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The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. Vol. 1 (1872-1914)

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

Volume 1

Atlantic - Little Brown & Company, 1967


This is another of my random book choices found at a book giveaway. I picked it up thinking of Bernard Shaw and only realized later I was reading the Autobiography of a quite different yet very fascinating man!  If you haven't now lost faith in my seriousness as a reader, you can continue on.


Russell says things the way he thinks them, sharing witty comments regarding his wedding night as a virgin, or truths about what it is to be human, expressed with clear simplicity and beauty.


On the basic man-in-the-street:

..."even in the case of a bad poet or the Man-in-the-Street when in certain moods, if you could really understand what was in his mind it would be something astonishingly beautiful compared with what one ordinarily gets from reading a very good poem.  When I am bored with poetry, I constantly have the feeling that I am simply not understanding the man or he is not expressing himself, and that probably something very fine indeed is going on inside him.  And in some moment of special insight one might see inside him and get the fine thing."


Behind his wit and insight we see a struggle to find happiness which may have inspired his love of math. "...philosophy and mathematics, is concerned with ideal and eternal objects, and is freed from this miserable world which God has made."


In any case, marriage does not seem to provide the happiness so longed for, at least not in this volume.  "Marriage, and all such close relations, have quite infinite possibilities of pain."


Russell hints, in an introductory poem, that he eventually does find happiness in love after several attempts and marriages which end in divorce.  See posts on Volumes 2 and 3.

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