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Personal correspondence

Series consists of correspondence acquired with Archives 1 and 2. (It should be noted, however, that correspondence continues to be acquired). The scope of this series is vast both in terms of the time period covered and the topics and correspondents featured. The letters range from Russell’s teen years to the last year of his life. While the series is called ‘personal’ correspondence to distinguish it from his more ‘political’ correspondence featured in the 300, 500 and 600 series, as well as his publishing (400) and legal (800) correspondence, it touches on all aspects of his life, including philosophy, peace, social issues, love affairs and family matters.

Included is correspondence with Russell's wives Alys (Pearsall Smith) Russell, Dora (Black) Russell, Patricia (Spence) Russell, and Edith (Finch) Russell; Russell's children, Conrad, John Conrad, and Katharine (Tait); the wives of his brother, Frank; and Russell's lovers, Ottoline Morrell and Constance Malleson.

In terms of large volumes of letters received from particular individuals, some of the most notable—in addition to the above—include:
• Margaret Llewelyn Davies
• Lucy M. Donnelly
• Helen Flexner
• Ken Holland
• Harold Kastner
• Corliss Lamont
• Hiram J. McLendon
• Catherine Marshall
• Gilbert Murray
• Victor Purcell
• Charles Percy Sanger
• F.C.S. Schiller
• Ralph Schoenman
• Lucy Silcox
• Lord (Ernest) Simon of Wythenshawe
• Alfred North Whitehead
• Ludwig Wittgenstein
• Alan Wood

Other notable correspondents include:
• Muhammad Ali
• A.J. Ayer
• Max Born
• F.H. Bradley
• Martin Buber
• Georg Cantor
• Joseph Conrad
• Albert Einstein
• T.S. Eliot
• E.M. Forster
• Erich Fromm
• Gottlob Frege
• Roger Fry
• Aldous and Julian Huxley
• William James
• Augustus John
• Philip Jourdain
• John Lennon and Yoko Ono
• Katherine Mansfield
• Spike Milligan
• G.E. Moore
• Giuseppe Peano
• Vanessa Redgrave
• George Santayana
• Siegfried Sassoon
• Albert Schweitzer
• George Bernard Shaw
• Rabindranath Tagore
• Charles, George and Robert Trevelyan
• H.G. Wells
• Rebecca West

Some of the letters received have been annotated by Russell. In many cases, carbon copies of Russell’s outgoing letters are included; in more recent years, copies of Russell’s replies were typed on the verso of the original letters received. In a few cases, there are also original letters written and sent by Russell that found their way back to him or the archive--for example, those written to Margaret Llewelyan Davies and Lucy Donnelly.

Miscellaneous personal documents

This series consists of over 20 discrete personal items, including three passports (1919, 1931-36, 1941-46); certified copies of Russell's birth certificate and death certificate, including correspondence relating to his cremation; visa to Soviet Russia, 1920, and other travel documents; various membership cards; two vaccination records; lists of earnings and royalties; schedule of lectures in the U.S. for 1927; photographs of his children (Kate and John); sheet photographs of children at Beacon Hill School; and other material. Received with both Archives 1 and 2.

Patricia Spence correspondence (letters received)

Series consists of mostly letters received by Patricia (Peter) Spence from a variety of correspondents, including Russell’s daughter, Kate (Katharine Tait); Spence’s mother, “Mrs. Spence”; Gamel Brenan, Gerald Brenan, Alice Crunden, Moya Llewelyn Davies, Joan Malleson, Miles Malleson, Ottoline Morell, Edna Pearce; and many others. As noted in the RA2 finding aid: “Some letters are addressed to Russell and a few others to both.” Received as part of Archives 2.

Patricia would become Russell’s third wife in 1936. She had served as governess to Russell’s children, Kate and John. Russell separated from the children’s mother, Dora Black, in 1932; they were divorced in 1936.


Series consists of letters addressed to Russell which are written in a nonsensical, ridiculous and/or indignant manner. Some crank mail elicited a response from Russell or his secretary, Ralph Schoenman, and may include typescript copies of replies, but most letters were left unanswered. A considerable amount of letters are from Peter Askey; one box (11.82) contains only letters received from him. Many letters were also sent anonymously.

Acquired as part of Archives 2, the print finding aid for which states: “Every well-known figure must receive crank mail, but Russell seems to have received more than his share. Possibly it was his reputation as a sage that attracted the letters. His staff regularly annotated such mail "crank". … While there may be nothing so dismal as an anonymous crank letter, pseudonymous crank letters can be very entertaining. See, for example, the letters and enclosed "cheques" (ranging from $5000 to $2,000,000,000) from the Virgin Express Alexandra I.”

Birthday cards, 1950-1969

Series consists of approximately 500 cards congratulating Russell on his birthdays over the years 1950-1969. Includes cards from family members, friends, and other individuals and organizational bodies. Most were acquired with Archives 1, while a few cards dated 1961 were acquired with Archives 2.

95th Birthday letters

As noted in the Archives 2 print finding aid, "Russell's 95th birthday was on 18 May 1967. There was no public celebration, but some members of the public and friends sent their congratulations to him." Those congratulations are contained in this series of approximately 150 letters.

Frank Russell - politics and the law

Series consists of letters relating to Frank Russell's careers in politics and the legal profession. Many are from members of the House of Lords, where Russell first took his seat in 1887. Acquired as part of Archives 1.

Invitations to Lecture, attend functions and dinners, etc.

This series consists of invitations to lecture, attend functions and dinners, sponsor organizations, etc., largely from 1950 onward. Includes typescript copies of replies from Russell, Chris Farley, and Ralph Schoenman. Acquired as part of Archives 1 and 2. The print finding aid for Archives 2 states: "The invitations filed here are public invitations-mainly to make speeches and attend ceremonies. Some of the invitations came from organizations with which Russell had been associated long ago, such as the Cambridge Heretics. To some he sent messages to be read and possibly published. These files supplement the publishing and political correspondences, which also contain many invitations. The Trinity College, entry contains the business correspondence (mainly form letters) resulting from Russell's life fellowship."

Legal actions: First World War, the Everett case, 1916

Series consists of a few documents relating to legal actions surrounding the distribution of the so-called ‘Everett leaflet’ by the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) in April, 1916. The leaflet, entitled ‘Two Years’ Hard Labour for Refusing to Disobey the Dictates of Conscience,’ was critical of the harsh treatment given Ernest Everett, a conscientious objector. After others were arrested for distributing the leaflet, Russell publicly acknowledged writing it, for which he was charged, convicted, and fined. Included are: NCF circulars; correspondence; a manuscript of Russell's defence speech for his trial on 5 June 1916; a pamphlet and reports of the court proceedings; Russell's bail certificate dated 10 June 1916; and typescript copies of the prosecutions and sentences of other conscientious objectors.

Moving images: films, videos and DVDs

Series consists of:

(1) 1 film acquired with Archives 1: BBC interview on ‘Wales Today’

(2) 4 films acquired with Archives 2: 3 relating to Vietnam, as well as interviews with Ralph Miliband conducted in 1965 (“Man and the 20th Cenutury”, “War and Peace”, and “Weatlh and Poverty”).

(3) Several films, videos and DVDs acquired as ‘Recent Acquisitions’, or Archives 3, including: the 1959 interviews with Woodrow Wyatt under the umbrella title “Bertrand Russell Speaks His Mind” (“Bertrand Russell Discusses Happiness”; “Bertrand Russell Discusses Philosophy”; “Bertrand Russell Discusses Power”); “The Life and Times of Bertrand Russell”; “Prospects of Mankind”; “Small World” (debate with Edward Teller on nuclear disarmament); “Three Passions of Bertrand Russell”; 1939 home movie entitled Sundays at Malibu Encinal; footage of the Nobel ceremony; CND demonstration at Trafalgar Square; appearance on the Merv Griffin Show; CBS news coverage of Russell’s death; and more.

Obituaries of Russell

As noted in the print finding aid for Archives 2: “This large collection of published obituaries [Russell died on Feb. 2, 1970] is based on the clippings supplied to Lady Russell or Christopher Farley by the International Press Cutting Bureau. … Russell's Middle East statement of 30 January 1970 was the subject of press comment at the same time, and a number of clippings on it have been preserved.”

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