Bertrand Russell is reading from his memoirs, the three-volume
She was named Alys, and she especially interested me. She was very beautiful and more emancipated than any young woman I had known, since she was at college and crossed the Atlantic alone. She was a teacher of English at Bryn Mawr and also, as I discovered, an intimate friend of Walt Whitman. She was kind, too, and made me feel not shy. I fell in love with her at first sight.
To me America seemed a romantic land of freedom, and I found in her and her family an absence of many prejudices which hampered me at home. They were Quakers, who used “thee” and “thine” in conversation, as well as with me, and I replied in kind. Yet, among them I was happy and talkative and free from timidity. They would draw me out in such a way as to make me feel quite intelligent.
With each year that passed, I became more devoted to Alys. She seemed to me to possess the simple kindness which I still cherished. I wondered whether she would remain unmarried until I grew up, for she was five years older than I was. It seemed unlikely but, I became increasingly determined that, if she did, I would ask her to marry me.
I was aware that she was not what my grandmother would call a lady, and I did at times wish my parents had lived. She said unflattering things about Alys and urged me to steer clear of what she referred to as my perilous course.
Fortunately, I came of age in May 1893, and from this moment my relations with Alys began to be something more than distant admiration. In fact, during her second visit to Cambridge, I began to think perhaps there might be happiness in human life.
It was only after breakfast, and then with infinite hesitation and alarm, that I arrived at a definite proposal, which was in those days the custom. I was neither accepted nor rejected. It did not occur to me to attempt to kiss her, or even to take her hand.
We did agree to go on seeing each other, as well as to correspond, and let time decide one way or another.
More about this monologue