Sunday, January 29, 2012

Portraits From Memory, "Chapter" Eleven

“Some of My Contemporaries at Cambridge,” pages 67-74

“From the moment that I went up to Cambridge at the beginning of October 1890, everything went well with me [p. 67].” Russell quickly made the acquaintance of many people who became intimate friends. The opening paragraph of this chapter provides a sketch of Charles Sanger, whom Russell met that first week in Cambridge and with whom he remained close until Sanger’s demise in 1930. “I have never known anyone else with such a perfect combination of penetrating intellect and warm affection [p. 68].” The description of Sanger is followed by admiring stories of the brothers Theodore and Crompton Llewelyn Davies. (Russell doesn’t note it, but these brothers were uncles to the boys who served as the inspiration for Peter Pan.) Theodore, in the midst of a thriving career in government, died at the age of 34 in 1905. Crompton “was one of the wittiest men that I have ever known, with a great love of mankind combined with a contemptuous hatred for most individual men [p. 70].” Next up for Russell is J. M. E. McTaggart, whom we met in "Chapter" Two. McTaggart was a shy but respected Hegelian. McTaggart broke with Russell due to Bertie’s views on WWI, and worked (successfully) at revoking Russell’s lectureship. [Russell refers to Sanger and McTaggart, incidentally, only by their surnames.]

In his third year at Cambridge, Russell met the first-year student G. E. Moore, “and for some years he fulfilled my ideal of genius [p. 72].” Moore was purity personified, and was virtually incapable of lying. He would repeatedly burn his fingers trying to light a pipe, because he would be distracted by argumentation after he struck the match but before he lit the pipe.

Charles, Bob, and George Trevelyan became friends of Bertie’s, especially Bob. “Bob Trevelyan was, I think, the most bookish person that I have ever known [p. 73].” Bob preferred books to virtually all non-reading pursuits. Bertie names but says little about some other friends, including Roger Fry, and the somewhat younger E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and Maynard Keynes. Life was fun and friend-filled. “It was a generation that I am glad to have belonged to [p. 74].”

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