Beloved I do long for you. I keep thinking of all the wonderful things we will do together. I think of what we will do when we can go abroad after the war. I long to go with you to Spain:3 to see the great Cathedral of Burgos, the Velasquez in Madrid4 — the gloomy Escorial,5 from which madmen used to spread ruin over the world6 in the days before madness was universal — Sevilea in dancing sunlight, all orange groves and fountains — Granada, where the Moors lingered till Ferdinand and Isabella drove them out — then we could cross the straits, as the Moors did, into Morocco — and come back by Naples and Rome and Siena and Florence and Pisa.7 Imagine the unspeakable joy of it — the riot of colour and beauty — freedom — the sound of Italian bells — the strange cries, rich, full-throated, and melancholy with all the weight of the ages — the great masses of flowers, inconceivably bright — men with all the beauty of wild animals, very erect, with bright swiftly-glancing eyes — and to step out into the morning sunshine, with blue sea and blue hills — it is all there for us, some day. I long for the madness of the South, with you. — The other thing I long for with you — which we can get sooner — is the Atlantic — the Connemara coast8 — driving mist — rain — waves that moan on the rocks — flocks of sea-birds with wild notes that seem the very soul of the restless sadness of the sea — and gleams of sun, unreal, like glimpses into another world — and wild wild wind, free and strong and fierce. There there is life — and there, I feel, I could stand with you and let our love commune with the western storm — for the same spiritb is in both. My Colette, my Soul, I feel the breath of greatness inspiring me through our love. I want to put the spirit of the Atlantic into words. I must, I must, before I die, find some way to say the essential thing that is in me, that I have never said yet — a thing that is not love or hate or pity or scorn, but the very breath of life, fierce, and coming from far away, bringing into human life the vastness and the fearful passionless force of non-human things.c
[document] The letter was edited from the unsigned original in BR’s hand in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. It is written on a single sheet of thin, laid paper. On the other side, which is ruled, Letter 35 is written. BR published the present letter in his Autobiography, 2: 87, as had Colette in After Ten Years (London: Cape, 1931), p. 126.
[date] Colette printed “Friday” above this date.
to Spain This dreamed about trip to Spain never happened, though BR did go there with Dora Black two years later. Colette turned BR into a Spanish astronomer in her novel The Coming Back (1933). See S. Turcon’s review “Russell as a ‘Spanish Astronomer’ (A Retrospective Review)”, Russell 35 (2015): 87–94.
the Velasquez in Madrid BR was referring to the famous painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez in the Prado Museum.
the gloomy Escorial Built at San Lorenzo de El Escorial, north-west of Madrid, by order of Philip II (ruled 1556–98), this vast complex has served as a monastery, basilica, palace, library and museum as well as a pantheon for Spanish royalty.
madmen … spread ruin over the world Surely BR was thinking especially of the tumultuous sixteenth-century reign of Philip II, which left few legacies as permanent as the “gloomy Escorial”. In 42 years on the Spanish throne, Philip perpetuated his dynasty’s conflict with France, precipitated a Protestant revolt in the Spanish Netherlands, and embroiled his kingdom in a disastrous war with England. He “spread ruin” further afield by aggressive colonial expansion in the Americas, which also served to bankrupt the Spanish treasury.
Naples and Rome and Siena and Florence and Pisa BR was a frequent visitor to Italy, going there every year from 1894 until the outbreak of World War I. He mentioned visiting “every little port from Venice to Genoa” as well as the Apennines (Auto. 2: 135). He stayed at his brother-in-law’s villa outside Florence in 1894 and again in 1902–03. He visited Rome at least four times, in 1894, 1908 and 1913.
the Connemara coast BR had never been to this region of rugged beauty in the extreme west of Ireland. In a letter to Colette, 8 September 1926 (BRACERS 19752) he wrote: “I don’t know Connemara … I have always thought it would be the kind of place I love best.” He finally got there in 1933 (see “On Mediaevalism”, Mortals and Others [London: Routledge, 2009], p. 244). Connemara remained prominent in his memory (see Papers 29: 78).