Bertrand Russell the Passionate Skeptic: A Biography

By Alan Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
An Outcast in America

THE war years in America were probably the most unhappy in Russell's life. To begin with, there was the fear of Hitler winning the war. Those who regard Russell as nothing by a dry and dispassionate logician could find the strongest evidence to the contrary in the way in which, during both the First and Second World Wars, his moods would alternate between utter despair and eager hopes of an early peace. Worse still was being away from England at such a time: he wrote that 'Sometimes the longing for home is almost unbearable', and that 'one feels ashamed of comfort and safety'. He wrote asking Mrs Trevelyan at the Shiffolds whether the peacefulness of the Surrey woods he knew so well was now spoilt by the noise of aeroplanes, and whether it was true that the trees on Leith Hill had been cut down: 'I am haunted by the thought of disappearing beauty.' He confessed that 'Physical and mental depression is very hard to avoid. We find ourselves falling into it, largely from the baulked impulse to be in some way useful. It is horrible to do nothing to help, but difficult here to do much.'

In addition to these worries, he found himself faced with acute financial anxieties. To begin with it was impossible, under war-time financial regulations, to get his earnings from British royalties remitted to America, apart from a small and insufficient allowance for his three children's education. Then he was the victim of a Roman Catholic agitation in New York, the details of which are still little known in England, as the case was barely reported in the restricted war-time newspapers.

In February 1940, when Russell was still at the University of California, he was invited to join the staff of the College of the City of New York. He had already agreed to give the William

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