My dearest Darling —
You are gone and I have read your dear dear letter2 — such a wonderful letter. O my Heart, I do do love you. Don’t talk about wishing to be worthy of my love. You are glorious, my Beloved — you are beautiful and strong and with a wind of greatness blowing through you from the outer world. That is why you can love. O Colette, my dear and tender love, my very soul of swift and noble passion, I don’t believe you know the thousandth part of the wonder and beauty of you and your love. My dear, you know that my spirit is a burning flame — scorching to whatever is not as burning — you know that till I met you I had come to fear the contact with others because of the pain they suffered — and with you it was different: an equal flame leapt up in you. Don’t be ignorant of what is great in you. Passion, force, will, the power to feel great things greatly — heart, not yet full-grown, but existing — truth — and knowledge of the ultimate sadness — all these you have. And your beauty of face grows, and your voice becomes richer and more tender. And there is no limit to the wisdom that will be yours as the years pass. And for all these things, and above all for your love, I love you — and having found you I have found my home.
I am so thankful that you are working at the Experimental Theatre. Oh I doa hope it will go and flourish; it must be uphill work for a long time. It is such an infinite joy to me that you will have work that I can feel worth while,3 that is not merely personal to you. With your dual nature, you would never have a satisfactory life unless your work were both useful and more or less satisfying to your vanity. Neither alone would do. The plan of spending half your work on the ordinary theatre and half addressing envelopes for Miss Rinder was not satisfactory: it was like hopping on one leg for an hour, and then hopping on the other for the next hour, instead of walking on both;b you needed something that combined both impulses, and now you will have it.4
Vanity — yes, you have lots. Almost all energetic people have. It doesn’t matter, but one wants to use it as a spur to work and ambition, and as suggesting possibilities of human relations, not as a passive thing, or a thing making truth about oneself unbearable and flattery indispensable.5 Vanity and sex are very closely akin, especially in women. In many women, there is nothing of sex except vanity: they want to be admired, but if they can secure that, they desire nothing further. Women of that sort exist to drive men insane. You are not of that sort, because you have actual sex instincts well developed, thank heaven. Vanity is the beginning of every sex impulse in women, I should say; it ought, later, to develop beyond vanity, but often doesn’t. In men, vanity comes in, but love of power comes in too, and sheer physical desire plays a larger part than is common with women. Rape, for example, clearly affords no satisfaction to vanity, yet most men would commit rape if it were safe.6 To a man, there is an added pleasure when the woman is unwilling, because it enhances his sense of power. I should say that is the basis of Sadism. This sort of satisfaction is impossible to a woman, by the physical nature of things. And therefore the desire to be feared is rarer among women than among men. Are these the sort of reflections you wanted?7 If not, tell me what you want and I will try again. (Another sheet elsewhere)
I was bitterly disappointed by Cave’s letter,8 and to find I had even been robbed of the two weeks I thought my brother had secured. It is so difficult to talk when you come, there is so much one wants to say and can’t, and one has such a feeling that moments are precious. Eight weeks more of this place — but that is not much in a lifetime. And of course the longer I am here the better is my chance of not being called up.9 Still, it is a blow. Oct. 2 is the date.10
If Miles gives up the Studio,11 I will take it on. It would suit me very well. One big room is just what I want. I could work there admirably. And then I shan’t mind being turned out of Gordon Sq., if I am. — If you are going to feed at home for economy, let me join you. I have been resolving in my mind that food is the best thing to save on — we can feed at home together for very little. I think I shall be fairly comfortably off for the rest of this year, and at any rate able to keep us both from starving. Your having got the Attic let12 is grand; I am glad it is Elizabeth.* <sheet cut and shortened>
* Please tell Elizabeth from me, when you can, that she is an Angel.
Is Miles taking the separation13 well? Your letters don’t tell me enough of the sort of things I long to know — all sorts of intimate events. His letter seems very friendly. I am so glad you are going to be working with him, as it ought to keep you friends. Try to read Ottoline’s letters.14 I send 2 more with this, containing bits about you. I am so glad you feel as you do about them — the things she says about you are generous and good. Don’t ever let her know you have seen her letters. I doubt if you and she could be friends, but it is worth attempting if she makes a move.
I never knew Lafcadio Hearn15 — he is very interesting in his writing. I wonder what Priscilla’s brother16 turned out to be like. — It’s interesting your doing Wuthering Heights.17 You should read Mrs Gaskell’s Life of the Brontés.18 I do hope you will be able to sell it. — My Heart, your last sheet has touched me so — your wanting to lie in my arms and cry19 — it is what I want to do — it fills my eyes with tears to read what you have written. My Colette, I have found with you the love I sought. I might so well have died without finding it — and now I know the dream I had in my heart was not vain imagining, but a creative dream — and with you it has taken substance, no longer haunting, maddeningly, in the night, but walking beside me in the morning sun. I bless you, Beloved, every moment. Goodbye, my lovely one, my Soul, my lamp in this dark world.
[document] The letter was edited from an initialled pair of sheets in BR’s hand in the Malleson papers in the Russell Archives. Sheet 2 was cut in two, and the top and bottom pieces taped together to make a shortened sheet that may originally have had four more lines of text. The sheets were folded twice. It is unknown what was excised. The letter was published as #319 in Vol. 2 of BR’s Selected Letters.
your dear dear letter Possibly her letter of 3 August 1918 (BRACERS 113147), although Colette noted that BR did not respond to her letter of 3 August until 13 August (“Letters to Bertrand Russell from Constance Malleson, 1916–1969”, p. 267; typescript in RA).
work that I can feel worth while It was BR’s opinion, according to Colette, that most “acting was a worthless sort of occupation. He thought it brought out the worst in one’s character: personal ambition, love of admiration” (After Ten Years [London: Cape, 1931], p. 122).
The plan of spending ... combined both impulses ... you will have it. When Colette began working at the No-Conscription Fellowship she spent her days there and her evenings at the Haymarket acting. Her NCF work included more than addressing envelopes. She found that “the change of work gave me all the rest I wanted” (After Ten Years [London: Cape, 1931], p. 101). Her theatre role ended on 12 August 1916, and she did not act again until she joined a touring company in May 1918. Although she may have had a plan to act in commercial theatre and continue to work at the NCF, such a plan never came to fruition. The “something that combined both impulses” must have involved combining NCF work with the Experimental Theatre that she, Miles Malleson, and others were founding.
Vanity … indispensable “Do not attempt to live without vanity, since this is impossible, but choose the right audience from which to seek admiration.” BR offered this rather positive view of vanity as one of “My Ten Commandments”, Everyman, 3, no. 62 (3 April 1930): 291, 296.
most men would commit rape if it were safe How BR reached this conclusion is unknown. In 1942 he wrote: “Rape, of course, must be forbidden, like other personal violence” (“Marriage and the Family” , RA 220.017400–F2). Years later his view of rape and the law was still much ahead of the times. In a 1954 talk on obscenity and illegal sex acts, he outlined his point on rape thus: “Acts prohibiting violence justified. Rape should be illegal because it is assault, not because it is sexual” (Papers 28: 458).
Vanity … the sort of reflections you wanted? On 25 September 1917 BR wrote an assessment of Colette’s character which he titled “What She Is and What She Might Become” (BRACERS 120470). His assessment was extremely critical — he found that “her vanity is the worst side of her character”. It is hard to imagine how their relationship survived this scathing character study, but it did. Odder still was her request for enlargement of the subject. In her letter of 3 August (BRACERS 113147), Colette had said, “I’d like the subject <of energy and vanity> enlarged upon sometime when you’ve nowt better to do.”
disappointed by Cave’s letter Although the Home Secretary made some encouraging verbal signals about BR’s release when he met Frank on 26 July, his letter of 5 August 1918 (BRACERS 57178) turned down Frank’s request of 29 July (BRACERS 57181) for an early August release date. But Sir George Cave did indicate that BR, because of his “good conduct and industry”, would be eligible for release at the end of five months, one month short of his six-month sentence.
being called up BR had been concerned that since the military service age had been raised to 50, he would be called up. Even though he would register as a conscientious objector, he might be kept in prison once he had served his sentence or sent back almost immediately on his release. His fears now appeared to be lessening.
Oct. 2 is the date. The expected date of BR’s early release from Brixton. In fact he was let out earlier, on 14 September.
If Miles gives up the Studio Miles had only just moved to the Studio, beginning his separation from Colette which would end in divorce in 1923. The Studio at 5 Fitzroy Street, just off Howland Street, London W1, was originally rented by BR and Colette in November 1917 as a place where they could be together. The Studio provided minimal and noisy accommodation, possibly a reason for Miles wanting to move on after so short a stay. In September he went to Glastonbury for several weeks to produce a play. BR lived at the Studio for a brief time after his release from Brixton.
Try to read Ottoline’s letters. BR sent out incoming prison letters so they would not accumulate in his cell. Ottoline’s handwriting, though elegant, is very difficult to read.
Lafcadio Hearn Hearn (1850–1904), an American journalist who was sent to Japan by Harper’s, stayed there, and became a citizen. He wrote several books explaining Japan to the West. Colette had been reading him and asked (BRACERS 113147) if BR had known him.
Priscilla’s brother Colette described her uncle as Priscilla’s black sheep brother from Australia who had spent his life wandering the world, always doing the wrong thing. She expected to like him, but we never hear how the visit went. His surname was Moore (BRACERS 113147).
your doing Wuthering Heights Colette had decided to write a dramatization of the novel. She worked on it for some time, but nothing came of the project.
Life of the Brontés I.e., The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), by English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810–1865), who was celebrated less as a biographer than as a fictional chronicler of Victorian society in such novels as North and South (1854–55).
suitable book A book suitable for smuggling letters, i.e., one with uncut pages.