Famous Marriages Bertrand Russell & Alla Pearsall Smith Part 3

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


Bertrand Russell and Alys Pearsall Smith

Happily Ever After: Though Alys had in theory defended free love whenever she had had the opportunity, she was determinedly hesitant to sacrifice her virginity on her honeymoon. Thanks to her fanatically, often maliciously religious mother, Alys considered sex dirty and lust a curse to marriage. She believed that intercourse was strictly for propagation, and since they'd already decided to remain childless, sex promised to be a rare event. But Bertrand wasn't having any of that nonsense, not after gritting his teeth through 22 years of virginity. He reported later that, due to his insistence, they caught on fast. When they eventually decided to have children, it turned out that Alys was sterile.

The marriage went smoothly for several years. For Bertrand it was a great intellectual period, a time of fruitful work unhampered by emotional drain. He and Alys traveled extensively in Europe and America. She spent a good deal of time speaking to temperance and suffrage groups. He lectured at various universities, published two books, and began work on his monumental Principles of Mathematics.

One day in 1901, while Russell was riding his bicycle along a country road, he suddenly realized he no longer loved Alys. His feelings had probably been changing for some time before he realized it. As Lady Russell had predicted, Alys's quaint Quaker mannerisms, her earnestness about "good work," and her American vulgarisms had often embarrassed him. His great intellectual awakening had left her far behind. And he had finally admitted to himself that Alys was not the saint he'd taken her to be.

Though they grew apart after that day, he stayed with her--sleeping in a separate bed--for ten years. In 1911, while she raged at him for telling her about a newfound love, he rode away on his bicycle and never came back. They were divorced in 1921.

They didn't meet again till 1949. Alys, then 81, had remained true to him, never remarrying. She had kept track of his career and had occasionally attended his lectures unnoticed. Russell, now a widely read philosopher on the subjects of love and marriage, had been through three additional marriages as well as numerous affairs. An international figure, he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and the king of England had conferred upon him the Order of Merit. After Alys had arranged his 78th birthday party in 1950, she wrote him a letter in which she said, "I am utterly devoted to thee, and have been for over 50 years."

Russell died in Wales on Feb. 2, 1970, three months before his 98th birthday.

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