A letter from D. H. Lawrence to Bertrand Russell, February 1916. When the two men had met the previous year, they became fast friends, and had even planned to give a lecture series together—but their friendship quickly soured. “Gradually I discovered that he had no real wish to make the world better, but only to indulge in eloquent soliloquy about how bad it was,” Russell later wrote of Lawrence. “If anybody overheard the soliloquies so much the better, but they were designed at most to produce a little faithful band of disciples who could sit in the deserts of New Mexico and feel holy. All this was conveyed to me in the language of a fascist dictator.”
PORTHCOTHAN, ST MERRYN, CORNWALL
Saturday [February 19, 1916]
My dear Russell,
I didn’t like your letter. What’s the good of living as you do, anyway. I don’t believe your lectures are good. They are nearly over, aren’t they?
What’s the good of sticking in the damned ship and haranguing the merchant-pilgrims in their own language. Why don’t you drop overboard? Why don’t you clear out of the whole show?
One must be an outlaw these days, not a teacher or preacher. One must retire out of the herd & then fire bombs into it. You said in your lecture on education that you didn’t set much count by the unconscious. That is sheer perversity. The whole of the consciousness and the conscious content is old hat—the millstone round your neck.
Do cut it—cut your will and leave your old self behind. Even your mathematics are only dead truth: and no matter how fine you grind the dead meat, you’ll not bring it to life again.
Do stop working & writing altogether and become a creature instead of a mechanical instrument. Do clear out of the whole social ship. Do for your very pride’s sake become a mere nothing, a mole, a creature that feels its way & doesn’t think. Do for heavens sake be a baby, & not a savant any more. Don’t do anything any more—but for heavens sake begin to be—start at the very beginning and be a perfect baby: in the name of courage.
Oh, and I want to ask you, when you make your will, do leave me enough to live on. I want you to live forever. But I want you to make me in some part your heir.
We have got to clear out of this house in a week’s time. We are looking for another house. You had better come & live near us : but not if you are going to be a thinker and a worker, only if you are going to be a creature, an infant …
My love to you. Stop working and being an ego, & have the courage to be a creature.
D. H. Lawrence