Bertrand's Brother (2021)
'A damn good book.'
Nicholas Griffin, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University.
Biography of John Francis Stanley, 2nd Earl Russell
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'.
Frank Russell led a colourful and eventful existence, which has too long been overshadowed by that of his younger brother Bertrand. Ruth Derham has done an exemplary job of detailing Frank's controversial life and ably demonstrates that he was an important figure in his own right, deserving of such attention.
Tim Madigan, ex-President of the Bertrand Russell Society
Praise & Reviews for 'Bertrand's Brother'
Ruth Derham is a fine writer. This book has given me a much broader perspective on the period and filled out well people I knew abstractly. It has given me a richer perspective on Santayana too.
Martin Coleman, Director and Editor of the Santayana Edition
Frank's history is related in a convincing and clear way with a thoroughness of research that requires real dedication. I particularly admire the interwoven explanations of background issues at appropriate places and the discussions of legal issues which were easy for me, a layman, to follow.
John G. Slater, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto and Editor of five volumes of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell
To Be Frank (2022)
In 1916, Frank Russell - grandson of former British Prime Minister Lord John Russell and member of one the most illustrious of aristocratic families - publicly declared himself 'a socialist and strong individualist'. Neither were usual for a peer of the realm. But then was anything about Frank conventional? From his sending down from Oxford for supposed homosexual practices, to his ten year cause célèbre in the divorce court, his trial for bigamy in the House of Lords and his subsequent campaigns for divorce law reform, women's suffrage, motorists' rights and birth control, Frank followed his own rebellious path. Read all about his diverse campaigns in his own words in this collection from his desk which reveal his 'frankness', thoughtfulness and humanity and wonder how it is you've probably never heard of him.
Decadent Divorce (due 2024)
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
with Sarah Green (2024)
Lionel Johnson, Decadent poet and critic, was one of the leading voices of the British 1890s. When he died suddenly at the age of 35, his old school friend Frank Russell – brother to Bertrand Russell and by then a radical member of the House of Lords – published a series of Johnson’s early letters as Some Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson (1919). Carefully edited and anonymized, Russell claimed that these letters showed ‘the true Lionel’, rather than the ‘later genius’, to be a ‘loving, suffering man, burning with zeal to help and comfort his fellow-sufferers in the world’. But why were the correspondents anonymized? What was missing from those edited sections? Were there aspects of the friendship Russell wished to conceal?
This edition restores for the first time the full text of Johnson’s Winchester Letters from the recently discovered originals. Instead of pronouncements from a young prophet, these letters reveal something altogether more human, as four young men navigate some of the biggest questions of their day. Was religion still possible or desirable? Did sin still exist? And when did love of one’s friends become something more?