Number 2917 Name Russell B1
27th May 1918.
My dear Frank —
They won’t allow me to use the nice paper2 you sent me, so you will have to endure this. I am very sorry I was so cross last week — please forgive me — it was only a prison fuss. One lives here in constant irritation from lack of liberty, and as it is useless to visit it on the authorities one has fits of visiting it on friends. The irritation passed as soon as I got your letter3 — I had forgotten Whitsuntide.4 — Letter from Miss Rinder5 arrived today, full of news. Please thank her for it. Tell her I greatly regret her removal,6 and it mitigates my sympathy for Miss Ellis. Nevertheless, I wish her to convey my sympathy to her and her accomplices. I suppose she won’t pay?7 I don’t want my ordinary letters circulated — they are not worth it. I had thought of a monthly manifesto,8 but a weekly scrawl is different. — I am not sending many messages to you or Miss R. or Lady O. as I hope to see you all Wed., but please thank Lady O. very warmly for her message.9 — Please thank Eliot for message10 — tell him I hope his wife is better.11 If he ever had time, I should like to see him, but probably he couldn’t manage it. Tell him I am getting on with work — writing a text-book of the Principia12 to begin with, but that will soon be finished, and then I shall begin more serious work such as I sketched to him. Love to him and Mrs E. — Should like to see J.R.M.13 when convenient, tell Miss R. — I want particularly to see Wildon Carr some time before long. I asked to be allowed an extra visit from him but have not heard. Would he apply too? If not granted, I must see him at an ordinary time. I continue to speculate as to my position when I emerge from here. I think he may have something to say on it, as Murray hasn’t.14 I gather he has, from Miss R. It is important, and I wish I had something to rely on. Tell Carr the following is my scheme of work, which he may show to any philosopher except Santayana.15 I. I have nearly finished an Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, 70,000 words — prelude to Principia. II. I shall then immediately begin on Analysis of Mind,a before going on with logic. (a). I want to tackle first the analysis of belief, and shall be grateful if he will send me any book I ought to read bearing on this. For purposes of logic, I must know whether there are atomicb facts containing 2 verbs, such as beliefs appear to be.16 (b). I want to be clear as to the relation of symbolism to psychology, and generally the status, in relation to the real world, of what logic calls the “proposition”.17 (c) I want a precise theory of the nature of vagueness.18 These 3 problems I want to solve for the sake of logic; there are others, which I wrote to Carr19 about before, which are rather metaphysical, i.e. concern the question “are there specifically mental entities?” I expect to take several years over this work, as there is a lot of reading to be done before I can begin writing. (N.B. I don’t know what reading.) Then I shall be free to turn to: III. Elements of Logic. This will set forth logical basis of what I call “logical atomism”,20 and place logic in relation to Psychology, mathematics, etc. IV. Then I must do a metaphysic: as it were an Encyklopädie — summing up results, in criticism of Physics, Psychology, mathematics, etc. V. When too old for serious work, I should like to write a book like Santayana’s Life of Reason,21 on how to behave reasonably in this preposterous world. I hope by then I shall know. — As always hitherto, I shall occasionally abandon philosophy for a short spell of other work or mere holiday: I have found that in that way one’s thoughts remain fresher. I become more and more fixed in the determination, which I came to last autumn, to do no more pacifist work. The situation does not admit of it: America is now in control.22 It seems to me that since Brest-Litovsk there has been nothing for pacifists to do;23 on the other hand my philosophical interests are very keen. — Please give my love to Whiteheads:24 say I haven’t yet had any French Revolution Memoirs, and should like names sent to Miss Kyle for her to get from London Library. She got me Morse Stephens,25 not the sort of book I want, an old stager history which I have read before. — Tell Lady O. I have been reading the 2 books26 on the Amazon: Tomlinson I loved; Bates bores me while I am reading him, but leaves picturesc in my mind which I am glad of afterwards. Tomlinson owes much to Heart of Darkness.27 The contrast with Batesd is remarkable: one sees how our generation, in comparison, is a little mad, because it has allowed itself glimpses of the truth, and the truth is spectral, insane, ghastly: the more men see of it the less mental health they retain. The Victorians (dear souls) were sane and successful because they never came anywhere near truth. But for my part I would rather be mad with truth than sane with lies.e
Please tell Miss Rinder to give the following message to G.J.: I am glad the bit of Girondin history28 was found interesting. I will send more when I come across it. I haven’t anything to send this time but I probably shall next. Say Boismaison was a place where one at least of the agents in that drama derived much of the strength and vigour required, and there is evidence that the recollection and hope of it was a source of inspiration. Delighted by G.J’s last message.29 , f — I want also the following message sent by Miss Rinder to Percy:30 I am glad he is getting on so well, and always exceedingly glad of news of him: amazed to hear he is economizing — congratulations!31 — Please tell (or get Miss Rinder to tell) Lady Constance it was a great pleasure to see her, and I am sorry I was rude to her parasol: it is only because the slightest change in old friends is vexing, even though really it may be for the better.
I remain quite happy, except for the feeling of being always on the verge of exasperation, only kept under with effort. I work a lot and read a lot. I get occasional worries, which are hard to shake off; and I get self-absorbed. I review the past, see where I have made mistakes etc. But I don’t waste time on remorse: I note the fact that I was a fool, and try to think of ways of escaping from the consequences of my folly. I feel the main duty of all who care for the world is to reach the end of the war alive and vigorous, so as to be useful in building up again. This is the thought that would govern my conduct. In places, the behaviour it inspires has an unheroic appearance, but I can’t help that, I feel sure it is right from the point of view of the world’s welfare.g — Love to Elizabeth. I enjoy joint letters:32 each gives things the other wouldn’t. Love and gratitude to you.
Your loving brother.
I am bankrupt: Please send some money or bring it Wednesday.h
[document] The letter was edited from the signed original in BR’s handwriting in the Russell Archives. On the blue correspondence form of the prison system, it consists of a single sheet folded once vertically; all four sides are filled. Particulars, such as BR’s name and number, were entered in an unknown hand. Prisoners’ correspondence was subject to the approval of the governor or his deputy. This was an “official” letter, since it bears the initials “CH” of the governor, Carleton Haynes.The letter was published as #314 in Vol. 2 of BR’s Selected Letters.
nice paper you sent me BR did use some nice paper — a laid paper for the manuscript of Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, which he had started writing some weeks before (by 21 May he had already written 20,000 words [Letter 7]). The initial paper was watermarked “EXCELSIOR | EXTRA SUPERFINE | BRITISH MAKE”. Mid-way in Ch. 7 BR switched to a laid paper that was ruled on one side and not watermarked, and he used it for the remainder of the manuscript, other manuscripts, and some smuggled correspondence. “Official” correspondence was another story. Many of BR’s first few letters to Frank Russell and Gladys Rinder were written on the prison system’s blue correspondence form, complete with a place for his prisoner number.
your letter BR must have meant Frank’s letter of 19 May 1918 (BRACERS 46914), the letter he complained in Letter 7 of not having received.
Whitsuntide The eighth Sunday after Easter. The Monday following was a British holiday until 1971, replaced by the Spring Bank Holiday. In 1918 Whitmonday was on 20 May, delaying the arrival of Frank’s letter.
Letter from Miss Rinder Dated 25 May 1918 (BRACERS 79611).
I greatly regret her removal On 25 May 1918 Gladys Rinder informed BR that his replacement as the NCF’s Acting Chairman, Dr. Alfred Salter, “wants me to take up new duties June 1st, but it’s uncertain” (BRACERS 79611). Hitherto she had worked for the Conscientious Objectors’ Information Bureau, a joint committee established in May 1916 by the NCF, Friends’ Service Committee and Fellowship of Reconciliation, and which managed the records of individual C.O.s. This committee had its own premisses at 11 Adam St., off the Strand in the City of Westminster, London. After Rinder’s role in the NCF changed, she started working at the organization’s main office at 5 York Buildings, Adelphi.
mitigates my sympathy for Miss Ellis … accomplices … won’t pay Edith Maud Ellis (1878–1963; http://menwhosaidno.org/context/women/ellis_edith.html), the recently convicted treasurer of the Friends’ Service Committee, may have had some influence on the “removal” of Gladys Rinder from the Conscientious Objectors’ Information Bureau (see note 6 above). This body represented Ellis’s Quaker organization and another religious pacifist group, as well as the NCF. Along with two other executive members of the Friends’ Service Committee, Harrison Barrow and Arthur Watts, Ellis was found guilty on 24 May 1918, under Defence of the Realm Regulation 27C (see note 9 to Letter 51), of printing and circulating a pamphlet, A Challenge to Militarism, before submitting it to the Official Press Bureau. Her two male “accomplices” were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, while Ellis would spend three months in Holloway Prison after refusing to pay a £100 fine and 50 guineas costs (see Thomas C. Kennedy, The Hound of Conscience: a History of the No-Conscription Fellowship [Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas P., 1981], p. 243). During 1917 BR and Ellis had corresponded frequently about the welfare of C.O.s and the anti-conscription campaign, sometimes disagreeing over matters of policy and principle. Objecting, for example, to the disdain of Ellis and other Quakers for “alternativist” C.O.s working in Home Office camps, BR lamented that “we are ... developing the cruelty of fanaticism, which is the very spirit that supports the war” (11 Sept. 1917; Papers 14: xliii).
ordinary letters … manifesto Gladys Rinder was in charge of circulating parts of BR’s letters to his friends. Only suitable extracts were to be circulated. Sometimes they were sent weekly; there were also monthly compilations of extracts (e.g., May 1918, BRACERS 116559). Most of them were mimeographs, but sometimes typed carbons were circulated. Twenty people were on the list to receive letters. See S. Turcon, “Like a Shattered Vase: Russell’s 1918 Prison Letters”, Russell 30 (2010): 101–25; at 103.
her message Ottoline’s message, placed in Gladys Rinder’s letter to BR of 25 May 1918, reported on her driving-tour around the country with Philip Morrell, Siegfried Sassoon’s return to the Front, and a meeting with the former Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, and another leading Liberal, Sir John Simon. In addition, she conveyed a sympathetic greeting from H.W. Massingham and expressed her and Philip’s admiration for how BR was “going on creating and thinking in imprisonment” (BRACERS 79611). See also Part 2, Ch. 14 of Ottoline at Garsington: Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1915–1918, ed. R. Gathorne-Hardy (London: Faber and Faber, 1974).
thank Eliot for message In a message conveyed by Gladys Rinder’s letter to BR of 25 May 1918 (BRACERS 76911), T.S. Eliot expressed “a great relief to know that you are supplied with materials for labour, and I am waiting with great curiosity to know how your mind is going to work under these conditions.”
hope his wife is better Eliot had reported that his wife, Vivienne (née Haigh-Wood, 1888–1947), was “in very bad health” — a not uncommon occurrence, for she had long suffered from a variety of acute physical symptoms which affected her mental health and had a devastating impact on her marriage.
text-book of the Principia Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919), a popular account of the main doctrines put forward in BR and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica (1910–13). It is not to be confused with the “text-book to the Principia” mentioned in Letter 2, which was the projected “book on logic” (mentioned in Letter 5) to be based on “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism” lectures.
J.R.M. BR wrote “Macdonald” on a typed transcription (BRACERS 116566) of this letter to Frank. His note referred to the prominent dissenter and future Labour Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald.
position when I emerge … Murray hasn’t BR probably wanted to discuss with Wildon Carr the emerging fellowship plan, which he hoped would protect him from being called up after his imprisonment. Early in April Gilbert Murray had started a “philosophers’ petition” calling for BR’s academic work to be designated as of national importance. But that initiative had so far made little headway, no doubt in part because (until BR’s appeal) Murray had been preoccupied with a different memorial signed by professional philosophers, urging that BR’s sentence be served in the first division (see note 4 to Letter 6).
Santayana The reasons for Santayana’s exclusion will emerge shortly in the letter.
appear to be Two verbs are required to state a fact involving belief (e.g. that Othello believes that Desdemona loves Cassio). BR’s question was whether this is merely a matter of linguistic form or whether it reflects a feature of the fact being stated. The question was of considerable importance for his philosophy. See “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism”, Lecture IV (Papers 8: 191–200).
symbolism … the “proposition” Since 1910 BR had analysed propositions out of his philosophy. They were about to make a comeback, but not as mind-independent complexes of objects, as they were before 1910. This time they were to be complexes of images or words which were capable of representing states of affairs. Hence his interest in symbolism (and, to some extent, in psychology as well).
vagueness See BR’s paper “Vagueness”, Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy 1 (June 1923): 84–92 (B&R C23.18); 23 in Papers 9. He initially discussed the concept in his prison review of Dewey’s Essays in Experimental Logic (Papers 8: 139–42).
wrote to Carr BR told Carr, “I want to subject Mind to the same kind of analysis as I applied to Matter in Knowledge of the External World. I do not know whether the result will be agreement with the neutral monists or not, but in any case it will be an attempt to arrive at the logically ultimate constituents of the phenomena one calls mental” (17 April 1918; BRACERS 54566; in Michael Thompson, “Some Letters of Bertrand Russell to Herbert Wildon Carr”, Coranto 10, no. 1 : 18). The problems that he spoke to Carr about were those of how to deal with belief and emphatic particulars, which he mentioned in Letter 5.
“logical atomism” BR used the term “logical atomism” to describe his philosophy after his break with Hegelianism in 1898. The phrase thus covers a variety of positions. The most canonical version is that expressed in his lectures “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism” (1918), on which the projected (but, alas, never written) book on the “Elements of Logic” was to be based.
Santayana’s Life of Reason George Santayana (1863–1952), Spanish-American philosopher. In 1918 Santayana was living in England, having retired from Harvard in 1912 thanks to an inheritance. He was a close friend of BR’s brother, Frank, and also of his brother-in-law, Logan Pearsall Smith. Although he was a religious man, his approach to philosophy was naturalistic, and he was strongly opposed to the idealism that dominated nineteenth-century philosophy in the wake of Hegel. Nonetheless, his five-volume The Life of Reason; or, The Phases of Human Progress (1905–06) was in part inspired by Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. But, unlike Hegel, Santayana wished to emphasize that the progress of the human mind through its various stages — common sense, society, religion, art, and science (one for each volume) — was that of an animal (albeit a rational one) living in the natural, material world. Santayana described it as “a summary history of the human imagination … distinguishing those phases of it which showed … an adaptation of fancy and habit to material facts and opportunities” (“A General Confession”, in P.A. Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of George Santayana [New York: Tudor, 1951: 1st ed., 1940], pp. 13–14).
America is now in control The article in The Tribunal over which BR was prosecuted made much the same point about burgeoning American power and influence, albeit more sardonically (“The German Peace Offer”, no. 90 [3 Jan. 1918]: 1; Auto. 2: 79–81; 92 in Papers 14). The growing preponderance of the United States in world affairs was reinforced by its late entry into a war which had strained all the other belligerent states to the point of exhaustion. In barely a year the US had been transformed, in BR’s mind, from a possible saviour of European civilization (as an honest broker of peace) to its greatest threat, for he felt that American military intervention made any negotiated settlement of the war far less likely (see his prison manuscript, “The International Outlook” [unpublished at the time; 100 in Papers 14]).
since Brest-Litovsk … nothing for pacifists to do This separate peace between the Bolsheviks and the Central Powers (signed on 3 March 1918) formally ended Russian participation in the war and allowed Germany to concentrate its military resources on the Western Front. While Allied leaders were alarmed by the strategic implications of the treaty, British peace campaigners were disheartened by the grasping territorial gains made by the Central Powers at the expense of the former Tsarist Empire. Many, including BR, had argued hitherto that Germany would be amenable to a general peace without annexations or indemnities if only the Allies signalled their willingness to compromise. BR’s dismay at Germany’s harsh treatment of Russia only intensified during his imprisonment (see Papers 14: liv and Letter 18).
Whiteheads Alfred North Whitehead and Evelyn Whitehead.
Morse Stephens The Principal Speeches of the Statesmen and Orators of the French Revolution, 1789–1795, edited by H. Morse Stephens (2 vols., 1892).
2 books The books were: The Naturalist on the River Amazons (2 vols., 1863; with an introduction from Charles Darwin) by the Victorian naturalist Henry Walter Bates (1825–1892), who discovered 8,000 new species during eleven years in Brazil; and The Sea and the Jungle (1912), a travel book based on an expedition up the Amazon, by the novelist, essayist and The Nation’s literary editor, Henry Major Tomlinson (1873–1958). On 3 June 1918 Ottoline told Tomlinson that BR had “enjoyed the book enormously” and copied for him exactly what BR had said (BRACERS 122079).
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad’s novella, included in his Youth: a Narrative and Two Other Stories (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1902) in which the narrator, Marlow, told of his arduous journey through equatorial Africa to meet Kurtz, the company’s most esteemed agent, who, however, reverted to barbarism in the heart of the jungle.
bit of Girondin history “This was a love letter to Colette incorporated in my official letter and passed by the Governor, because it was in French and professed to be from the Girondin Buzot to Madame Roland.” (BR’s note at BRACERS 116566.) The love letter is in Letter 7.
Delighted by G.J.’s last message G.J. was in London “interviewing a friend” according to a message in a letter from Gladys Rinder on 25 May 1918 (BRACERS 79611).
Percy BR identified “Percy” on a note at BRACERS 116566: “Another pseudonym for Colette.” “Percy” was a nickname used by Colette’s family; she continued to use it in family correspondence decades later.
congratulations! Colette had said (via Rinder’s official letter, 25 May 1918, BRACERS 79611) that she was living on milk pudding and saving all her salary.
I enjoy joint letters Frank and Elizabeth Russell had written their last letter jointly (19 May 1918, BRACERS 46914).
Analysis of Mind Quotation marks were editorially replaced by italics.
atomic Inserted before “facts”.
leaves pictures Corrected editorially from “leave pictures”.
with Bates Inserted.
Tell Lady O. … sane with lies This well-known passage is marked off with short pencilled lines. It and the “I review the past” passage below were typed together and made to follow, as if part of, the letter to Rinder of 19 August 1918 (BRACERS 76940). BR even corrected the typing (BRACERS 117622): a gap was left after “all who care for the world’s”. He filled the gap first with “salvation”, then with “welfare”. There is no gap in the original letter, which has “welfare”. The first passage was printed at Auto. 2: 36.
Delighted by G.J.’s last message. The sentence was inserted.
I review the past … world’s welfare. This well-known passage is marked off with short pencilled lines.
I am bankrupt … bring it Wednesday. Inserted above the salutation.