Living in Fernhurst
Russell married Alys Pearsall Smith in December 1894. The Millhanger, a cottage in Fernhurst, Sussex was their first home. Before living there, however, they honeymooned in the Netherlands, and then spent the first three months of 1895 in Berlin where Russell studied economics. That spring they travelled to Fiesole, Italy and down the Adriatic coast. After spending the summer at the Pearsall Smith home at Friday’s Hill House above Fernhurst, the couple returned to Berlin for the autumn to research his lectures on German Social Democracy. They gained possession of the cottage in October, possibly even earlier. Alys noted in a letter to Mary Gwinn on 10 October 1895 from Cambridge that “We unpacked all of Bertie’s furniture, & some of the china is lovely, but nothing else of much interest.” Alys’s father attended to various chores at the Millhanger; Mrs. Burt, a domestic employed by the family, looked after him. On 4 November Alys wrote to him: “I hope the glass blower will stop the smoke. The new horse sounds very nice….”
Fernhurst was home to several of Alys’s relatives. Her parents rented the nearby Friday’s Hill House, situated half way up the hill from Fernhurst to Haslemere. Her brother-in-law Frank Costelloe and his wife Mary rented Friday’s Hill cottage across the road. Their daughters, Ray and Karin, often spent time with the Russells after their father’s death in December 1899. Alys’s brother Logan rented High Buildings. Her cousin Grace Worthington and her children moved to Fernhurst in 1897 living in Copse Cottage. Much later on Ray decided to build a house on Friday’s Hill, constructing the Mud House in 1921. Russell had been visiting Friday’s Hill House as early as 1891. The census of that year finds him there as an unmarried visitor, age 18, a student living on his own means. During his courtship and marriage to Alys he became immersed in this American Quaker family and the village of Fernhurst.
Russell summed up this period of his life as follows: “With my first marriage, I entered upon a period of great happiness and fruitful work. Having no emotional troubles, all my energy went in intellectual directions.” At the Millhanger “many of the happiest times of my life were passed” (Auto 1: 127, 128).
Why the couple chose this particular cottage and who their landlord was are not known. The Russells added a “fair-sized sitting-room and two bedrooms” to the cottage (Auto 1: 127). The cottage is described in a letter from Helen Flexner to Mildred Minturn, 28 July 1897:1 “I wish you could see the Millhangar,2 it is the most charming and at the same time the most absurd of habitations. Imagine a tiny cottage with an adorable old garden, full of fancifully shaped box trees and sweet quaint flowers and at the back an orchard. The new part of the house, Bertie’s study, is skilfully hidden from the front, so there is nothing to show the ownership of civilised beings. The inside, however, is extremely sophisticated, and I noticed to my no small amusement, that Bertie, although he pretends to think nothing at all of his family—has hung his walls with pictures of the Dukes of Bedford, the Stanleys of Alderley and so forth.” Barbara Strachey, Ray Costelloe’s daughter, also mentions the Millhanger in her book, Remarkable Relations. She noted that the Russells had “added a couple of workrooms for Bertie” (p. 152).
Alys’s first letter from the cottage was written on 20 January 18963 to Mary Gwinn, noting “we find this cottage enchanting and most comfortable.” In the same letter Alys wrote that Russell’s “lectures on Social Democracy have now developed into a book,4 … but he hopes to get to work again on ‘Space’ … The Cambridge people want him to work it up into a book,5 which will take five or six months.”
Russell’s Letters from Fernhurst
Russell wrote many letters to Alys because she was often away advocating for temperance.6 Their marriage was strong and they missed one another terribly. On 29 February 1896 Russell was at the cottage with his brother-in-law Logan. The evening before the two “had a lovely walk out over Marley.” He was looking forward to “writing a good review” of A. Hannequin.7 The following day Logan was hanging pictures while the previous day Russell had “corrected my Cambridge lecture,8 finished my Aristotelian paper”9 while continuing to read Hannequin and starting a novel by Tourgenieff [Ivan Turgenev], identified in a later letter as Un Bulgare (1866). On 2 March he noted that Logan was going to talk to Burt, the gardener, about removing a trellis. Russell also mused that Logan was “pleased with the idea of letting the place to Sturges, & I do think this place is just right for setting him up physically & morally.” Russell had met Jonathan Sturges in Paris in 1894. “He was a cripple, intensely sensitive, very literary, and belonging to what one must call the American aristocracy.… very witty.… [their] friendship … ended only with his death” (Auto 1: 87).
On 1 April 1896 Russell was expecting a visit from G.F. Stout. On 12 May he played whist, a game that “has its charms,” with his father-in-law and Sturges who was visiting. On 14 May he was reading Stout,10 having finished volume one. On 2 June he wrote about “his long dream about God:11 he came to the Millhangar, & I gave him a hearty but irreverent welcome.… I asked him to lend me the Ark for exhibition, but he said he had leased it to an American….” That same day Russell quite enjoyed showing off the cottage to his Russell relatives, Aunt Agatha and Uncle Rollo, noting that the pair liked the cottage so much that they “each sat down with a pencil out-of-doors, & began to draw it … They were in the best of humours.” It was a busy day. He “beat Logan at croquet, & together we beat thy father at whist….” On 3 June he told Alys that he “spent yesterday & the day before writing an article on the continuous12 for some distant number of Mind….” The next day he wrote “I have been too hot to read, but have been in great form for writing—in the heat, one’s ideas exude of themselves.”
On 8 September 1896 Santayana was visiting. Russell was out of proofs13 and felt “lost for a morning occupation.” On 11 September he wrote that: “Bobby Trevy [Trevelyan] is here, & as charming as ever.… Trevy and I are alone with thy father.… I enclose my preface: ought there not to be some acknowledgement to Hewins?”14 On 12 September he told her that: “It is very satisfactory that thy Y’s do so well, & that thee has so many energetic new branches to organize.… It seems to me splendid to wake up middle-class country girls & get them in touch with more advanced & thoughtful people. My proofs have been coming fast: I have had about a third of the book by now.” In the autumn of 1896 the Russells travelled to America to lecture and visit Alys’s relatives.
The following year, 2 February 1897, he found that “I have been utterly baffled in all attempts to get on with quantity, & look forward to suggestions from Whitehead.” The 4th of March found him having “to sit in the dining-room because the Studio smoked frightfully.” On 11 March he was “getting on with my new book,15 which is charming—just what I want in the mathematical way.” On 28 April he had “finished Newton [the Principia] to my great relief, & just in time come three new books, which I am now engaged on.” Later he went out to the wood and read Keats. On 28 May he noted he had a “jolly bicycle ride” the previous day. “Logan came to dinner & we read & discussed scraps of poetry for ever so long.” On 1 June he met Mrs. Whitehead while out cycling. They ended up having tea and dinner together. “She talked about ‘Alfred’s’ work & how hard it is to make him believe in himself….” Russell has “been writing a paper16 on ‘Why do we Regard Time, but not Space as necessarily a Plenum?’ The answer is simple, & applies to many other questions also. It is Because we’re fools.” Later in the year Sturges was staying with him. On 29 November they “had a lot of good talk” about a variety of topics ranging from Logan to the Universe. His walk took him to Henley Hill. The following evening they read the Bible.
On 23 March 1898 he wrote that he “went a long walk over Blackdown yesterday, & had the pleasure of watching Fernhurst in a snowstorm which never reached me.” On 30 March he wrote to Alys that Logan had come to lunch. He also “did a vast amount of work, however, owing to thy absence.” The evening of the next day Logan was there and “we read another chapter of Gibbon.” On 1 April he cycled into Haslemere. “I have finished re-reading what is important to me in Whitehead’s book & now I have to sit down & simply think & write….” On 28 June G.E. Moore visited and he and Russell “sat up till midnight” having “a lot of discussion.” They read Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. The following day Whitehead and [Arthur? / G.G.?] Berry were expected for lunch. On 5 July his sister-in-law Mary “arrived after tea.… Either her arrival or something else gave a jog to my mind, so that the Holy Ghost inspired my work, & I discovered what was the question I had been asking myself for the last month—which is next door to finding the answer.”
On 16th May 1899 Logan came to lunch. The next day Russell’s cold got suddenly better and thus he “returned to tobacco & work, I recovered my spirits.” He was reading a copy of Middlemarch that Alys had in college. “Poor Casaubon17 is just what I shall be at his age. I pity my second wife, if she should ever exist!” On his birthday, 18 May, he wrote: “Now that I have attained the mature age of 27 I shall expect to be treated with great respect.” He appears to have dined alone; Alys was to return the next day. Later that year on 1 November he had a very pleasant breakfast with the Webbs. “Logan & I have had 5 War Games, of which he has won 3 & I 2 … won by a sudden dash at the harbor!” On 7 November he wrote: “Last night they had a bonfire & fireworks18 on the Green to celebrate the 5th. I suppose it would not have done to celebrate it on Sunday. The whole village turned out, & I had a grand time.” He was still playing War Games with Logan. Bertie and the cat, Smilash, were flourishing. On 8 November they were still playing Oorlog19 with Logan usually winning. On 14 November he wrote that “I went out with Dr. Duke on his tandem yesterday: it was delicious & went like the wind. I think we must get a tandem….” Logan was staying with him until the next day.
On 5 December he wrote that “Smilash stayed out all night in the rain: she was nowhere about when I went to look for her. But today she is all right, & unlike Lear, she is no madder than usual.” The previous day he “bicycled past Trevy’s & up to Aldworth Lane.” On 6 December he wrote: “I have read a lot of Kinglake:20 it is about the Commissariat troubles & Parliament….” He was “perfectly contented here, & [got] plenty of time not only for work, but for thinking about work.”
On 2 January 1900 Russell was expecting a visit from Whitehead. Yesterday he “taught Moore the game of Oorlog, which greatly interested him.” On 14 April and 22 June, after their move to Friday’s Hill House, Russell noted that he and Logan were playing “endless Milligans” and “many Milligans.”21 Also on 22 June he “made a considerable inroad on the difficulties of number.… It is sad without thee, but I have plenty of important & interesting work on hand.…” Alys wrote to him, also on the 22 June that: “Hewins thinks of riding down to you for next Tuesday night. If Hardy has gone, give him that little room, otherwise the Peacock room.” On 23 June he wrote that “Hardy arrived yesterday.... We explained Milligan & I discovered a method by which I got 4 out of 5.… I beat Logan at croquet.” Hardy was still there on 25 June. “The Press has suddenly taken a fit of energy, & has sent all my proofs22 down to the end of the text.… I suppose it is due to term being over.” Hardy left on 26 June. Russell found him “pleasant & extremely able, but sadly silent.” On the day of Hardy’s departure he wrote quite a serious letter: “it would be delightful if thee had a work I could understand & even perhaps help thee with. But I think in fairness I ought to give up philosophy.” With regard to Logan he noted that they “get on very well; but it is curious that when he thinks it necessary to be serious, he lapses into platitude.” On 23 October he wrote: “I am just beginning to get a glimmering of the nature of numbers.… I can now prove that no number is very large….” On 24 October he wrote: “I went a new walk yesterday in the Marley Woods.… I got through a great deal of extremely good work, some of it so good that I had to sit & admire it. Now I am going to begin my article on Peano23 …. I shall be glad to have thee back tomorrow. If thee were much away I should overwork: as it is, I get a great deal done.” On 5 December he “rode over to Churt to visit the Murrays.” He found Gilbert “able & … charming.” Just a few years later the Russells would be living in Churt.
On the last day of the year he wrote to Helen Flexner: “I have been meaning to write to you for a long time, but I have been so hard at work writing philosophy that I have had no leisure of mind for other forms of composition … You will be amused to hear that I have undertaken, for filthy lucre, to write a popular article on recent advances in mathematics for the International Monthly, an American (but) most contemptible periodical. It will probably appear in April or May24 .… In October I invented a new subject, which turned out to be all mathematics, for the first time treated in its essence. Since then I have written 200,000 words, & I think it better than any I had written before.”
The year 1901 was also spent partly at Friday’s Hill House where they had moved in 1900. On 15 May he told Alys: “... I am really getting on with my work—I wrote 20 pp. yesterday, & I hope to do the same today & tomorrow … it is one of the most difficult parts of the whole book25 that I am writing.… I long already for thy return.” The next day “I blackmailed & whitewashed Logan at croquet, & succeeded (tell Alfred!) in completing my account of the variable. In the evening I read Fathers & Sons,26 & I felt much sympathy with Basaroff, tho’ he is the villain.” On 1 June Russell wrote to Gilbert Murray, returning Murray’s proofs [“The Exploitation of Inferior Races in Ancient and Modern Times,” published in Liberalism and the Empire: Three Essays] with praise. On 27 June upon arriving at Friday’s Hill House from Cambridge, he wrote that “it was sad to have no one less unpoetical than the Webbs about.” On 3 July he wrote to Helen Flexner: “The enclosure is the beginning of an autobiography,27 which I have been amusing myself by dictating to Alys. Make any remarks or criticisms you feel inclined to, & please send it on, as soon as you have read it, to Mrs. Whitehead.… The Webbs’ visit is nearly over.…” On Trinity College letterhead he wrote to Alys on 11 July after tea at Dickinson’s that “their garden is lovely, much better than our Roundabout.” In the autumn he wrote about their relationship on 6 November from Grantchester. He had “a feeling that our honeymoon was over.… Dearest, thee does give me more happiness than I can say—all the happiness I have, in fact. Thee is the only person I know well & yet really & thoroughly admire. I love the absolute certainty that all thy thoughts will be magnanimous & free from all pettiness. Since last winter I have known that life without thee would not be possible. It is alarming to be so absolutely dependent, but so it is. Separations grow more & more unendurable. I feel as tho’ I could spend my life making love to thee, & never work anymore.”
No wonder that when Russell on his famous bicycle ride in the fens of Cambridge28 in early 1902 realized he no longer loved Alys, it would come as a terrible shock to her.
Alys’s Letters from Fernhurst
There is only one letter that Alys wrote to Russell from the Millhanger. Others may have been lost. Another explanation is that she did not stay often at the cottage when he was away. On 16 April 1897 she wrote to him that she was getting ready for the Club Girls.29 “The studio is all disarranged with 2 long tables—it is a mercy thee is not here!” She later added: “Our pear tree is lovely….”
She did write letters to her mother and father30 though; usually Bertie was with her. On 22 February 1897 she wrote: “We stopped at Copse Cottage this morning, Mr. Sturges not being back yet, & decided that there must be another door & window put in before Grace arrives….” On 2 March she obtained the wallpaper for her bedroom from Logan at High Buildings. On 4 March: “The fire & thy new bellows had been no consolation … because this terrific wind makes the fire smoke.… Logan’s wall paper … looks perfectly beautiful, exactly the thing for a cottage … The green chair looks beautiful in the dining-room. Bertie is sitting in it now because the smoke is rather thick here.” Thankfully the next day the fire stopped smoking because the weather improved. On 14 March she noted that “I am arranging for the Whiteheads to have the Nook [a cottage] for May, June, & July. Bertie really must have a neighbor who can understand his work.” This cottage belonged to the Nowers. They had originally been allocated to another cottage, but when Alys’s cousin Grace Worthington separated from her husband and with three children decided to leave America for Fernhurst, that cottage was allocated to her. At the Millhanger the garden on 21 March was “beginning to look lovely.… Burt has planted some little evergreens at the back to hid the ash heap & the wood pile.” By 29 March white violets were growing in abundance. “Mr. McTaggart, the charming philosopher, is staying until we go tomorrow.”
In the same letter to her father of 21 March 1897 in which she talked about the garden, Alys noted that: “We have offered this cottage [to Sturges] for July 1st to December 1st, & I feel sure he will take it ultimately.” The couple was planning to be away for part of that time in Italy. On 3 April Alys noted to her mother: “Bertie’s philosopher, Mr. Stout, is here, & he is a delightful little person, about 4 ft. high & rather deaf, but very humorous & charming. He seems pleased with Bertie’s work, which is satisfactory.” Logan was expected for lunch. “I shall have the pork pie & cold beef & salad.”
There is a fragment of a letter which has been dated after the fact as c.Nov. 1897? with the addressee assumed to be her mother. “Bertie is beginning on ‘Motion’ to-day—a small work on the subject will take him four years—a large one, fifteen!”
In addition to her description of the cottage in her letter of 28 July 1897, Helen Flexner provided a picture of Russell’s working day: “And how hard he does work, nothing is allowed to interfere with his quiet morning hours, and the hours between tea time and dinner. But for the rest of the day he is ready for conversation, exercise, games, anything, but principally conversation.”
The Russells left the Millhanger in 1900 moving into Friday’s Hill House in March. In a letter to her mother written on the 18th from the Millhanger she noted: “I went up to Friday’s Hill & the new terrace looks lovely. So do our two rooms with the Toplady31 papers & new paint & fireplace. Our study is a perfect dream now….” Furniture was coming from Frank Costelloe’s London home. “I do not quail in the least before the thought of moving up & settling in.” The house was ready for cleaning by Mrs. Vollen. Russell’s last letter from the Millhanger was written to Louis Couturat on 24 March 1900. No reason is known for this move. On 12 May Alys wrote to her mother: “Mrs. Evans, the new cook, is the most obliging, & she makes perfectly delicious omelettes & souffles!”
Barbara Strachey has described Friday’s Hill House. It was first rented in 188932 by the Pearsall Smiths. The house “was big and ugly, but there was a lovely view of the Sussex Weald and the South Downs.… There was a billiard-room, two coach-houses, two cottages, a conservatory, and a tennis court, together with ten acres of grounds and nearly two hundred of woodland. There were fourteen bedrooms in all, enough for the staff and family.… One room was made into a studio sitting-room for the young people … (Remarkable Relations, p. 105).
The Russells spent the late summer and early autumn of 1900 at High Buildings, which was rented by Logan although he was not there at that time. In a series of letters to her mother Alys described those idyllic months. Ray and Karin Costello were with them much of the time. Grace Worthington and her children were at Copse Cottage; the children came over to play often. They spent their time swimming and playing cricket. Russell taught them English History and they sat an exam with him on 15 September. McTaggart visited. The Whiteheads came to stay. Evelyn arranged flowers and did embroidery.
The Millhanger was still the responsibility of the Russells. In September33 Alys wrote to her mother: “A Grosvenor Crescent Club lady is considering the Millhangar, but if she fails I will advertize in the Surrey Times. The water supply there is nil. Mrs. Raleigh has not had a drop from the spring for weeks, but she is very good-natured about it.”
In early October Alys was at High Buildings preparing it for tenants. On 1 October she told her mother that she had “ordered a French review sent to thee, where on p. 561 thee will find Bertie’s Congress paper (very dull!), & on p. 685 my interesting remarks. I now have to amplify them for the full proceedings of the Congress.”34
In January 1901 the Whiteheads came to visit at Friday’s Hill House. Alys wrote her mother on the 6th that they “make Bertie very happy.…” The Whitehead children played with Ray and Karin. On the 10th she added: “We cannot help loving the Whiteheads, as Alfred is so appreciative of Bertie’s work. He says that this last piece is really ‘howlingly good’, so good that it very likely will not be appreciated for another hundred years! I never saw two men so happy together. In the evenings, they take turns reading the Bible & the Golden Bough aloud, while Evelyn & I sew….” On the 11th they were playing a game:35 “Bertie & Val were hares, while Harold, North & Tiny, Alfred Ray & Terry were hounds, & they all enjoyed the chase immensely.” On 14 January Alys wrote to her sister Mary that G.H. Hardy was staying with them: “Bertie & shy Hardy are reading Plato together.” On 20 January the Russells were at Downing College staying with the Whiteheads in Maitland’s house and later at the Mill House, Grantchester.
Russell wrote in his Autobiography: “At the end of the Lent Term, Alys and I went back to Fernhurst, where I set to work to write about the logical deduction of mathematics which afterwards became Principia Mathematica.36 I thought the work was nearly finished, but in the month of May I had an intellectual set-back …” (I: 147).
The month before, on 25 April 1901, from Friday’s Hill House Alys told her mother that she and Bertie “are enjoying this heavenly place, & send thee our warmest gratitude for providing us with such an adequate home!” She had gone to the village social. On 24 April the children were playing cricket and field hockey; they also swam. They “are not the least bother to us, & even Bertie finds it a pleasant background….” Debates were held in the evening. On 28 April Alys and Bertie planned a tandem bicycle ride to Dunhurst.
The Webbs in Fernhurst
Alys had known Sidney Webb before his marriage and he had visited her family in Fernhurst then. Sidney and Beatrice Potter married in June 1892. “After I married Bertrand Russell, the four of us became intimate friends and often visited each other at our homes for long periods of time: in fact, they lived with us as paying guests for many weeks at our house in the country” (The Listener, pp. 133–4).
The summer of 1901 Beatrice and Sidney Webb visited Friday’s Hill House. Beatrice provided a detailed description in Our Partnership: “July 1st. Friday’s Hill.—The Russells are the most attractive married couple I know.… Romantically attached to each other, they have diverse interests; Alys concerns herself with social reform, Bertrand with the higher mathematics.… They breakfast in their study at nine o’clock … then Bertrand works at mathematics until 12.30, then three-quarters-of-an-hour reading together, a quarter-of-an-hour stroll in the garden together. Lunch with us, 1.30; chat in our sitting-room or out of doors, over cigarettes and coffee. Then Bertrand plays croquet with Logan [Pearsall] Smith (Alys’s brother …) until tea at 4.30. After that mathematics until 6 o’clock, reading with Alys until 7.30, dine at 8 o’clock, chat and smoke with us until 9.30, another hour’s reading aloud with Alys until 10.30. They sleep and dress in the same room, and they have no children …” (p. 215). In a letter to her mother, c.1901, Alys wrote: “Bertie & I went out on the tandem, Mrs. Webb following behind.”
Alys was away, undergoing a rest cure in an attempt to alleviate her distress caused by the fracture in her marriage, when she reflected on her connection to Fernhurst in a letter she wrote to Russell on 9 June 1902. She found “it is still a great wrench to leave Fernhurst.… I find I am more attached than I realized to the village & the people & the place with all its associations.” Russell spent part of the time when Alys was away at Friday’s Hill House. On 3 April Russell invited Gilbert Murray to lunch. On 7 April Murray replied that he was “looking forward to coming over.” Later that month on 27 April Russell wrote: “Miss [Jane] Harrison is coming to Friday’s Hill House for a visit” at Whitsuntide [Saturday 17 May to Tuesday 20 May]. He asked Murray to “come over for lunch (& stay to tea)”, either that Sunday or Monday.
On 12 June Russell wrote to Murray from Friday’s Hill: “I am established here until the beginning of July. If you can manage to come over for lunch and tea any day, I shall be delighted to see you.” On 17th June Russell agreed to go to the Murrays for lunch the next day. He wrote to Helen Flexner on 27 June 1902: “I took ten days’ holiday after finishing my book.37 Now I am in full working trim again, doing seven hours a day normally. I have learnt that virtue requires thoughts directly almost wholly to the future, not the past; so I scarcely remember the book I have finished, but think entirely of what is to be done next. Alys comes home tomorrow for two days. Then she goes to Switzerland for three weeks with Mrs. Webb. After that, there is real hope that this separation may be at an end.” The couple was able to resume their life together, renting a farmhouse in Little Buckland.
Russell’s last letter from Fernhurst on Friday’s Hill letterhead was written to Lucy Donnelly on 1 September 1902. He had told Robert Trevelyan on 1 August that Alys would “be going to Friday’s Hill … to pack” in advance of their move to 14 Cheyne Walk. It is somewhat odd that he would chose to return as well, however briefly. He made no mention of the summer he spent at Little Buckland or his impending move to Cheyne Walk in mid-September. However, what he wrote to Lucy indicates that he must have been there. “Life here is always, in the summer, a strange phantasmagoria: we had yesterday Grace [Worthington], the Amos’s, Miss Creighton, the Kinsellas, the Robinsons and J.M. Robertson, the man on whom Bradlaugh’s mantle has fallen.… We have all been reading with great pleasure James on Religious Experience....”38
In 1906 when the Russells were living in Bagley Wood, Oxford, Alys’s mother and brother moved into Court Place across the Thames. The only tie left to Fernhurst was Grace Worthington’s cottage, Van Bridge (Remarkable Relations, p. 235). During Russell’s time in Fernhurst, Grace had lived in Copse Cottage. She had either moved or renamed the cottage. In 1910 when Russell began his new lectureship at Trinity College, Bagley Wood was put up for sale and they took “a lease of Van Bridge … cottage … where Alys could spend most of her time” (Remarkable Relations, p. 246). In March and April 1911 a family group assembled at the cottage: Alys, Russell, her nieces Ray and Karin, the latter of whom was being tutored for her Tripos by Russell, as well as guests (Remarkable Relations, p. 251–4). However, during a trip up to London on 19 March Russell fell in love with Ottoline Morrell. He wrote 24 letters to her from the cottage, the last on 16 April—his last letter written from the village. He left Fernhurst on 18 April to join Ottoline (Remarkable Relations, p. 255). He returned on 20 May to see Alys; there was a terrible argument (Remarkable Relations, p. 260). His long association with this village in Sussex came to an end. His marriage was over although the couple did not divorce until 1921.
What Became of the Millhanger?
The children, two sons and a daughter, of Russell’s American friend Mildred Minturn Scott, moved into the Millhanger in 1922 with their father, Arthur Scott, after the death of their mother. I got to know Mildred’s daughter Leslie Allison in the 1980s and she wrote to me about her time in the cottage: “You can imagine how much we loved that cottage as children. My bedroom (which I shared with my sister Honor) is the upstairs right hand window.… We had an E.C. in a lean-to against the house, and only a cold water tap over the kitchen sink—the water had to be pumped up by hand and we each did 100 strokes a day. B.R. had added on a big verandah at the back and we built a little house under it, with proper bricks and mortar” (24 September 1984). She had earlier written to me that the cottage had no electricity (10 July 1984).
I went in search of the Millhanger in the 1980s. Fernhurst was still a small village and I had a photograph of the cottage. I did not find it although I may have walked by it without realizing which cottage it was. I had taken the train from London to Haslemere and then a bus, which zipped by Friday’s Hill House, to the village. I did take some photographs, including one of the village green. It was only when I returned to Haslemere that I found a shop that sold maps of Fernhurst walks. I have since been told that the map was not completely accurate.39
In August 1993, the Millhanger was listed for sale by Keats Estate Agents. It was described as “a pretty detached period property believed to date from the 16th century [with] grounds of approximately one acre.” It was listed for £260,000. A beamed cottage with Victorian additions “plus an extension which was built by the present owner.” On the ground floor: a sitting/dining room, drawing room, kitchen/breakfast room, rear lobby, a bedroom and shower room; two fireplaces. On the first floor: three bedrooms and one bathroom. The cellar contains an oil boiler in one room and a covered well in the other. “A discreet double garage has recently been constructed plus ample parking.” The grounds are “partially bordered by a stream.”
The cottage sold again in August 2019 for £935,000. The new owners have been in touch recently and sent this charming photograph.
The cottage went back on the market in 2021 for £1,250,000. The listing agent, Seymours, provided a number of images of the home as well as floor plans. The conservatory is obviously a new addition. The ground floor bedroom and shower room from the Keats’ listing may have been removed in order to build it. I find it impossible to identify the additions constructed by the Russells—variously described above as “Bertie’s study”, “a sitting room and two bedrooms”, and “two workrooms.” Before the Russells’ renovations there must have been only two rooms on the ground floor, the front room and a back room housing a kitchen. The Seymours’ photographs depict the original fireplace and exposed beams in the room identified as a dining room/study. The garage now contains a studio apartment. The rear lobby and veranda from the Keats’ listing are gone. The garage is not pictured together with the house and the driveway is not shown. I see why I couldn’t find the house when I looked for it because it is set down from what appears to be a road and is parallel to it. The driveway off Lickfold Road is “anonymous, but if you go down the footpath that the drive intersects, you see a five-barred gate with the house name.”40 The gate is not one of the images provided by Seymours. Still with this latest sale we are given more access to the house than ever before.
© Sheila Turcon, 2020
Fernhurst Society. Voices of Fernhurst, 2006.
Leslie Minturn Allison, Mildred Minturn: A Biography. Shoreline: Ste Anne de Bellevue, 1995.
Kenneth Blackwell, et al., eds., Cambridge Essays, 1888–99, Vol. 1 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. London: Allen & Unwin, 1983.
Ronald W. Clark, The Life of Bertrand Russell. London: Jonathan Cape and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975.
Victor Davey and Helen & Kenneth Ouin, Walks around Fernhurst, 1981.
Nicholas Griffin and Albert C. Lewis, eds., Philosophical Papers, 1869–99, Vol. 2 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. London: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Isabel Maude Hamill, “The Hon. Mrs. Bertrand Russell”, Sunday Magazine 34 (1905): 539–40.
Gregory H. Moore, ed., Towards the “Principles of Mathematics”, 1900–02, Vol. 3 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. London: Routledge, 1993.
Alys Russell, “When the Fabians Were Young”, The Listener 41 (1044) (27 Jan. 1949: 133–4).
Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872–1914, Vol. 1. London: Allen & Unwin, 1967.
Barbara Strachey, Remarkable Relations. London: Gollancz, 1980.
Beatrice Webb, Our Partnership, eds. Barbara Drake and Margaret Cole. London, New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green & Co., 1948.
Archival correspondence: Mary Gwinn, Helen Flexner, Gilbert Murray, Lucy Donnelly, Alys Russell, Hannah and Robert Pearsall Smith, Mary Costelloe, Leslie Allison.
The Fernhurst Society has a website. The census date revealing Russell’s visit in 1891 is accessible on its page.
- 1. This extract is published in Mildred Minturn, pp. 70–1.
- 2. The Millhanger sometimes appears spelled as the Millhangar. That spelling is based on the original meaning of the word which is a shed located by a mill. It was spelled with an “a” on the Russells’ letterhead and thus in Vols. 1 and 2 of the Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. However, in the Autobiography it is spelled with an “e”. It appears with an “e” on the Fernhurst walks map and in Barbara Strachey’s book. I have used the more current spelling.
- 3. In February 1896 they lived mainly at 90 Ashley Gardens while Russell lectured on Germany Social Democracy at the London School of Economics (Auto 1: 127 and Papers 1: xxxii).
- 4. German Social Democracy (B&R A2) published in December 1896.
- 5. An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry (B&R A3) published in June 1897.
- 6. Alys was “a member of the British Women’s Temperance Association … she was asked to take up, and organize, definite temperance work amongst young women. To this request she gladly acceded, and threw her whole energy into the forming of young people’s branches all over the country” (Sunday Magazine, p. 540).
- 7. Review of Hannequin’s Essai critique sur l’hypothèse des atomes dans la science contemporaine. Mind, 4 (July 1896): 410–17 (B&R C96.04), Papers 1.
- 8. The subject of this lecture is not known.
- 9. “The A Priori in Geometry”. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, London, o.s. 3, no. 2 (1895–96): (B&R C96.03), Papers 1.
- 10. George Frederick Stout, Analytic Psychology (London: Swan Sonneschein, 1896).
- 11. A version of this story is published in Barry Feinberg, ed., The Collected Stories of Bertrand Russell (London: Allen & Unwin, 1972), pp. 313–4 (B&R A151).
- 12. “On Some Difficulties of Continuous Quantity”, Paper 5 in Papers 2.
- 13. Proofs for German Social Democracy.
- 14. W.A.S. Hewins who in the end was not thanked in the preface to German Social Democracy.
- 15. Sir William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1886).
- 16. Paper 11 in Papers 2.
- 17. Keith Green, “Nightmares of Eminent Biographers. Ray Monk, Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness”, Russell: Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies n.s. 20 (Winter 2000–01): 154–165; at 157: “There is a tendency in this second volume for Monk to begin his usual fluent and perceptive readings of Russell’s texts, but then quickly to consign them to the rubbish heap. Russell comes across as a latter-day Casaubon, that figure of ridicule in George Eliot's Middlemarch, who slurps his soup and wastes his whole life trying to find ‘the key to all mythologies’, while ignoring the important works of German scholars.”
- 18. Guy Fawkes and the foiled Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
- 19. Dutch for War.
- 20. Russell was reading Alexander William Kinglake’s The Invasion of the Crimea first published in 1863.
- 21. I do not know what game that might be.
- 22. For A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz first delivered as lectures in 1899 and then published in October 1900 (B&R A4).
- 23. “Recent Italian Work”, Paper 9 in Papers 3.
- 24. “Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics”. International Monthly, Burlington, Ver., 4 (July1901): 83–101 (B&R C01.05), Papers 3.
- 25. The Principles of Mathematics published in May 1903 (B&R A5).
- 26. By Ivan Turgenev; Basaroff is now transcribed as Basarov.
- 27. This enclosure has not survived.
- 28. Clark, p. 88.
- 29. These were young women from the Temperance clubs Alys had set up.
- 30. Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911) and Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898). The letters are located in RA, Box 6.57
- 31. An antique shop, Miss Toplady, in Pimlico, London, owned by Logan, Philip Morrell and Percy Feilding (Remarkable Relations, p. 164).
- 32. The Pearsall Smiths took a long lease in 1890. That year Frank and Mary Costelloe rented Friday’s Hill cottage across the road from the house (Remarkable Relations, p. 110). The lease on Friday’s Hill House was given up in 1906 (Remarkable Relations, p. 235).
- 33. The letter is located at the end of the specifically dated September letters in RA, Box 6.57.
- 34. They had attended the International Congress of Philosophy in Paris, 1–5 August. For Russell’s Congress paper see B&R B1. Alys spoke on 5 August; her remarks were published under the heading “Séance Genérale Morale”, Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, T.8, No. 5 (Sept. 1900): 685–87. Her paper in the “full proceedings” appeared as “L’Education des Femmes” Bibliothèque du Congrès International de Philosophie II Moral Genérale: 309–17 (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1901).
- 35. The participants in addition to Russell and Alfred Whitehead were Harold [Joachim?], two of the Whiteheads’ children, North and Jessie [nicknamed Tiny], Ray Costelloe, and Val Worthington, Grace’s daughter. I have not been able to identify Terry although in a letter of 27 April she was described as German.
- 36. The first volume of Principia Mathematica (B&R A9) was not published until December 1910. I asked Ken Blackwell and Bernard Linsky their opinions. Linsky felt this was “an early draft”. Blackwell agreed.
- 37. The Principles of Mathematics published in May 1903 (B&R A5).
- 38. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, Green, 1902).
- 39. Email from Christine Maynard, Fernhurst Society, 20 Feb. 2014. The cottage is not off Ropes Lane—it is off Lickfold Road. The map also notes that Principia Mathmetica was written at the Millhanger which is incorrect.
- 40. Email from Christine Maynard, 20 Feb. 2014, received long after my trip to Fernhurst.