A BRITISH PACIFIST WRITES FROM PRISON
3 June 1918, Bertrand Russell
To my brother Frank
Existence here is not disagreeable, but for the fact that one can't see one's friends. The one fact does make it, to me, very disagreeable - but if I were devoid of affection, like many middle-aged men. I should find nothing to dislike. One has no responsibilities, and infinite leisure.
My time passes very fruitfully. In a normal day, I do four hours' philosophical writing, four hours' philosophical reading, and four hours' general reading - so you can understand my wanting a lot of books. I have been reading Madame Roland's memoirs and have come to the conclusion that she was a very overrated woman: snobbish, vain, sentimental, envious - rather German type. Her last days before her execution were spent in chronicling petty social snubs or triumphs of many years back. She was a democrat chiefly from envy of the noblesse. Prisons in her day were more cheerful than now: she says if she were not writing her memoirs she would be painting flowers or playing an air. Pianos are not provided in Brixton. On the other hand, one is not guillotined on leaving, which is in some ways an advantage.
During my two hours' exercise I reflect upon all manner of things. It is good to have a time if leisure for reflection and altogether it is a godsend being here. But I don't want too much godsend!
I am quite happy and my mind is quite active. I enjoy the sense that the time is fruitful - after giving out all these last years, reading almost nothing and writing very little and having no opportunity for anything civilised, it is a real delight to get back to a civilised existence. But oh I shall be glad when it is over! I have given up the bad habit of imagining the war may be over some day. One must compare the time with that of the Barbarian invasion. I feel like Apollinaris Sidonius. The best one could be would be to be like St. Augustine. For the next 1,000 years people will look back to the time before 1914 as they did in the Dark Ages to the time before the Gauls sacked Rome. Queer animal, Man!
Your loving brother,