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Interview with Bertrand Russell and Phyllis Evans Part 2

BROADCAST: 1962 | DURATION: 00:34:10


Interviewing Bertrand Russell and Phyllis Evans while Studs was in England.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel The Bangor, Wales to London train, change at Crewe, will be coming by in about five minutes. We're sitting in the refreshment room at the depot right now, and, oh, it's, what is it, it's about, just about 20 to four, seven minutes, so. Phyllis Evans, as we're seated here and you're seeing us off at the train, you talked about National Health, in five minutes, the state of women in Wales, now I'm thinking Clancy Sigal, the writer, was saying that women of England seem more placid, seem to accept the secondary status more placidly than do the American women. The women of Wales, you have been, you're an American girl and now you're a Welsh housewife.

Phyllis Evans Well, I would agree with him completely. There is much more placidity. I think part of this is due --

Studs Terkel More placidity where?

Phyllis Evans Oh, here, here. In this country.

Studs Terkel In Wales.

Phyllis Evans In Wales, yes. Wales is frequently referred to as a matriarchal society, as some people say America is. The mother is apparently the subsidiary figure and in, let's say, 20, 30 years ago, the occupations were very well-defined. The father went out to work and made the living and the mother did everything to do in the house and the children, which meant bringing in the coal, polishing your husband's shoes before he went to work, that sort of thing. My husband never polished his own shoes until he was married. And I flatly said that as a jolly good American. I wasn't going to polish his shoes.

Studs Terkel You retrained him.

Phyllis Evans Well, between us we got him retrained. But I think, I've been thinking a lot about this business of the difference, and I think a good part of it is education. I know there have been a lot of things said about the American educational system. There's been a lot of re-examining of the American system. They say we don't specialize enough, we don't work our kids hard enough, and so on, but one thing I've noticed since I've been back here, and this is a tremendous difference: 25 percent of our high school kids go on to further education, university or college. Now in this country, in Wales and Great Britain as a whole, 5 percent go on to further education, and in general, those will tend to be boys rather than girls. If you have a family with a boy and a girl, a daughter and a son, and let's say the daughter is much more able than the son, the son will nevertheless be the one to get the university education. They'll send him to cram school, if necessary, to get him through so that he will have the degree so that he can get the better job, whereas in actual fact the daughter has the brains of the two. I have friends who are in exactly that position. And I think that because they don't take education for women, or haven't in the past taken education for women seriously enough, you have a group of women who don't develop any strong opinions of their own on anything except housework and children. They're acknowledged to be supreme on how to keep the house going and how to budget for the food and so on, but most of my friends, and now this is 1962. Most of my friends in the 20 to 40 age group do not, in fact, I'm the only woman I know who has a joint checking account with her husband. The rest of them, the husband has the checking account and he gives the wife so much per week as a housekeeping allowance, and, in general, I mean, she takes what he gives her, and if she wants something to spend on herself, something she considers essential but he doesn't, well then she has to save it out of the housekeeping so that she is still being treated a little bit as a chattel, a child who, you know, isn't quite mature enough to understand these things.

Studs Terkel So there is no difference, then, you say, between Wales and England, as far as the status, basically it's the same.

Phyllis Evans Basically the

Studs Terkel same, yes. I wonder if just how much of a difference there is between this and America. I don't mean this matter, of difference of opinion. This becomes a personal matter, doesn't it? I mean a difference of opinion as to world outlook or matters sociological. This is individual I think all over the world.

Phyllis Evans But one of the things that, you see, this is coming back to this business about education, in general, the British women will vote as her husband votes. Now, this is not --

Studs Terkel This is basically so in America, too, with exceptions, don't you think so?

Phyllis Evans Well, again I'm talking now about the 25 percent who are the so-called educated classes. You get there, and she may very well vote as her husband does because she is apt to choose a man whose ideals are the same as hers.

Studs Terkel On this point, apt to choose a man whose ideals are the same as hers, doesn't the Welsh woman have that particular choice?

Phyllis Evans It's oddly enough far more limited here. You're very apt to find a university man who will marry a nurse or a clerk or someone like that. In other words, he would have had a university education and she will not. So that instead of discussing with him and making up her mind, she does what he tells her.

Studs Terkel This is our train. Phyllis, thank you very much for everything! [pause in recording] Some several hours later now, back in the London hotel room might be as good a time as any to take some inventory of much of what's happened thus far. I suppose the first thing to do would be describe Bertrand Russell. A delicate, small-boned, charming, gracious man, laughs a good deal, seems to have a, still retains a good sense of humor, and one of the ladies tried to open one of the windows to let the dog in. Seems that Lord Russell's dog was sort of scratching at the door trying to get in. Russell wouldn't let her open the window, he insisted opening it himself, one of those high French windows, and he did it without any difficulty. In fact, the 90 years didn't show at all; or hardly at all. He insisted on raking the fire himself. One time difficulty in getting up out of the chair suddenly, but that's about the only time his age really showed, but his charm all the time and his ease. I was much surprised at the smallness of his size. But primarily it's, he's almost as china doll in build, I'd say.

Woman in room Very erect.

Studs Terkel Very erect is the word from another quarter of this room. Certainly that. As far as the Wales trip is concerned, the trip by automobile from Penrhyndeudraeth to Bangor, was the scene of probably the most beautiful rolling landscape I've ever seen. Green was certainly the dominant color, at time there was some autumnal brown, but way up on the distant peaks were some bits of snow to be seen, but that's about the only sign that winter is here or close to the winter season. I guess too, as far as Wales is concerned, taken with a kind of contrast between the tall mounds of slate here with the quarries that you saw cast o'er with a sickly hue and that seemed the only non-natural part of the landscape and it seemed too, ill, the small fences, the small walls, stone, all stone, and built without cement seemed to have been put together in a jigsaw manner and this principle followed down through the ages and all seemed to be part of one architectural design, too. There were small pasture lands surrounded by these similar stone fences, stone walls, and apparently the law of primogeniture was never practiced in Wales, and so all the sons equally inherited the father's estate. And thus it is the small pasture lands, sheep all over the place, one or two rams. The mountains, tall, didn't realize how tall the peaks were in Wales, told here that the Mt. Everest climbers often do their practicing in this, in these regions, and quite a number of casualties each year. The mountains look pretty fierce. About London, England, smoking as much as ever, it seems, despite the administrations of the government's posters all over the place, and very effective and graphic posters they are, too, about the ills caused by cigarettes, but nonetheless the cigarettes are being puffed away, it seems, almost perversely by the London citizenry, and cigarettes, incidentally, are much more expensive than they are in America. The one thing you find easy to ride are the subways, they call 'em the tubes here. The tubes. And even I, even I have no difficulty. Everything seems to be so well-planned, you're directed to a certain track, you know what train is coming, it's listed, next train, the train to be coming, the where you are. Signs of that all over the place and each subway train or tube train has a diagram on the wall which you can look at, and you see where your station is three stops from now, four stops from now. I mean, I haven't gone wrong yet, and if I haven't gone wrong, boy, then anybody, anybody can ride the tube. The taxicabs are very good to ride in. They seem like old-fashioned limousines. The cab rates are much, much less than they are in Chicago. And each of the cab drivers seems well, with few exceptions, they're very staid middle-aged guys, there's some young guys, too, from the East End of London, you could tell from the dialect who are driving the cabs, too, and they're very informative. I think they all seem to know the streets. They don't carry any directories with them, now and then they tend to get lost, especially if you talk to them, as I have a tendency to do. They like to talk, but you run the risk of their getting lost, and this has happened several times. [pause in recording] On the subject of Wales again, perhaps didn't accentuate enough the fact that there's a contrast between the mountains and valleys and you couldn't help but think of the Llewellyn novel, "How Green Was My Valley". There was a road driven a long distance, a road along the mountainside. And this was the old Roman road. They called it Whateley Avenue now. A street, Whateley Avenue along the mountainside, what -- As you thought of those old Roman road, you couldn't help but think of what those soldiers must have thought, too, coming from a sunny clime to Wales perhaps during some inclement weather that we're not having now. And indeed they must have cursed the weather, their fate, and their generals, some Roman private, some Roman G.I. at the time. You see that road he walked. [pause in recording] Oh, I have to tell you about teatime, that must be described. Well, in the case of Ivy Compton-Burnett, it was understood even though we came at four that there would be some time out. So as I sat talking to this little old lady in the Charlotte Bronte-like flat of hers, with these tall ceilings, way up and a mirror high against the wall and somewhat dimly lit, the fireplace half glowing, you had the feeling you were in the home of Jane Eyre and there she's looking at you like a very alert-eyed little mouse, asking questions, looking about. And then she said, "Didn't you hear the bell?" I said, "No, I didn't hear any bell." "Didn't you hear the bell?" "No, I didn't hear the bell." And then the little bell tinkled. The lady had tea ready, and there's Miss Compton-Burnett serving the tea, the little cozy covering to keep it warm. And then it comes in various phases. There are the, well, she was serving bread and jam and then came the ginger cake, and you get pretty filled up with it, because supper is later, sometime about eight o'clock, I guess, in London. I must tell you about tea, though, on the train, see. It says tea, so you think you're going to go for a cup of tea, you know, you figure, why not. And then there's the tea. And then there are the little half-sandwiches that are served, you see. Then he comes around again, the steward, and you're still drinking the tea and you finished the little sort of ladyfinger-style sandwiches, and he comes along with teacakes, that's something else, with jam, a variety. When you finish the teacakes, you feel, well, that's it. You know, you just finished the tea. He comes along with bread and jam. You finish the bread and jam, you're about to get up, he comes along with biscuits. Or it could be a ginger cake of some sort. Well, you've got to be polite, so you finish that, by that time you open the notch in your belt. But you're told this is tea, and you just finished eating and you always wonder why the, how come the Englishmen aren't fatter than they are, why is the caricature of an Englishman that of someone who is slim, aside from that of a Colonel Blimp. It doesn't seem to match. Maybe because many Englishmen don't eat in this manner. I don't know. [pause in recording] I think A.S. Neill should be described. In -- At the very beginning of the interview, I think I remember saying "Mr. Neill seated in his armchair" that might have given the impression of a rather comfortable flat or something. Not at all. It was a ragged chair in the middle of the room with some Sunday paper tossed about. Mr. Neill, living the way he would have others live, and not Spartan-like, but no favors, just as the kids are themselves at Summerhill, he is himself. I suppose if I could come away with a picture, he's a very tall man, by the way. Rather interesting in speaking to Lord Russell today, this is Tuesday evening, I mentioned Neill to him and he remembered very fondly because they have similar theories as to the education of children. Neill is at 78 is a huge man, about six four, lumbering figure and as he walks out he has a ragged cap on his head and one of the little kids at Summerhill call out, "Hey, Neill," he's "I don't know you." Apparently some sort of standing joke between them. He's referred to as Neill, rather than Mr. Neill, by the kids. He is, it's not a question of lack of respect, it's just there he is. And I would come away, I think, with a picture of a man slightly embittered. Not at -- No self-pity, not that at all. Neill I think would never feel that, but embittered perhaps by the fact that, after 40 years of his teaching, a man who was certainly ahead of his time, he probably had thought years ago that the world might go along the way he had hoped it would. He was teaching a freedom from fear on the part of children, of being as able, or equipping them, I should say, with the ability to enjoy life, or to sense that zest, and that's about it, and finding less of this than ever before in the world. And finding freedom from fear as remote as ever in the world. I think it's the nature of the world itself that seems to have depressed him a bit. And if there is a bitterness in him, I think it's for that reason rather than for anything that has happened to him and the school, though I imagine he's not having an easy time. Men such as Neill never do. Pioneers of that sort. But I think I was in the presence of a pretty great man in talking to this tall, lumbering, 78-year-old Scot. [pause in recording] There's a point that Clancy Sigal made about the accessibility of those whom we might consider gods, literary gods. He was speaking of someone he admires so much, Forster, who was there, the door is open, the Forsters not here in London at the moment. And so, too, in interviewing people you've read about for a long time, they're there, they're easy to see. All that requires is the making of an appointment, either directly or through some intermediary who may know them. Such is not the case with the young actor. I attempted a couple of times to interview some rising young actor in Britain and I think the same principle applies as it would in America. It depends, I think it's done of course through the publicity man, as in America. But when the young actor is on the rise, he becomes property and it probably is no fault of his that he becomes inaccessible. Because of property, the more valuable it becomes, the more it must be protected. Far more than a man must be protected. And so he is wrapped in whatever it might be, cellophane or stainless steel, and so unapproachable. But I in this instance I would suggest no great loss involved, and not because the young actor isn't worth it, but because at this moment he has become so covered with the coloring or armor not of his own making, really, that it's not worth the effort. But Dame Sybil Thorndike, Bertrand Russell, A.S. Neill, Ivy Compton-Burnett, oh, yeah. [pause in recording] It's possible that these people might be avail-- People of this caliber available in America too, but haven't tried. The native never does, a stranger always does. [pause in recording] Distant land somehow attempts more than the native. [pause in recording] Narrow streets of -- Paris streets still have London streets beat when it comes to narrowness. The drivers, Paris drivers, I think are still wilder than London drivers, but we're waiting for Rome. We understand Roman drivers, they are the ones. [pause in recording] Still with the Paris drivers, you have a feeling that when he misses you, the driver, the motorist, this is a professional pedestrian now reflecting, when the driver misses you by a fraction of an inch or brushes against you and does not knock you down, you have a feeling that he is snapping his fingers with some slight frustration. Not so with London drivers, I think they would be, if he -- If they knocked you down, I think they would be polite in picking you up. Not that the Paris drivers wouldn't be just as gallant. It's the automobile, basically, the automobile is an equalizer. This is the one, the traffic jam in London I am told at certain hours is as bad as anywhere in the world, but I remember two years ago being in a Paris traffic jam. Pretty rough. I imagine this applies to just about every city in the world where the streets have not yet been widened and perhaps never will in some of the older cities. To meet the problem presented by the new 20th century vehicle. But the automobile that's the one, he's it. I should say "he" because I suppose the, he is more human sometimes than the humans who are part of the machine. I think the hours, too, London is an early-to-bed town it seems, I mean, there is not -- There is no all-night restaurant around, not that you ever go, you often go to an all-night restaurant in Chicago, but they close pretty early. The restaurants and clubs and theaters and in Paris a nine o'clock curtain here in many instances is seven-thirty curtain. Cigarettes, that's right, can be smoked in your seat, you know, during intermissions or I think during the performance. I'm not sure. But there's the ashtray right in front of you, behind the seat of the man ahead of you. This was in Brighton, I'm sure this is so, I've missed theater here so far. Told there are three excellent works in London right now. Well, aside from Paul Scofield's "King Lear" in Peter Brooks' direction in Stratford, there's Arnold Wesker's "Chips with Everything," the two one-act plays of Peter Shaffer, who wrote "Five Finger Exercise," this is "The Private Ear/The Public Eye," the two one-act plays, and John Whiting, a playwright who is highly respected, his adaptation of Aldous Huxley's "Devils of Loudon," a play called "The Devils," and Peter Hall's direction at Aldwych of "Troilus and Cressida," played upon the sand. These appear to be the productions in London of this moment worth seeing.

Woman in room Pronounce their

Studs Terkel name. I wish that I, I wish that I were good at pronouncing Welsh names, but a thought just occurred to me. This is something, I suppose, in a strange way, connected with Bronowski's theory of the unity of hidden likenesses. I remember in Paris, or rather outside Paris, the town of Milan where the prison was, the prisoners have no numbers on their cells. Their names are on their cells in this rehabilitation prison, I remember I was much impressed with that fact and in Wales today, the towns, in some of the towns there are no numbers for the houses, but each house has a name, and by the way, there was a lady, it was a lady postman, a postlady I should say, riding a bicycle and it's a question of, some say it may be rough on her because of the lack of numbers, but I wonder if it is, I wonder if she can't remember the names better. Last night I wish I had recorded Meredydd Evans telling how names are given so often. There are so many similar names in Wales, Jones. There are probably thousands of Robert Joneses but it's Jones, some little attribute of his becomes the name as Dylan Thomas told us in "Under Milk Wood" with its Sinbad Sailors, Dai Bread, Organ Morgan, descriptions of what he does or what he looks like. There was someone who had a lot of kids and he was called Robert Population and then there's the son of so-and-so and there was someone who said, "I am an old sage," or something like it, "An old hand like me can't do much," and so they called him Jack Old Hand. And so it's using an attribute or an occupation for a man's name to differentiate him from his namesake, of which there are so many in Wales. [pause in recording] I think there is a British feeling, I hope this -- I'm not encouraging a stereotype, a compounding some myth that there's a feeling for order and somehow, if you don't follow a certain rule [unintelligible], you get a look, you know. And somehow walking in the train, walking through the diner at the wrong time I think, dragging my tape recorder in a battered briefcase in one hand. It was not my imagin-- I got looks. It's not, it's just a certain decorum was disturbed, you see, and the man looked up from his "Daily Telegraph," you know, the other man looked up from his "Mail" and the other looked up from his "Times" and each look I think varied according to the paper he was reading, you know. The look of the man reading "The Times" seemed longer, his chin seemed longer. That is, the distance between his chin and the top of his head seemed longer than that of the man reading the "Telegraph". And his in turn seemed longer than the man reading the "Mail". But all three, I would say, seemed disturbed by this -- Not malefactor, I didn't do anything wrong, but someone disturbing a set design by walking through the diner just at that time I'm somehow bumping against the seats, not really bumping, but brushing against the seats. It just isn't done, that's all. I suppose I should mention the ubiquitous Niccolo. When I met Niccolo Tucci in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying in Paris, he said, "I will see you in London." Well, I didn't think he would see me in London, although he did leave a number, I didn't think there much of a chance of each of us seeing the other because of the time element and work to be done. And one day I was standing, Broadcasting House is known to all Londoners. This is where BBC Sound is, and that's a huge building, very modern. Here it was I used the office part of the time. So while waiting for a colleague of BBC to come down, there's a man behind me and he says, "Well, what are you doing here?" And it's Niccolo Tucci in London, so I assume if I go to Rome, the ubiquitous Mr. Tucci will be there. Reminds me of something, I can't remember what, I think it was years ago. As a kid I read, didn't quite dig it at the time, but read it, Celine's "Journey Through the End of the Night". And if I remember, there was an alter ego of this guy, his name was Robinson. I remember that much. And there was this other figure, it was part of him. This is not Tucci and I, but I do expect somehow to run into Tucci in Rome. [pause in recording] Oh, I guess we must discuss, this is a subject that Americans are interested in, heating, central heating or lack of it. Some places have central heating and this is unusual, this is something, it's a conversation piece when there's central heating. The lack of it, well, some Englishman will say this is, they have reasons for it, and these are the myths that are, I imagine built up through the years that people get cold, then perhaps they're true, perhaps they're not myths, I don't know, or they do things to your setup, but one of the reasons given for not having central heating is you have something, where do you sit or what do you sit around? In short, the fireplace. Well, there's an answer to that now: The telly. So it's possible television might eventually result in central heating throughout England because what do you sit around? The television, no longer the fireplace, you see. So one way or another, telly works in many ways its wonders to perform. [pause in recording] British trains. They're relatively comfortable, first and second class. But you'd better get off, better know where you're getting off. No one announces where you get off, this is a lack of what service trades in the railroad line. This might be probably still as a result of the war. I don't know. It may be, but the fact is, no one tells you. You get off at, for example, on the way from Wales to London there's a stopover at Crewe, you get off at Crewe, C-R-E-W-E, and change for the London train, but no one tells you where Crewe is, you just got to be alert, you know. There is no conductor to come and say, "Crewe, next stop" or stuff like, so in a way this is good. It keeps you awake, it keeps you alert, and helps you learn about a country. No one tells you, I mean, that is, no one will volunteer anything, you've got to ask. I think this is true for the visitor to any country, you've got to ask, so I think if anything I learned as a result of this trip, it's never to be afraid to ask. So 'cause my trouble is, I ask the same question about six different times of six different people, hoping that my tape recorder is working, which invariably it is not. [pause in recording] I must confess the real reason I ask that same question so often. Well, first of all, I want to make sure I'm going to get off at the right place, or I'm going to find the right street. And secondly, I like to hear those different accents, get a tremendous whack out of it, and I suppose won't do this in any American city where I am, even though I am lost. I will ask one or two people, but here I like to ask everybody. [pause in recording] I guess the reason is I'm still amazed at the fantastic variety of these accents to be heard in London. On the subject of London, England and perhaps one of the reasons food is eaten so quickly here, the meal is finished so quickly might be the manner in which the fork and knife are used. Invariably, it's the fork in the left hand, the knife in the right hand, and not one is picked up and the other is put down, they're used simultaneously, the fork pretty steady and the knife to help gather in the food, and you don't change hands in the use of the utensil. That's it. You just pour it into you with your left hand while the sheaves are being gathered by the knife on the right. And thus this is done with a great deal of expeditiousness. And I guess the idea is to avoid too long a period of pleasure, which is eating in Paris and in Italy, in France and in Italy. The large spoon is used. This is all trivia, but nonetheless I like knowing it. The large spoon is used for, I was about to say "desserts," it's not the word for sweet. Sweet as you want sweet or cheese. But that's the large spoon. Little minor observations that don't mean too much, but I like to make them nonetheless.