I’m sure Miss Manners would approve of this letter

Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists, once wrote to Bertrand Russell, apparently seeking some kind of pleasant conversation. It did not go well.

I think that’s the politest “Fuck you, scumbag” letter I’ve ever seen.


  1. says

    Sometimes you can sense the joy in telling someone to F-off in a polite manner. This one sounds painful, as if it took every fiber in his body to not bitch slap the bastard.

  2. Nullifidian says

    Well, Mosley’s aristocratic status was lower than that of Russell’s, so of course he put him down. The fact of Mosley being a scumbag was probably incidental.

    But seriously, Russell, wrote this at about 90 years of age. It was written some time after he was prevented from teaching at CUNY by misguided Christian pseudo moralists. He was still on the ball.

  3. mirrorfield says

    Lord Bertram Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl of Russell, was born in Victorian Era and was 19 years old when Queen Victoria died. He was born to one of the most prominent families of the era and grew up in Pembroke Lodge, which would give Downton Abbey, ie. Highclere Castle, at least run for it’s money on poshness stakes.

    In truth, he could have been guest starring in Downton Abbey due to his family, status and era.

    Damn right he was a gentleman. He was a gentleman of old school, of bygone era which had it’s points. Not as many as some nostalgic conservatives claim, but it did. And social snubs of that era and social strata remain unrivaled today.

  4. petesh says

    @4: You probably meant to write 29 when Victoria died — born in 1872, died in 1970. Thoroughly good egg. Jailed for actively opposing World War I:

    I found prison in many ways quite agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, “Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy”… and began the work for “Analysis of Mind”

    Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he seems to have found almost as bizarre as Bob Dylan did. And his History of Western Philosophy, while idiosyncratic, was instrumental in my passing my philosophy courses, for which I shall be forever grateful.

  5. says

    I tend to think of Bertrand Russell as a figure of my own generation, since I remember news of his arrest for civil disobedience in a nuclear disarmament demonstration. But he was then 89 years old. It blows my mind that his godfather was John Stuart Mill, who himself was born in 1806.

  6. handsomemrtoad says

    A less polite, but equally classy, way of saying “Fuck you, scumbag”:

    PG Wodehouse’s second-greatest novel, The Code of the Woosters, features a character called Roderick Spode, based on Oswald Mosley. Spode runs a fascist organization called the Black SHORTS, not shirts. They hold rallies wearing black shorts; all the shirt-colors had already been taken by other fascist organizations by the time Spode founded the Black Shorts. The narrator tells him:

    “The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

  7. mirrorfield says

    @1: I think you have that exactly backwards: Sir Oswald’s putdown IMHO had very little to do with his slightly lower social status and very much to do with the ideologies Sir Oswald was such a fervent proponent of. Especially given the date on the letter (22/1/1962) dating it to post-war, when other proponents of those ideologies were assiduously scrubbing off any traces of those ideas in their personal histories and dumping them into memory holes.

    @5: Yup. Sorry, brainfart when calculating the dates.

  8. rietpluim says

    @mirrorfield #4 – And from those points, he chose to reject those that conservatives love and keep those that conservatives hate.

  9. mnb0 says

    @2 Rietpluim: according to Paul Johnson, Intellectuals 1988 Russell had a flaw: in October 1945 he apparently wrote an article titled Human’s last chance. He advocated nuking the Soviet-Union.