During his early years at Trinity College, Cambridge, Russell—as he wrote decades later in My Philosophical Development—“was indoctrinated with the philosophies of Kant and Hegel.” Indeed, idealist philosophy was dominant in Britain at the time, but in the last two years of the nineteenth century, Russell was instrumental in changing the philosophical landscape. He wrote: “This was so great a revolution as to make my previous work … irrelevant to everything that I did later.” This “revolution” was a reaction against Kant and Hegel and the introduction of a new approach that has since become known as “analytic philosophy.” The impact was enormous.
From the very beginning, Russell gave due credit to his Cambridge colleague, G.E. Moore (1873-1958), for leading the way in this revolution. As Russell recounted in his Autobiography: “Moore, like me … was for a short time a Hegelian. But he emerged more quickly than I did, and it was largely his conversation that led me to abandon both Kant and Hegel. In spite of his being two years younger than me, he greatly influenced my philosophical outlook.” Moore’s 1899 article “The Nature of Judgment” marked the beginning of the revolution in print. His Principia Ethica would appear in 1903. In the same year, Russell’s first major contribution to the movement appeared, The Principles of Mathematics, which he had been working on for a number of years.
Moore had entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate in 1892, Russell’s third year there. They got to know each other particularly well through their membership in a group of intellectual elites known as the Apostles. Russell was immediately impressed by Moore’s intellect: “for some years” Moore “fulfilled my ideal of genius. He was in those days beautiful and slim, with a look almost of inspiration, and with an intellect as deeply passionate as Spinoza. He had a kind of exquisite purity.”
It was this “exquisite purity” that would lead many to become devoted disciples of Moore, even outside the field of philosophy. Among these disciples were, in later years, members of the Bloomsbury group, such as Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, and J. Maynard Keynes, who—during their own, later, student days at Cambridge—would have known Moore and Russell. The Bloomsberries revered Moore, viewing him as almost saint-like. To varying degrees, they approached his Principia Ethica as a guidebook, but it was also his personality and childlike innocence that charmed them. He had a reputation for never telling a lie and, in discussions, he approached each question with considerable gravity, leaving no stone unturned and often reflecting on a matter in silence for long periods. In style, he and Russell could not have been more different, for Russell was quick on his feet, loquacious, and displayed a razor-sharp intellect. In general, the Bloomsberries admired Russell but never warmed to him in quite the same manner as they did Moore. In terms of the relationship between Moore and Russell, their very different personalities led to irritations, especially on Moore’s part.
At the time of this letter—March 15, 1903—Moore is putting the finishing touches on Principia Ethica. Meanwhile, Russell had finished writing The Principles of Mathematics the previous year, and it would be published two months after this letter was written. In the letter, Moore is not discussing a philosophical question, however, but is seeking Russell’s advice on a much more practical matter--whether he should apply for a recently vacated professorship at University College, London. After all, even philosophers have to make a living. Moore lays out the matter in considerable detail, mirroring his slow, methodical, philosophical style. He obviously holds Russell’s opinion in high regard: “I know no one else who seemed to me at the same time so likely to be interested in my decision and so well qualified to form an opinion on most of the points involved.” But Moore also displays his straightforward honesty, as he tells Russell: “I don’t know that I should take the advice you gave.” There are about 100 letters between Moore and Russell in the Russell archives (many of them dealing with philosophy), but Russell’s reply to this particular letter is not among them.
Moore’s dilemma would not be unfamiliar to academics today, as he is concerned that the position—with its heavy teaching requirements—will not allow him time to write. But, unlike most of today’s academics, Moore has a small private income that he can rely upon if need be. In fact, it is this route that he takes, living for a few years as an independent researcher before returning to Cambridge as a lecturer, where he would spend the rest of his career.
Sources: (1) Bertrand Russell. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1872-1914 (Volume I). London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1967. (2) Bertrand Russell. My Philosophical Development. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959. (3) Ronald W. Clark. The Life of Bertrand Russell. Jonathan Cape and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975. (4) Nicholas Griffin, ed. The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell: The Private Years, 1884-1914. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. (5) The chronology in The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 4: The Foundations of Logic, 1903-05. Routledge, 1994.
107 Acomb Street,
March 15, 03
I am hoping you may be able to advise me in a matter, in which, I’m afraid, nobody ought to expect any advice. But I thought it was possible you might have some strong opinion one way or the other, which would make me feel much more confident in acting upon it. I find it very difficult to make up my own mind.
The question is whether I should go in for the Professorship of ‘Philosophy of Mind & Logic’ at University College, London, which Sully has just resigned.  And it seems to me to depend chiefly upon this: Whether the amount of work involved in lecturing would not be so great as to make it
very difficult for me to write much. You know how slowly I write; and it seemed to me to be a serious question whether (supposing what I write to be the best kind of work I can do) I ought not always to be able to give up more than half my time to writing. I’m afraid the quantity of lecturing required at University College would prevent this; and moreover much of it would, I am afraid, be of a kind, for which I doubt if I am best fitted & which would be of little use for my writing. It would most of it be elementary, and most of it also in elementary Logic & Psychology. And the Professor seems to be required to deliver something like 100 lectures a year himself.
The alternative is that I should simply live on my private income, which is small (only £ 150 certain) but which I think I could make sufficient: only, of course, circumstances might arise, which would make me want more, which might then be difficult
to get; and this possibility must be taken into account. (I gather from McTaggart that my chance of a Research Fellowship is extremely small; so that I don’t think that need be considered.)  Living in this way, I think there is no doubt I should write a good deal more; though probably the total amount of work I did would be less. The question is whether the value of my written work is sufficient to make up for the difference in quantity.
Of course, I think I should probably not get the Professorship, especially as the subjects chiefly required for it are Psychology & Logic, the latter of which I should have to learn almost entirely (and I don’t think I’ve got the faculty for it) before I began to teach. But, apart from this, it seems to me to be a question whether I ought even to go in – to be willing to accept it, even if I could get it. And it is on this question I wanted
your advice. I feel ashamed of asking for it: for I suppose I ought to be able to make up my own mind; and I don’t know that I should take the advice you gave; and possibly you will not feel that you have any definite opinion or that you know enough about the circumstances to be entitled to give it. But I know no one else who seemed to me at the same time so likely to be interested in my decision and so well qualified to form an opinion on most of the points involved.
About my Ethics: I sent the first three chapters to the Press last Monday, with a letter to Wright, saying that it was important for me that it should be printed as soon as possible. But I have had nothing yet except a mere acknowledgement of the receipt of the chapters.
 James Sully was Professor of Mind and Logic at University College from 1892 to 1903. Moore would never hold the professorship.
 J.M.E. McTaggart was a lecturer at Cambridge and was, for a time, a mentor of Moore and Russell. McTaggart was correct, Moore did not receive the Fellowship. Moore would, indeed, work independently for several years before returning as a lecturer to Cambridge, where he would remain for the rest of his career.
 Moore’s Principia Ethica was published by Cambridge University Press later in 1903. ‘Wright’ was R.T. Wright who had been appointed ‘Secretary of the Press Syndicate’ in 1892.