Bertrand Russell the Passionate Skeptic: A Biography

By Alan Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
'A Quiet Life'

WE can I think presume that the year 1901, when Russell became 'suddenly and vividly aware of the loneliness in which people live', also heralded the beginning of a change in his views about marriage. He was to pass gradually, over a period of many years, to a belief in free love, only restricted where children were involved.

By the end of his life Russell had married four times: and he had other friendships which were not Platonic. This book will contain no revelations in this regard. I do not believe that intimate relations between any man and woman are the concern of anybody but themselves; and it must be left to Russell to give his own account of this aspect of his life. It is an important aspect, and it is important to fill in the bare facts and discount malicious gossip and rumour. But I propose to confine myself to a brief summary of the facts which can be found by anybody today, or by future historians, in the newspaper reports of the various divorce proceedings, in books of reminiscence and biography, and in Russell's own writings. He produced numerous articles from time to time on marriage and sex morality, and later I will discuss the views in his fullest work on the subject, Marriage and Morals, which was published in 1929.

As early as May 1902. Beatrice Webb noted 'a consciousness that something is wrong' between Russell and his first wife, and the following year her diary recorded 'a tragic austerity and effort' in their relations. It seems that Russell's quickness of mind and spirit was incompatible with the earnest Quaker outlook of Alys. (She used the Quaker 'thee' in speech, and was much occupied with good works; she had the reputation, on entering a room, of often seeking out and talking to whoever

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