Saturday, October 15, 2011

Next Up: Portraits From Memory

The Reading Bertrand Russell plan, which now appears to be a more-than-five-year plan, beckons forth Portraits From Memory and Other Essays, henceforth to be referred to as Portraits From Memory. The book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1956. My copy is a hardback, “FIRST PRINTING,” which appears to be identical to the copy at scribd. The book is 246 pages, with vi pages of preliminary material and a one page “About the Author” entry at the end. Russell’s Wikipedia entry and the Bertrand Russell Society both indicate that Portraits From Memory was published in London in 1956 by George Allen and Unwin, so perhaps there were separate British and American editions, as we have seen before with Russell. Parts of Portraits From Memory reproduce addresses broadcast by Russell over the BBC in the mid-1950s. The detailed copyright notice in my version suggests that some of the material dates from as early as 1951.

Portraits From Memory opens with something entitled “Adaptation: an Autobiographical Epitome.” I will call this Chapter One, and number the rest sequentially, but this is for my own purposes; these “chapter numbers” will be placed in parentheses after the name of each essay. Russell’s “Adaptation” is followed by a section entitled “Six Autobiographical Essays;” these essays are:

I. Why I Took to Philosophy (“Chapter” 2)
II. Some Philosophical Contacts (3)
III. Experiences of a Pacifist in the First World War (4)
IV. From Logic to Politics (5)
V. Beliefs: Discarded and Retained (6)
VI. Hopes: Realized and Disappointed (7)

The autobiographical essays are followed by two short pieces, “How to Grow Old” (8) and “Reflections on My Eightieth Birthday.” (9) Then come the nine chapters of the section titled, like the book itself, “Portraits From Memory”:

I. Some Cambridge Dons of the Nineties (10)
II. Some of My Contemporaries at Cambridge (11)
III. George Bernard Shaw (12)
IV. H. G. Wells (13)
V. Joseph Conrad (14)
VI. George Santayana (15)
VII. Alfred North Whitehead (16)
VIII. Sidney and Beatrice Webb (17)
IX. D.H. Lawrence (18)

So much for memory. After these nine chapters are placed 14 essays, most of them rather short, on assorted topics. They are:

Lord John Russell (19)
John Stuart Mill (20)
Mind and Matter (21)
The Cult of “Common Usage” (22)
Knowledge and Wisdom (23)
A Philosophy for Our Time (24)
A Plea for Clear Thinking (25)
History As an Art (26)
How I Write (27)
The Road to Happiness (28)
Symptoms of Orwell’s 1984 (29)
Why I Am Not a Communist (30)
Man’s Peril (31)
Steps toward Peace (32)

Looks like fun to me. If things go according to plan, the large number of chapters suggests that the summentary of Portraits From Memory will involve more posts than any of our previous Russell books. Onward, then.

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