by the Official Press Bureau. Publishers of the anti-war literature against which this preventive censorship was squarely directed joined a chorus of civil libertarian protest, which resulted barely a month later in the prior-approval provision being dropped. But since the printers of leaflets were still required to submit copy in advance of publication, the authorities were better able than previously to monitor the output of pacifist literature and already equipped with other emergency powers under “DORA” to suppress allegedly objectionable material. Gladys Rinder’s mention early in July 1918 (BRACERS 79617) of unwanted “visitors” at 5 York Buildings, London, the publishing office of The Tribunal, hints at the vulnerability of the No-Conscription Fellowship to such measures.

  • 10

    I never sat at Webb’s feet In a 1955 radio broadcast, however, BR did admit to having briefly fallen “under the influence” of Webb (1859–1947) and his wife Beatrice, Fabian theorists, historians and social investigators (see Papers 28: 131). In 1902 BR joined the Coefficients, a small discussion group founded by the Webbs and dedicated to the new vogue for “national efficiency”. But BR found the atmosphere thick with imperialist and protectionist sentiment and left within a year. For the influence of the Webbs’ on BR’s “wrong” support of the Boer War, see Royden Harrison, “Bertrand Russell and the Webbs: an Interview”, Russell 5 (1985): 44–9.

  • 11

    Mirabeau. The whole family … passion for lawsuits … Stanley family … ordinary mortals As a young man, the future French revolutionary leader Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749–1791) — whose memoirs BR was reading — became embroiled in an acrimonious legal dispute with his father. The Marquis de Mirabeau even obtained a lettre de cachet against his scandal-prone son, under which the Comte was forcibly confined for over three years in Vincennes castle. After he was released in 1780, Mirabeau’s wife petitioned for a judicial separation from her estranged (and adulterous) husband. Almost two decades previously Mirabeau senior had judicially separated from his wife, but for years the couple continued to wrangle in the courts over her allowance. BR was implying that his mother’s large aristocratic family, the Stanleys of Alderley, had a similar, if not nearly so pronounced, litigious “passion”. No compelling evidence for this comparison has been found, aside from a protracted (and ultimately unsuccessful) patent-infringement suit launched in the 1890s by electrical inventor St. George Lane Fox-Pitt (1856–1932) — the son of BR’s “Stanley” Aunt Alice (see Stathis Arapostathis and Graeme Gooday, Patently Contestable: Electrical Technologies and Inventor Identities on Trial in Britain [Cambridge, Mass.: MIT P., 2013], Chap. 5). It cannot be said that the Russell family itself was shy of going to the law, Frank very much included (as BR experienced over his rental of Telegraph House in 1927). Over his lifetime BR himself had an unusually large experience of the law, some of it initiated by himself.

  • 12

    I have been demanding … Psych. Review and Am. J. of Psych., 1912 ff. However belatedly, BR’s request to Dorothy Wrinch was eventually fulfilled — although possibly, as hinted here, by G.H. Hardy instead. In prison he read 23 articles from volumes 18–23 (1911–16) of The Psychological Review, and another seven from volumes 21 and 23 (1910 and 1912) of The American Journal of Psychology. (See the list of his philosophical prison reading in Papers 8: App. III.) He had already, by 21 May 1918, received, courtesy of H. Wildon Carr, a single volume of the former periodical (see Letter 7).

  • 13

    G.H. Hardy, Trin. Godfrey Harold Hardy (1877–1947) was a pure mathematician who specialized in number theory and analysis and collaborated productively with another of BR’s Trinity College friends, J.E. Littlewood. In the course of a distinguished career, Hardy held professorships at both Oxford and Cambridge. In January 1917 he led 21 other Trinity fellows in protesting BR’s dismissal by the College Council, and after the war led a successful campaign for his reinstatement, later authoring Bertrand Russell and Trinity (printed for the author by Cambridge U. P., 1942; reprinted with a foreword by C.D. Broad, 1970).

  • 14

    your fortnightly occasions … her fortnights BR means the prison visits from his friends. Evidently Frank visited every two weeks during this period.

  • 15

    Lady Constance … agreeable prospects In her part of Frank Russell’s letter of 23–26 July, Elizabeth noted that Colette had the prospect of a three-year engagement in London. 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.

  • 16

    I will send back Bergson by you The book by French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941) cannot be identified; it was being used to smuggle correspondence to and from Colette (see Letter 52).

Russell letter no.
Transcription Public Access
Record no.
Record created
May 29, 2014
Record last modified
Oct 12, 2022
Created/last modified by