Sorry things have been a little quiet on the blog since the end of January. I am in the process of rectifying this, with my review of Take the Lead coming on nicely and a piece about Riding Lights' Easter tour of Crosslight also in the works. But in the meantime, until either project comes fittingtly to fruition, I am returning to the deep well of insightful correspondence that is Letters of Note.
Bertrand Russell was a man of extraordinary intellect who fits the term of 'polymath' as well as Sir Isaac Newton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Clement Freud before him. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature, campaigned against Nazism and Stalinism, was sent to prison for protesting against nuclear weapons and delivered the inaugural Reith lectures for the BBC. But whatever subject he was tackling, one thing was consistent with Russell; his gracefulness, even when orchestrating the most withering put-down he could muster.
In 1962 Russell, then in his late-80s, received a letter from Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Mosley had largely retired from politics and was living in France, though he had recently returned to participate in a debate about immigration at University College, London, where he was seconded by the future historian-cum-Holocaust denier David Irving. Mosley's letter does not seem to have survived, but whatever was is in it prompted Russell to write back, stating calmly yet stridently how much he opposed Mosley's political views.
You can read Russell's terse yet flowery response in its entirety here. For more on polymaths, I can point you to my tribute to Clement Freud from my days on The Warwick Boar. And if you want more philosophy, or just want to be inspired, you could do a lot worse than head over to Inspiring Philosophy on YouTube, or watch this video of theirs to which I lent my C. S. Lewis impression: