In the early 1960s, long before he was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, became a best-selling author of such novels as Kane and Abel (1979), received a life peerage, and served a prison term for perjury, Jeffrey Archer (b. 1940) had been a student at Oxford University. While there, he worked to raise money for famine relief. As he explained to Russell in this 1964 letter, in the previous year, he had turned to The Beatles for assistance, while this year he was seeking the assistance of such well known figures as Jacqueline Kennedy, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., actors Alec Guinness and Audrey Hepburn, mystery writer Agatha Christie, and many more, one of whom was Russell. While Archer assures Russell, “I am only too aware of the calls that are made upon your personal life to help charitable efforts” he goes on to request a gift not “of any value, merely something that people would associate with you.” The idea was that the gifts thus collected would be sold and the money donated to the charity.
Russell’s secretary, Ralph Schoenman, replied to Archer, telling him that Russell is “happy to assist your campaign” and “will be sending you a signed copy of his basic writings" [The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1961]. A few months later, Archer wrote a thank you letter to Russell, reporting that “I am sure you will be happy to hear that Oxford University students collected 225,000 gifts from all over the country, worth an average of £1 apiece.”
This is the only correspondence between Russell and Archer in the Russell Archives, and Russell did not live to see Archer’s rise to fame.
Sources: (1) Ralph Schoenman to Jeffrey Archer, 27 November 1964 (Russell Archives, Box 10.55, Document 120534). (2) Jeffrey Archer to Russell, 14 January 1965 (Russell Archives, Box 10.55, Document 120535).
23rd November, 1964.
Dear Lord Russell,
Last year Oxford University, with the aid of the Beatles, led the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief’s Million £ Campaign. This year it intends to lead it again, but it will be a gift campaign. We shall be asking every family in the country to give one gift to our Gift Shops and we hope to raise one million £’s worth of gifts.
Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of the late President of the United States, has given us the first gift, which is ten signed copies of the ‘Kennedy Family Album’, and she will in fact be the figurehead of the campaign. We are also asking the Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the Rt. Hon. Harold MacMillan, Lord Attlee, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Hon. Jo Grimond, Dr. Martin Luther King, Miss Mary Rand, Mr. Chenevix-Trench, Mr. Billy Butlin, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, Mr. Douglas Bader, Miss Audrey Hepburn, Brigadier Sir John Hunt, Miss Agatha Christie, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Sir Alec Guinness, and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh.
I am only too aware of the calls that are made upon your personal life to help charitable efforts. However, I would like you to look on this as the youth of the country, in the form of Oxford, wishing for your support. The youth of this country has often been accused of being apathetic and uninterested. We at Oxford are aware of the world famine problem and intend to do something positive about it: in this we look to the older generation for support. We do not want a gift of any value, merely something that people would associate with you, as they will with Mrs. Kennedy’s gift.
When we have gathered the gifts together from the personalities I have named the Campaign will be launched in the Daily Mail, as it was last year, from 9th to 20th December. If you wish any further details you can obtain them from either the Director of OXFAM, the Editor of the Daily Mail, or myself.
We know of your work in support of peace and your interest in the undeveloped countries. In addition your special interest
in youth led us to believe that you would wish to contribute towards the success of this campaign.
P.S. I have just heard from the Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson, and Sir Alec Douglas-Home that they are willing to support this campaign.
 Vincent’s Club is a sports club affiliated with Oxford University. Archer was an accomplished athlete during his student days.
Bertrand Russell Archives, Box 10.55, Document 120533. By kind permission of Lord Jeffrey Archer. Copy provided for personal and research use only. For any other use, permission of the copyright holder is required.