Russell moved to the East coast in 1940 with his wife Peter and son Conrad to give the William James lectures at Harvard and then take up a teaching post at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The first two years in America Russell had lived in Chicago and California. His two older children remained at university in California. In Pennsylvania, Russell first lived in Bryn Mawr, then Phoenixville and lastly near Paoli before going full circle and returning to Bryn Mawr and Phoenixville. All are in close proximity. Paoli is west and a bit north of Philadelphia, Phoenixville is north of Paoli, and both are west of Bryn Mawr.
The Deanery, Bryn Mawr and the Bell & Clapper Inn, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (September 1940)
Russell sent a telegram to his friend, Lucy Donnelly, who taught at Bryn Mawr College. “Arriving morning Sept. 12. Don’t meet will reach you about nine. Prefer stay at Deanery. Many thanks.”1 The Deanery was the home of Bryn Mawr’s president, Carey Thomas, until her death in 1933 when it officially became Alumnae House but was still called the Deanery. Thomas was a cousin of Russell’s first wife Alys. His fourth wife, Edith, would publish a biography of Thomas in 1947. Edith and Lucy lived together at their home, New Place, 1110 Beech Road, Rosemont, Bryn Mawr. They designed and built the house together and moved into it in 1936.
On 14th of September Lucy wrote to Helen Flexner:2 “I am interested in your reflections about Bertie & feel with you that one must be even more generous to men of genius than to human beings in general … He is deeply sad over his plight, the tears came to his eyes as he told me ‘no university will consider employing me’ … Hence he says he feels especial gratitude to Barnes for coming to his rescue. His contract for five years makes him safe financially, better off than he has been for sometime, even if Barnes should break with him personally. I hope this may be so—the more I hear of Barnes, the more undependable he seems.” Lucy went on to say that “Bertie has been always a good friend to me & I am always at ease & happy with him.” With regard to the Deanery Lucy noted: “They seem to like the Deanery & are amused by Miss Garrett’s3 room in which they are put up etc. the house grows shabby alas, without money to keep it up properly.” That afternoon, the 13th, Edith took them to look at a house near Paoli. “They were delighted with Pennsylvania and thought they would be happy here.” They had seen Albert C. Barnes in the morning and Peter was confident she could charm him. On the 14th Barnes was “sending them about with his agent to look at houses.” Somewhat oddly Lucy concluded that “Peter by the way will not let Edith drive B anywhere without her. When she cannot go B must take a taxi—to B’s annoyance …. and Edith’s annoyance also, & amusement & slight gratification.” Peter’s incessant talking and poor health were also mentioned in this letter.
Lucy wrote to Helen Flexner on 23 September that “as Freshman week opens today they must leave the Deanery for a pleasant guest house Edith found in the country beyond Valley Forge, very suitable for Conrad, near houses they are considering.” She prefaced that comment by noting “They were much at this house [New Place]4 though they thoroughly enjoyed & appreciated the Deanery.” They had been looking at country properties but Barnes was proving to be very difficult. Russell compared him to his brother Frank. Lucy found Barnes to be “temperamental, unrestrained & is bound to make scenes from time to time.” A house agent, Norman Cantrell, was a calming presence helping in the search. The Russells were visiting homes on the day Lucy wrote this letter. Both Lucy and Edith were concerned about Peter’s health—she suffered from insomnia and chronic gastritis “among many other maladies.”
On 24 September, Russell told his publisher Warder Norton that: “I am sorry I could give you no address but Harvard, as it caused delay. I go there on Sp. 30; til then I shall be at the Bell & Clapper ...” On 29 September an apartment search on the Main Line in Philadelphia, a wealthy suburb, took place; Lucy and Edith were with them. Lucy told Helen that the Russells hoped “that negotiations will fall through & they be left to take an apartment for the winter as they originally preferred, working out a permanent modest establishment at their leisure … Bertie who is eternally hopeful and docile, liking each one in turn & P’s plans for it.” Lucy concluded: “if Barnes cannot get the terms he wants on the big place which is ‘a very good buy’ he will find another to his liking for them. We shall see.” Nothing was resolved and the Russells left for Cambridge. Lucy felt that “they seem perfectly happy—devoted to each other & their little boy” (Letter of 30 September).
Cambridge, Massachusetts (October–December 1940)
On 29 January 1940 Russell had written to his publisher W.W. Norton that he had been “invited to give the William James lectures at Harvard, & shall be there Sp.–Dec. this year. I shall give ‘Language & Fact’, which must not be published till the lectures have been given.”5 In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, 2 Oct. 1940, it was noted that “Mrs. Russell was waiting to go apartment hunting” (E40.15). He was photographed with his former student, Raphael Demos—the image was printed in the Boston Daily Globe. The accompanying article noted that Rudolf Carnap from Chicago was also at Harvard that autumn. Other philosophers there were A.N. Whitehead, whom of course Russell knew well, W.V.O Quine, and Alfred Tarski. Kate wrote that “Peter and my father took an apartment in the Commander Hotel in Cambridge, a tall brick building, on the edge of the Common ...” Russell’s lectures were well attended (My Father, p. 150). Pamela Campbell, Conrad’s governess, was with them. The hotel was built in 1927; it is now a Sheraton.
On 13 October Russell wrote to his daughter Kate: “People here are very friendly: they seem trying to make up to us for the New York rumpus. Carnap came to call … The Charles River (said to be called after Charles I) is pleasant, & the country, which we began exploring today, is quite agreeable … I like the place because I can get English tobacco! … sentiment is much more vehemently pro-English” compared to California. Lucy Donnelly wrote to Helen Flexner about Russell’s time in Cambridge on 20 November after a visit. “I gather they have seen a few people, gone to a few functions, & Peter & Conrad [are] ill a good deal. Bertie deep in work & enjoying it, though he looked tired.” On 26 December Russell told Kate that they were able to “have a tree [at the hotel] & Conrad quite approved of father Xmas’s activities.”
Peter Searches for a Home in Pennsylvania (November 1940)
Russell’s time in Pennsylvania has been covered extensively in Chad Trainer’s excellent article, “Russell’s Pennsylvania”. Trainer visited the Bell & Clapper and included reminiscences of Russell, Peter and Conrad by the innkeepers, the Rhoads family. A photograph of the Bell & Clapper as it looks today appears below. It was taken by Dan O’Leary on 24 April 2023. Trainer also visited Little Datchet Farm and was given a tour by the owner, William Quain (see below). He did not include Russell’s time at Pennstone Road in Bryn Mawr in his article.
On 7 October 1940 Helen wrote to Lucy that Judith Stephen had arrived from England. Judith was Virginia Woolf’s niece and Alys Russell’s great niece; she had visited the Russells at Telegraph House in 1936. “She is interested in everything & eager to see her relatives. She makes the London bombings vivid.” Judith’s ship “was delayed & bombed on the Mersey, one of a number of ships which were convoyed for 500 miles west of Ireland. Then they came safely, in perpetual life belts. As they reached New York they were told that 2 other ships in their group had been torpedoed as the convoy left them!” Judith came to America to do graduate work—how she was able to book passage is not explained.
Although Russell told Barnes back in August that their furniture was being shipped from England, on 11 October Peter wrote to Barnes that “Hitler won’t let us settle down. Our furniture sits at London docks—if it is not destroyed—waiting for a ship, & everything seems very difficult & worrying.” She noted that she and Conrad have been ill but she knew that “I shall have to return to Philadelphia to continue the search, which begins to seem hopeless.” On 14 October Barnes wrote to Peter that he was trying to secure the Higham property. He told her not to “be discouraged about finding a place to live.” Norman Cantrell “is combing the entire country [sic]” to find a property. By 30 October the Higham property had fallen through. Part of the problem in finding a suitable home was her concern for Conrad’s health. Financial considerations were also a factor.
In November, with time running out, Peter drove to Pennsylvania, leaving Conrad with Pam Campbell in Cambridge. She wrote Russell a long letter on 12 November describing the trip.6 It is found in an unfranked envelope with a photograph of a house. She left on Sunday, 10 November, covering 130 miles the first day. After staying at a small inn, she drove on, going through the Poconos and Stroudsburg the next day. She looked at a house in Bucks county, a considerable distance from Philadelphia, and then another house. “I’m afraid I will have to bring you to see them. I could settle on a perfect house alone, but there aren’t any perfect ones.” On her third day of travel, the 12th, she arrived at the Bell & Clapper, telling Russell that she chose to stay there rather than with “the Aunts”—her name for Lucy Donnelly and Edith Finch—because she arrived too late to disturb them. Mr. Cantrell was to take her to see properties the following day. For three days, 16 to 18 November, she was at the Adelphia hotel in Philadelphia but when space opened at the Bell & Clapper she returned there. She told Russell on 17 November that she ended up at the hotel “after getting horribly lost & wandering for an hour & a half …” She was supposed to be staying at the Windmill Tea Room. “To-day I went to the house & meditated, & was appalled by the amount of furniture required.” She asked for guidance regarding the furniture: “The thought of having no beautiful things is killing, & yet we don’t want to be extravagant.” The following day she wrote that she was back at the same house again, drawing up a list of needed repairs & alterations. “Mr. Barnes, with one male attendant turned up while I was there ... the house he says is a ‘dandy’& at least as old as the revolution.” On 19th of November she sent Russell a telegram informing him that she had moved permanently into the Bell & Clapper.
On 21 November she wrote again that Mr. Cantrell had found another house that she liked—“it has only just become available … The house is high on the top of a hill looking down into a wooded valley with many hills beyond … There is a little stream in the valley in which I think we can make a pool. The house itself is old & stone, & has a Cotswold look. It is cottagey & full of little stairs & nooks & corners. There is a little study with a fireplace & another big light room upstairs which could be used as a study. The lower rooms are not so light; but I am positive that I can make them do with white paint. There may not be room enough for John & Kate but the estate includes a nice little converted school house7 with several rooms—and they can live there. It is now rented for 25 dollars a month … In front of the house is a stone terrace from which the view is most beautiful, & there are huge bushes of box—American box, but still very nice … I feel that we could be really happy there … Both the other houses that were to let developed glitches … I rather like the thought of being friends with all the local inhabitants, as we never were at T.H. or Kidlington. They all like you & ignore the scandal8 in the most well-bred way possible.” She ended with “Mr. Cantrell has just come with the lease. I can hardly believe in it.” She returned north to Russell so he could sign the lease taking this letter with her.
Lucy added further information on the search. On 13 November she wrote to Helen Flexner that Peter was looking at houses that day with Barnes’ agent and would lunch with them on the 14th. Lucy also invited Judith Stephen because she was “eager to see her [Peter] & becoming a little homesick.” On 20 November Lucy outlined the movements of both Russells. “Bertie was here only for Saturday [16 November], coming down by Friday night’s train & returning Saturday.” Peter had wanted to go back with him but Bertie said no as he had to work on his lectures. Judith “was here for lunch with Peter on Thursday last and came in with the 2 Russells for tea on Saturday.” Lucy said that Peter had wanted to stay with her but when refused9 she went to the Deanery. “When she discovered the price there she retired after two nights & B’s departure to the Windmill Tea Room at Paoli.”10 Also in this letter Lucy remarked that Albert Barnes would be lending them some antiques to furnish the house as “England will not let antiques or silver go out of the country.” She also wrote that she and Edith had gone with Peter to see a house under consideration and deemed it “not attractive & impractical, insufficient tiny closets, etc. Edith and I drove away very depressed, wondering how they are going to furnish it [and] get servants.”
In her next letter to Helen, Monday, 25 November, she wrote: “To my surprise & relief Peter called up Friday morning [22 November] to say a better house had been found—one that she ‘loves beyond reason’—& she had repudiated the one she showed us on Wednesday … On Saturday she drove back to Boston with the lease for this last house for Bertie to sign & I hope they are finally settled. If so, they will have a most beautiful place, in an enchanting valley on a hill north east of Paoli—the house a real find ‘like a Cotswold house’—charmingly up & down & gabled & civilized. One could envy them. Far better than anything they have seen—or I—anywhere. A good … place & deep in the country, near Rapp’s Corner—& the price I do not know … Peter returns on the 10th to collect everything in the way of equipment. The 15th it will be vacated, when she hopes to have it cleaned & decorated & sufficiently furnished for them to camp out in at Christmas!” On 9 December Lucy wrote to Helen that “last evening Peter Russell blew in … Bertie’s lectures are over the 20th … Judith is to spend the holidays with them … and she will help Peter with her shopping etc.—looks forward to it as ‘great fun’”.
Making Little Datchet Farm into a Home (December 1940)
On 10 December, Peter sent her first letter that month from Pennsylvania to Russell. She had spent the day at Little Datchet Farm where extensive renovations were about to begin. “I was busy all day talking to painters & carpenters, & deciding about rooms … Our next-door neighbour known as old Dutch ... & famed for his profanity, is going to use our land for grazing, & in return will mow it ....” She has “met our landlord, who is a gentleman, & his wife who is almost a lady …They are pleasant & obliging.” This makes it clear that Barnes did not own this house. Although not named in the letter, the landlord was Austin G. Maury.11 Peter continued: “The Aunts & Judith came & inspected the house this afternoon, & made decisions for me, & were delighted with everything.”12 Peter informed Russell that “the house is badly planned & in some ways inconvenient, but I hope you will forgive it for its charm’s sake as I do. I hope you won’t mind entering your study through a cupboard.” She drew him a diagram illustrating her proposed change which involved doing away with door number 3, the direct entrance to the study from the living room, and making the new entrance through a cupboard. Russell must have nixed her plan as the direct entrance to the study remains. A document titled “IX. Significance”13 described the house as follows: “The original mid-eighteenth-century house was two-and-one-half stories high, one bay wide, and two bays deep, with a single entrance … The five major phases of the house’s construction span three centuries.” She thought the place would be healthy for Conrad who had been ill. “The air is delicious & I hope and pray he will be well.” The place had to be furnished and she was unable to attend auctions yet. The property consisted of “fifty (50) acres of farmland, a large dwelling house, a large barn, a cottage, and a habitable spring house at the rate of one hundred dollars ($100) per month unfurnished, for a period of five (5) years.”14 Dan O’Leary photographed the Spring House on 26 April 2023. In an email he described it as “a two-storey structure. The land slopes, so one can enter both the upper and the lower levels from the ground. The floors are not connected … [the upper level] is small and looks like the attic of a house. There is a window on one end and a door on the other … the lower level is the Spring … During Russell’s stay this was the source of water for the house.” It is located near the barn. Dan added that when Russell lived on the property there was a summer kitchen housed in a separate structure.
On 11–12 December she told him that she had “decided on white or ivory everywhere … I also made a list of all the furniture I shall need exclusive of china, plate & linen & imagined it all in its appointed places … I told the landlord that I wanted windows & doors made to open & shut properly … Apparently the other people were content to stifle in hot weather.” Two letters were sent on 13 December. The workmen were busy. She “opened a bank account, registered as an alien, ... & bought 6 beds with pillows & blankets ... they won’t be delivered til December 23” and she suggested he not arrive before then. “Decide it with Pam.” On 14 December she wrote that “My love for you all is going into the house” which was “beginning to seem more hopeful.” On 15 December she wrote that: “I have spent 1000 dollars on furniture, partly on credit, so far—it will probably come to 3000—but I am getting things easy to sell again.” That amount was almost half his annual salary of $8,000. She didn’t think the curtains and chair covers would be in place before Christmas, unfortunate because “they will provide most of the colour ....” She went on to say that “I have bought a bowl of goldfish for Conrad for Xmas & have been promised a kitten. Dog & ducks still to find.” The cat that they had in Los Angeles must have been left there; I don’t know if they got a dog. Her last letter, 17 December, noted that she had been meeting all day with “painters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, telephone men, garbage men.” She was tired of making constant decisions. This entire month she was also fussing about Christmas presents.
On 17 December Lucy wrote to Helen that “Bertie & Conrad come from Boston on Monday [23 December]. Peter meantime is frantically shopping, collecting furniture from all the old shops about, & beds & blankets from Gimbels … Again I wish we could have helped her with more …” By 20 December Peter was back in Cambridge. She told Barnes in a letter of 22 December that “the doctor telephoned me on Friday morning” alerting her that Russell had “slight bronchitis.” She reassured Barnes that Russell “will be well enough to travel by the end of next week ....” She asked for assistance with the delivery of “Conrad’s little bed.” On Christmas eve Barnes notified Russell that Conrad’s bed had been delivered “last Saturday”, that is 21 December.
On Christmas day Lucy wrote to Helen: “I cannot remember in the Christmas confusion whether I wrote you that Peter Russell called up on Friday [20 December], instead of coming to lunch here with Judith to meet F. Hand15 that Bertie was very ill with bronchitis & she after talking long distance with the doctor leaving immediately for Cambridge. She wanted Judith who had planned to spend the holidays with them to go with her. Judith however wanted to meet Fanny & took a later train. Sunday came a card (mislaid somewhere) from Peter to say Bertie was less ill than the doctor feared: had ‘made one of his spectacular recoveries’ & she hoped to bring on the household by the New Year. This was good news. In what state she had left the house etc. I don’t know.”
This series of letters from Lucy Donnelly to Helen Flexner which Edith transcribed are immensely valuable for this time period.16 I am sure that Lucy, Edith and the Russells continued to meet while the Russells lived in Pennsylvania but only one letter has survived. Written by Russell on 19 April 1941, he apologizes for his “outrageous behaviour at your dinner, when I deafened you by shouting in your ear. Please forgive me. Since the New York row17 I have been prickly, especially when I encounter the facile optimism which won’t realize that, but for Barnes, it would have meant literal starvation for us all—But that is no excuse for abominable behaviour.” His farewell letter written from New Jersey states “It was nice being your neighbours …” (14 May 1944).
Little Datchet Farm, Paoli, Pennsylvania (28 December 1940–Summer 1943)18
“We rented a farmhouse about thirty miles from Philadelphia, a very charming house, about two hundred years old, in rolling country, not unlike inland Dorsetshire. There was an orchard, a fine old barn, and three peach trees, which bore enormous quantities of the most delicious peaches I have ever tasted. There were fields sloping down to a river, and pleasant woodlands” (Auto 2: 221). Russell wrote to Kate on 26 December that they would go to the house “in two days.”
Russell took up his position lecturing at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, on 2 January 1941. To deliver his lectures Russell travelled to Paoli “which was the limit of the Philadelphia suburban trains. From there I used to go to the Barnes Foundation, where I lectured in a gallery of modern French painting, mostly of nudes” (Auto 2: 221). His lectures became A History of Western Philosophy.19 Since Peter was usually with him at his lectures she must have driven to the train station.
Correspondence between S.M. Levitas of the New Leader in New York and the Russells is extant beginning January 1941. Peter wrote on the 17th: “it is not possible for my husband to write for it at present. He would like to do so later, but at the moment he is very busy, and very tired after a great deal of lecturing here and there about the country.” The eight articles that Russell wrote appear in the Bibliography. He was paid nominal sums—most contributors were not. (Letters in Rec. Acq. 1715).
On 18 January 1941 Russell replied to Ludwick Silberstein’s20 letter of 13 November. Russell’s letter brimmed with optimism. His work at the Barnes Foundation “is light & altogether agreeable, so I am in luck. My family & I have just moved into this house, which we are gradually furnishing; in about a month from now we ought to be really established. From then on I shall be delighted to see you if you are in this neighbourhood. The railway station is Paoli.” Russell ended the letter by thanking Silberstein for his gift of marmalade.
On 19 January 1941 Russell wrote to Elizabeth Trevelyan that “we have rented an old farm-house (early eighteenth century), which is rather beautiful, & in very lovely country, 25 miles west of Philadelphia … Peter has been very busy furnishing the house ....” On 24 January 1941 Russell wrote to his publisher Stanley Unwin: “I have a soft job at the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pa., … & a pleasant little farm house in lovely country. If there were no war I could be happy.”
On 1 April Russell wrote to his daughter Kate: “The country round us is getting lovely—there are large woods, which I hope will be full of flowers. There are birds that sing very nicely.” Also in April Russell was in correspondence with Stanley Unwin and Paul Schilpp. On 6th April he wrote to Unwin: “All that you say about people’s calm during raids is most encouraging. Both my wife and I find it almost unbearable to be out of England at this time, but there is no way of avoiding it. I should like to be in some way useful here, but since the New York row21 it is difficult for me.” On the 17th he wrote to Schilpp that his Barnes lectures would finish at the end of May and he would work on Schilpp’s volume about him in the Library of Living Philosophers. Schilpp required a biographical sketch. The book was published in 1944.
Daphne Phelps and her friend David arrived in Philadelphia one day in April 1941.22 The next day Daphne went to a luncheon where her aunt announced: “We are having the most extraordinary time trying to find Lord Russell. We can’t even get in touch with the Barnes Foundation where we know he’s teaching … Whereat one of the guests said, ‘He’s the tenant in my house at Malvern.’ And she gave me the telephone number … We stayed in the Russell household for about three months … Bertie was working on his future best-seller A History of Western Philosophy. He would disappear for most of the day, just emerging for meals.” Russell’s lectures had ended in May and did not resume until October. “In the evenings, while David and Peter washed up at one sink, Bertie and I would be at the other … his stories of Gladstone, Aristotle, Mirabeau, Galileo and so on were as vivid as if he had met them that morning and chatted over the garden wall … Conrad adored his father and Peter was a devoted, spoiling and admiring mother … I remember driving Bertie to meet Einstein; like any chauffeur I stayed outside, of course. I helped in the garden and with shopping, and on the free days of Geneva, the black cook, and her husband Charles, I helped in the kitchen.” It was during that visit that Russell announced that he had to sack Geneva and Charles because of financial constraints. Peter objected strongly and they were kept on. This observation on servants appears to conflict with what Russell told Lucy Silcox on 9 May (see next paragraph). While there “we heard almost the first encouraging war news: the sinking of the Bismarck. And I was sitting beside Bertie when the amazing new of Hitler’s attack on Russia came through. We began to hope.” Presumably Daphne is referring to news heard over the radio. Eventually Daphne and David secured passages home and left for Britain in August 1941 (House, pp. 173–77).
On 9 May 1941 Russell wrote to Lucy Silcox that they “have been having a strenuous time without servants; Peter & Pamela have had to do all the work ... But I think soon we shall have servants again.” With regard to Conrad he told her: “Conrad is very happy here—it is a good place for him. Cows & ploughs surround him, & there is a brook; the country is hilly & wooded, very like Dorsetshire.” Unfortunately “Pamela has decided she must go home”, that is to England. Peter was very fond of Pamela.23 On 19 May, one day after his birthday, Russell told Kate: “I had a cake with 69 candles; what is more I blew them all out in one breath.” Russell wrote on 31 May to Norton that the house “had to be furnished completely, & as I can’t get any money out of England, it has had to be done out of income.” He would like an advance of $500.
During the summer he told Miriam Reichl “we refused, as a family, to join a swimming club … because Jews were not admitted.” Russell was concerned by the “anti-Semitism increasing by leaps & bounds.” (Letter, 27 December 1941).
On 25 June Russell wrote to Schilpp: “I enclose the autobiographical material for your volume on me … Some day (perhaps five years hence) I shall want to write a full autobiography.” Kate first saw the house in June. She, her brother John, and three of John’s friends had driven across the continent. “The entrance to the driveway was overhung with pink rambler roses” while the house was “long and low and gray and partially creeper covered, with white-framed windows … Inside it was beautifully furnished, in a mixture of discreet modern and Pennsylvania antique, making me feel happily that I had come home to the kind of house I liked …” (My Father, p. 152). Unfortunately Kate was mistaken. “The hot, oppressive Pennsylvania summer became a long ordeal of disappointed expectations … It was a relief when it came to an end … and John and I departed for Harvard and Radcliffe” (My Father, p. 154). On 9 August 1941 Russell extended an invitation to Barnes and his wife for dinner, noting that “the bottle of champagne cries out that it wants to be drunk.”
Josiah Wedgwood (1872–1943), a British Labour politician visited in early summer 1941.24 Later that year Russell’s cousin Ted Lloyd visited.25 A letter of 19 September 1941 confirmed that James K. Feibleman, a philosopher, was expected for a visit “on Sunday afternoon.”
On 6 December 1941 Russell wrote to Lucy Silcox that “I have unfortunately had a row with my employer, Dr Barnes, owing to his amazing animosity against Peter. So probably my job with him comes to an end next May.” In fact this dispute was papered over and Russell continued to give his lectures in the autumn of 1942. On 7 December 1941 Russell extended an invitation to Albert Einstein and Paul Oppenheim to visit “any time (except a Thursday)”. He noted that “We are hard to find—8 miles north of Paoli. When there, ask for Rapp’s Corner (where you will find Rapp’s Store) & then ask again.”
Christopher Isherwood26 visited, with Teddy and Una le Boutilliere “to have supper” on 3 January 1942. Isherwood had met the Russells in Los Angeles [link] where he went on a picnic with Russell and others, including Aldous Huxley, in the Tujunga Canyon. Isherwood travelled east in 1941 and ended up working at the Cooperative College Workshop, a refugee hostel, in Haverford, Pa. near Bryn Mawr. (Diaries, pp. 908–9). Teddy who “kept the Country Book Shop at Bryn Mawr, heard where I was and called me up” (Diaries, p. 197). “Una, his wife [was] an Englishwoman … They had two small boys, and lived in a beautiful old farmhouse near Phoenixville” (p. 198). Russell’s house was “tucked away in one of the lonely valleys out beyond Paoli, which so much resemble the Derbyshire Peak District,27 especially in winter” (Diaries, p. 202). The house was full: in addition to John and Kate who must have been home for the holidays, there was Pam Campbell and Julian Huxley was visiting. Russell and Julian “were anxious to hear the latest news of Aldous—that was chiefly why I was invited. Russell wanted to know ‘why does Aldous talk about Ultimate Reality?’” More guests arrived. Isherwood provides a character sketch of Peter whom he liked as did Teddy and Una. “No doubt she’s terribly tactless and difficult. She hates America and says so. She likes to be called Lady Russell. She is curiously jealous of Bertie’s fame and is apt to interrupt and contradict whenever philosophy is discussed: she knows a lot about it, too. But underneath her disagreeable, aggressive mannerisms, she seems extraordinarily kind and decent … It can’t be easy to be married to a man forty years or more older than yourself … And Peter is a very attractive, sexy woman.” When the evening was over and “we opened the door to go, it was like a theatrical transformation—the garden and the hills were deep, luminous blue-white in the darkness, and the night was full of falling snow.” The roads were bad and he stayed overnight with the le Boutillieres (Diaries, p. 203). The next day Peter and Russell picked him up. “They were driving into Philadelphia, where Bertie was to deliver a lecture, explaining why he supports the war” (Diaries, p. 204).28
The winter could be difficult. In 1951 Russell wrote: “Something very analogous can be done by those who control power stations, as soon as a community has become dependent upon them for lighting and heating and cooking. I lived in America in a farm-house which depended entirely upon electricity, and sometimes, in a blizzard, the wires would be blown down. The resulting inconvenience was almost intolerable. If we had been deliberately cut off for being rebels, we should soon have had to give in” (Impact of Science, p. 24). William Quain, the current owner, emailed me on 2 August 2023: “Our source for cooking, range and oven, was and still is electric. The furnace was oil fired, and still is, but requires electricity to regulate, turn on and off. It could have been coal fired in Russell’s time, which would require someone to shovel coal into the furnace. The water source was and still is a well, controlled by electricity for the pump to turn on and off. With no electricity, the range and oven, heating, and water shut off. We use a generator when the power goes out, which it does. The generator requires gasoline, which I keep five gallons on hand as backup. As far as I know there were no portable generators in Russell’s time. He could have burned wood in the fireplace for heat and cooking if he had the wood as a backup.”
Peter Blach, who changed his last name to Blake and became an architect, was also a visitor at Little Datchet Farm. Born in Berlin in 1920 he went to England in the 1930s and to New York in 1939. He worked part-time at the Philadelphia firm, Stonorov & Kahn.29 In his autobiography he wrote that he had met Pamela Campbell at a square dance in Paoli and described her as a secretary-housekeeper (No Place, p. 38). He mistakenly dated this meeting as the fall of 1940 and was confused as to how she had arrived in America. At Little Datchet Farm, Blake used the pump-house30 on the farm grounds as his second home (No Place, p. 38).
Blake wrote the Russells a series of letters after he joined the American military.31 In a very long, undated letter, Blake wrote that: “It is amazing to find how many friends you have made in this country ....” He remembered Little Datchet Farm weekends “particularly when there were still servants and we lived in sheer luxury—and about the wonderful sherry ... and Diddy [Russell] climbing up trees and Conrad making the most articulate fuss ... and the gossip about how who slept with whom and ... Diddy reading True Murder Romances ... it was such a wonderful life even though you may remember only the worst of it ....”32 In his autobiography he recalled “On Sundays … young couples—philosophy professors or students from CCNY—would arrive from Manhattan” (No Place, p. 41). These visitors were not named but he did name Julian Huxley, Sidney Hook and Freda Utley as fellow visitors (No Place, p. 40). Peter wrote to Blake on 28 September 1981: “You … were fond of us as a family (Dearest Russells), but it was a family built on rotten foundations and when it disintegrated everything, including friendships, fragmented … Conrad is a Professor of History in London, is married and has two sons.”33
Freda Utley,34 who was living in New York, visited often on weekends. “Servants or not, guests or not, the table had to be properly laid in the dining room with candles, gleaming silver, snowy table cloth, wine glasses and wine.” She thought Peter “was not really a snob although this was the unfortunate impression she gave to many Americans. She was simply unhappy and maladjusted and became ultra-British in her disappointment at finding life in America as the wife of Lord Russell difficult, disappointing, and dull.” Utley added “She was totally unsuited to live in a remote house in Pennsylvania often without servants (because few couples stayed long) while expected by herself as well as Bertie to maintain the kind of household which English people of the upper classes take for granted.” Utley does not mention any visits by Sidney Hook, just that he helped to secure lectures for Russell. Utley was under the impression that Pamela Campbell had left for home “after refusing to marry ... Peter Blake because he was a German.” (Odyssey, pp. 169–172). This is not confirmed by Blake who remained friendly with Pamela.
Their first year in the house, 1941, ended with a family Christmas gathering. He told Kate on 1 December “It will be very nice having you & John … I miss you both.”
In the Spring of 1942, months before he was terminated by Barnes Russell was concerned about his finances. This paragraph appears in his Autobiography. “My History of Western Philosophy was nearly complete, and I wrote to W.W. Norton, who had been my American publisher, to ask if, in view of my difficult financial position, he would make an advance on it. He replied that because of his affection for John and Kate, and as a kindness to an old friend, he would advance five hundred dollars. I thought I could get more elsewhere, so I approached Simon and Schuster, who were unknown to me personally. They at once agreed to pay me two thousand dollars on the spot, and another thousand six months later” (2: 222–3). Correspondence helps to flesh out this transaction. Russell’s letter to Norton is dated 4 May 1942. In it he asked for an advance of $1,000. He noted that John was at Harvard and Kate at Radcliffe. Norton replied on 12 May that: “I would want to do my part in helping along with their education, quite aside from the business and professional obligation which I have toward you and the book in question.” He suggested an advance of $500 as well as $275 from royalties due on 1 July, bringing the total to $775. On 19 May Russell turned this offer down with regret. There is no surviving correspondence with Simon & Shuster. However, the book contract is extant and is dated the next day, 20 May 1942. The contract noted that the title of the book was “Philosophy and Western Culture.” The “scope and nature of the book are to be along the lines presented by the Author in his discussions and correspondence with Mr. M. Lincoln Schuster and Mr. Wallace Brockway.”35 Russell waited until September to inform Stanley Unwin. “As for the History of Western Philosophy, I have been meaning to write to you about it. It will be a big book … It should be called ‘Philosophy and Western Culture from Greece to the Present Day’ or some such title … In this country it will be published not by Norton, but by Simon & Schuster, who were willing to pay me four times as much …” (Letter of 5 Sept. 1942.)
In the summer of 1942 when Kate returned from Radcliffe there was no “household help” (My Father, p. 156). John did not come with her. On 9 July Russell wrote to Elizabeth Trevelyan that they were employing Kate “as a servant, because ordinary servants can’t be got. They are all engaged in war work.” As she had been the previous summer Kate was miserable. “We were trapped together for the summer, locked in with the heat and the dust and prolific fruit trees, whose products must not be allowed to go to waste” (My Father, p. 157). Russell did spend part of the spring and summer working on his Paul Schilpp volume, The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, published two years later in 1944.36 In August Russell sent “the manuscript of my book to you, up to the end of the middle ages.” He had not heard back from Simon and Schuster and was concerned it had not been received (Letter of 8 September).
In December Russell travelled to New York to deliver four lectures on Wednesday evenings from the 2nd to the 23rd at the Rand School of Social Science. The first three lectures were on Anarchism, Socialism and Totalitarianism while the last one was quite different, “My Practical Philosophy”. Advertisements for the series appeared in the Yiddish-language anarchist paper, Fraye Arbeter Shtime, although the ad was in English.
On 28 December 1942, the Barnes Foundation sent a letter stating that Russell was “in breach of contract”. The Board terminated his employment as of 31 December. Russell retained the services of White & Staples, a law firm in Philadelphia, to represent him in his suit against the Foundation. Russell put out a press statement: “No stipulation was ever made that I should refrain from doing such outside lecturing as I wished to do … Dr. Barnes … wrote to me that any outside lecturing I chose to do was entirely my own affair and nothing to do with my contract with him. During the last year especially, I have done a good deal of lecturing, largely unpaid or for nominal fees, on questions that seemed to me of public importance, especially the Indian problem, and have regarded this as war work” (Class 825, F-14, Box 6.32). Peter’s knitting and alleged disruptive conduct were mentioned at the time as causes of friction (Moorehead, p. 441.) Freda Utley speculated that the real reason Russell was fired by Barnes was fueled by “Peter’s undisguised dislike of America where she found life difficult, and Bertie’s desire to return to England now that he had become an all out supporter of the war against Hitler” (Odyssey, p. 170). Russell wrote to Gilbert Murray on 9 April 1943 that Barnes who liked quarrels “had no reason that I can fathom” to fire him (Auto 2: 251).
Naturally this dismissal caused a drastic drop in Russell’s income. In an interview with the New York Post in March 1943, Russell noted that “my income is less than my income tax.” Russell continued to work on the lectures which were published as A History of Western Philosophy in 1945. “I found the work exceedingly interesting, especially the parts that I knew least about beforehand, the early Mediaeval part and the Jewish part just before the birth of Christ … I was grateful to Bryn Mawr College for allowing me the use of its library which I found excellent” (Auto 2: 223). He told Stanley Unwin on 31 January 1943 that the book “will probably be published here in the spring or autumn of 1944 .…”
Barrows Dunham, one of Russell’s students and later a professor of philosophy at Temple, invited the Russells for dinner on 6 February 1943. “I think the rationing rules would permit me to meet you at Merion Station with the car and return you there in time for your train home.” In the letter he said he was not afraid of Barnes. (Letter of 24 January). He and his wife lived in Cynwyd, Pa. [FN, Bala Cynwyd is very close to Philadelphia.] Feinberg and Kasrils quote Dunham: “My wife and I had had the Russells to tea during the series [of lectures], and we now had them again … Some time later we had tea with the Russells at their home in Malvern. Barnes was the owner of this house, and they were paying rent. They said that Barnes wanted them to buy it on a twenty-four year mortgage ... the Russells refused to buy, and since that was a crossing of the Barnes will, the refusal may have been one other cause of the ultimate dismissal.”37 It is hard to know what to make of this statement. The authors do not provide a source and Dunham is mistaken about the ownership of the house. However, it is true that Barnes wanted the Russells to buy a house rather than rent. In fact, mention of a home purchase appeared erroneously in the Daily Local News (West Chester) on 17 October 1940 (clipping at the Chester Historical Society; copy in RA).
“On February 1, 1943, Russell signed a lease with Dr. Paul N. Morrow, a Captain in the Medical Service of the United States Government, to rent the dwelling house with about two (2) acres of ground for seventy five dollars ($75) a month. Russell rented the house furnished … This lease did not include the fifty (50) acres of farm land, the cottage (two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bath) and the spring house. On 1 April, 1943 Russell leased fifty (50) acres of land to Earl F. Emery for eighty dollars ($80) per year.38 As Russell explained in his Autobiography: “We sublet our nice farmhouse, and went to live in a cottage intended for … [people] that the inhabitants of the farmhouse would employ. This consisted of three rooms and three stoves, each of which had to be stoked every hour or so. One was to warm the place, one was for cooking, and one was for hot water.” (2: 222). He told Kate on 19 February: “We are fairly well settled in to the cottage. When the weather gets warmer I shall work in the spring house—until then, work is a little difficult …” In the summer of 1943 when Kate arrived, Russell, Peter and Conrad “were living in the servants’ cottage across the road ... all miserably cramped together. They barely managed to squeeze me into a corner of the living room for the few weeks between semesters” (My Father, pp. 161).
From the summer of 1939 when Kate and John arrived in America Russell had had his entire family in the country. That came to an end when John joined the Royal Navy. Russell wrote to Kate on 19 February 1943: “Peter & Conrad & I went to see him [John] off on Wednesday of last week, but were not allowed onto the ship.”
An article about Russell appeared in a column, “Sense and Nonsense”, written by Phoebe H. Gilkyson in 1952. Titled “Famous Man Jinxed While in Chester Co.”, the author said that she knew him and “entertained him at our home”. She implied that the Russells may have gone hungry after the Barnes firing (this I think is not true)39 and that he “received no friendliness” while living at Little Datchet Farm. “On the contrary, some mysterious persons manifested such active animosity as to throw stones through his windows.” She went on to speculate (rather than asking him since she knew him) “Why they didn’t get along with their neighbours there we’ve never heard, except they were very British, and rather stiff and shy….”40 She ended by saying that “his windows [were] broken at night by mysterious vandals, who probably disliked his British accent.” This incident remains mystifying as to motive. If it indeed happened, why would people do such a terrifying thing when they knew a small child lived there? Nevertheless it appears that Peter’s hope expressed on 21 November 1940 to be friends with the neighbours had been dashed. In 1944, “according to many of those that live close by Countess Russell was ‘continually fighting with someone’” (News clipping held by William Quain.)
Russell’s first paid employment after his termination was offered by “Professor Weiss of Bryn Mawr” who wanted me “to give a course of lectures there. This required no small degree of courage” (Auto 2: 222). Three letters from Russell to Paul Weiss survive, written in March, April, and June 1943 concerning the lecture series which was to be given in the autumn (Rec. Acq. 718). Russell also wrote to Stanley Unwin on 9 April telling him his history of philosophy book was “advancing rapidly.” He asked for an “advance on royalties” and concluded: “If you know of any job I could get in England, you might mention it. I feel as if my knowledge of America ought to be useful to the Government.”
Photographs were taken by Kenneth Blackwell when he visited the property with Chad Trainer and others in May 2000. One photograph shows the wide horizon visible from the back garden—the type of view beloved by Russell throughout his life. Ken’s photographs captured only parts of the house. Chad mentioned that the house had been renamed Gunncroft and that Conrad had visited “in recent years” (Trainer, p. 43).41 The next Russell related visitor, Russell Stetler discovered the address of the home, 1380 Street Road, Chester Springs. He found William Quain still living there—in fact he has been in residence since the 1970s with his wife Joanne. Stetler recounted his visit in an email to the Russell list, 23 March 2023. Quain was once again delighted to give a tour. Stetler noted: “There has been a fair amount of development nearby, but there are still winding county roads, narrow bridges that accommodate one lane of traffic at a time, visible deer, and horse farms” where agricultural land used to be. “Conrad apparently loved seeing his old room above the ground floor, but his childhood memory recalled the windows as much larger than they appeared to him as an adult.”42 Quain wrote to me that he and his wife Joanne had purchased the house with 18 acres of land from Mr. Meinfelder on 1 June 1977. He believes the Meinfelders purchased the house with 52 acres of land in 1948 for $18,000.43 The Quains put an addition to the house. On 26 April 2023 Dan O’Leary visited the Quains and received their usual warm welcome. Pictured below is “the house away from the street side. Mr. Quain said that in Russell’s time this was the main entrance. The dividing line for the old part and an addition is clear. The portion on the right is the addition that Quain added.”
Two photographs—one taken by Stetler’s wife, Tracy Thompson, and one by O’Leary appear below; the remainder are in Additional Images, including images of the view.
2 Pennstone Road, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (June–August 1943)
During the summer of 1943 Kate fell out of a tree and broke her back. She had to go to hospital in Bryn Mawr, 30 miles away (My Father, p. 161). Gas rationing meant visits would be difficult. Friends of Kate who spent their summers on Nantucket lent their house, “a pleasant, well-provided home” for us to use (My Father, p. 162). When Kate got out of hospital, she moved not into the Farr house at 1 Pennstone Road, but across the street.44 Pennstone road was a short walk from Bryn Mawr College where Russell used the library and Beech Road where Lucy and Edith lived. Lucy noted in her diary on 24 June 1943: “B.R. & the Camerons45 to lunch. No Peter tho’ she fixed the day! B.R. on edge & rather bitter, poor man.46 Fairly successful party.” Russell wrote to Paul Schlipp on 30 June from the Pennstone address indicating he would be there until September 7. He corresponded with Paul Schlipp throughout the summer about the book that Schlipp was editing about him. In the end he left the Pennstone house slightly earlier.
Russell wrote to Stanley Unwin on 28 July 1943. On 31 July he informed Hans Reichenbach: “We plan to return to England, as there is not much for me to do here. It takes a long time to get a passage ....” He told Schilpp on 8 August that Peter and Conrad are returning to England next month, “& I follow in October.” Alas, that was not to be. The Russells did not return to the cottage where they had lived before moving to Bryn Mawr. At some point the cottage at Little Datchet was offered for rent at $40 to $50 per month.47 This statement appears to indicate that it might not have been rented—that it was just on offer for that amount. On 12 August 1943 Russell testified in court in his suit against Barnes. His lawyer, Thomas White, wrote on 6 November 1944 that Barnes’ appeal against the judgement for Russell had failed. White would be collecting the amount owing in a few days.
Carl Spadoni of the Russell Archives visited Pennstone Road in July 2009. The house number had changed to 702. Caroline Farr met him and showed him the house that the Russells had lived in as well as her parents’ former house across the road. The photograph below was taken by Carl Spadoni. A new photograph taken by Dan O’Leary on 24 April 2023 can be found in Additional Images.
Bell & Clapper, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (September–December 1943)
On 3 September Russell wrote to Paul Schilpp, giving his address as the Bell & Clapper. Russell wrote to his British publisher Stanley Unwin on 14 October that: “We are held up here probably till next summer.” Their plans for Conrad and Peter to return via Lisbon had fallen through because “that route is suspended.” While at the Bell & Clapper, he and Peter “hunted for apartments in New York but found nothing”.48 Russell also expressed their inability to settle to Miriam Reichl: “We are still at the Bell & Clapper ... for another month or so. After that we think of going to Washington, but that is uncertain.” (Letter, 11 November 1943.) In the end they landed in Princeton, N.J.
A description of how Russell spent this time appeared in the Saturday Evening Post the following year. “Awaiting ship space to England, Mr. Russell, his wife and younger son, Conrad … were living at the Bell and Clapper … Almost any afternoon last winter there appeared to watch a train [on a nearby] railroad a man with flowing white hair, accompanied by his seven-year-old son … and a nondescript company of dogs.” The railroad crossed the Pickering Creek on a trestle bridge and “loses it tracks in a wooded hillside.” On 24 April 2023 Dan O’Leary found the trestle. It is a short walk from the Bell & Clapper and crosses road PA29. Dan could not access the creek because of the thick woods. The Post article also noted that “Mr. Russell loves children … there were many children around the Bell and Clapper” and Russell often played with them (“Simple Oyster”).
Edith’s assessment of Russell in America
Edith, later Russell’s fourth wife, was living with Lucy Donnelly, very close to Bryn Mawr. During the autumn 1940 house search Russell and his wife Peter with their son Conrad had visited them often. These visits must have continued, although with less frequency, after Little Datchet Farm had been secured. In a letter to Barry Feinberg, 16 April 1972, in connection with his book on America, Edith wrote the following. The time period she is talking about must be after February 1941 when Rommel took over in North Africa which she noted. “Like (the infant) Conrad, I remember the tension with which B.R. awaited the six o-clock news when he was with us—tension that we all shared, but that we realized must be very terrible for him. I remember the almost unbearable relief day by day when we heard Big Ben strike and knew that London had not been utterly destroyed … I think that the personal happenings, the family and financial difficulties and the horrors of ‘the witch hunt’,49 must have been made the sharper perhaps because of his feelings already ragged from the greater all-pervading pain caused by the War and exile during the War … It is, to put it mildly, remarkable that he pulled through—and still sane.”
Peacock Inn, Princeton, New Jersey (mid-December 1943–March 1944)
Russell stayed at this inn for several months.50 He wrote to Stanley Unwin from the Inn on 18 December 1943. Christmas was not a cheery event. On 30 December 1944 he wrote to Kate: “We have all had flu. Peter & Conrad were in bed Xmas Day & ever since.” By then Peter and Kate were estranged with Russell noting on 16 December that “You & Peter no longer like each other.” On 6 January he wrote to Kate: “Trinity has offered me a fellowship & lectureship, which I shall accept. I am glad about it—it heals the old wound of 1916.” Alfred Whitehead had already read the minutes of Trinity Council and sent his congratulations on 3 January.51 On 10 January he wrote to Unwin thanking him for his “generous letter of Nov. 17, which relieved me of financial anxieties as to my return.52 He told Kate on 28 January 1944 that: “This address is fairly permanent ....” He added that every Tuesday and Wednesday night he was in New York, staying at the Hotel Lafayette. He was there to deliver a series of ten lectures, “Philosophies in Practice”, at the Rand School of Social Science from 5 January to 8 March. Four of the lectures had the same titles as his 1942 Rand series. On 2 February Russell wrote to Miriam Reichl: “We are living at Princeton, which we find very pleasant. I had lectures there, & now have a seminar.”53 He got to know Einstein better, visiting his house at 112 Mercer Street “once a week” with Kurt Gödel and Wolfgang Pauli. “The society of Princeton was extremely pleasant, pleasanter, on the whole than any other social group I had come across in America.” (Auto 2: 224). The financial picture was brighter as well. He wrote to Kate on 23 February 1944: “I am frantically busy, which means I am earning good money.” Was this really true or was he just trying to reassure Kate? He did have to borrow money for passages home as he told Kate in April (see next paragraph).
House on Prospect Ave., Princeton, New Jersey (April–May 1944)
There is only a “Prospect Ave.” in Princeton, not an “E. Prospect Ave.” which is how Russell always referred to it. Russell wrote in his Autobiography that “the last part of our time in America was spent at Princeton, where we had a little house on the shores of the lake” (2: 224). From correspondence, I was able to ascertain the mailing address as R.D. [Rural Delivery] 1, Princeton. In letters to Paul Schilpp on 4 April and to his son John and Gamel Brenan on 17 April 1944, he adds the street name but not a specific address. It would not have been needed for mail delivery. The lake must be Carnegie Lake. Only properties on the far eastern end of Prospect Avenue back onto the lake. He wrote to Wallace Brockway at Simon & Shuster on 25 April from Prospect Avenue, telling him he would be in New York on Thursday [27 April] and wanted to see him. He told Kate on 29 April that “We have this house till 15 June.” In the same letter he voiced the opinion that he would probably leave for England before Peter and Conrad did. He was “having to borrow” to pay for the passages. This “time of uncertainty” he found “disagreeable.” Peter Blake visited. In a letter to Peter Russell, he commented “it was lovely, a wonderful weekend, a very nice party, a beautiful Conrad, a heavenly angel, & a charming house, an excellent roast something-or-another ....”54 On 6 May Peter wrote to Mr. Cantrell, the man who had helped her find Little Datchet Farm: “We expect to sail for England on short notice within a few days. We hope that you will be able to keep the house and cottage rented as we shall not be able to send you money from England and we shall not be able to pay the rent. I will write from England at the expiration of the lease to say what I want done with the furniture.” There are no details about who owned the Princeton house and why the Russells decided to move there. There are photographs taken by the Reichenbachs at the back of the property and the lake.55 They depict Conrad playing which may have been the motivation for this move. Alan Schwerin and his wife Helen visited the eastern end of Prospect Avenue in June 2017. He told me, via email, that he chatted with “a construction crew busy on one of the homes” and was told that “many in the area have been torn down and rebuilt.” Below is a photograph taken in the back garden of the Princeton house by the Reichenbachs. Other photographs taken that day are in Additional Images.
Peacock Inn, Princeton, New Jersey (May 1944)?
Did Russell return to the Peacock Inn? On 10 May he wrote a letter with a handwritten address of the “Peacock Inn”. The next day, 11 May, he wrote a letter with a handwritten address of “R.D.1”, the mailing address of the Prospect Avenue house. There are four more letters in May all written on Peacock Inn letterhead. The last extant letter that Peter wrote from America was on 6 May; there is no address on her letter. She and Conrad left shortly thereafter. On 14 May Russell wrote to F.W. Eliott Farr: “My wife & son have sailed for England, & I sail in a few days.” On the same day, Russell also wrote to Lucy Donnelly that: “Peter & Conrad are already gone and I go in 2 or 3 days . It was nice being your neighbours, & your house seemed almost a bit of England ... give my love (or whatever she would like better) to Edith.” On 18 May, Russell wrote to Paul Schilpp that “I am about to sail for England.” On the same day Russell wrote to Wallace Brockway at Simon & Schuster that “my address during my lifetime will be Trinity College, Cambridge, England. After that my address is uncertain, though Bishop Manning doesn’t think so.” Those two letters are the last known letters Russell wrote from America. It is possible that Russell did move back to the Peacock Inn where he would have staff to attend to his meals and other needs. Perhaps he stayed in the house but continued to use Peacock letterhead. The evidence he has left us is not enough to come to a definite conclusion.
Guns in America
Peter kept in touch with Peter Blake. On 3 October 1981 he wrote to her: “Can you imagine living in a country in which there are more than 50 million unregistered hand guns in circulation … Needless to say, Ronald Reagan does not believe in any form of gun control.” In reply Peter wrote on 11 October: “You may remember that I always felt appalled by the uncontrolled use of guns in America. Here of course it is nothing like that, though there are too many around.”
Russell told an amusing story of how he was able to negotiate their passage. This involved visiting Washington D.C. several months earlier, insisting that he was needed to fight fascism by performing his legislative function in the House of Lords (Auto 2: 224). Peter and Conrad went on a much faster ship, the Queen Mary (Auto 3: 15), although I could not find a source for the Queen Mary leaving New York in May.56 Russell went on a very slow Liberty ship which was making its maiden voyage, leaving America presumably on 19 May and arriving three weeks later. He did not name the ship. When he arrived at the Firth of Forth, Peter and Conrad were already in England staying with her mother in Sidmouth, Devon. Russell made his way to Devon where “we sat on the beach, listening to the sounds of naval guns off Cherbourg” (Auto 3: 15–16). Kate returned in June on the S.S. Rangitiki (My Father, p. 164).
Settling Up at Little Datchet Farm
The auction sale merited an article in the Pottstown Mercury, 3 October 1944, “Auction Hammer to Fall on Russell Home Items.” For sale were “home furnishings, antiques, [and] valuable paintings.” A detailed list followed which included: a 162-year-old blanket chest, prints by Van Gogh, old maps, oil lamps, silver candlesticks, beehives, the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and a model of a walking beam type steam engine.” A second article “Bertrand Russell’s Furnishings Sold” appeared in the Gazette and Bulletin on 5 October; 2,000 people attended the auction. Five items were withdrawn: “a 1762 model hand carved blanket set [sic], a Queen Anne chest of drawers, two Van Gogh prints and an antique Pennsylvania print.” Items that were sold “included an antique pepper grinder $3, Italian lamps $22 a pair, miniature drop leaf tables $15-$22, antique chairs $6-$32, antique sewing cabinet $24. A trundle bed went for $26 which Auctioneer R.T. Richards said was the highest price paid in recent years for such a bed.” The sale, which took place in the barn, realized $2,244 net for the furniture.57
The lawyer, Thomas Raeburn White, who had represented Russell in the Barnes affair, was in charge of the sale of the furnishings. He wrote a series of letters to the Russells beginning in September 1944. On 6 September he informed Russell that the current tenant of the house, Lt. Scarborough, “will move in time for the new owner to take possession and would like to purchase some more of your furniture … I have told him that there are reserved from sale the articles mentioned in your recent cablegram, viz: bedding, linen, rugs and curtains.” On 26 September White wrote to Peter advising against not selling items because of the prohibitive costs of packing and shipping. “We have decided on having the sale in the country … prices would be better there than they would be in the city.” The furniture would be moved from the house to the barn and fire insurance had been purchased. He listed the items purchased by the Scarboroughs totalling $129. The new owner of the farm, Mr. Huth, “has purchased a walnut chest of drawers at the price of $75 … We shall, of course, have to pay the rent which is still due to Mr. Maury [the owner of the farm] from the proceeds of the sale of the furniture … I understand the cottage has been vacant for several months and as Lt. Scarborough is leaving at the end of this month, there will be no rent from him until the first half of October, at which time Mr. Huth is to take possession.”
On 2 October White wrote telling Peter that he “felt that you had done a wise thing in not reserving such bulky items as rugs and linens which cost a great deal to store and ship.” On 13 October White wrote a lengthy letter about the sale of the linens. The Russells had found out there was a shortage in England and they could not purchase them. White told them that “blankets and linens can readily be purchased in this market.” From the sale proceeds Mr. Maury would have to be paid rent and there were three outstanding bills to be paid to the Princeton Water Company, the New Jersey Telephone Company and Zapf Hardware for the rental of 50 glasses.
On 2 December White wrote to Russell that he would be able to get from Mrs. Huth “a pair of blankets and some of the curtains, although others she has given away. We will have these shipped to you in a day or two by mail.” On 7 December he had bad news: “No packages more than five founds” can be mailed. “We are therefore planning to ship these articles to you by freight.” On 21 December he wrote: “We have secured and sent yesterday to the wharf two large cartons with blankets, sheets, curtains and various other things which we have been able to collect … Judge Bok58 telephoned me this morning that he was endeavouring to arrange through some correspondence in Canada to have three wool blankets sent to you directly from Canada … We will send the three beds and small Windsor chair … as soon as that can be arranged. The other articles we will arrange to sell. It would have been better if they could have been sold at the sale, but we will do the best we can.” White’s final letter of 1944, 30 December, enclosed a bill of lading for the blankets and linens (not extant). “You will note that the port of discharge is said to be Liverpool, at which point you will have to claim these goods.”
A second shipment of household articles “were shipped to you and which are now going forward on the S.S. Ocean Verity. The port of discharge is Liverpool … The remaining articles in America have been sent to Freeman’s but have not yet been sold” said White in his letter of 3 March 1945. On 21 May he enclosed a statement covering the period 24 November 1944 to 21 May 1945. It listed the Freeman sale which grossed $392 for furniture, mirrors, a rug, and 3 prints. Debts owing to the Harvard Loan Fund, Margaret Kiskadden and John F. Lewis Jr. were repaid on 5 December 1945.59 The firm owed Russell $265 which was converted to £65. A bank draft in that amount was to be sent. White ended with “It was a pleasure to be associated with you in this matter.” Very kind of him, considering all the confusion. Conducting these sales with the Russells in England and communications so slow was extremely challenging.
Goods Stored with the Farr family in Bryn Mawr
Apart from all the items at Little Datchet Farm, there were more stored with the Farrs on Pennstone Road. In a letter of 14 May 1944, Russell thanked F.W. Elliott Farr “for your kindness in housing our goods until happier times, & to enclose some keys which will be needed whenever it becomes possible to have our crates & boxes sent off.” Further correspondence, if there was any in 1945, is not extant. On 6 June 1946, Russell’s lawyer, Mr. White, wrote to Farr, asking him to surrender certain books to Barnes, noting that Barnes had lent, not given, books to Russell. White noted he had a reply from Russell who “understood the books were a gift to him” but “he will not contest the point and authorizes their delivery to the Barnes Foundation. He offered to buy them from Dr. Barnes to save you the trouble of unpacking them and delivering them to the Foundation, but Dr. Barnes declines to accede to this suggestion.” Farr put in his oar, requesting a list of books from the Foundation in his letter to White of 10 June. He was also not willing to opening the locked boxes until “a representative is present, since I feel reasonably certain that a considerable number of the books in the boxes are the personal property of Lord Russell, together with, of course, the household effects which he left us with.” He blamed an innocent conversation for the fact that Barnes found out he was holding some books.
White wrote to Far again on 8 July with the text of a cable from Russell. “Boxes contain private papers … Cannot consent their being opened.” White clarified that “I imagine what Lord Russell is concerned with is that any representative of Dr. Barnes should open these boxes.” On 8 July Russell also wrote to White:
“I am sorry Dr. Barnes is showing his usual form. As he is so obstructive there is no point in my being conciliary. 1. I cannot consent to the boxes in Mr. Farr’s custody being opened. They contain private letters not only my wife’s and mine but those people’s, given into our charge to avoid the war-time censorship of two governments. 2. I had been willing, for the sake of peace, not to contest Dr. Barnes’s assertion that books were a loan. In fact, however, this assertion is untrue. I am prepared to state on oath that the books were a gift. 3. I suggest that Dr. Barnes should be asked to agree to one or more of the two following courses: (a) that I should supply him with other copies of the same books (if obtainable); (b) that he should allow the boxes to be returned to England with a guarantee from me that I will return his books to him if they are in the boxes.”
White wrote to Farr on 11 July 1946: “I think it very probably that Dr. Barnes will not agree to anything … I am wondering if it would not be the best thing for you to send the boxes to England … I do not anticipate there would be any effort to interfere with this and once the books are in England that matter will then rest between Dr. Barnes and Lord Russell.” On 30 July Peter wrote to White that “Mr. Farr should disregard Dr. Barnes’s claim and despatch our boxes without further ado.” This letter was forwarded to Farr as his authorization to ship. Doherty’s Express moved them from Bryn Mawr to Philadelphia Piers. Three boxes of household effects weighing 600 lbs. were loaded onto S.S. Mahout, a Cunard White Star Ltd. ship, on 27 January 1947. Russell wrote to White on 25 February 1947 that “the crates have arrived safely.”60 It was not until 14 July that Russell and Peter wrote separately to Farr to thank him. Russell noted he was paying a Mrs. Foot for the charges that Farr had incurred. Peter’s letter was handwritten and longer. “We are so very sorry that you had so much trouble over our boxes. Your great kindness in undertaking to look after them for us was one of the incidents of our stay in America that we shall never forget. We haven’t written personally about them all this time because it seemed wiser while complications threatened to stick to legal communications.”
Still in Russell’s Library are The Works of Aristotle (New York: Oxford UP, 1910). Tucked into the fourth volume was an invoice made out to the Barnes Foundation.61 It not known how many books from his own library Russell had access to while in America. It is logical to assume he would have brought some books with him. Two books from Russell’s Library were either brought to America or sent there after his arrival. Spinoza’s Ethic, also published in 1910, has been linked to Russell’s stay in America by Kenneth Blackwell through an information pay stub from CBS. Russell spoke on Spinoza on “Invitation to Learning” on 25 January 1942. William James, The Principles of Psychology (1891), inscribed “B. Russell May 1894” had two library sign-out cards with Russell’s address of “Little Datchet Farm” placed inside it. There could well have been more but it is not possible to identify them.
Russell went to America to teach and lecture, hoping to attain some measure of financial stability. What he encountered were periods of financial security followed by penury. Although feeling exiled, he tried to put down roots, signing a five-year contract with Barnes and establishing himself at Little Datchet Farm. That venture failed. In the end, Trinity College offered him a lifeline. He was finally able to book passage and return home, arriving on 11 June 1944.62 Barnes died on 24 July 1951 after going through a stop sign and being hit by a truck. Russell was informed of his death by Peter Blake. Russell’s reply of 30 July 1951 noted his death was characteristic. “Il y a donc un Dieu [So there is a God], as the Frenchman said when he took off his tight boots. My life has settled down into one which is comfortable and happy, except in one respect, that Conrad refuses to have anything whatever to do with me.”
© Sheila Turcon, 2023
Peter Blake, No Place Like Utopia: Modern Architecture and the Company We Kept. New York: Knopf, 1993.
Barry Feinberg and Ronald Kasrils, Bertrand Russell’s America: His Transatlantic Travels and Writings, Volume One 1896-1945. London: Allen & Unwin, 1973.
Steve Harding, Gray Ghost: The R.M.S. Queen Mary at War. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1982.
Christopher Isherwood, Diaries, Volume One: 1939-1960. New York: Michael di Capua Books, Harper Collins, 1997.
Caroline Moorehead, Bertrand Russell: A Life. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1972.
Daphne Phelps, A House in Sicily. New York: Carroll & Graff, 1999.
Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1914-1944, vol. 2. London: Allen & Unwin, 1968.
Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1944-1967, vol. 3. London: Allen & Unwin, 1969.
Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1951.
Katharine Tait, My Father, Bertrand Russell. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1975.
Freda Utley, Odyssey of a Liberal: Memoirs. Washington: Washington National Press, 1970.
Interviews and Articles
Phoebe H. Gilkyson, “Famous Man Jinxed While in Chester Co.”, Daily Republican, 19 May 1952 (clipping in Chester County Historical Society; copy in RA).
“Russell in Gay Vein: Hates Fishing, Too Many Murders”, Harvard Crimson, 2 Oct. 1940, pp. 1, 6. (E40.15)
“Bertrand Russell Arrives to Join Harvard Faculty”, Boston Daily Globe, 3 October 1940 (E40.14)
“Pacifists Called Fools”, The Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, 5 January 1942 (D42.01)
“Bertrand Russell, Broke and Bland, Is Still Lord Russell”, New York Post, 10 March 1943, “Daily Magazine Section”, p. 3. (E43.02).
“Simple Oyster”, Saturday Evening Post, June 1944 (clipping in Chester County Historical Society; copy in RA).
“Auction Hammer to Fall on Russell Home Items’, Pottstown Mercury, 3 October 1944, p. 1.
“Bertrand Russell’s Furnishings Sold,” Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport, 5 October 1944, p. 2.
Chad Trainer, “Russell’s Pennsylvania”, Russell n.s. 24 (Summer): 37–53.
Archival Correspondence: Paul Schilpp, Lucy Donnelly, Lucy Silcox, Elizabeth Trevelyan, Edith Russell, Albert C. Barnes, Warder Norton, Norman Cantrell, Miriam Reichl, Peter Blake, Hans Reichenbach, Stanley Unwin, Alfred Whitehead, F.W. Elliott Farr, Wallace Brockway, Thomas Raeburn White.
Email correspondence: William Quain, Russell Stetler, Ken Blackwell, Dan O’Leary.
Archival Documents: “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property”, Rec. Acq. 1683. “IX. Significance”, Rec. Acq. 1357.
The Lucy Donnelly diary is held by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.
- 1. The text of the telegram is contained in a letter from Lucy to Helen Flexner, 8 September 1940.
- 2. Helen Flexner, 1871–1956, the sister of Carey Thomas.
- 3. Mary Garrett 1854–1915, the founder of Bryn Mawr College.
- 4. See photograph below. For a photograph of house taken on 24 April 2023 by Dan O’Leary see additional images.
- 5. The book was titled An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth.
- 6. The Russells had purchased a car. Lucy Donnelly wrote to Helen Flexner on 14 September 1940 that it was a Plymouth, approved by Barnes. He noted in his letter of 3 March 1941 that the license plate, 51AR5, was “very appropriate for a logician and mathematician.”
- 7. Mt. Vernon Schoolhouse built in 1851 and closed in 1923; information from William Quain.
- 8. The controversy over his CCNY appointment.
- 9. Lucy noted that she liked Peter but found her exhausting since she talked so much.
- 10. Peter got lost and ended up at the Adelphia Hotel.
- 11. His name appears in the document “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property.” This document was prepared by Gerard A. Gleeson and was one of the documents submitted at trial in 1943. The original is at the Barnes Foundation.
- 12. Lucy Donnelly wrote to Helen Flexner on 10 December that they “were driving up this afternoon with Judith to meet Peter at her new home and go over it.”
- 13. This incomplete photocopied document is not dated. It was given to Ken Blackwell by the then owner William Quain in 2000.
- 14. “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property”. It noted that the lease was dated 15 December which was the date the property was vacated according to Lucy.
- 15. Frances was the wife of Judge Learned Hand, 1872–1961.
- 16. Edith presumably planned to give the originals away—they are not in the Bryn Mawr archives nor are they with the Flexner papers in Philadelphia.
- 17. The CCNY case.
- 18. Although the mailing address for Little Datchet Farm was R.D.1, Malvern, the actual location of the property was eight miles north of Paoli (Trainer, p. 39).
- 19. The book had been anticipated since 1937 when Russell signed a contract with Allen & Unwin. The Barnes job provided the opportunity to bring it to fruition.
- 20. Ludwick Silberstein, 1872–1948, a Polish American physicist who lectured at the University of Chicago.
- 21. The CCNY case.
- 22. They had visited Fallen Leaf Lake in the summer of 1940. David was a British Commonwealth fellow who had known the Russells in Oxford and Chicago (House, p. 171).
- 23. On 28 September 1981 she wrote to Peter Blake calling her “dearest Pam-Pam, one of the best people I have known.”
- 24. Ralph Wedgwood mentions Josiah’s visit in a letter to Russell, 29 July 1941, Auto 2: 252.
- 25. Robert Trevelyan mentions Ted’s visit in a letter to Russell, Auto 2: 244–5.
- 26. Isherwood, 1904–1986, an English author who took American citizenship in 1946.
- 27. Russell and his lover Constance Malleson spent an idyllic holiday in the Peak District in 1916. See my article, “Then and Now: Bertie’s and Colette’s Escapes to the Peak District and Welsh Borderlands” Russell, n.s. 35 (Winter 2014–15): 117–130.
- 28. Russell’s speech to the Adath Jeshurun Forum (D42.01).
- 29. Roger Kimball, “Going No Place with Peter Blake”, New Criterion (January 1994) online.
- 30. The habitable spring house described in “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property”.
- 31. These letters, mainly addressed to Peter, were retained by her after the divorce. She burnt many personal letters but put some aside. On 14 July 1981 she decided to return the letters that Blake had written to her and Russell.
- 32. This undated letter is headed “I.”, Rec. Acq. 1743; the quotations appear on pp. 12–14.
- 33. Peter cut off all relations with Conrad once he reconciled with Russell. Blake died in 2006.
- 34. Utley, 1898–1978, an Englishwoman who took American citizenship in 1950. A long-time friend of the Russells who helped in trying to free her Russian husband Arcadi Berdichevsky. He was executed in 1938.
- 35. Box 1.30, F.2.
- 36. Letter to Schilpp, 17 April 1942.
- 37. Bertrand Russell’s America, pp. 196–7.
- 38. “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property”; this document does not disclose the length of Morrow’s lease. Emery’s lease was for one year.
- 39. My reasons are that unless you are completely penniless you would purchase food before all else; they had income rent from the house; the local grocer would surely have extended credit if needed.
- 40. A dubious description since she described Russell as “kindly” and Peter loved to talk.
- 41. Datchet is a village in Windsor, England. Clan Gunn is a Scottish clan while croft is a small agricultural holding.
- 42. It is not known how many houses Conrad visited. The only time I met him was in 1992 at Garsington, Oxford, the former home of Lady Ottoline Morrell.
- 43. Email, 11 April 2023; it is possible there were only 50 acres involved.
- 44. The house at 2 Pennstone Road was owned by Constance Le Boiteau-Drake according to Caroline Farr. Mr. and Mrs. F.W. Elliott Farr owned 1 Pennstone Road.
- 45. There is no way to definitely know who the Camerons were. They may have been Professor J. Alister Cameron, a classics associate professor, and his wife Elizabeth. Cameron was born in Glasgow in 1904.
- 46. Russell was dealing with a lack of income and Kate’s recovery from a broken arm.
- 47. “Russell’s Five-Year Lease on Property”.
- 48. Letter of 6 December to Kate.
- 49. The CCNY case.
- 50. The Inn opened in 1911 and is still in business today. Its website notes that Einstein stayed there for 10 days.
- 51. Auto 2: 257; A formal appointment letter from Trinity College is not in the RA.
- 52. This letter was written on letterhead of 56 Princeton Ave., a private home, which Russell crossed through and wrote Peacock Inn.
- 53. Kenneth Blackwell noted that these “were occasional, not real courses.”
- 54. This incomplete undated letter was addressed to Peter on Prospect Avenue. Rec. Acq. 1743.
- 55. In the Reichenbach papers, Archives and Special Collections, the University of Pittsburgh.
- 56. There were no crossings from New York to Gourock in May according to Steve Harding, Gray Ghost, table on p. 79.
- 57. The barn was photographed by Dan O’Leary on 24 April 2023.
- 58. Curtis Bok, 1897–1962; his first wife was Margaret Plummer, later Kiskadden.
- 59. The money borrowed from Kiskadden and Lewis totalled $900 and may have been used to pay for passages home. I think Lewis was a Philadelphia lawyer at the firm Lewis, Adler & Laws. Kiskadden met the Russells in Los Angeles through Aldous Huxley.
- 60. Documentation in Rec. Acq. 1601G.
- 61. All the items found in the Russell Library books have been removed and placed in Rec. Acq. 1706.
- 62. Auto 3: 16; date deduced by Kenneth Blackwell, email to S. Turcon, 20 July 2017.