Anderson-Walker Correspondence

Anderson/Walker Correspondence 1935 – 1950

The correspondence between John Anderson and Ruth Walker between 1935 and 1950 falls into five distinct phases.

  1. The correspondence between 1935 and 1937 details their first meeting and subsequent relationship. There is little intellectual discussion during this period and little indication of emotional commitment. In his A Passion to Oppose, Brian Kennedy argued that John ‘seduced’ Ruth although there is little evidence that such a seduction actually took place. Kennedy does not explicate what he means by the notion of ‘seduction’ but if such a term implies flattery and sophistry, then clearly John was not a seducer in this sense.
  1. John and his family leave for Europe at the end of 1937 for a twelve month sabbatical and he writes to Ruth that this will be a ‘purgative period’ for them both. Although none of Ruth’s letters survive from this period, it is clear from John’s letters that the correspondence is mainly of an intellectual nature. He considers the questions of ‘the place of women in the Andersonian ethic’ and whether goods are possible in domestic life and in one of his replies he states that ‘freed sexuality, like freed thinking, would colour all one’s activities’, a statement he repeated in his 1942 paper on ‘Obscenity’ and which later became quite important for the Libertarian Society. The correspondence for this period also covers a wide range of theoretical topics including Plato, Marxism and capitalism, Freud’s Totem and Taboo, contemporary British philosophy and the political events leading up to the war.
  1. The third phase of their relationship extends from 1939 to 1943 and the correspondence is characterised by a deepening of their emotional relationship. In 1940 he confesses to Ruth that he lacks a ‘delicacy of perception in regards to other people’s feelings’ and at the start of 1941 he writes a long letter to Ruth at 4am in the morning in which he confesses to being in a ‘crisis of love’. Throughout 1941, John composes a series of love poems for Ruth and their correspondence continues in a general manner throughout 1942 and 1943, concluding with another poem by John, ‘Thought never catches love’.
  1. The next period in their correspondence dates from 1945 to 1947 and the letters are characterised by a mixture of personal reflections and observations on the nature of the Andersonian movement. In 1947 John writes to Ruth that he is inadequate at sensing her sensitivities and loneliness and her reply ‘the disinterestedness of Socrates’, demonstrates her ability to mix personal reflection with philosophic speculation. She criticises John’s relationship with his ‘disciples’ and the view of some of these disciples that Ruth is simply an ‘accommodating female’. John’s reply to this letter is another example of how Ruth stimulates John’s thinking on certain points. He states that he doesn’t think that any ‘movement’ derives from a particular person and distinguishes between the inner ring and outer ring of the Andersonian movement. He argues that those who have made the most of his theoretical material have been those who have hung off personal intimacy while those which whom he has had intimate relationships are those on a lower intellectual level.
  1. The fifth phase of their relationship occurs during 1949 and 1950. At the start of 1949 John confides to Ruth that his major problem since his childhood has been his Idealism or totalism, that he finds many things ‘puzzling’ and can’t seem to make the pieces ‘add up’ or form a single theme. He locates this difficulty in his romantic conception of love although he thinks that love does have an integrating effect. He concludes that no one but her would appreciate his ‘idealism’ or see that it could have a stimulating effect. Throughout the nineteen forties, the most interesting correspondence occurs after the A.A.P. conference at Newport in January of each year. [John’s 1940 letter stating that he ‘lacks delicacy of perception’, his 1941 love poems to Ruth, his 1947 letter where he states that his ‘mind is all mixed in with his heart’ and the 1949 letter on his ‘Idealism’, all follow a Newport conference when John and Ruth had time alone.] However the Newport conference for 1950 appears to have been a particularly difficult one for Ruth and within a few weeks she has been hospitalised after suffering a nervous breakdown. Her hospitalisation lasted until June and the success of her recovery can be gauged by her questioning of John on the issue of philosophical ‘style’ in July. His letter on ‘Humanism’ is remarkable for his comments on his ‘destructive’ criticism and ‘mere refuting mechanism’ and that there may be much of value in positions like ‘rationalism’ which cannot be shown by the mere ‘refutation’ of it as a philosophical position.

 Anderson-Walker Correspondence 1952

One of the most remarkable features of the Anderson-Walker correspondence is the correspondence written during 1952 when Ruth is on sabbatical in England. John and Ruth corresponded weekly throughout 1952 and while the letters are often of a high intellectual level, there is also room for humour and light hearted doggerel.

Leave a Reply