Cambridge opened to me a new world of infinite delight. For the first time I found that, when I uttered my thoughts, they seemed to be accepted as worth considering. Whitehead, who had examined me for entrance scholar- ships, had mentioned me to various people a year or two senior to me, with the result that within a week I met a number who became my life-long friends. Whitehead, who was already a Fellow and Lecturer, was amazingly kind, but was too much my senior to be a close personal friend until some years later. I found a group of contemporaries, who were able, rather earnest, hard-working, but interested in many things outside their academic work— poetry, philosophy, politics, ethics, indeed the whole world of mental adven- ture. We used to stay up discussing till very late on Saturday nights, meet for a late breakfast on Sunday, and then go for an all-day walk. Able young men had not yet adopted the pose of cynical superiority which came in some years later, and was first made fashionable in Cambridge by Lytton Strachey. The world seemed hopeful and solid; we all felt convinced that nineteenth- century progress would continue, and that we ourselves should be able to contribute something of value. For those who have been young since 1914 it must be difficult to imagine the happiness of those days. Continue reading ”Bertand Russell – My mental development (Cambridge)”
During these years I read widely, but as my reading was not directed, much of it was futile. I read much bad poetry, especially Tennyson and Byron; at last, at the age of seventeen, I came upon Shelley, whom no one had told me about. He remained for many years the man I loved most among great men of the past. I read a great deal of Carlyle, and admired Past and Present, but not Sartor Resartus. ‘The Everlasting Yea’ seemed to me sentimental nonsense. The man with whom I most nearly agreed was Mill. His Political Economy, Liberty, and Subjection of Women influenced me profoundly. I made elaborate notes on the whole of his Logic, but could not accept his theory that mathematical propositions are empirical generalizations, though I did not know what else they could be.
All this was before I went to Cambridge. Except during the three months when I had the Agnostic tutor mentioned above, I found no one to speak to about my thoughts. At home I concealed my religious doubts. Once I said that I was a Utilitarian, but was met with such a blast of ridicule that I never again spoke of my opinions at home.
You see, I’m approaching a pass in the Alps, and here the northern, German architecture, and the German countryside, and the German language come to an end.
How lovely it is to cross such a boundary. The wandering man becomes a primitive man in so many ways, in the same way that the nomad is more primitive than the farmer. But the longing to get on the other side of everything already settled, this makes me, and everybody like me, a road sign to the future. If there were many other people who loathed the borders between countries as I do, then there would be no more wars and blockades. Nothing on earth is more disgusting, more contemptible than borders. They’re like cannons, like generals: as long as peace, loving kindness and peace go on, nobody pays any attention to them — but as soon as war and insanity appear, they become urgent and sacred. While the war went on, how they were pain and prison to us wanderers. Devil take them!
Once again I love deeply everything at home, because I have to leave it. Tomorrow I will love other roofs, other cottages. I won’t leave my heart behind me, as they say in love letters. No, I am going to carry it with me over the mountains, because I need it, always. I am a nomad, not a farmer. I am an adorer of the unfaithful, the changing, the fantastic. I don’t care to secure my love to one bare place on this earth. I believe that what we love is only a symbol. Whenever our love becomes too attached to one thing, one faith, one virtue, then I become suspicious.
Så kom en vacker dag en handelsresande, som förr varit teatersångare, och när han fick höra Klang, så blev han så förtjust att han bjöd Klangen ut på en kolifej om aftonen.
Och de slog käglor, de åt kräftor med dill, de drack punsch, och de sjöng framför allt.
Mellan skål och vägg och när de druckit duskål sade handelsresanden:
– Varför går du inte till teatern?
– Jag? svarte Klang; inte kan jag nu det?
– Du skall säga: jag vill! så kan du.
Det var en ny lärdom, ty sedan han var tre år, hade unge Klang inte begagnat orden ”jag” och ”vill”.
Nu tordes han varken vilja eller önska, och han bad icke få bli frestad mera.
Men handelsresanden kom igen, många gånger, och hade storsångare med sig. Frestelsen blev för stark; och Klangen tog sitt parti en afton, då han blivit applåderad av en riktig professor.
Så tog han avsked av patronen, och vid ett glas tackade han sin vän handelsresanden, som återgivet honom självförtroendet och viljan; ”viljan, denna järnstång i ryggen, som håller människan upprätt att hon icke faller ner på de fyra”. Och aldrig skulle han glömma sin vän, som lärt honom tro på sig själv.
11 August 1838
You, sovereign queen of my heart, Regina,
hidden in the deepest secrecy of my breast, in the fullness of my life-idea, there where it is just as far to heaven as to hell—unknown divinity!
O, can I really believe the poets when they say that the first time one sees the beloved object he thinks he has seen her long before, that love like all knowledge is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament.
Everywhere, in the face of every girl, I see features of your beauty, but I think I would have to possess the beauty of all the girls in the world to extract your beauty, that I would have to sail around the world to find the portion of the world I want and toward which the deepest secret of my self polarically points—and in the next moment you are so close to me, so present, so overwhelmingly filling my spirit that I am transfigured to myself and feel that here it is good to be.
You blind god of erotic love! You who see in secret, will you disclose it to me? Will I find what I am seeking here in this world, will I experience the conclusion of all my life’s eccentric premises, will I fold you in my arms, or: Do the Orders say: March on? Have you gone on ahead, you, my longing, transfigured do you beckon to me from another world? O, I will throw everything away in order to become light enough to follow you.
Manchester, June 21, 1865
My heart’s beloved:
I am writing you again, because I am alone and because it troubles me always to have a dialogue with you in my head, without your knowing anything about it or hearing it or being able to answer…
Momentary absence is good, for in constant presence things seem too much alike to be differentiated. Proximity dwarfs even towers, while the petty and the commonplace, at close view, grow too big. Small habits, which may physically irritate and take on emotional form, disappear when the immediate object is removed from the eye. Great passions, which through proximity assume the form of petty routine,grow and again take on their natural dimension on account of the magic of distance. So it is with my love. You have only to be snatched away from me even in a mere dream, and I know immediately that the time has only served, as do sun and rain for plants, for growth.
The moment you are absent, my love for you shows itself to be what it is, a giant, in which are crowded together all the energy of my spirit and all the character of my heart. It makes me feel like a man again, because I feel a great passion; and the multifariousness, in which study and modern education entangle us, and the skepticism which necessarily makes us find fault with all subjective and objective impressions, all of these are entirely designed to make us all small and weak and whining. But love – not love for the Feuerbach-type of man, not for the metabolism, not for the proletariat – but the love for the beloved and particularly for you, makes a man again a man…
There are many females in the world, and some among them are beautiful. But where could I find again a face, whose every feature, even every wrinkle, is a reminder of the greatest and sweetest memories of my life? Even my endless pains, my irreplaceable losses I read in your sweet countenance, and I kiss away the pain when I kiss your sweet face…
Good-bye, my sweet heart. I kiss you and the children many thousand times.
A secred turning in us
makes the universe turn.
Head unawere of feet,
and feet head.
They keep turning.