When Mr. Apollinax visited the United States
His laughter tinkled among the teacups.
I thought of Fragilion, that shy figure
among the birch-trees,
And of Priapus in the shubbery
Gaping at the lady in the swing.
T. S. Eliot, from Mr. Apollinax
Thee will find out in time that I have a great love of professing vile sentiments, I don't know why, unless it springs from long efforts to avoid priggery.
Bertrand Russell to Alys Pearsall Smith, 1894
It must have been extraordinary, being Bertrand Russell. Born in an isolated spot near Trelleck, Wales, in 1872 when Victoria still had twenty-nine years to reign, he lived on in robust health until 1970. He lived, in other words, from the zenith of the British Empire through its gradual dismemberment and dissolution. A young adult when the Boer War broke out in 1899, he was a vigorous nonagenarian when the Vietnam War was being prosecuted in earnest. In his lifetime he saw the extension of the franchise to women, two world wars, the appearance of electric lights, telephones, movies, the automobile, the airplane, computers, and manned space travel, not to mention antibiotics and open-heart surgery. His first wife knew and corresponded with Walt Whitman; his fourth and last, whom he married when he was seventy-nine, helped him campaign for nuclear disarmament.
Of course, unusual longevity was hardly the only conspicuous thing about Bertrand Arthur William Russell; there was also his illustrious Whig family, his prodigious intellectual gifts and achievements, and his inveterate campaigning for all manner of progressive causes, from female suffrage, pacifism, and birth control to world government and humanistic atheism.
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