Chapter 2

Chapter 2

THE PEMBROKE LODGE

 

Childhood and Adolescence.

A prominent landmark in the childhood of Lord Bertrand Russell happens to be his ancestral home, Pembroke Lodge, which was received as a gift from the Queen (Monk 15). It is steeped in history and even in Russellís childhood, it was frequented by many royal dignitaries. The reason undoubtedly was that his grandfather was the Prime minister of England. Russellís first vivid recollection is his arrival at Pembroke Lodge in February 1876. "To be accurate" says Russell, in his autobiography, "I do not remember the actual arrival at the house though I remember the big glass roof of the London terminus, presumably Paddington, at which I arrived on my way, and which I thought inconceivably beautiful" (Russell 1: 15). The reader is given the assurance that what ever he reveals hence forth, will be authentic.

On reaching Pembroke Lodge, he becomes the cynosure of all eyes in the servantís hall. The reason for this interest in the child was the peculiar happenings, which had followed the death of his father Lord Amberley. His mother and sister had died of diphtheria and his father had died "after a period of increasing debility" (Russell 1: 15) Lord Amberley had placed his two children Frank and Bertrand in the hands of their tutor Douglas Spalding and another person named Cobden Sanderson, who were atheists, to protect them from "the evils of a religious upbringing" (Russell 1:17). After the death of Amberley, his parents discovered from his papers what had gone on between Lady Amberley and the tutor (Russell 1:17). With the knowledge of her husband she had lived with the tutor who was tubercular, to prevent him from living in forced celibacy. Fornication was abhorrent to their Victorian minds and Lord Amberleyís parents made it clear that if necessary they would put the law into motion to free the children from the clutches of the infidels. This was how Frank and Bertrand made Pembroke Lodge their home and this was the reason that made young Bertrand the centre of attraction.

Russellís parents were radicals and ardent theorists of reform. His mother is described as beautiful, vigorous, lively, witty, serious and fearless. His father as philosophical, studious, unworldly, morose and priggish. Both of them believed in and preached birth control and votes for women. To a large extent their popularity suffered for these reasons. A letter received by his mother and reproduced by Russell speaks about her radical connections and how the aristocracy and the officials regarded her (Russell 1: 16). This letter, like many others that are to follow validates the genuineness of his recollection from memory. Lord Amberley had a large library and was the disciple and friend of John Stuart Mill. Russell continues to give various other details, which establish his aristocratic lineage, of both blood and intellect. Though his parents were radicals in thought, they could not escape aristocracy. After their death, Russellís parents were buried in the garden of Ravenscroft, a lonely abode, but later their bodies were dug up and transferred to the family vault. This was done in spite of the request Lord Amberley had made to his mother, in his last letter to her (Russell 1: 18-19). A picture of Pembroke Lodge follows the letter sent by Russellís father to his mother. A very detailed account of the eleven-acre garden forms a major part of the section. Russell says:

This garden played a very large part in my life up to the age of eighteen. To the west, there was an enormous view extending from the Epsom Downs (which I believed to be the "ups" and "downs") to Windsor Castle, Hind head and Leith Hill between. I grew accustomed to wide horizons and to an unimpeded view of the sunset. And I have never since been able to live happily without both. There are many fine trees, oaks, beeches, horse and Spanish chestnuts, and lime trees, a very beautiful cedar tree, cryptomerias, and deodars presented by Indian princes. There were summerhouses, sweet briar hedges, thickets of laurel, and all kinds of secret places in which it was possible to hide from grown up people so successfully that there was not the slightest fear of discovery. There were several flower gardens with box hedges. Throughout the years during which I lived at Pembroke Lodge, the garden was growing gradually more and more neglected. Big trees fell, shrubs grew over the paths, the grass on the lawns became long and rank, and the box-hedges grew almost into trees. The garden seemed to remember the days of its former splendour, when foreign ambassadors paced its lawns, and princes admired its trim beds of flowers. It lived in the past and I lived in the past with it . . . . In solitude I used to wander about the garden, alternately collecting birds eggs and meditating on the flight of time. (Russell 1: 19-20)

This long passage which demands to be quoted in full is written not without a design. The intention is to produce an archetypal image of an Edenic garden where an innocent child alleviated from rags to riches walked in solitude. The description of the garden has all the characteristics that go with the Edenic garden. Bertrand finds convenient places to hide from the grown-ups and the garden seemed to remember its former splendour. The very fact that it was neglected reminds us of the Fall of Man.

Russell was only a six-year-old child when his grandfather died. He was past eighty at his death. The description of his grandparents has its focus on his grandmother who had a formative influence on him in his childhood as well as his youth. Russell says that she "was cultivated according to the standards of her time" (Russell 1: 20). She could speak French, German and Italian faultlessly and also knew the grand masters of English literature up to the 18th Century poets. She was a Whig who knew Whig politics since 1830. The factor that brought a great deal of disagreement between Russell and his grandmother was perhaps the fact that "everything that involved reasoning had been totally omitted from her education, and was absent from her mental life" (Russell 1:21). "To her marriage was a puzzling institution. It was clearly the duty of the husbands and wives to love one another, but it was a duty they ought not to perform too easily for if sex attraction drew them together there must be some thing not quiet nice about them" (Russell 1:21). She viewed every thing and every relationship in the world through a "mist of Victorian sentiment." Sex was a formidable topic for Russellís grandmother. She led an austere life and her puritan morality was so severe that Bertrand began to dislike her for that reason alone. While he was a child she had taken intense care for his welfare and had given him a feeling of safety that he very much needed. As he grew older he realised more and more the importance she had in moulding his outlook on life. He says:

Her fearlessness, her public spirit, her contempt for convention, and her indifference to the opinion of the majority have always seemed good to me and have impressed themselves upon me as worthy of imitation. She gave me a Bible with her favourite texts written on the flyleaf. Among these was ĎThou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.í Her emphasis upon this text led me in later life to be not afraid of belonging to small minorities. (Russell 1:22)

The other grown-ups, apart from the numerous servants he came into contact with at Pembroke Lodge were his uncles and aunts. On many an occasion, the adults treated young Bertrand with considerable insensitivity. Russell speaks of an episode that caused unspeakable pain to him as a child. His uncle, William came to Pembroke Lodge one evening. It was a sunny day and Bertrand had enjoyed every moment of the day. When it was time to say goodnight, uncle William informed young Bertrand, that the human capacity for enjoyment decreases with the years and that he would never again enjoy a summerís day as much as the one that was now ending. Hearing this Bertrand burst into tears and wept uncontrollably. On another occasion, he heard one of the grown-ups asking another: " When is that young Lyon coming?" Bertrand who was within earshot asked excitedly: "Is there a lion coming?" They told him that they were expecting one and he would see him in the drawing room. On the appointed day, it turned out that the lion was only a young man named Lyon. Russell says that he carried the memory of this disenchantment for long with deep despair.

Uncle Rollo and Aunt Agatha, both unmarried, lived at Pembroke Lodge. Young Bertrand liked Uncle Rollo, for he frequently talked about scientific matters that stimulated his scientific interests. Aunt Agatha attempted to educate him. These attempts being unsuccessful, Bertrand was sent to a kindergarten where he learned to read. When he was six years old, she taught him her own version of English constitutional history. Aunt Agatha was engaged to a Curate but the marriage did not take place, as she suffered from insane delusions. According to Russell, "she was a victim of my grand motherís virtue. If she had not been taught that sex is wicked, she might have been happy, successful and able" (Russell 1: 26).

Russellís brother Frank was seven years his senior. He was sent to school, for his grandparents found him unmanageable. Young Bertrand admired his brother but when he came home for vacation, Frank would tease him to such an extent that attempts were made to keep Frank away from Bertrand by the grown-ups.

Russell remembers to mention all the servants at Pembroke Lodge who played a larger part in his life than the members of the family did. Nursery maids, cooks butlers, gardeners and the lodge keepers are mentioned with little incidents attached to their fond memory (Russell 1: 26). During his early Pembroke Lodge days Bertrand had a German nurse named Wilhelmina. Russell remembers vividly how he reacted when she bathed him. Not knowing what she might be up to, Bertrand would make himself stiff. She would then call someone else to help her. Russell, in this part of his autobiography has traced carefully his relationship with the older members at Pembroke Lodge. The focus is definitely on his grandmother. The relationships that have been established are definitely to change, and when they change the autobiographer will be able to place himself on an advantageous position where either he would gain the sympathy of the reader or he would be criticised by him. Both ways the autobiographer stands to gain.

As a young boy, Bertrand loved to show off his knowledge. He could speak German well and when the nurse taught him to write the alphabets, he learned them quickly and said that all that remained to learn were the numbers. He concludes his sketch of the German nurse with an ambiguous but startling statement: "The nurse slept in the same room with me, but never, so far as my recollection serves me, either dressed or undressed" (Russell 1: 27). Here the Freudian slip is obvious. The statement while reminding the reader of the authorís presence, underlines the truth claim he has made. More over he makes a subtle suggestion that the facts recounted here are based on his memory and it is possible though remotely that his memory may fail him.

Food habits were Spartan at the Pembroke Lodge especially so for young Bertrand. He was never given any fruit or sugar. He remembers an occasion when everyone at the table except himself was given an orange, after lunch. His childhood was austere and the atmosphere at Pembroke lodge with the watchful eyes of all the adults over him made him prone to a sense of sin. The pleasures of childhood were denied to him so much so that when asked to sing his favourite hymn he sang "weary of earth and laden with sin" (Russell 1:28). Once when his grandmother read the story of the prodigal son at the family prayers, he said to her afterwards "I know why you read that -- because I broke my jug" (Russell 1:28). At Pembroke Lodge, the young child was expected to behave like a grown up adult, and when he failed to do so he was found fault with and scolded. Being a meek child, Bertrand accepted all such criticism without demur. On the other hand, Bertrandís grandmother was responsible for inculcating in him a vigorous appetite for knowledge. He read with her most of the standard works in English literature. Writers like Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden and Cowper were familiar to him. However, she saw to it that he would not read anything that was even faintly suggestive of immorality. But young Bertrandís curiosity could not be curbed. During that time there was a very scandalous divorce case (Russell 1:30). Bertrandís grandmother took the precaution of burning their newspapers every day. But as it was Bertrand who got her the newspaper from Park Gates, on the way back home, Russell used to read every word of the divorce case.

A Victorian Childhood by Amabel Huth Jackson, is perhaps the best commentary on Pembroke Lodge and its inhabitants. Russell quite judiciously quotes from it. Amabel was Russellís childhood friend and she says:

I greatly enjoyed going to tea at Pembroke Lodge. But even as a child I realised what an unsuitable place it was for children to be brought up in. Lady Russell always spoke in hushed tones and lady Agatha always wore a white shawl and looked downtrodden. Rollo Russell never spoke at all. He gave a handshake that nearly broke all the bones of oneís fingers, but was quite friendly. They all drifted in and out of rooms like ghosts and no one ever seemed to be hungry. It was a curious bringing up for two young and extraordinarily gifted boys. (Russell 1: 30)

The passage quoted above, which is from another autobiographical work helps Russell to validate the authenticity of what he has recorded about his own childhood. Russell uses this technique of enlisting outside help in the form of quotations and letters sent and received by him extensively.

After talking about the people of Pembroke Lodge, Russell dwells on the landscape around his early home for the second time. Like in many other classical autobiographies, Russell describes at length the garden of Pembroke Lodge. The picture of the garden that emerged in the earlier description had an Edenic quality. This passage which is very lyrical emphasises the feeling of solitude that Bertrand experiences. Despite the solitude, his was a childhood that was responsive to the glory of Nature:

I knew each corner of the garden, and looked year by year for the white primroses in one place, the redstarts nest in another, the bloom of acacia emerging from a tangle if ivy. I knew where the earliest blue bells were to be found, and which of the oaks came into leaf soonest. I remember that in the year 1878 a certain oak tree was in leaf as early as the fourteenth of April. My window looked on two Lombardy poplars, each about a hundred feet high, and I used to watch the shadow of the house creeping up them as the sun set. In the morning I woke very early and sometimes saw Venus rise. On one occasion, I mistook the planet for a lantern in the wood. I saw the sun rise on most mornings, and on bright April days I would sometimes slip out of the house for a long walk before breakfast. I watched the Sun turn the Earth red and the clouds golden; I listened to the wind and exulted in the lightning. Throughout my childhood, I had an increasing sense of loneliness, and of despair of ever meeting anyone with whom I could talk. Nature and books and later Mathematics saved me from complete despondency. (Russell 1:31)

Solitude and unhappiness were the keynotes of his childhood and solitude became oppressive as he approached adolescence. As a young child he had a governess to look after his needs and he was too young to suffer because of the intellectual deficiency of his people, especially that of his grand mother. Once when he was six years old, he expressed the wish that his parents were alive, to this his grandmother replied that it was very fortunate for him that they had died. Every mention of his parents caused in her a spasm of anguish. The reasons of his unhappiness and solitude are obvious. The child was expected to behave and think like an adult (Russell 1:31). His early remembrances of Pembroke Lodge, if they are pleasant, are invariably of the outside and its beauty. If they are of the indoors, they are of the people and the gloom that hung over Pembroke Lodge:

The first thing I remember after my arrival at Pembroke Lodge is walking in the melting snow, in the warm sunshine, on an occasion which must have been a month later, and noticing a large fallen beech tree which was being sawn into logs. The next thing I remember is my fourth birthday, on which I was given a trumpet which I blew all day long, and had tea with a birthday cake in a summer house. The next thing I remember is my auntís lessons on colours and reading, and then very vividly, the kindergarten class which began just before I was five and continued for about a year and a half. That gave me very intense delight. (Russell 1:32)

Bertrandís experience with his maternal grandmother was no better. Often he was taken to his grandmother Stanley of Alderley who lived in a large house in Dover Street. The food he remembers to be good but " the pleasure was doubtful, as she had a caustic tongue, and spared neither age nor sex" (Russell 1:32). Whenever Bertrand desperately tried to produce a good impression, he was invariably put down with an unfavourable remark. Again, Bertrand had to live up to the expectations of the elders at the Alderly household. Thus, Bertrand was caught between two grandmothers in his childhood.

At the age of eleven, Bertrand was taught Euclid by his brother. Of this initiation, Russell says:

This was one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined that there was anything so delicious in the world. After I learned the fifth proposition, my brother told me that it was generally difficult, but I had found no difficulty whatever. This was the first time it had dawned upon me that I might have some intelligence. From that moment until Whitehead and I finished Principia Mathematica, when I was thirty-eight, Mathematics was my chief interest, and my chief source of happiness. (Russell 1:36)

Russellís childhood was not all solemnity and seriousness. Some of his pranks are recounted in the last part of the chapter "Childhood" Bertrand enjoyed dropping rotten rose buds on the beautiful hat of the doctorís coachman who used to visit Pembroke Lodge. On Sundays he would climb a large beech tree and hang upside down and scream for help. People would gather to discuss as to how to effect a rescue. Then young Bertrand would coolly climb down the tree.

Autobiographically, the chapter "Childhood" wins the sympathy of the reader and prepares the ground for all the happenings in the chapter "Adolescence." Ray Monk, in his The Spirit of Solitude says about the childhood of Russell that the early part of his life was a struggle "to overcome the distance he felt between himself and the rest of the world" (Monk 3). According to Monk, young Russell withdrew from the world around him as a reaction to the unhappiness which he experienced a good deal (Monk 3). Bertrandís brother Frank hated Pembroke Lodge and the men and women who peopled it. Monk quotes Frankís description of Pembroke Lodge. Frank uses the metaphor of a snail in his description. He says:

. . . At every point it recoiled from the touch of real life and everything so vulgar as facts. Religion might occasionally be spoken of with bated breath and in a hushed curate sort of voice, but sex, birth, swearing, trade, money, passion were subjects I never heard mentioned . . . To come from the fresh air of Ravenscroft into this atmosphere of insincerities, conventions, fears, and bated breath, was like a nightmare to me, young as I was, and during all the years I had to endure it, the Pembroke Lodge atmosphere never ceased to be a nightmare. (qtd. in Monk 15)

Frank says that, the intention of his grand parents was to turn him into a perfect replica of Uncle Rollo who lived at Pembroke Lodge. Bertrand who was much younger became an "unendurable prig" (Monk 17). Monk points out, where Frankís resistance against the Pembroke Lodge regime was overt and outspoken, Bertrandís was covert and unspoken. No one at Pembroke Lodge new that he led a secret life unbridled by the codes of Pembroke Lodge. "While outwardly he was the "angle child," inwardly he was as fierce in his independence as -- perhaps fiercer than -- Frank . . . while Frank ran away physically, Bertie did the same mentally" (Monk 19). Monk says that by various means, the people at Pembroke Lodge made the message clear to the young boys that their parents were wicked. They were never given the reasons for thinking so. The message was conveyed by looks and sighs and hushed voices. They were made to believe that they had a lucky escape from their sinful parents and they were saved by their more virtuous grandparents (Monk 17). The childhood of Russell was one of unspoken thoughts and repressed feelings. This becomes a habit and the first example of it is detailed by Russell in his chapter titled "Adolescence."

Avrom Fleishman writes, one of the paradigms employed in most autobiographies is that of exile and return, of alienation and repossession (Fleishman 4). The chapter "Childhood" begins with the story of young Bertrandís and his brother Frankís arrival at Pembroke Lodge. Both the children were "repossessed" from the hands of two atheists by Bertrandís grandparents. They were viewed almost as though they were in exile for a long time, from the Victorian respectability and religiosity of Pembroke Lodge. They were the prodigal children who had returned to their grandparentís home. Fleishman says: "If one were to elect a single figure as the central one for the nineteenth century it might well be the large possibilities offered by the myth of the fall" (Fleishman 116). Russellís narration of the death of his parents, his motherís relationship with his tutor and the unfavourable attitude that Pembroke Lodge had towards them, reminds one of the myth of the fall. The attitude of his grandmother towards Bertrand and his brother Frank was always that of a benevolent redeemer. Bertrand was laden with a sense of sin and spent a great deal of his time in the garden, all alone with his thoughts about his dead parents. Fleishman says: "One may observe a host of Victorian writers appealing to their Adamic qualities, setting their childhood in an Edenic garden or leafy landscape, and bewailing the loss of their original endowment and their difficulties in resuming a state of innocence to take relief from the busy, vicious world" (Fleishman 117). Russellís garden passages in the chapter "Childhood" are composed in picturesque detail designed to attract the attention of the reader. The garden passages stand out from the rest of the text, which is mostly matter of fact narrative. This paradigm of the Edenic garden used by Russell emphasises the innocence of the subject and prepares the reader to experience the contrast that appears in the next chapter where the subject strays away from innocence.

Bertrand Russellís account of his adolescent days begins with the statement that he felt a "very definite change" when he reached the "latency period" (Russell 1: 38). The first change that he felt was when, he began to despise the grown ups at Pembroke Lodge. Though he says that he was happy during his childhood, there are instances that prove that he suffered from loneliness and that he had to repress his thoughts during childhood. In his adolescence, he began to use slang and he used it deliberately to horrify the elders at home. Another habit he developed during this period was one of concealment:

It became second nature to me to think that whatever I was doing had better be kept to myself, and I have never quite overcome the impulse to concealment which was thus generated. I still have an impulse to hide what I am reading when anybody comes into the room, and to hold my tongue generally as to where I have been, and what I have done." (Russell 1:38)

Russell uses the term "concealment" in this passage. In classical autobiographies, concealment is a strategy that is used commonly. He uses concealment in his autobiography on several occasions.

Russell makes a truth claim when he says that his interests during this period were divided between sex, religion and mathematics: "I find the recollection of my sexual preoccupation in adolescence unpleasant. I do not like to remember how I felt in those years, but I will do my best to relate things as they were and not as I could wish them to have been" (Russell 1:38). After having said that he does not like to remember how he felt in those years it is not easy for the reader to accept his statement which is designed to create the impression that whatever he says hence forth is true. Russell again reiterates the point that his adolescent years were a period of loneliness and unhappiness. At fifteen, Bertrandís sexual passions were so intolerable that he was unable to concentrate on work. He confesses of his distractions and sexual preoccupations. He fell into the habit of masturbating and of trying to get a glimpse of the housemaids while dressing. There was a particular housemaid whom he used to take into an underground room he had dug out. There he used to kiss and hug her in all secrecy. Once he asked her to spend the night with him where upon she expressed her utter astonishment, which according to Russell made him feel morbid. This confession of his sexual exploits serves to make his truth claim in his autobiography stronger.

Russell claims that he became introspective during these years. As he was told that all introspection is morbid by the elders, he regarded this interest in his own thoughts and feelings as a proof of mental aberration. Later, he realised that introspection was the only method of obtaining a great deal of knowledge.

Introspection conveys plenty of information about the autobiographical self though it has inherent problems. Details recollected through introspection need not be authentic and historically true. The concealing of a historical fact may or may not be deliberate. Here the reader fails to ascertain the truth unless he has recourse to external authentic data. Russellís "Greek Exercises" which is introspective in nature, make a splendid example of an attempt at deliberate concealment. On the positive side, they prove that Bertrand had an analytical and logical mind. It also becomes evident that, even at an early age, he was familiar with the principles of religion.

Along with the intense sexual feeling that Bertrand had during this period, he became aware of a strong idealistic feeling which introduced him to the beauty of Nature and consequently to poetry. Of this period he says: " . . . my interest was of a sentimental kind, owing to the fact that it was an unconscious sublimation of sex, and an attempt to escape from reality" (Russell 1: 40). It was by sheer accident that Bertrand discovered Shelley. He read "Alastor" secretly, as Shelley was considered unreadable by his people. Swept off his feet, reading "Alastor" Bertrand spent all his spare time learning passages from it by heart. Bertrand was also interested in Religion and Philosophy during this period. Of his religious influences Russell says: "My grand father was Anglican my grandmother was a Scotch Presbyterian, but gradually became a Unitarian. I was taken on alternate Sundays to the Episcopalian Parish Church at Petersham and to the Presbyterian Church at Richmond, while at home, I was taught the doctrines of Unitarianism" (Russell 1: 40). Bertrand was then only a fifteen-year-old boy but he began to examine systematically the fundamentals of Christian belief. Bertrand could not share his ideas with others as he hated to shock and hurt his elders at Pembroke Lodge. At the same time he suffered acutely " . . . both from the gradual loss of faith and from the need of silence" (Russell 1:40). This inability to share his ideas with others prompted him to write his "Greek Exercises."

Adolescence brought both advantages and disadvantages to the fifteen-year-old boy that Bertrand was. He found that Mathematics was his first love and he was preparing to leave the cloistered life at Pembroke Lodge and enter the open, free world of fresh experiences. His bringing up, of course, stood in the way and he found it immensely difficult to interact with the world outside the desolate walls of Pembroke Lodge. He read widely and meditated deeply on subjects as varied as Mathematics, Philosophy and Religion. However, Bertrand had already decided not to reveal all his thoughts, as that had not aroused anything but ridicule at Pembroke Lodge. The practice of repressing his thoughts had reached such a magnitude that Bertrand had to find some means to give vent to his ideas. He devised a plan by which he could transliterate his thoughts in Greek alphabets. Russellís appendix to the chapter "Adolescence" has sixteen entries from his "Greek Exercises," which was in reality a journal that he secretly maintained. They were written in the year 1888 when Russell was only sixteen. They contain mainly his arguments about Religion. Though Russell abandons most of these arguments later, the ideas recorded in his "Greek Exercises" are important autobiographically. With dates affixed above each entry, they break the narrative with their journal or memoir like structure. They stand out even in print as a smaller font has been chosen. Three photographs are included in this chapter. One shows a nine - year - old Bertrand with his elbows resting on a pile of books and two others show him as a twenty-year-old youth. The appendix and the photographs compel the reader to accept the whole autobiography as historically true and authentic. After reading the "Greek Exercises," it is not the arguments that stay in the minds of the reader but the notion that, what ever follows can be accepted as truth. It is also interesting to note that Russell has not included all the entries from his "Greek Exercises" in his autobiography. A careful selection has been made in the inclusion of the entries. It is unbelievable that religion was the only topic that young Bertrand was interested in during this time. The first entry dated 3 March 1888 says that he intends to write about some subjects that interest him. He has had the occasion to look into the very foundations of the religion on which he has been brought up. He says: "On some points my conclusions have been to confirm my former creed, while on others I have been irresistibly led to such conclusions as would not only shock my people, but have given me much pain"(Russell 1: 47-48).

In the entry dated19 March1888, he puts down the reasons based on scientific arguments for his belief in God. According to Bertrand, "the exact quantity of matter and energy now in the universe must always have been in existence . . . " (Russell 1: 48). There is no proof as to the time when the whole of the universe was a nebula. This makes it possible that matter and force now in existence may have had a creation and this could only have been done by a divine power. He calls this divine power God.

In the next entry, dated 22 March Bertrand examines the reasonableness of the reasoning seen in the previous entry. He asks, if the universe has grown by mere chance how is it that atoms act in a uniform way in a given condition. If atoms are lifeless, Bertrand says that they cannot be expected to do anything without a controlling power. This forces one to believe in God. If God is responsible for every thing, Bertrand says miracles and other manifestations of divine power seem to have no basis. The explanation Bertrand provides for this is that the maker of a law can also unmake them.

The entry of 2 April discusses the question of immortality. Bertrand says he has been disappointed and pained by the thought of the question of immortality. There are two ways of looking at it. "First by evolution and comparing men to animals and second, by comparing men with Gods. The first method is more scientific than the second is as he says that we know all about animals and nothing about Gods. According to his "scientific" argument, Bertrand says that if we give free will to man we must also give it to the protozoan. To Bertrand this is "difficult to imagine." According to this argument all living things are "simply kept going by chemical forces and are nothing more wonderful than a tree, which no one pretends has free will . . . " (Russell 1: 49). According to this view, manís actions can thus be predicted according to the constitution of his brain at any given time. Bertrand writes that this argument is absurd. From the religious point of view, he says, "free will is an arrogant thing for us to claim." He concludes the entry saying that if we cannot have free will we cannot have immortality either (Russell 1: 49).

Bertrandís reading and thinking at this stage makes it difficult for him to accept the idea of immortality. It makes him miserable to think that man is merely a kind of machine endowed with consciousness. He says that he must either be an atheist or disbelieve in immortality. As he cannot be an atheist, he decides to disbelieve in immortality and keep the secret to himself. Here one sees Bertrandís fear of his grandmother, which makes him hide his true feelings. He expresses his staunch belief in God by saying that God is great in that He was able to create laws which created life out of a mere mass of nebulous matter. Godís creations are not only conscious of themselves but can also "fathom to a certain extent Godís mysteries" (Russell 1: 49).

The entry for 14 April contains his argument about the doctrine that man has not immortality nor free will nor a soul. Unable to accept that God needed a miracle to produce life on Earth, Bertrand says that he would rather accept the idea that man is destined to perish. This entry is typical of a mind that is developing its arguments. He is uncertain of his arguments and is afraid to air his views openly.

In the entry dated 18 April, he discusses conscience. Conscience, according to Bertrand is the result of evolution and education. It forms instincts of self- preservation. As examples, he points out that the "Ten Commandments" are illustrative of primitive morality and conducive to the quiet living of the society and through that the preservation of the species. He points out that Roman law forbade widows to remain unmarried for more than a year. This is proof of the fact that even primitive morality aided the preservation of the species.

The entry for 20 April says that primitive morality originated in the idea of the preservation of the species. According to Bertrand, the rule of preservation of the species is something every civilised community ought to follow. Bertrandís view of life was influenced by utilitarianism at this time. He says: "My rule of life, which I guide my conduct by, and a departure from which I consider as a sin is to act in a manner which I believe to be most likely to produce the greatest happiness, considering both intensity of the happiness and the number of people made happy" (Russell 1: 50). This idea leads Bertrand to discuss conscience. His discussion of conscience is really a reaction to his grandmotherís disapproval of utilitarianism. His grandmother considered utilitarianism impractical and said that it was better to follow the inner voice. Bertrand says that there is nothing divine about the inner voice, as Irish men do not consider lying wrong. According to Bertrand, it is better to act so as to produce maximum happiness for all men than in any other way. It is an absurdity to follow conscience more than reason.

29 April, Bertrand vows to follow reason. Conscience or instinct inherited partly from ancestors, gained gradually by owing to a process of natural selection and partly due to education is inferior to reason, says Bertrand. It is absurd to follow conscience in the question of right and wrong. Bertrand points out that it was this conscience that prompted Bloody Mary to burn the Protestants. He says here that he intends to make his ideal that which produces the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The amateurishness of the arguments becomes obvious when he says that in his case it is possible to follow conscience, as he has had an excellent education. This ambivalence found here has its source in his fear of his grandmother and the other elders at Pembroke Lodge.

The first part of the entry of 8 May has an argument which states that there is no reason to believe in Godís kindness to man. God only "set the machine in working order to begin with and then left it to work out its own necessary consequences" (Russell 1: 52). The fact that Bertrand is touched by the prayer made by his grandmother proves that at this stage Bertrand is still influenced by religion. In the next entry dated 27 May, he writes:

It is very difficult for any one to work aright with no aid from religion, by his own internal guidance merely. I have tried and I may say failed. But the sad thing is I have no other resource. I have no helpful religion. My doctrines help my daily life no more than a formula in Algebra. But the great inducement to a good life with me is Grannyís love and the immense pain I know it gives her when I go wrong. But she must I suppose die some day and where then will be my stay? I have the very greatest fear that my life hereafter be ruined by my having lost the support of religion. (Russell 1: 53)

These are Bertrandís adolescent fears. His attachment to his grandmother makes him vacillate between theism and atheism. Here he comes to the conclusion that without religion to support him his life would be unsteady. About Christianity, he says that a new Luther is needed to invigorate it. He says, " . . . religions grow old like trees unless they are reformed from time to time. Christianity of the existing kind has had its day" (Russell 1:53).

On 3 June Bertrand wrote about his disillusionment: "One after another I find my former undoubted beliefs slipping from me into the region of doubt" (Russell 1:53). He found to his utter dismay that his search for truth shattered most of his old beliefs. Though it brought him a deeper character it made him unhappy.

The last entry of the "Greek Exercises" dated 20 July has an exalted topic for discussion. He discusses three different ways of looking at the question of Free Will. The first way is from the "omnipotence of God," the second from the "reign of law," and the third from the fact that all our actions have motives. These three ways according to Bertrand are identical. He defines Free Will: "Where several courses are open to us, we can choose any one" (Russell 1: 53). According to this definition we are not ruled by God and are independent of God. This is not impossible since the omnipotence of God is only an inference. While examining the second way of looking at freewill he says: "if man then be subject to law, does not this mean that his actions are predetermined, just as the motions of a plant or the growth of a plant?" But different people in the same circumstances act differently. With this observation, he dismisses the second way of looking at Free Will. About the third way of looking at Free Will he says: "If we examine any action we find always motives over which we have no more control than matter over the forces acting on it, which produces actions." His conclusion is: "My nature may incline me to disbelieve Free Will, and there may be excellent arguments for Free Will which either I have never thought of or else have not had their full weight with me . . . . " (Russell 1: 55). These thoughts he says had made him even consider suicide. The "Greek Exercises," on the whole, is the work of a fertile mind that is waking up to the ideas that impinge on it from the outside. The religious and the personal influences on Bertrand are so great that it is painful for him to consider changing the views held by his people. However, his own enquiries have shown him that dogmas have to be abandoned. Bertrand had the will but not the courage to abandon them at this period of his life. The arguments in "Greek Exercises" have an amateurish quality about them. His later arguments, about religion though essentially different, take their roots in the "Greek Exercises." Autobiographically, the subject has established himself as an adolescent who has a serious bent of mind and one who is interested in the issues of religion.

 


 

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