Books

Bertrand's Brother (2021)  

Biography of John Francis Stanley, 2nd Earl Russell

'A damn good book.'

Nicholas Griffin, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University.

     Frank Russell was the grandson of Prime Minister Lord John Russell and elder brother of philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell. He was, in his own right, a radical political reformer and outspoken self-determined moralist. He was also the black sheep of his illustrious family; a serial adulterer, tried for bigamy in the House of Lords, who, as a young man, had been sent down from Oxford for supposed homosexual practices.

     His accuser was his first wife, Mabel Edith, the naïve daughter of socialite and 'adventuress' Lady Selina Scott, who forced him repeatedly to defend his good name and honour at a time when male same-sex relations were reviled and sodomy punishable by up to ten years' penal servitude. Their decade long cause célèbre rivalled and was reported alongside the famous misdemeanours of Oscar Wilde.

       Russell was three times married; the last occasion being a disastrous union with the author Elizabeth von Arnim who famously embroidered him in a none-too-flattering portrait into her darkest novel Vera.

     In this first biography of Frank Russell, his colourful story is told through extensive use of private papers and contemporary public accounts. The cultural tensions and moral prejudices of the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras are explored, producing a portrait of a man vulnerable yet hubristic, well-meaning yet often offensive; a free-thinker, an aristocrat. A 'common man enlarged'.

Bertrand Russell's Brother Frank Russell

Reviews

Martin Coleman. 'The Most Extraordinary of Santayana's Friends: Review of Derham's "Bertrand's Brother".' Overheard in Seville, vol.39 (2021), pp. 173-183.

Nick Freeman. 'Even the Dogs are Shocked!' Journal of Victorian Culture, 22 Oct 2021,

https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcab047.

William Bruneau. 'Frank Russell: A Whole From The Parts.' Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies, vol. 41 no.1 (summer 2021), pp. 86-94.

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To Be Frank

The Politics and Polemics of a Radical Russell.

To Be Frank: The Politics and Polemics of a Radical Russell by Ruth Derham [cover].jpg

The 2nd Earl Russell, John Francis Stanley, described himself as a socialist and strong individualist, but primarily as innately rebellious. To this we might add rationalist, atheist, orator and persistent social campaigner. Born into privilege, raised and educated to be ‘useful’ and autonomous, Frank Russell pursued a path that brought him into conflict with the established order, spurring him to prove that he was no vacuous aristocrat but a worthy successor to his illustrious grandfather, Lord John Russell, who had twice been Prime Minister. Giving voice to his deep-seated abhorrence of injustice, Frank Russell became an early advocate of controversial causes such as divorce reform and votes for women. He was the first peer to join the Fabians and speak as a ‘candid friend’ of the burgeoning Labour Party. This collection from his desk, compiled by his biographer, illustrates Frank Russell’s diversity, humanity, humour and candour as, with similar principles but different methods to his brother, polymath Bertrand Russell, he pioneered campaigns for many rights we take for granted today.

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Works in Progress

Decadent Divorce (due 2023)

Scandal and Sensation in Victorian Britain

Peep through the keyhole of the late-Victorian divorce court to witness the intrigues of this microcosm of society, where the great aristocratic causes célèbres revealed stories of excess, decadence and disregard, arrogance and entitlement; where members of the professional classes tasted for the first time the downside of celebrity as their private lives were exposed in newspapers nationwide; and where those of the working class, who could scrape together enough money, at last found relief from abusive, deserting or unfaithful spouses. Drawing on contemporary newspaper reports, private papers, memoirs and court files, the picture that emerges from these collective stories is one of high drama, humour, pathos and tragedy, brimming with moral comment and throwing a light on social and moral preoccupations of the late-Victorian age.

The Complete Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson (due 2023)

with Sarah Green

A restored volume of Some Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson, edited and bowdlerised by Frank Russell and published by George Allen & Unwin in 1919.  This collection offers insight into Johnson's spiritual and religious development and, with previously excised passages fully restored from the original letters, demonstrates how the Brotherhood of these young man challenged orthodox sensibilities, leading ultimately to Frank Russell's sending down from Oxford for 'immoral practices'.