Bertrand Russell: Prose Style

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Bertrand Russell: Prose Style

Post by Archer on Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:28 am

Bertrand Russell is one of the greatest masters of English Prose. He revolutionized not only the subject matter but also the mode of expression. He has in him a happy blend of greatest philosopher and a great writer. He was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. The subject matter of his essays may be very difficult but his manner of expression is so lucid and simple that even a layman can understand him without any special difficulty. It is a rare privilege which only few prose masters enjoy. The precision and clarity which Russell’s prose style possesses are very rare in the bulk of English prose.

Russell has justly been regarded as one of the great prose stylists of the 20th century. Although he is not a literary writer yet his work devoted mainly to problems of philosophy, ethics, morality, political, social life and economics, etc. impresses us greatly by its literary qualities.

Of course, Russell's style sometimes becomes difficult for the average reader who comes across sentences which he has read for more than once in order to get the meaning. Russell’s style appeals mainly to our intellects and very little to our feelings or emotions. He uses words simply as tools, to convey his meaning plain and effective and not to produce any special effects. It is not a coloured or gorgeous style. Nor is there any passion in it. It is somewhat cold.

There are no “jeweled phrases” in his writings nor sentences over which we would like to linger with the aesthetic pleasure. Russell’s style is intellectually brilliant. He can condense an idea or a thought in a few words if he so desires. Russell is always direct, simple and lucid. He knows that the complexity of expression leads to ambiguity. Nothing can be more lucid than such opening lines:

“Happiness depends partly upon external circumstances and partly upon oneself.”
“Of all the institutions that have come down to us from the past, none is so

Archer
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