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Russell, John Conrad

  • RC0940
  • Pessoa singular
  • 1921-1987

John Conrad Russell was the eldest son of Lord Bertrand Russell, philosopher and peace activist, and Dora Russell (neé Black), author and social campaigner.

Born in 1921, John was educated at Dartington Hall School, a progressive co-educational boarding school in Dartington, England. He went on to graduate cum laude from Harvard University, where he completed a B.A. thesis in 1943 entitled “An Analysis of the Principal Occasions and Causes of Failure of Democracy.”

In 1943, John returned to England and enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve. He married Susan Doniphan Lindsay, daughter of the American poet Vachel Lindsay, in 1946. Soon after their marriage, he adopted her child from another relationship, Felicity Anne. In 1946 and 1948, the couple’s daughters Sarah Elizabeth and Lucy Catherine were born. By 1955, John and Susan had divorced, and in the same year, John experienced his first mental health crisis requiring hospitalization. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1961, he lost custody rights to his children, who remained in the care of Bertrand Russell and his wife, Edith.

When Bertrand Russell passed away in 1970, John inherited his father’s hereditary peerage, becoming the fourth Earl Russell and a member of the House of Lords.

John passed away in 1987, and his title passed to his half-brother, Conrad Sebastian Robert Russell, who became the fifth Earl Russell.

Russell, Lucy Catherine

  • RC0933
  • Pessoa singular
  • 1948-1975

Lucy Catherine Russell was a granddaughter of Lord Bertrand Russell, philosopher and peace activist. Her father, John Conrad Russell, was Bertrand Russell’s first son from his marriage to Dora Black. Her mother, Susan Lindsay, was the daughter of American poet Vachel Lindsay.

Lucy was the third daughter of John and Susan. By the time of Lucy’s birth in July 1948, her parents’ relationship had already begun to deteriorate. Lucy’s family initially lived in a small flat in Cambrian Road, Richmond, but by 1950, they had moved to the main floor of 41 Queen’s Road in Richmond with Bertrand Russell (Monk 316-317). In December 1952, Bertrand Russell married his fourth wife, Edith Finch, and soon after she moved into the Queen’s Road home, Lucy’s parents moved out of it (Monk 355).

By the time she was five years old, Lucy and her sisters had become the subjects of a bitter family custody dispute. Bertrand and Edith Russell, with whom the children still lived, initially desired to have the girls made wards of the court on the basis of parental neglect, an initiative which was strongly opposed by Dora Russell (née Black), their grandmother (Monk 356). By 1954, Lucy’s parents had separated, and John, her father, had been hospitalized following a schizophrenic breakdown (Monk 359-360). Subsequently, John Russell moved into his mother Dora’s home, Carn Voel in Cornwall, where he would remain for much of his life.

John and Susan formally divorced in 1955, and John Russell retained custody of the children. However, the children remained in the care of Bertrand and Edith Russell (Monk 361), with much tension ensuing in subsequent years over parental visitation rights.

Lucy attended Kingsmuir School, a boarding school in Sussex, while the family resided at 41 Queen’s Road (Griffin 503). In 1956, when Lucy was eight years old, Bertrand and Edith Russell moved the family to Plas Penrhyn, their home in Wales. Following this move, Lucy and her sisters were sent to Moreton Hall, a private girls’ boarding school in Shropshire (Monk 370; Griffin 503). Near Russell’s home in Wales lived the Cooper-Willis family: mother Susan Williams-Ellis, a renowned potter; father Euan Cooper-Willis, and daughters Sian and Anwyl, who were close friends of Lucy and her sisters. Sian Cooper-Willis would later become a custodian of Lucy Russell’s papers.

In 1960, Bertrand and Edith Russell sought to further secure the girls’ situation by seeking legal custody of them (Monk 394). A protracted custody battle ensued, and in the end, Bertrand and Edith won full custody (1961), with John Russell retaining visitation rights (Monk 400).

Lucy excelled in her studies at Moreton Hall, demonstrating interest in mathematics (Monk 493). In the summer of 1962, at the age of fourteen, she left Moreton Hall to continue her studies at Dartington Hall, a progressive co-educational boarding school in Dartington, Devon. Lucy began to experience academic difficulties at this point, though her instructors noted her aptitude for languages (Monk 493). Lucy’s papers reveal her nascent interest in poetry, literature, and art as well.

In the summer of 1965, Lucy had withdrawn from Dartington Hall, focusing her efforts instead on private mathematics coaching and passing her A-level exams (Monk 493). In subsequent years, Lucy made several failed attempts to pass her A-level examinations and her entrance examinations to Oxford and Cambridge. It was not until 1970 that she was accepted on a course in anthropology and politics at the University of Kent (Monk 501).

Bertrand Russell passed away in February 1970, when Lucy was twenty years old. By 1972, Lucy had abandoned her latest round of university studies, and after a peripatetic period, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia (Monk 501; Moorehead 551). Following her release from hospital, she returned briefly to stay with Dora Russell and her father in Cornwall. On 11 April 1975, Lucy travelled by bus to a graveyard in the village of St. Buryan (Cornwall), where she died by self-immolation. She was, at the time of her death, twenty-six years old (Monk 501-502).

Russell, Sarah Elizabeth

  • RC0941
  • Pessoa singular
  • 1947-?

Sarah Elizabeth Russell was a granddaughter of Lord Bertrand Russell, philosopher and peace activist. Her father, John Conrad Russell, was Bertrand Russell’s first son from his marriage to Dora Black. Her mother, Susan Lindsay, was the daughter of American poet Vachel Lindsay.

Sarah was the first daughter born to John and Susan, and the second child in their family (the first child, Anne Russell, was born to Susan Lindsay and adopted by John Russell prior to Sarah’s birth).

Sarah’s family initially lived in a small flat in Cambrian Road, Richmond, but by 1950, they had moved to the main floor of 41 Queen’s Road in Richmond with Bertrand Russell (Monk 316-317). In December 1952, Bertrand Russell married his fourth wife, Edith Finch, and soon after she moved into the Queen’s Road home, Sarah’s parents moved out of it (Monk 355). Sarah’s parents separated in 1954 and divorced by 1955 (Monk 359-360).

Thereafter, Sarah and her sisters became the subjects of a protracted family custody dispute, the result of which was that Bertrand and Edith Russell won full custody of the children in 1961, with their father, John Russell, retaining visitation rights (Monk 400).

Sarah attended Kingsmuir School, a boarding school in Sussex, while the family resided at 41 Queen’s Road (Griffin 503). In 1956, Bertrand and Edith Russell moved the family to Plas Penrhyn, their home in Wales. Following this move, Sarah and her sisters attended Moreton Hall, a private girls’ boarding school in Shropshire (Monk 370; Griffin 503). Near Russell’s home in Wales lived the Cooper-Willis family: mother Susan Williams-Ellis, a renowned potter; father Euan Cooper-Willis, and daughters Siân and Anwyl, who were close friends of Sarah and her sisters.

Sarah left Moreton Hall, possibly as early as 1961, to complete her studies at Dartington Hall, a progressive co-educational boarding school in Devon. In 1966, she commenced a program in English Language and Literature at the University of Reading. She appears to have taken a break in 1970, when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia (Monk 500). Sarah returned to her program in 1977, and in 1979, she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in the second division of the second class.

In 1975, Sarah’s younger sister Lucy died by self-immolation (Monk 501-502). This event had a significant impact on Sarah and is addressed in her diaries (see Series 2).

Little is known of the later period of Sarah’s life, though Ray Monk, biographer of Bertrand Russell, writes that Sarah spent much of her life in psychiatric care (500).