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#Russell_as_a_Prose_Writer

Bertrand Russell is by all respects, a productive prose writer, who wrote


abundantly. He is the prominent writer of present century who wrote on a variety
of subjects of human interest, with great zeal and zest. He expressed his acumen
and writing power in a forceful and logical style. He wrote almost on everything
and there was hardly a human problem, which remained untouched by him.
Basically he was a mathematician and his grand, epoch-making contribution to his
subject was published in three volumes. Principa Mathematica in collaboration
with professor Whitehaed, which is verily a landmark in the history of
mathematics. His scientific and mathematical skill together endowed him with
approach to speak and write with perfect proficiency.
The fineness and beauty of his style depends mainly on clarity of his thoughts.
There is no confusion or complexity. A rich coffer of knowledge made him upright
and honest in his opinions.
Whenever Russell takes to writing on a subject, he adopts a systematic way for a
successful production. About his own method of writing, he says:
If I were to write upon some rather difficult topic, the best plan is to think about is
with very great interest------ the great intensity of which I am capable----- for a few
hours or days, and at the end of that time give orders, so to speak, that the work is
to proceed under ground. After some months, I return consciously to the topic and
find that the work has been done. Before I had discovered this technique, I used to
spend the intervening months worrying because I was making no progress, I
arrived at the solution none the sooner for this worry and the intervening months
were wasted, whereas now I can devote to other pursuits.
(The Conquest of Happiness, page 50).
The above-mentioned reference indicates that Russell was convinced of clarity of
thought and fluency of expression. His thoughts were always clear and his style
always chaste, transparent and lucid. The clarity of thought and neatness of
expression were the two things, out of which, he developed a charming style,
which left indelible imprints on the readers mind.
Unity of Thoughts
The second salient feature of Russells style is the unity of thought. The discipline
of logic and mathematics taught him the principle of unity of thought. Like a
mathematical premise, his arguments start from a well-affirmed basic assumption
and then he proceeds step by step to the logical conclusion of his arguments. A fine
coherence exists in his arguments. Each argument is related to the preceding one
like the anxious of Euclid. So the conclusion drawn is the logical outcome of his
arguments.
The Exact Use of Words
Russells ideal scientific inclination enables him to make an exact and perfect use
of words. He uses words, which are rich, pure, clear and transparent. There is no
ambiguity or obscurity. If some ambiguity occurs somewhere he clarifies it in the
following sentences. He avoids excessive use of words. He words are small in
number but rich in meaning. He avoids empty rhetoric, and produces a charm of
writing with modest use of words.
Long Sentences
Russell usually uses lengthy and elaborate sentences to maintain his unity of
thought. He is fully aware of this aspect of his style and therefore does not let the
length of sentence harm the fluency of writing. From beginning to the end, his
thoughts go steadily, and with pleasant rhythm and coherence. His style poses a
medium though which his thoughts flow smoothly. There is not dullness, but
sweetness in his writing, relished by the readers.
Simplicity of Language
Setting aside bombastic and pompous language, he insists on simplicity and effect
of expression. He hardly uses excessive synonymous words to make the sentence
tedious and tasteless. That is why his writing is not monotonous and dull, rather
sweet and pleasant, relished interestingly by the readers. He adopts convincing and
simple style which touch the core of readers heart directly. He rarely uses
excessive synonyms to make the sentence monotonous and boring. However his
sentences are long and dilated. He unfurls his thoughts through the long sentences
to preserve the unity of thought. Russell could not help it because he wrote on
solemn and grave subjects, which demanded an interlinked unity of thoughts and
arguments. It is not an easy job to dwell upon sober and grave subjects and
maintaining the simplicity of description and clarity of thoughts. But Russell
manipulated it with proficiency. He diminished the gravity of subject with
simplicity and lucidity of words and produced a style, which was unique but
familiar, scholarly and easy.
Seriousness
Almost all his writings retain the seriousness of the subject, but as we have pointed
out earlier, his writing does not bear his personal emotional effect. He was among
the greatest humanists of 20th century who deeply felt the pain and problems of
humanity. He set forth a practical philosophy of human life and all his life
preached for it. But again he was a not a traditional preacher like an old type
dogmatic clergy. It was his intellectual vision, broadmindedness and impersonal
attitude towards human problems, which made him a sober, prolific and high
profile writer. The deepness of his outlook actually made his style heart-felt and
effective. He was much concerned for the humanity surrounded by horrible
problems. There was a possible danger of nuclear war after the invention of
nuclear weapons, world population was growing at an alarming rate, natural
resources were running out fast and the likelihood of calamities and famines was
hanging like Damocles sword on the head of humanity.
Furthermore the endless ideological clash between the two great super powers of
the world and its formidable effects on mankind, particularly on the developing
countries did not let him attain a peace of mind. He sensed the danger of all these
problems on and clamored for it through his writing. He also deplored the follies of
man done in the past and showed his deep concern for the imminent calamities. His
heart was teeming with sympathy and love for humanity. He contemplated on the
human follies, problems and hardships and always thought of their solutions.
His Humor and Satire
A serious discussion, how much important it may be, makes a write-up dull and
boring. In spite of high seriousness, Russells style is tinged with cheerfulness and
humor. His writing bears a highly intellectual and scholarly style, with a humorous
touch. But his humor does not go outrageous or overboard. His writing never
becomes disgusting rather is remains optimistic and lively with a ray of hope. This
humor has a reformative aspect, which not only pinpoints human blunders, but also
suggests a solution, with a hope for improvement in future. For example, when
describing the opposition of the clergy against the scientific inventions towards the
end of nineteenth century, when Franklin invented the lightning rod, he writes:
When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, the Clergy both in England
and America, with enthusiastic support of God to punish impiety or some other
grave sin---- the virtuous are never struck by lightning. Therefore if God wants to
strike anyone, Benjamin Franklin ought not to defeat His design, indeed to do so is
to help criminals to escape. But was equal to the occasion. If we are believe the
eminent Dr. Price, one of the leading divines of Boston. Lightning having been
rendered ineffectual by the iron points invented by the sagacious Dr. Franklin,
Massachusetts was shaken by earthquakes, which Dr. Price perceived to be due to
Gods wrath at the Iron Point. In a sermon on the subject he said, In Boston are
more erected than elsewhere in New England, and Boston seems to be of God
Apparently, however, Providence gave up all hopes of curing Boston of its
wickedness, for though lightning rods became more and more common,
earthquakes in Massachusetts have remained rare. Nevertheless, Dr. Prices point
of view, or something very like it, was still held by one of the most influential men
of recent times. When there were several bad earthquakes in India, Mahatma
Gandhi solemnly warned his compatriots that these disasters had been sent as
punishment for their sins. (Unpopular Essay page 85-86) The above detailed
account shows sharpness of his humor and satire using which, how beautifully he
exposes he follies of dogmatism.
Ornate Style
Though Russells style is generally marked with clarity and brevity, yet he a
capable of writing florid and embellished language, to prove his artistic command
on writing. His only celebrated essay The Free Man Worship published in his
book Mysticism and Logic is a nice expression of his flowery and ornate style,
which is an ample proof of his nice taste and command on English language.
Most of his writings are thoughtful and argumentative in nature, but it does not mar
his clarity and fluency. The unity of thoughts pours out of his pen with a symmetry
and harmony to make his description weighty and chaste. The excellent example of
Russells descriptive style is seen in his own autobiography. It describes his life
history narrated in an attractive, simple and appealing way, which is read by the
readers with great interest.
In short: Russell can be regarded as one of the greatest prose-writers of 20th
century, who wrote on a variety of subjects relating to human life with a great
writing skill. Clarity, simplicity, fluency and harmony are the salient features of his
style. He skillfully expresses unity of thought along with his unity of style.