Portal Site for Russellian
(London; Allen & Unwin, 1967-1969)
Text (Under Construction !)
a Japanese Translation, with English text
My mother sometimes got into hot water for her radical opinions. At a garden-party given by the parents of Queen Mary, Duchess of Cambridge remarked in a loud voice:
'Yes, I know who you are, you are the daughter-in-law. But now I hear you only like dirty Radicals and Americans. All London is full of it; all the clubs are talking of it. I must look at your petticoats to see if they are dirty.'
The following letter from the British Consul in Florence speaks for itself:
Sept. 22, 1870
Dear Lady Amberley I am not an admirer of M. Mazzini, but have an utter detestation and abhorrence of his character and principles. The public position which I hold, moreover, precludes me from being the channel for his correspondence. Not however wishing to disoblige you in this instance, I have taken the only course which was open to me with the view to his receiving your letter, viz. to put it in the Post to the care of the Procuratore del Re. Gaeta. I remain, Yours very faithfully, A. PagetMazzini gave my mother his watch-case, which is now in my possession.
My mother used to address meetings in favour of votes for women, and I found one passage in her diary where she speaks of the Potter Sisterhood, which included Mrs Sidney Webb and Lady Courtenay, as social butterflies. Having in later years come to know Mrs Sidney Webb well, I conceived a considerable respect for my mother's seriousness when I remembered that to her Mrs Webb seemed frivolous. From my mother's letters, however, for example to Henry Crompton, the Positivist, I find that she was on occasion sprightly and coquettish, so that perhaps the face she turned to the world was less alarming than that which she presented to her diary.
My father was a free-thinker, and wrote a large book, posthumously published, called An Analysis of Religious Belief. He had a large library containing the Fathers, works on Buddhism, accounts of Confucianism, and so on. He spent a great deal of time in the country in the preparation of his book. He and my mother, however, in the earlier years of their marriage, spent some months of each year in London, where they had a house in Dean's Yard. My mother and her sister, Mrs George Howard (aftawards Lady Carlisle), had rival salons. At Mrs Howard's salon were to be seen all the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and at my mother's all the British philosophers from Mill downwards.
In 1867 my parents went to America, where they made friends with all the Radicals of Boston. They could not foresee that the men and women whose democratic ardour they applauded and whose triumphant opposition to slavery they admired were the grandfathers and grandmothers of those who murdered Sacco and Vanzetti. My parents married in 1864, when they were both only twenty-two. My brother, as he boasts in his autobiography, was nine months and four days after the wedding. Shortly before I was born, they went to live in a very lonely house called Ravenscroft (now called 'Cleiddon Hall') in a wood just above the steep banks of the Wye. From the house, three days after I was born, my mother wrote a description of me to her mother:
'The baby weighed 8+3/4 lb. is 21 inches long and very fat and very ugly very like Frank everyone thinks, blue eyes far apart and not much chin. He is just like Frank was about nursing. I have lots of milk now, but if he does not get it at once or has wind or anything he gets into such a rage and screams and kicks and trembles till he is soothed off. He lifits his head up and looks about in a very energetic way.(AB11-030.HTM)
They obtained for my brother a tutor, D. A. Spalding of considerable scientific ability - so at least I judge from a reference to his work in William James's Psychology.(See also J. B. S. Haldane, British Journal of Animal Behaviour, v.II,n.1, 1954) He was a Darwinian, and was engage in studying the instincts of chickens, which, to facilitate his studies, were allowed to work havoc in every room in the house, including the drawing-room. He himself was in an advanced stage of consumption and died not very long after my father. Apparently upon grounds of pure theory, my father and mother decided that although he ought to remain childless on account of his tuberculosis, it was unfair to expect him to be celibate. My mother therefore, allowed him to live with her, though I know of no evidence that she derived any pleasure from doing so. This arrangement subsisted for a very short time, as it began after my birth and I was only two years old when my mother died. My father, however, kept on the tutor after my mother's death, and when my father died it was found that he had left the tutor and Cobden-Sanderson, both atheists, to be guardians of his two sons, whom he wished to protect from the evils of a religious upbringing. My grandparents, however, discovered from his papers what had taken place in relation to my mother. This discovery caused them the utmost Victorian horror. They decided that if necessary they would put the law in motion to rescue innocent children from the clutches of intriguing infidels. The intriguing infidels consulted Sir Horace Davey (afterwards Lord Davey) who assured them that they would have no case, relying, apparently, upon the Shelley precedent. My brother and I were therefore made wards in Chancery, and Cobden-Sanderson delivered me up to my grandparents on the day of which I have already spoken. No doubt this history contributed to the interest which the servants took in me. (AB11-030A.HTM)
Of my mother I remember nothing whatever, though I remember falling out of a pony carriage on an occasion when she must have been present. I know that this recollection is genuine, because I verified it at a much later time, after having kept it to myself for a number of years. Of my father I remember only two things: I remember his giving me a page of red print, the colour of which delighted me, and I remember once seeing him in his bath. My parents had themselves buried in the garden at Ravenscroft, but were dug up and transferred to the family vault at Chenies. A few days before his death my father wrote the following letter to his mother.
Pembroke Lodge, where my grandfather and grandmother lived, is a rambling house of only two storeys in Richmond Park. It was in the gift of the Sovereign, and derives its name from the Lady Pembroke to whom George III was devoted in the days of his lunacy. The Queen had given it to my grandparents for their life-time in the forties, and they had lived there ever since. The famous Cabinet meeting described in Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea, at which several Cabinet Ministers slept while the Crimean War was decided upon, took place at Pembroke Lodge. Kinglake, in later years, lived at Richmond, and I remember him well. I once asked Sir Spencer Walpole why Kinglake was so bitter against Napoleon III. Sir Spencer replied that they quarrelled about a woman. 'Will you tell me the story?' I naturally asked. 'No, sir,' he replied, 'I shall not tell you the story.' And shortly afterwards he died.
Pembroke Lodge had eleven acres of garden, mostly allowed to run wild. This garden played a very large part in my life up to the age of eighteen. To the west there was an enormous view extending from the Epsom Downs (which I believed to be the 'Ups and Downs') to Windsor Castle, with Hindhead and Leith Hill between. I grew accustomed to wide horizons and to an unimpeded view of the sunset. And I have never since been able to live happily without both. There were many fine trees, oaks, beeches, horse- and Spanish chestnuts, and lime trees, a very beautiful cedar tree, cryptomerias and deodaras presented by Indian princes. There were summer-houses, sweet briar hedges, thickets of laurel, and all kinds of secret places in which it was possible to hide from grown-up people so successfully that there was not the slightest fear of discovery. There were several flower-gardens with box-hedges. Throughout the years during which I lived at Pembroke Lodge, the garden was growing gradually more and more neglected. Big trees fell, shrubs grew over the paths, the grass on the lawns became long and rank, and the box-hedges grew almost into trees. (to be continued) (AB11-050.HTM)
The garden seemed to remember the days of its former splendour, when foreign ambassadors paced its lawns, and princes admired its trim beds of flowers. It lived in the past, and I lived in the past with it. I wove fantasies about my parents and my sister. I imagined the days of my grandfather's vigour. The grown-up conversation to which I listened was mostly of things that had happened long ago; how my grandfather had visited Napoleon in Elba, how my grandmother's great-uncle had defended Gibraltar during the American War of Independence, and how her grandfather had been cut by the County for saying that the world must have been created before 4004 B.C. because there is so much lava on the slopes of Etna. Sometimes the conversation descended to more recent times, and I should be told how Carlyle had called Herbert Spencer a "perfect vacuum," or how Darwin had felt it a great honour to be visited by Mr. Gladstone.
My father and mother were dead, and I used to wonder what sort of people had been. In solitude I used to wander about the garden, alternately collecting birds' eggs and meditating on the flight of time. If I may judge by my own recollections, the important and formative impressions of childhood rise to consciousness only in fugitive moments in the midst of childish occupations, and are never mentioned to adults. I think periods of browsing during which no occupation is imposed from without are important in youth because they give time for the formation of these apparently fugitive but really vital impressions. (AB11-060.HTM)
My grandfather as I remember him was a man well past eighty, being wheeled round the garden in a bath chair, or sitting in his room reading Hansard. I was just six years old when he died. I remember that when on the day of his death I saw my brother (who was at school) drive up in a cab although it was in the middle of term, I shouted 'Hurrah!',' and my nurse said: 'Hush! You must not say "Hurrah" today!' It may be inferred from this incident that my grandfather had no great importance to me.
My grandmother, on the contrary, who was twenty-three years younger than he was, was the most important person to me throughout my childhood. She was a Scotch Presbyterian, Liberal in politics and religion (she became a Unitarian at the age of seventy), but extremly strict in all matters of morarity. When she married my grandfather she was young and very shy. My grandfather was a widower with two children and four step-children, and a few years after their marriage he became Prime Minister. For her this must have been a severe ordeal. She related how she went once as a girl to one of the famous breakfasts given by the poet Rogers, and how, after observing her shyness, he said : 'Have a little tongue. You need it, my dear!' It was obvious from her conversation that she never came anywhere near to knowing what it feels like to be in love. She told me once how relieved she was on her honeymoon when her mother joined her. On another occasion she lamented that so much poetry should be concerned with so trivial a subject as love. But she made my grandfather a devoted wife, and never, so far as I have been able to discover, failed to perform what her very exacting standards represented as her duty. (AB11-070.HTM)
As a mother and a grandmother she was deeply, but not always wisely, solicitous. I do not think that she ever understood the claims of animal spirits and exuberant vitality. She demanded that everything should be viewed through a mist of Victorian sentiment. I remember trying to make her see that it was inconsistent to demand at one and the same time that everybody should be well housed, and yet that no new houses should be built because they were an eye-sore. To her each sentiment had its separate rights, and must not be asked to give place to another sentiment on account of anything so cold as mere logic. She was cultivated according to the standards of her time; she could speak French, German and Italian faultlessly, without the slightest trace of accent. She knew Shakespeare, Milton, and the eighteenth-century poets intimately. She could repeat the signs of the Zodiac and the names of the Nine Muses. She had a minute knowledge of English history according to the Whig tradition. French, German, and Italian classics were familiar to her. Of politics since 1830 she had a close personal knowledge. But everything that involved reasoning had been totally omitted from her education, and was absent from her mental life. She never could understand how locks on rivers worked, although I heard any number of people try to explain it to her. Her morality was that of a Victorian Puritan, and nothing would have persuaded her that a man who swore on occasion might nevertheless have some good qualities. To this, however, there were exceptions. She knew the Miss Berrys who were Horace Walpole's friends, and she told me once without any censure that 'they were old-fashioned, they used to swear a little.' Like many of her type she made an inconsistent exception of Byron, whom she regarded as an unfortunate victim of an unrequited youthful love. She extended no such tolerance to Shelley, whose life she considered wicked and whose poetry she considered mawkish. Of Keats I do not think she had ever heard. While she was well-read in Continental classics down to Goethe and Schiller, she knew nothing of the Continental writers of her own time. Turgeniev once gave her one of his novels, but she never read it, or regarded him as anything but the cousin of some friends of hers. She was aware that he wrote books, but so did almost everybody else. (AB11-070A.HTM)
Of psychology in the modern sense, she had, of course, no vestige. Certain motives were known to exist: love of country, public spirit, love of one's children, were laudable motives; love of money, love of power, vanity, were bad motives. Good men acted from good motives always; bad men, however, even the worst, had moments when they were not wholly bad. Marriage was a puzzling institution. It was clearly the duty of husbands and wives to love one another, but it was a duty they ought not to perform too easily, for if sex attraction drew them together there must be something not quite nice about them. Not, of course, that she would have phrased the matter in these terms. What she would have said, and in fact did say, was: 'You know, I never think that the affection of husbands and wives is quite such a good thing as the affection of parents for their children, because there is sometimes something a little selfish about it.' That was as near as her thoughts could come to such a topic as sex. Perhaps once I heard her approach a little nearer to the forbidden topic: that was when she said that Lord Palmerston had been peculiar among men through the fact that he was not quite a good man. She disliked wine, abhorred tobacco, and was always on the verge of becoming a vegetarian. Her life was austere. She ate only the plainest food, breakfasted at eight, and until she reached the age of eighty, never sat in a comfortable chair until after tea. She was completely unworldly, and despised those who thought anything of worldly honours. I regret to say that her attitude to Queen Victoria was far from respectful. She used to relate with much amusement how one time when she was at Windsor and feeling rather ill, the Queen had been graciously pleased to say: 'Lady Russell may sit down. Lady So-and-So shall stand in front of her.' (AB11-080.HTM)
After I reached the age of fourteen, my grandmother's intellectual limitations became trying to me, and her Puritan morality began to seem to me to be excessive; but while I was a child her great affection for me, and her intense care for my welfare, made me love her and gave me that feeling of safety that children need. I remember when I was about four or five years old lying awake thinking how dreadful it would be when my grandmother was dead. When she did in fact die, which was after I was married, I did not mind at all. But in retrospect, as I have grown older, I have realized more and more the importance she had in moulding my outlook on life. Her fearlessness, her public spirit, her contempt for convention, and her indifference to the opinion of the majority have always seemed good to me and have impressed themselves upon me as worthy of imitation. She gave me a Bible with her favourite texts written on the fly-leaf. Among these was "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil." Her emphasis upon this text led me in later life to be not afraid of belonging to small minorities. (AB11-080A.HTM)
My grandmother, when I was a boy, had four surviving brothers and two surviving sisters, all of whom used to come to Pembroke Lodge from time to time. The oldest of the brothers was Lord Minto, whom I knew as Uncle William. The second was Sir Henry Elliot, who had had a respectable diplomatic career, but of whom I remember little. The third, my Uncle Charlie, I remember chiefly because of the length of his name on an envelope: he was Admiral the Hon, Sir Charles Elliot, K.C.B., and he lived at Devonport. I was told that he was Rear Admiral and that there is a grander sort of admiral called Admiral of the Fleet. This rather pained me and I felt he should have done something about it. The youngest, who was a bachelor, was George Elliot, but was known to me as Uncle Doddy. The chief thing that I was asked to notice about him was his close resemblance to his and my grandmother's grandfather, Mr. Brydon, who had been led into regrettable heresy by the lava on Etna. Otherwise, Uncle Doddy was undistinguished. Of Uncle William I have a very painful recollection: He came to Pembroke Lodge one June evening at the end of a day of continual sunshine, every moment of which I had enjoyed. When it became time for me to say good-night, he gravely informed me that the human capacity for enjoyment decreases with the years and that I should never again enjoy a summer's day as much as the one that was now ending. I burst into floods of tears and continued to weep long after I was in bed. Subsequent experience has shown me that his remark was as untrue as it was cruel. (AB11-080B.HTM)
The grown-ups with whom I came in contact had a remarkable incapacity for understanding the intensity of childish emotions. When, at the age of four, I was taken to be photographed in Richmond, the photographer had difficulty in getting me to sit still, and at last promised me a sponge cake if I would remain motionless. I had, until that moment, only had one sponge cake in all my life and it had remained as a high point of ecstasy. I therefore stayed as quiet as a mouse and the photograph was wholly successful. But I never got the sponge cake.
On another occasion I heard one of the grown-ups saying to another, 'When is that young Lyon coming?' I pricked up my ears and said, 'Is there a lion coming?' 'Yes,' they said, 'he's coming on Sunday. He'll be quite tame and you shall see him in the drawing-room.' I counted the days till Sunday and the hours through Sunday morning. At last I was told the young lion was in the drawing-room and I could come and see him. I came. And he was an ordinary young man named Lyon. I was utterly overwhelmed by the disenchantment and still remember with anguish the depths of my despair. (AB11-080C.HTM)
To return to my grandmother's family, I remember little of her sister Lady Elizabeth Romilly except that she was the first person from whom I heard of Rudyard Kipling, whose Plain Tales from the Hills she greatly admired. The other sister, Lady Charlotte Portal, whom I knew as Aunt Lottie, was more colourful. It was said of her that as a child she had tumbled out of bed and without waking up had murmured, 'My head is laid low, my pride has had a fall.' It was also said that having heard the grown-ups talking about somnambulism she had got up during the following night and walked about in what she hoped was a sleep-walking manner. The grown-ups, who saw that she was wide awake, decided to say nothing about it. Their silence next morning so disappointed her that at last she said, 'Did no one see me walking in my sleep last night?' In later life she was apt to express herself unfortunately. On one occasion when she had to order a cab for three people, she thought a hansom would be too small and a four-wheeler too large, so she told the footman to fetch a three-wheeled cab. On another occasion, the footman, whose name was George, was seeing her off at the station when she was on her way to the Continent. Thinking that she might have to write to him about some household matter she suddenly remembered that she did not know his surname. Just after the train had started she put her head out of the window and called out, 'George, George, what' s your name? ' 'George, My Lady,' came the answer. By that time he was out of earshot. (AB11-090.HTM)
Besides my grandmother there were in the house my Uncle Rollo and my Aunt Agatha, both unmarried. My Uncle Rollo had some importance in my early development, as he frequently talked to me about scientific matters, of which he had considerable knowledge. He suffered all his life from a morbid shyness so intense as to prevent him from achieving anything that involved contact with other human beings. But with me, so long as I was a child, he was not shy, and he used to display a vein of droll humour of which adults would not have suspected him. I remember asking him once why they had coloured glass in church windows. He informed me very gravely that in former times this had not been so, but that once, just after the clergyman had gone up into the pulpit, he saw a man walking along with a pail of whitewash on his head and the bottom of the pail fell out and the man was covered with whitewash. This caused in the poor clergyman such an uncontrollable fit of laughter that he was unable to proceed with the sermon, and ever since this they had had coloured glass in church windows.
He had been in the Foreign Office, but he had trouble with his eyes, and when I first knew him he was unable to read or write. His eyes improved later, but he never again attempted any kind of routine work. He was a meteorologist, and did valuable investigations of the effects of the Krakatoa eruption of 1883, which produced in England strange sunsets and even a blue moon. He used to talk to me about the evidence that Krakatoa had caused the sunsets, and I listened to him with profound attention. His conversation did a great deal to stimulate my scientific interests. (AB11-100.HTM)
My Aunt Agatha was the youngest of the grown-up people at Pembroke Lodge. She was, in fact, only nineteen years older than I was, so when I came there she was twenty-two. During my first years at Pembroke Lodge, she made various attempts to educate me, but without much success. She had three brightly coloured balls, one red, one yellow, and one blue. She would hold up the red ball and say : 'What colour is that ?' and I would say, 'Yellow'. She would then hold it against her canary and say : 'Do you think that it is the same colour as the canary ?' I would say, 'No', but as I did not know the canary was yellow it did not help much. I suppose I must have learned the colours in time, but I can only remember not knowing them. Then she tried to teach me to read, but that was quite beyond me. There was only one word that I ever succeeded in reading so long as she taught me, and that was the word "or." The other words, though equally short, I could never remember.
She must have become discouraged, since shortly before I was five years old I was handed over to a kindergarten, which finally succeeded in teaching me the difficult art of reading.
When I was six or seven she took me in hand again and taught me English Constitutional history. This interested me very much indeed, and I remember to this day much of what she taught me. I still possess the little book in which I wrote down her questions and answers, both dictated. A few samples will illustrate the point of view.
Q. What did Henry II and Thomas Becket quarrel about?The murder of Becket is not mentioned. The execution of Charles I is mentioned, but not blamed. (AB11-110.HTM)
> She remained unmarried, having once become engaged to a curate and suffered from insane delusions during her engagement, which led to its being broken off. She became a miser, living in a large house, but using few of the rooms in order to save coal, and only having a bath once a week for the same reason. She wore thick woollen stockings which were always coming down in rumples over her ankles, and at most times talked sentimentally about the extreme goodness of certain people and the extreme wickedness of certain others, both equally imaginary. Both in my brother's case and in mine, she hated our wives so long as we lived with them, but loved them afterwards. When I first took my second wife to see her, she put a photograph of my first wife on the mantelpiece, and said to my second wife: 'When I see you I cannot help thinking of dear Alys, and wondering what would happen should Bertie desert you, which God forbid.' My brother said to her once : 'Auntie, you are always a wife behind.' This remark, instead of angering her, sent her into fits of laughter, and she repeated it to everybody. Those who thought her sentimental and doddering were liable to be surprised by a sudden outburst of shrewdness and wit. She was a victim of my grandmother's virtue. If she had not been taught that sex is wicked, she might have been happy, successful, and able. (AB11-120.HTM)
My brother was seven years older than I was, and therefore not much of a companion to me. Except in holiday time he was away at school. I admired him in the way natural to a younger brother, and was always delighted when he returned at the beginning of the holidays, but after a few days I began to wish the holidays were over. He teased me, and bullied me mildly. I remember once when I was six years old he called in a loud voice: 'Baby!' With great dignity I refused to take any notice, considering that this was not my name. He afterwards informed me that he had had a bunch of grapes which he would have given me if I had come. As I was never in any circumstances allowed to eat any fruit at all, this deprivation was rather serious. There was also a certain small bell which I believed to be mine, but which he at each return asserted to be his and took from me, although he was himself too old to derive any pleasure from it. He still had it when he was grown-up, and I never saw it without angry feelings. My father and mother, as appears from their letters to each other, had considerable trouble with him, but at any rate my mother understood him, as he was in character and appearance a Stanley. The Russells never understood him at all, and regarded him from the first as a limb of Satan. Not unnaturally, finding himself so viewed, he set out to live up to his reputation. Attempts were made to keep him away from me, which I resented as soon as I became aware of them. His personality was, however, very overpowering, and after I had been with him some time I began to feel as if I could not breathe. I retained throughout his life an attitude towards him consisting of affection mixed with fear. He passionately longed to be loved, but was such a bully that he never could keep the love of anyone. When he lost anyone's love, his heart was wounded and he became cruel and unscrupulous, but all his worst actions sprang from sentimental causes. (AB11-130.HTM)
During my early years at Pembroke Lodge the servants played a larger part in my life than the family did.
There was an old house-keeper named Mrs Cox who had been my grandmother's nursery-maid when my grandmother was a child. She was straight and vigorous and strict and devoted to the family and always nice to me.
There was a butler named MacAlpine who was very Scotch. He used to take me on his knee and read me accounts of railway accidents in the newspaper. As soon as I saw him I always climbed up on him and said: 'Tell me about an accident-happen.'
Then there was a French cook named Michaud, who was rather terrifying, but in spite of her awe-inspiring qualities I could not resist going to the kitchen to see the roast meat turning on the old-fashioned spit, and to steal lumps of salt, which I liked better than sugar, out of the salt box. She would pursue me with a carving knife, but I always escaped easily.
Out-of-doors there was a gardener named MacRobie of whom I remember little as he left when I was five years old, and the lodge-keeper and his wife, Mr and Mrs Singleton, of whom I was very fond, as they gave me baked apples and beer, both of which were strictly forbidden.
MacRobie was succeeded by gardener named Vidler, who informed me that the English are the lost Ten Tribes, though I do not think I quite believed him.
When I first came to Pembroke Lodge, I had a German nursery governess named Miss Hetschel, and I already spoke German as fluently as English. She left a few days after my arrival at Pembroke Lodge, and was succeeded by a German nurse named Wilhelmina, or Mina for short. I remember vividly the first evening when she bathed me, when I considered it prudent to make myself stiff, as I did not know what she might be up to. She finally had to call in outside assistance, as I frustrated all her efforts. Very soon, however, I became devoted to her. She taught me to write German letters. I remember, after learning all the German capitals and all the German small letters, saying to her: 'Now it only remains to learn the numbers', and being relieved and surprised to find that they were the same in German. She used to slap me occasionally, and I can remember crying when she did so, but it never occurred to me to regard her as less of a friend on that account. She was with me until I was six years old.
During her time I also had a nursery maid called Ada who used to light the fire in the morning while I lay in bed. She would wait till the sticks were blazing and then put on coal. I always wished she would not put on coal, as I loved the crackle and brightness of the burning wood. The nurse slept in the same room with me, but never, so far as my recollection serves me, either dressed or undressed. Freudians may make what they like of this. (AB11-150.HTM)
In the matter of food, all through my youth I was treated in a very Spartan manner, much more so, in fact, than is now considered compatible with good health. There was an old French lady living in Richmond, named Madame D'Etchegoyen, a niece of Talleyrand, who used to give me large boxes of the most delicious chocolates. Of these I was allowed only one on Sundays, but Sundays and weekdays alike I had to hand them round to the grown-ups.
I was very fond of crumbling my bread into my gravy, which I was allowed to do in the nursery, but not in the dining-room. I used often to have a sleep before my dinner, and if I slept late I had dinner in the nursery, but if I woke up in time I had it in the dining-room. I used to pretend to sleep late in order to have dinner in the nursery. At last they suspected that I was pretending, and one day, as I was lying in my bed, they poked me about. I made myself quite stiff, imagining that was how people would be if they were asleep, but to my dismay I heard them saying: 'He is not asleep, because he is making himself stiff.' No one ever discovered why I had pretended to be asleep. (AB11-160.HTM)
I remember an occasion at lunch when all the plates were changed and everybody except me was given an orange. I was not allowed an orange as there was an unalterable conviction that fruit is bad for children. I knew I must not ask for one as that would be impertinent, but as I had been given a plate I did venture to say, 'a plate and nothing on it'. Everybody laughed, but I did not get an orange. I had no fruit, practically no sugar, and an excess of carbo-hydrates. Nevertheless, I never had a day's illness except a mild attack of measles at the age of eleven. Since I became interested in children, after the birth of my own children, I have never known one nearly as healthy as I was, and yet I am sure that any modern expert on children's diet would think that I ought to have had various deficiency diseases. Perhaps I was saved by the practice of stealing crab-apples, which, if it had been known, would have caused the utmost horror and alarm. A similar instinct for self-preservation was the cause of my first lie. My governess left me alone for half an hour with strict instructions to eat no b1ackberries during her absence. When she returned I was suspiciously near the brambles.
'You have been eating blackberries', she said. 'I have not', I replied. 'Put out your tongue !' she said.Shame overwhelmed me, and I felt utterly wicked. (AB11-160A.HTM)
I was, in fact, unusually prone to a sense of sin. When asked what was my favourite hymn, I answered: 'Weary of earth and laden with my sin.' On one occasion when my grandmother read the parable of the Prodigal Son at family prayers, I said to her afterwards: 'I know why you read that because I broke my jug.' She used to relate the anecdote in after years with amusement, not realizing that she was responsible for a morbidness which had produced tragic results in her own children. (AB11-170.HTM)
Many of my most vivid early memories are of humiliations. In the summer of 1877 my grandparents rented from the Archbishop of Canterbury a house near Broadstairs, called Stone House. The journey by train seemed to me enormously long, and after a time I began to think that we must have reached Scotland, so I said:
'What country are we in now ?
They all laughed at me and said:
'Don't you know you cannot get out of England without crossing the sea ?'
I did not venture to explain, and was left overwhelmed with shame. While we were there I went down to the sea one afternoon with my grandmother and my Aunt Agatha. I had on a new pair of boots, and the last thing my nurse said to me as I went out was:
'Take care not to get your boots wet !'
But the in-coming tide caught me on a rock, and my grandmother and Aunt Agatha told me to wade through the water to the shore. I would not do so, and my aunt had to wade through and carry me. They supposed that this was through fear, and I never told them of my nurse's prohibition, but accepted meekly the lecture on cowardice which resulted.
In the main, however, the time that I spent at Stone House was very delightful. I remember the North Foreland, which I believed to be one of the four corners of England, since I imagined at that time that England was a rectangle. I remember the ruins at Richborough which greatly interested me, and the camera obscura at Ramsgate, which interested me still more. I remember waving cornfields which, to my regret, had disappeared when I returned to the neighbourhood thirty years later. I remember, of course, all the usual delights of the seaside limpets, and sea-anemones, and rocks, and sands, and fishermen's boats, and light-houses. I was impressed by the fact that limpets stick to the rock when one tries to pull them off, and I said to my Aunt Agatha, 'Aunty, do limpets think?' To which she answered, 'I don't know.' 'Then you must learn,' I rejoined. (AB11-180.HTM)
I do not clearly remember the incident which first brought me into contact with my friend Whitehead. I had been told that the earth was round, and had refused to believe it. My people thereupon called in the vicar of the parish to persuade me, and it happened that he was Whitehead's father. Under clerical guidance, I adopted the orthodox view and began to dig a hole to the Antipodes. This incident, however, I know only from hearsay.
While at Broadstairs I was taken to see Sir Moses Montefiore(Portrait： From the University College London Manuscripts & Rare Books Collection), an old and much revered Jew who lived in the neighbourhood. (According to the Encyclopaedia, he had retired in 1824.) This was the first time l became aware of the existence of Jews outside the Bible. My people explained to me carefull, before taking me to see the old man, how much he deserved to be admired, and how abominable had been the former diabilities of Jews, which he and my grandfather had done much to remove. On this occasion the impression made by my grandmother's teaching was clear, but on other occasions I was puzzled. (AB11-190.HTM)
She was a fierce Little Englander, and disapproved strongly of Colonial wars. She told me that the Zulu War was very wicked, and that it was largely the fault of Sir Bartle Frere, the Governor of the Cape. Nevertheless, when Sir Bartle Frere came to live at Wimbledon, she took me to see him, and I observed that she did not treat him as a monster. I found this very difficult to understand.
My grandmother used to read aloud to me, chiefiy the stories of Maria Edgeworth. There was one story in the book, called The False Key, which she said was not a very nice story, and she would therefore not read it to me. I read the whole story, a sentence at a time, in the course of bringing the book from the shelf to my grandmother.
Her attempts to prevent me from knowing things were seldom successful. At a somewhat later date, during Sir Charles Dilke's very scandalous divorce case, she took the precaution of burning the newspapers every day, but I used to go to the Park gates to fetch them for her, and read every word of the divorce case before the papers reached her. The case interested me the more because I had once been to church with him, and I kept wondering what his feelings had been when he heard the Seventh Commandment.
After I had learnt to read fluently I used to read to her, and I acquired in this way an extensive knowledge of standard English literature. I read with her Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Cowper's Task, Thomson's Castle of Indolence, Jane Austen, and hosts of other books. (AB11-200.HTM)
There is a good description of the atmosphere of Pembroke Lodge in A Victorian Childhood by Annabel Huth Jackson (nee Grant Duff). Her father was Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, and the family lived in a large house at Twickenham. She and I were friends from the age of four until she died during the Second World War. It was from her that I first heard of Verlaine, Dostoevsky, the German Romantics, and many other people of literary eminence. But it is of an earlier period that her reminiscences treat. She says:
'My only boy friend was Bertrand Russell, who with his grandmother old Lady Russell, Lord John's widow, lived at Pembroke Lodge, in Richmond Park. Bertie and I were great allies and I had an immense secret admiration for his beautiful and gifted elder brother Frank, I am sorry to say, sympathised with my brother's point of view about little girls and used to tie me up to trees by my hair. But Bertie, a solemn little boy in a blue velvet suit with an equally solemn governess, was always kind, and I greatly enjoyed going to tea at Pembroke Lodge. But even as a child I realised what an unsuitable place it was for children to be brought up in. Lady Russell always spoke in hushed tones and Lady Agatha always wore a white shawl and looked down-trodden. Rollo Russell never spoke at all. He gave one a handshake that nearly broke all the bones of one's fingers, but was quite friendly. They all drifted in and out of the rooms like ghosts and no one ever seemed to be hungry. It was a curious bringing up for two young and extraordinarily gifted boys.' (AB11-210.HTM)
Throughout the greater part of my childhood, the most important hours of my day were those that I spent alone in the garden, and the most vivid part of my existence was solitary.
I seldom mentioned my more serious thoughts to others, and when I did I regretted it.
I knew each corner of the garden, and looked year by year for the white primroses in one place, the redstart's nest in another, the blossom of the acacia emerging from a tangle of ivy. I knew where the earliest bluebells were to be found, and which of the oaks came into leaf soonest. I remember that in the year 1878 a certain oak tree was in leaf as early as the fourteenth of April. My window looked out upon two Lombardy poplars, each about a hundred feet high, and I used to watch the shadow of the house creeping up them as the sun set.
In the morning I woke very early and sometimes saw Venus rise. On one occasion I mistook the planet for a lantern in the wood. I saw the sunrise on most mornings, and on bright April days I would sometimes slip out of the house for a long walk before breakfast. I watched the sunset turn the earth red and the clouds golden; I Iistened to the wind, and exulted in the lightning. Throughout my childhood I had an increasing sense of loneliness, and of despair of ever meeting anyone with whom I could talk. Nature and books and (later) mathematics saved me from complete despondency. (AB11-220.HTM)
Under Construction ! (Feb. 5th, 2015)