BRACERS Record Detail
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National Archives, UK
Brixton Letters (1918, 1961)
BR TO THE GOVERNOR OF BRIXTON PRISON / CARLETON HAYNES, 2 MAY 1918
BRACERS 57173. ALS. National Archives, UK. Papers 14: App. XIII.1
Previous Brixton letter, none; next letter, BRACERS 46911
Edited by Kenneth Blackwell, Andrew G. Bone, Nicholas Griffin and Sheila Turcon
The Governor of Brixton Prison
I hereby apply for permission, as a prisoner in the First Division, to wear my own clothes, occupy a private room,3 have books and newspapers sent in, and be allowed to obtain enough of my own money to pay for food4 and like expenses, and be allowed some of my own furniture.a
[document] The letter was edited from a digital scan of BR’s signed, handwritten original in the National Archives, UK. Prisoners’ correspondence was subject to the governor’s approval, or that of his deputy. This letter has the signature of C. Haynes (the governor) to an evidently dictated, handwritten letter of the same date, below BR’s letter on the same blue sheet, recommending that his request be granted since it “complies with the Secretary of State’s Rules.” The letter was published as App. XIII.1 in Papers 14.
[date] This was the second day of BR’s imprisonment. On 1 May 1918 he lost the appeal of his 9 February conviction under the Defence of the Realm Act for making statements in The Tribunal “intended or likely … to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign powers” (see also “Mr. Bertrand Russell’s Appeal; Mitigation of Sentence”, The Times, 2 May 1918, p. 2). All that BR publicly recalled of his first day in Brixton was that the warder at the gate asked his religion and then how to spell “agnostic” (Auto. 2: 34).
private room How soon BR stopped sharing a cell (the request for privacy strongly suggests he shared one the first day or days) can’t be determined. As for the cost of this privilege, Alan Wood, who was frequently in touch with BR during the writing of Bertrand Russell, the Passionate Sceptic (London: Allen & Unwin, 1957), stated that “Russell had a cell larger than usual, for which he had to pay a rent of 2s 6d a week” (p. 113).
food When BR recalled his first-division privileges many years later, food stood out: “You had no prison labour to do, you were allowed your own clothes, you were allowed your own food. And mind you, at a time when everybody else was rationed, I alone was not. Why? Because they hadn’t thought of extending rationing to this very tiny group of first-division prisoners” (Speaking Personally, John Chandos, interviewer [London: Pye-Plus Nonesuch Records, 1961], side 1, 31: 43).
and be allowed … furniture The clause was squeezed in as an afterthought (see the letter image).
Record last modified 2021/07/26
Created/last modified by blackwk