Famous Marriages Bertrand Russell & Alla Pearsall Smith Part 2

About the marriage between philosopher Bertrand Russell and Alla Pearsall Smith, history of their proposal and wedding.


Bertrand Russell and Alys Pearsall Smith

Lord and Lady Russell hit the roof when he told them about the engagement. They called the 26-year-old Alys "no lady, a baby snatcher, a low-class adventuress . . . whose vulgarity would perpetually put [Bertrand] to shame." To dissuade him further, they called the family doctor, a muttonchopped Scotsman, to the ancestral estate to tell Bertie about the history of insanity and instability in the Russell family. His aunt was subject to hallucinations, his uncle was mad, and his own father had been an epileptic before his death.

These exaggerated tales plunged young Bertrand into a depression. He saw madness everywhere and feared his own latent insanity. He worried about one of Alys's strange uncles and the quirks he'd observed in her parents, and wondered seriously if their marriage would produce a madhouse of idiots. Alys, however, ingeniously put these fears to rest during one of their walks. She said they'd simply have a childless marriage.

Bertrand rushed back to his grandparents to tell them the good news. Again they brought in the doctor, this time to give him a gloomy lecture about the injurious effects contraceptives had on health. Lady Russell even hinted from the wings that contraceptives had contributed to his father's epilepsy.

When this ruse failed, Lady Russell resorted to another stalling tactic. Glumly clinking her numerous medicine bottles, she told him that since she had so little time left on earth, he and Alys owed it to her to consider a trial separation. Lord John she added, had persuaded the ambassador to Paris to offer Bertrand the post of honorary attache. If their love withstood the test of his absence, she would no longer oppose the marriage.

Wedding: Bertrand agreed to go to Paris. The family sent his older brother along to keep tabs on him. After three months of dull paperwork, Bertrand hurried back to Alys. They were married on Dec. 13, 1894, in a simple London Quaker meeting, "without being congratulated by a host of silly fools who don't think in their hearts that we are to be congratulated." None of the Russells showed up, and Lady Russell notified her grandson in a pleasant but cool letter that he had been disinherited.

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