A Pacifist at War


218 pages | Paperback

ISBN: 978 0 85124 8370


Letters and Writings 1914-1918
By Bertrand Russell
Edited by Nicholas Griffin

�The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 dramatically changed almost everything in Bertrand Russell’s life. It was the War that made him a public figure and ensured that henceforth philosophy would only occasionally prevail over politics for his attention … Unlike so many who went enthusiastically to war in the summer of 1914, Russell knew the War would be a disaster. Nor did he share the general British opinion that Germany was entirely responsible. He thought the secret diplomacy of the Liberal administration under Sir Edward Grey, which had entangled Britain in a series of alliances to defend continental countries against aggression, shared a good deal of the responsibility. He had, moreover, no doubts at all that it was his public duty to oppose the War … The War made him a popular figure among pacifists and those on the Left who were opposed to it, but it made him persona non grata with the Government, including many of his erstwhile allies in the Liberal establishment (though not with his lover, Ottoline Morrell and her husband, who remained staunchly supportive of the pacifists). The costs to Russell of opposing the War were high. The government fined him, confiscated his passport, placed him under surveillance, banned him from certain parts of the country, and eventually jailed him. He was viciously attacked in print and in person and, on at least one occasion, physically assaulted. He lost his job at Cambridge, his academic career, and many of his former friends. During the War he was dependent on his brother for providing him a place to live and when it ended he was broke, jobless, and exhausted. None of this caused him to waver for a moment in his unrelenting opposition.’

Nicholas Griffin
McMaster University, Canada

‘The introduction to the book as a whole, and particularly to individual letters, is very fine, as to be expected from its editor, Nicholas Griffin (editor of Russell’s collected papers of the period). The choice of his writings (as distinct from letters) could not be bettered in the space given to them; readers might have preferred these to have been expanded at the cost of fewer of his letters. However, these provide a fascinating insight both into his emotional life and entanglements of the period, and to his participation in the anti-war struggle. His fascinated and fascinating encounters with D.H.Lawrence are particularly well illustrated. As a whole, the collection is a much needed extension to his Autobiography, and as the only reasonably priced way into the vast treasury of his papers of the period, is a must for his admirers, and an education for our time.’
Chris Bratcher