Maurice O'Connor Drury (called 'Con Drury' by his friends) was born in Exeter in 1907, of Irish parentage. He attended the Grammar School of that city and then went in 1925 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took the Moral Science Tripos. In 1929, Drury met Ludwig Wittgenstein, a newly appointed lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College. Wittgenstein had taken up a fellowship in that College following strenuous efforts by Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes to bring him back to philosophy from self-imposed obscurity as a primary school teacher in remote mountain villages in Lower Austria. Drury and Wittgenstein met at a meeting of the Moral Science Club, in C.D. Broad's rooms. There began a friendship between student and teacher that was to last through the many vicissitudes of their lives until the philosopher's death from cancer in 1951 in the home of a medical friend of Drury's.

Drury made several attempts to give an account of this friendship. The first was a brief intervention in a symposium, which is recorded in a book published in 1967 [in 'A Symposium' in K.T. Fann (ed.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Man and his Philosophy (Sussex: Harvester Press, 1967). 67-71], in which he disputed the popular conception that Wittgenstein was a 'rather cantankerous, arrogant, tormented genius' rather than the man he knew to be 'the most warm-hearted, generous, and loyal friend anyone could wish to have' [Ibid, 67.] His most substantial account, however, was 'Some Notes on Conversations with Wittgenstein' and 'Conversations with Wittgenstein', edited by another member of Wittgenstein's circle of close friends, Rush Rhees.

Taken together, these texts offer perhaps the most intimate portrait available of Wittgenstein for the last twenty years, or so, of his life. The point of view is initially that of an impressionable student-disciple, who admits himself that he neither had the quick-wittedness nor emotional resources necessary to stand up to his teacher—and who, even when he was in his maturity, had to take steps to avert undue influence from Wittgenstein's powerful, even domineering, personality. They also give us a unique depiction of Wittgenstein's religious sensibility and suggest, in particular, that at least at the time when Drury was his student, the philosopher's religious concerns and attitude to metaphysics were still akin to those originally recorded by Paul Engelmann, whose friendship with Wittgenstein was especially active for a decade after 1916. [Paul Engelmann, Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein with a Memoir (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967). The Engelmann/Wittgenstein correspondence began in 1916 and virtually ceased in 1925. Contact with the Englemann family and its circle of friends re-activated Wittgenstein's latent sense of his own Jewishness.] Drury's personal record challenges—deliberately so—what he saw as the common misunderstanding of these and some other aspects of Wittgenstein's personality and philosophy within the analytic tradition.

Prior to the publication of this record, Drury had made other attempts to outline his view of Wittgenstein's thought, adopting a different format. One of these was a lecture given at University College, Dublin in 1967, which appears in this book for the first time, in which he tries both 'to turn the attention away from certain common misunderstandings about the man and his work' (instancing J.L. Austin, A.J. Ayer and Gilbert Ryle) and 'to see his writings from a new point of view'. On the positive side, Drury wanted to show that in an age marked most of all by scientific progress the central Wittgensteinian philosophical project was to prevent us 'being dazzled by what we know'. Another—his first effort—was made in 1954 in the form of 'Letters to a Student of Philosophy', eventually published in 1983. ['Letters to a Student of Philosophy', in Desmond Lee (ed.), Philosophical Investigations 6 (1983), p76-102; 159-174. Prior to this edition of the letters, they were copied and circulated privately in America. The 'student of philosophy' was Drury's then two-year old son, Luke, who is imagined as having entered his second year at University. Luke is perplexed by the lack of a positive doctrine among his philosophy teachers who offer only analytical criticism of other writers' metaphysical theories about the 'great' questions such as the destiny of man, the nature of the real, of goodness, of truth and of beauty. The burden of Drury's advice to his son, for which he claims Wittgenstein's authority, is that the widespread understanding of Wittgenstein as a fellow-traveller and even inspirer of the enemies of metaphysics is fundamentally erroneous. Wittgenstein's critique of traditional metaphysics was designed to protect (not as commonly understood undermine) the metaphysical passion for the absolute by locating it where it can be fulfilled—beyond the boundary where language fails us. Access to the metaphysical is indirect: The philosopher is in the same Janus-like situation as a cartographer who in the process of mapping the outline of an oceanic island pari passu indicates the expanses of the sea which surrounds it. Many of the secondary discussions that take place in these letters are more fully developed in The Danger of Words.]

To a lesser degree, one can also find in the Drury material Wittgenstein's views on modern psychological approaches to the human personality. Drury was to become a psychiatrist—a choice of career in which he was strongly influenced by Wittgenstein, whom he reveals as sharing an interest in the mentally ill as well. We shall have occasion to indicate later what Drury himself made of his Wittgensteinian inheritance in relation to psychiatry, chiefly as recorded in The Danger of Words, his most important work. This book is a collection of lectures on the general theme of what philosophy can bring to medicine, especially psychiatry.


The account of their conversations show Wittgenstein and Drury quickly becoming friends. Wittgenstein questions Drury about how he had come to have an interest in philosophy, enquires about his childhood and confides feeling 'morbid fears' himself during that period of his life. The only cure for such fears, Wittgenstein said, was 'religious feelings' [Maurice O'Connor Drury, 'Conversation with Wittgenstein' in Rush Rhees (ed.) Recollections of Wittgenstein (Oxford University Press, 1984), 100. Henceforth, this is referred to as 'C.' (cursively in the text mainly). The companion piece, 'Some Notes on Conversations with Wittgenstein' in the same publication, is henceforth referred to as 'N.'] As the reader can see, quite a lot of their conversation centred around religion. It is clear from the unpublished correspondence between Drury and Rush Rhees, who was one of Wittgenstein's literary executors, that Rhees regarded Drury as Wittgenstein's special intimate in matters religious from the 1930s onwards [Rhees to Drury (10 July, 1971). This correspondence is in the Drury family.].

Wittgenstein related to Drury certain crucial incidents connected with the evolution of his own religious sensibility. To begin with, there was a line in Ludwig Anzengruber's Die Kreuzelschreiber, a play which he attended in 1910, and which, although not obviously distinguished, spoke directly to him. This Wittgenstein rendered in his Lecture on Ethics as 'I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens'. [Ludwig Wittgenstein, 'A Lecture on Ethics', in Philosophical Review 74 (1965), 8. This was Wittgenstein's only formal public lecture and was delivered on November 17, 1929 to the Heretics Society in Cambridge.] Then there was the influence of Tolstoy, whose short version of the Gospels (The Gospels Briefly Stated) he read in 1915, during his period of military service in the Austrian army in Galicia —where, incidentally, he met Engelmann. Tolstoy presented Christianity as a radical moral doctrine, summed up in the Sermon on the Mount. The message of spiritual purity as a basis for human community had no need of the scaffolding of dogma. Later, while living as an elementary school teacher in the village of Trattenbach in Lower Austria, Wittgenstein had read The Brothers Karamazov aloud to the local priest. Now, he had Drury read it also and Crime and Punishment too—as well as Tolstoy's short stories. Wittgenstein told Drury that Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were 'the only two European writers in recent times who really had something important to say about religion' [N., 86]. It is clear that the important thing to say about religion was that it concerned ethical action—what Wittgenstein customarily referred to as 'decent' behaviour. When a student of Wittgenstein's wrote to tell him that he had converted to Catholicism, Wittgenstein replied: 'If someone tells me he has bought the outfit of a tightrope-walker I am not impressed until I see what is done with it' [N., 88]. On another occasion he said to Drury: 'If you and I are to live religious lives, it mustn't be that we talk a lot about religion, but that our manner of life is different' [C., 114].

Wittgenstein was radical in his views on the basis for Christian faith. When Drury and he discussed the fundamental texts of the Christian tradition, they could agree that the Old Testament canon was 'no more than a collection of Hebrew folklore' [C., 100]. However, Wittgenstein disagreed with Drury's view that the New Testament books had to be a historical record; it did not really matter, he thought, whether Jesus was a historical figure or not. Indeed, as he later put it, it would be impossible for him 'to say what form the record' [C., 164] of the miracle of God becoming man should take. Nevertheless, he could not relate to the person revealed in St. John's Gospel and preferred St. Matthew's Jesus. Similarly, he could not see that St. Paul's epistles were 'one and the same religion' [C., 165] as that of the Gospels—although he changed his mind about that later in life. If religious belief is not grounded in historical fact, neither can it be based on rational considerations—as the contemporary Cambridge theologian, F. R. Tennant, was trying to do (in his Philosophical Theology) by reviving the argument from design, for example. Wittgenstein did not accept that for a religious believer the existence of God, could ever be merely a probability (however high), as Tennant considered it to be. Wittgenstein wanted to steer his friend to Kierkegaard, whom Drury had already come across in quotations in the writings of the Catholic modernist, von Hugel. According to Drury, what Wittgenstein found in Kierkegaard and also in Augustine was a 'negative theology'. This theology is already adumbrated in the last lines of the Tractatus—now so often quoted that they may seem trite—that 'whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent'. Drury's primary intention in publishing his journal was to alert us to Wittgenstein's views on the nature of religion—and its importance, so understood, in impelling him to live a decent life. In doing so, Drury also alerts us to the surprising depth and extent of Wittgenstein's acquaintance with classical religious thought and to the remaining ganglia of the religious sensibility of a man once known to his fellow-soldiers as 'the man with the gospels'.

If religious belief is not based on historical fact or philosophical (or indeed theological) reflection, neither is it based on science. James Frazer in The Golden Bough, a book Drury obtained at Wittgenstein's request in 1931, had understood the primitive rituals he described as arising partly from the scientific errors of the peoples who celebrated them. This, Wittgenstein said, was itself erroneous. These rituals were created by technically advanced civilisations. In the University College Dublin lecture, Drury asks us to consider, for example, what such people had discovered about agriculture, metal working, architecture, the use of the wheel, and the making of fire. Rather than being a symptom of some lack in their knowledge of how the world works, their rituals expressed their awe and wonder at it. Wittgenstein shared this 'primitive' feeling. As he put in his Lecture on Ethics: 'I wonder at the existence of the world. And I am then inclined to use such phrase as "how extraordinary that anything should exist" or "how extraordinary that the world should exist"'. [ Ibid., 100.] He was, in general, disinclined to privilege any religious tradition, finding a common fundamental experience to respect in all of them, and recommending William James's Varieties of Religious Experience to help Drury to see this. In religion, as in all other areas of life, Wittgenstein wanted to 'teach people differences'—especially where what they wanted to see were similarities. [C., 157. Wittgenstein adopted this phrase from King Lear, Act I, Scene iv. Drury in a note to Letter 14 of his 'Letters to a Student of Philosophy' (supra) says that 'the Philosophical Investigations are concerned with insisting on differences where we want to see similarities' (169). Note however, how in The Danger of Words, Drury writes: 'it is not given to any man to be an honorary members of all religions' (133)]

Wittgenstein's own religious background encompassed many differences. His paternal grandparents were born Jews but both were baptised before their marriage in the Lutheran church, the grandfather perhaps at an early point in his life. His maternal grandfather was reared a Catholic by his mother, who had converted to Catholicism from Judaism. His maternal grandmother was Catholic. Although the family did not see themselves—nor emphatically did they want to see themselves—as Jewish, a relict of that identity still attached to it. Wittgenstein himself was baptised a Catholic and, as we have noted, received instruction in that faith. This instruction was not much reinforced in his home and he gave up standard Catholic religious practice as a teenager after discussing the matter with his sister, 'Gretl' (formally called 'Margarete'). The particular Catholic position that offended him, he told Drury, was that it is possible to prove the existence of God by natural reason. This, he said, involved conceiving of God as just another being, like himself and outside himself—only infinitely more powerful. If this were God, he would regard it as a duty to defy it. Nevertheless, he admired the Latin collects, thought the symbolisms of Catholicism 'wonderful beyond words' [C., 102] and, unlike Franz Brentano, could even conceive of a meaningful infallible Papal declaration [C., 130]. He himself had prayed during his military service and said he was happy to be compelled to attend Mass during the Italian campaign. Instead of writing, he prayed, when in 1931 he went to stay in Norway, in the hut he had had built there in 1914.

While in Norway, he also wrote down his sins and on his return disclosed them to his friends. Like all the others who read or heard this particular confession of 1931, Drury did not reveal what Wittgenstein confessed to. From a remark Drury later made to Rush Rhees, the latter inferred that Wittgenstein confessed, inter alia, to having denied to his headmaster that he had hit a child while teaching in an elementary school in the village of Otterthal in 1926. There was, in fact, a formal investigation of an incident in which Wittgenstein struck a boy of eleven following which the child collapsed and although Wittgenstein was cleared, he insisted on resigning, which was wise since this appears to have been part of a pattern of abusive behaviour of his pupils. According to Rowland Hutt (who heard a later version of the confession in 1938), Wittgenstein said he had told lies at this investigation rather than simply to the headmaster. [cf. Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, (Jonathan Cape: London, 1990), 370.]

It appears from the testimony of his teacher of Russian, Fania Pascal (to whom he confessed in 1938) that Wittgenstein was also concerned that he had been deceitful to his friends regarding the details of his Jewish family background. He believed he had allowed them to assume that he was one-quarter Jewish and three-quarters Aryan, rather than the reverse—as was to be the technical position, at least, for a family with his bloodlines under the Nuremberg race laws. It is implausible that this 'deception', in precisely these terms, was a live issue in 1931—but it is clear from other writings that his Jewish identity, and its supposed effect on his intellectual style (which he thought he shared with Freud, among others), was already preoccupying him at that time. In his diaries he recorded his struggle with the concept of 'den judishen Geist'—in which he was probably influenced by his reading of Sex and Character (Geschlecht und Charakter), by Otto Weininger (who killed himself in Beethoven's house in September 1903, four months after his book was published). From the point of view of Wittgenstein's religious sensibility, this feeling of Jewishness seems to have manifested itself in a strong belief in the Last Judgement as a young man and, as an older one, in what he called the 'hundred per cent Hebraic' [C. 161] sense that what we do makes a difference in the end. Such a perspective compels taking our actions seriously; there is only one chance at life and an accounting at the end of it. Wittgenstein seems to have had an abiding sense of guilt which he constantly counter-balanced by a renewed resolution to live life decently.

Although clearly imbued by the Gospels and various thinkers within the Christian tradition, Wittgenstein waged what can only be called a campaign to have Drury change his plan, originally influenced by the example of an Anglo-Catholic priest in Exeter (Fr. E.C. Long), to go to Westcott House, the Church of England Theological College, in Cambridge, after graduating, with a view to taking Anglican orders. This plan was shared by at least two of his contemporaries, who were also students of Wittgenstein—John King and Desmond Lee. When Wittgenstein heard of Drury's intentions, he said, 'I can't approve; no, I can't approve. I am afraid that one day that collar would choke you.' [C., 101] What he seems to have objected to specifically was the 'narrowness' of the Anglican clergy for which William James was a good antidote. Drury probably did not know that Wittgenstein had himself considered taking orders in 1919—at least, according to a fellow prisoner of war, Franz Parak. [cf. Brian McGuinness, Wittgenstein--A Life: Young Ludwig (1889-1921) (London: Duckworth, 1988), 274.]

Nevertheless, when Drury did graduate with a First Class Honours degree in 1931, he went to Westcott House but after a year told Wittgenstein that he was abandoning his plan. Wittgenstein, who had undermined Drury's view of a future leading a small village community as its priest, had ready advice for Drury. He was to leave Cambridge now that 'a separation had occurred' in his life and 'get among ordinary people of a type that you at present know nothing about' [C., 121]. He cited approvingly the case of another student who had left Westcott House (probably Desmond Lee) who had taken a job in Woolworth's Stores.


Drury took his mentor's advice and volunteered to help the Archdeacon of Newcastle to run a club for the unemployed on Tyneside, then in the throes of the depression. After several months, Drury was no longer needed as the club could survive without him. In imminent prospect of unemployment himself, Drury applied for a job teaching philosophy at Armstrong College, now the University of Newcastle. Wittgenstein agreed that under the circumstances it was the only thing to do and gave him a reference. When Dorothy Emmett won the competition, Wittgenstein was very relieved and later used to say to Drury that he 'owed a great debt to Miss Emmett, in that she had saved...[him] from becoming a professional philosopher'. [C., 123. In Fann, ocit., Drury reflected on why 'Wittgenstein constantly urged his pupils not to take up an academic post and become teachers of philosophy'. Professional philosophers were ipso facto under the pressure of:         

having to go on talking when really they knew in their heart that they had nothing of value to say...Kant said that a great deal of philosophy reminded him of one person holding a sieve while the other tried to milk the he-goat. Wittgenstein wanted above all things to make an end of sieve-holding and he-goat milking.
The reality was that good philosophy emerged only after 'long periods of darkness and confusion when one just had to wait' (69). If a philosopher possesses a marketable skill, he should practise it during such periods. Wittgenstein envied Spinoza, the lens-grinder, for this.]

Drury found a position as an assistant to the warden of another unemployment scheme in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Moved by the plight of a friend who had to be admitted to a mental hospital, he determined on becoming a psychiatric nurse. On receiving his application, the Medical Superintendent tried to dissuade him and urged that in view of his education he should train instead as a doctor and later on, presumably, specialise in psychiatry. Drury wrote to Wittgenstein giving an account of these events and received, in reply, a telegram summoning him at once to Cambridge. On his arrival, Drury found that Wittgenstein had already arranged for the financing of his medical education. The money was to be raised by Wittgenstein and 'two wealthy friends'—Maynard Keynes and Gilbert Pattison. [Ray Monk, ocit., 335.] Wittgenstein and Drury decided together, after reading the available prospectuses, that Drury should study in Trinity College, Dublin and in due course he enrolled there in 1933.

Drury's brother, Miles, an architect practising in Exeter, had a holiday cottage at Rosro, Salruck, on the Co. Galway side of Killary Harbour and in September 1934, Drury invited Wittgenstein and his friend, Francis Skinner, to stay there for two weeks. [Skinner was a young, extremely talented mathematics student when Wittgenstein got to know him. He died of polio in 1941.] They took the Galway-Clifden railway to Recess, some twenty miles from Rosro. Drury's mother was ending a holiday there and the plan was that the car that took her to the station would provide transport for Wittgenstein's onward journey. Perhaps not surprisingly, Drury's mother had been suspicious of Wittgenstein's influence over her son but was quite won over when she met him at the railway station. As Drury's record shows, the friends ate simply, and were forced to stay indoors (because of rain) where they read aloud to one another and discussed what they had read. In general, Drury makes clear that Wittgenstein had a catholic interest in books—from history to literary fiction to detective stories etc. It is also clear that Wittgenstein was passionately interested in and knowledgeable about, classical music.

Drury and Wittgenstein shared the Easter holiday of 1935 with Drury's family in Woolacombe in North Devon and Wittgenstein came for a stay in the Drury family home in Exeter in 1936. Wittgenstein, who had earlier told Drury that 'one of the things you and I have to learn is that we have to live without the consolations of belonging to a Church' [C., 114], now encouraged him to attend church services. Again, in 1949, he recommended to Drury, as a kind of religious experiment, to attend what Wittgenstein considered the more awesome Latin masses in Dublin in comparison to the predominantly low-church Anglican services—even though as a group he preferred the Protestant clergy because they looked less smug than the Roman priests! In August, 1935, Wittgenstein (accompanied by Skinner) came to Dublin to holiday with Drury. One diversion was taking photographs with cheap cameras purchased at Woolworth's. Appositely, Drury refers to his journal entries of his conversations with Wittgenstein as 'an album of snapshots taken by an amateur photographer with a mediocre camera' [C., 98].

That same year, 1936, Wittgenstein wrote to Drury with a most surprising request. He and Skinner were seriously thinking of taking up medical studies and he wanted Drury to enquire at Trinity College, Dublin what the formalities connected with enrolling in the medical school were. In another letter, Wittgenstein suggested that if he did qualify, Drury and he might practise together as psychiatrists, as he felt he might have a 'special talent' for that branch of medicine. From an extant letter to Maynard Keynes, it appears that the plan to become a medical student was originally hatched in 1935 as a means of fulfilling a wish, very difficult to realise, of living in Russia. [Wittgenstein to Keynes (30 June, 1935) in Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore, G.H. von Wright (ed.) assisted by B. McGuinness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974)] Nothing came of these enquiries. Later—it is not clear whether this was an explanation for the abandonment of the plan—Wittgenstein told Drury that 'he would not want to undergo a training analysis' [C., 137].

Although this remark is difficult to understand, because training in psychiatry does not then (no more than it does now) require undergoing a psychoanalysis, it is clear that Wittgenstein's interest in mental illness and its treatment was sincere and persistent. On the theoretical side, this is shown, for example, by his long-standing engagement with Freud's writings, begun when he read the Interpretation of Dreams in 1919 and had his sister Gretl enquire of Freud whether the symbolism in a picture Wittgenstein had seen at an exhibition was, as he believed, oneiric. The interest in Freud is further documented by G.E. Moore, who records two lectures given in 1932 by Wittgenstein on Freud as part of a series on aesthetics. ['Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33' Mind, LXIV (January, 1955), p15-21.] Wittgenstein's interest in Freud is, to a degree, also documented by Drury himself, whose birthday present from Wittgenstein in 1936 was the Interpretation and, most of all, by Rush Rhees who wrote down the substance of a number of conversations he had with Wittgenstein about Freud in 1942, '43 and '46. [in Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Belief, Cyril Barrett (ed.) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966).]

Perhaps more revealing of the sincerity of Wittgenstein's interest in psychiatry was his visiting of mentally ill patients during a stay in Dublin from February 8th to the middle of March, 1938. He asked Drury, now a resident at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, Baggot St., to arrange for these visits. [It was probably during this residency that Wittgenstein wrote to the Drury the encouraging letter given in N., p95/6.] Drury approached Dr. R.R. Leeper, the Medical Superintendent of St. Patrick's Hospital. [St. Patrick's, James's St., Dublin 8, was once popularly known as 'Swift's Hospital' after the Dean who inspired its foundation. Elizabeth Malcolm, in Swift's Hospital: A History of St. Patrick's Hospital, Dublin, 1746-1989 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1989) mentions Drury on 276 and passim.] After interviewing Wittgenstein, Leeper allowed him to visit long-stay inmates two or three times a week. Of one such inmate—'certified and chronic' according to Drury—Wittgenstein said memorably: 'this man is more intelligent than his doctors' [Maurice O'Connor Drury, The Danger of Words (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 136, reprinted here. Henceforth: DoW in text.] He was also very supportive of Drury, who was so lacking in confidence as a young resident that he suffered a disabling tremor when he examined patients.

On one point, Ray Monk finds Drury's account of this 1938 visit 'to the say the least, somewhat strange' [Monk, ocit., 390.]. This concerns Wittgenstein's reactions to the events leading up to the Anschluss, which finally occurred on 12 March. When Drury told Wittgenstein on 11 March that all the newspapers were reporting that Hitler was poised to invade Austria, Wittgenstein said: 'This is a ridiculous rumour. Hitler doesn't want Austria. Austria would be no use to him at all' [C, 139]. Monk finds Drury's account strange because it is clear from an entry in Wittgenstein's diary for 16 February that he was already considering changing his nationality in view of a 'further compulsory rapprochement between Austria and Germany' [Quoted in Monk, 389.] that had taken place on 12 February. Again, when the annexation had in fact taken place, Wittgenstein told Drury that he believed his sisters were quite safe although it is clear from his diary that he was already debating whether he should visit them to check their situation and, furthermore, that he had consulted with his Cambridge economist friend, Piero Sraffa, about whether it would be prudent to do so in view of his Jewish ancestry. In addition, he had enquired of Sraffa about what a change to British citizenship would entail. On receipt of a letter dated 14 March from Sraffa on these matters, which invited him to further discussion, Wittgenstein immediately left Dublin for Cambridge.

It may be, as Monk speculates, that Wittgenstein 'did not wish to add to Drury's burdens' [Ibid., 391.] and, further, that this is an example of Wittgenstein's tendency to compartmentalise his friendships. Thus, 'with Drury he discussed religious questions; it was Keynes, Straffa and Pattisson upon whom he relied for discussion of political and worldly affairs' [Ibid.]. Leaving aside the fact that Wittgenstein's discussions with Drury are manifestly farther ranging than religion, it seems clear, at least, that Wittgenstein did not intimate to either Drury or Straffa the deeper concern that (on Monk's account) made him hesitate before going to visit Austria viz., that he did not want to leave his friend, Francis Skinner. In the event, Wittgenstein managed to reconcile both ties in that he first visited his sisters and on his return to Cambridge moved into Skinner's lodgings.

The foregoing raises a question as to the extent to which Drury had (at this stage) a mature friendship with Wittgenstein rather than a dependent unquestioning relationship that served corresponding needs in his teacher. This leads on to questions about the value of his record, questions that become more insistent in the light of the following: While Drury did not disclose what was contained in Wittgenstein's confession of 1931, he does say that 'it contained nothing about the sexual behaviour ascribed to him in a recent writing' [C, 120]—a matter confirmed by the other confessors. When writing that remark, Drury had in mind a then recently published book by William Warren Bartley III, alleging that Wittgenstein was homosexual. [William Warren Bartley III, Wittgenstein, (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1973); the quotations in what follows are from the revised second edition: (London: The Cresset Library, 1986).]

Bartley's thesis was difficult to evaluate at the time for a number of reasons. Firstly, he relied on 'confidential reports from...friends' [Bartley, Ibid., 160.]—who were unnamed and not directly quoted—to the effect that on Wittgenstein's return from the army to Vienna in 1919 he went compulsively to a known resort of homosexuals to seek partners and that he suffered feelings of guilt on account of this behaviour. Secondly, Bartley wrote that this was corroborated by what he alleged was a successful trawl of the homosexual bars of London and Vienna for erstwhile 'rough young men' and 'tough boys' [ Ibid., 40.], who might have known Wittgenstein — fifty years after the alleged events! Thirdly, Bartley found confirmation in two of Wittgenstein's dream reports, from that period, that he was preoccupied with a conflict over his homosexuality—but Bartley's dream analysis seemed unconvincing to many. Fourthly, Bartley ascribed certain psychological conditions to Wittgenstein viz., agoraphobia and acrophobia and further, ascribed them to conflicts about his sexual behaviour. However, the evidence for attributing these conditions to him was so slight that it would have been unreasonable to even have begun to consider an aetiology, which is itself highly questionable in any case. [Ibid., note, 28. Bartley's evidence of agoraphobia is F.R. Leavis's account in Rush Rhees, Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollection (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1981) 73; 1984 ed., ocit., 60). Leavis wrote:
The agoraphobia he more or less avowed to me. We were walking one day on the Grantchester footpath when he said: "Let's sit down."...I sat down at once. Wittgenstein said: "No, not here." Getting up, I looked at him, and he explained: "You'll think it strange, but I never sit down in the open." I said, pointing, "Look! there's a hawthorn tree halfway down...That should be all right." It was, and we went and sat under it.
His evidence for acrophobia is Drury's recounting of Wittgenstein's childhood fears which do not appear to bear on acrophobia at all (cf. 115 of the 1981 edition and 100 of the 1984 edition). Even Bartley did not agree with A.W. Levi, who attempted to make the case in inter alia, 'The Biographical Sources of Wittgenstein's Ethics' Telos 38 (Winter 1979), p63-76 that Wittgenstein's philosophy reflects a homosexual orientation in its insistence that 'nothing is hidden'.] Fifthly, although Bartley did name names—David Pinsent (a young man whom Wittgenstein met at Cambridge, who served as a test pilot in the first world war and was killed in May 1918), and Francis Skinner—there were problems with his evidence: He himself admitted that with regard to the relationship with Pinsent, 'which is often supposed to have been a homosexual one', one could not 'judge with certainty whether [it] involved active sexual relations'. [ Ibid., 165.] There was no question that Pinsent and Wittgenstein had been friends at Cambridge and there is some confirmation that Wittgenstein was thought of as homosexual at Cambridge in the shape of a reported remark by Bertrand Russell that 'Wittgenstein was witty but a homosexual'—which is remarkable in itself for its baffling disjunction of two attributes not necessarily related in the first place. [Irina Strickland, Letter to the Times Literary Supplement (22 February 1974), 186 recalled Russell saying this. However, Russell wrote to Lady Ottoline Morrell on 2 May, 1912 that Lytton Strachey and others were 'thinking of electing' Wittgenstein to the Cambridge Conversazione Society (the 'Apostles') but that 'I told them I didn't think he would like the Society...It would seem to him stuffy, as indeed it has become, owing to their practice of being in love with each other...' (quoted in McGuinness's 'Life', ocit., 118). Again, it was difficult to be convinced by Bartley's adducing as evidence of Wittgenstein's homosexuality a question to G.E. Moore by Richard Curle and Iris Wedgwood about Wittgenstein's 'being normal (about women)' (Bartley, 164)] With regard to Skinner, Bartley was clear that 'active homosexual practice was involved' [Bartley, ocit., 165.] but there was the counter-evidence of Drury. Sixthly, some members of Wittgenstein's family, many of his friends and most crucially of all, his literary executors, joined in dismissing Bartley's views.

The reason why the position taken up by the literary executors—Rush Rhees and Elizabeth Anscombe, among them—was significant is because Bartley stated that his assertions both regarding Wittgenstein's general preoccupation with homosexual desire and specific homosexual activity were verifiable with reference to two notebooks/diaries in coded writing in the archive (to which he had had unexplained access) and which had survived a destruction of such material ordered by Wittgenstein in 1950. [Further to a review of Bartley's book in the Times Literary Supplement (17 August, 1973), Elizabeth Anscombe wrote (16 November, 1973) asking Bartley to indicate (inter alia) the nature of his sources. An exchange of letters with Bartley ensued, involving in addition to Anscombe (who wrote again on 4 and 18 January, 1974), Brian McGuinness (18 January, 1974) and F.A. von Hayek (8 February, 1974). This correspondence is more notable for the heat generated than the light shed on the question of Bartley's sources. In similar vein to Anscombe, Rush Rhees introduced a long and diffuse review of Bartley's book in the Human World XIV (February 1974) with the rhetorical question: 'what standards guided the publishers and the editor when they brought this book out and sponsored it?' (67). Wittgenstein's sister, Margarete Stonborough, also got involved. She interviewed Bartley's interpreter, Helmut Kasper, regarding Bartley's research during a six week stay in Vienna in 1969 but these enquiries too shed little light on the basis for Bartley's assertions. Bartley wrote that another family member, one of Wittgenstein's nephews, took a different view of his work. This nephew had written to congratulate him on his 'superb job in ferreting out sources' (TLS, 11 January, 1974, 32). It may be that Bartley was referring to Margarete's son, Thomas Stonborough, with whom (as his mother had ascertained from Kasper) Bartley had had a short interview.]

There the matter stood until the appearance of Ray Monk's biography. Monk has found evidence that seems to corroborate Bartley—at least in one respect—and this bears directly on Drury's testimony. During the time that Drury knew them, it appears that Wittgenstein was indeed sexually attracted to Skinner and that according to a 1937 entry in Wittgenstein's diary, he 'lay with [Skinner] two or three times. Always at first with the feeling that there was nothing wrong in it, then with shame'. [Monk, ocit., 376.]

Drury stated in a letter to the Times Literary Supplement that as a psychiatrist it was 'in the nature of my work to be alert to problems of homosexuality whether latent or active', that Bartley was 'in error when he supposes that Wittgenstein was at any time "tormented by homosexual behaviour"' and that 'sensuality in any form was entirely foreign to his ascetic personality'. [Drury to the Times Literary Supplement, (22 February, 1974), 186. Wittgenstein's nephew, Major John J. Stonborough, commenting in the Human World (ocit.) on what he called Bartley's 'farrago of lies and poppycock' also wrote of Wittgenstein's asceticism: 'L.W. was an ascetic and that is as yet no crime' (84), Rush Rhees, in his review (ocit.) noted 'Wittgenstein's regard for women and, at certain times, his love for a woman' (78). Monk, ocit., recounts that one of Wittgenstein's friends, Rowland Hutt, understood Wittgenstein to tell him that 'as a young man he had had sexual relations with a woman' (369).] Perhaps Wittgenstein compartmentalised that part of his life from Drury, who was not, of course, at the time of Skinner's friendship with Wittgenstein, a qualified, not to say, a practising psychiatrist. However, the case that Bartley makes about the younger Wittgenstein remains moot and Monk is probably right in thinking that Bartley overstated the degree to which Wittgenstein was sexually active at that point in his life. On the other hand, it must be said that Bartley did make a valuable attempt to link Wittgenstein's life and thought—and that he was successful in this project at least in regard to the connection between Wittgenstein's activities and interests as a primary-school teacher and his later interest in language acquisition, primitive languages, and private languages.


On qualifying as a doctor in 1939, Drury worked as a General Practitioner for a few months in the Welsh Rhondda Valley and was playing host to Wittgenstein and Skinner on the day that war broke out. Soon, Drury joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving first in England (at Yeovil) before he was posted to Egypt. Wittgenstein and Skinner came to Liverpool to wish him farewell and Wittgenstein presented him with a silver cup, remarking that 'water tastes so much nicer out of silver'. [Fann, ocit., 67.]. The war years separated the two friends; they tried to keep in touch through correspondence. From November 1941 to April 1943, Wittgenstein added weekday work as a laboratory assistant in Guy's Hospital, London, to his regular duties as Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge (which he discharged on alternate Saturdays) and thereafter, until early 1944, went to Newcastle to work on the physiology of shock in a psychological laboratory under Dr. R.T. Grant. Drury visited him there and Wittgenstein showed him an apparatus he had designed for measuring pulse pressure.

Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge (and philosophy) in early 1944. After Drury had left that university in the early thirties, Wittgenstein would never allow Drury to discuss with him his current work but Drury retained an interest in philosophy. [In the 'Conversations' (first published in 1981), Drury explained: 'I think he felt that his own thinking was so much more developed than mine that there was a danger of swamping me and my becoming nothing but a pale echo of himself' (97).] Thus, while in Egypt, Drury read F.H. Bradley's Essays on Truth and Reality, and found it very stimulating. Drury snatched a visit in Swansea with Wittgenstein before taking up his D-Day posting in France and, on parting, Wittgenstein passed on the beatitudinal (and Tolstoyan) advice: 'if it ever happens that you get mixed up in hand-to-hand fighting, you must just stand aside and let yourself be massacred' [C., 149].

After his demobilisation, Drury worked as a House Physician in a hospital in Taunton. He was taking time to consider his future in medicine and deliberately avoided Wittgenstein during this period, for fear of being influenced by him. Nevertheless, he eventually did as Wittgenstein had planned for him in 1933. In 1947, he took up a position as Resident Psychiatrist in St. Patrick's Hospital in Dublin under Dr. J.N. Moore. Meanwhile, Wittgenstein was also considering his future. On August 27th, he wrote to Norman Malcolm, a former student now teaching Philosophy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, that 'my mind is rather in a turmoil these days. I am almost certain that I shall resign my professorship in the Autumn'. [Wittgenstein to Malcolm in Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir with a Biographical Sketch by G.H. von Wright, new edition with Wittgenstein's letters to Malcolm (Oxford University Press, 1984), 103. Wittgenstein expressed reservations about becoming a professor: On 27 March, 1939 he wrote to William Eccles: 'having got the professorship is very flattering and all that but it might have been very much better for me to have got a job opening and closing crossing gates'. (Wittgenstein to Eccles in W. Eccles 'Some Letters of Ludwig Wittgenstein' in Hermathena XCVII (1963), 65). Wittgenstein met Eccles, an already qualified engineer, when he was a student of aeronautical engineering at Manchester University. Eccles writes that 'Wittgenstein...visited my Coleraine home with me before the 1914-18 war' (64). It seems almost impossible now to date this (presumably first) visit to Ireland more precisely. For more on the Irish connection and related themes cf. John Hayes, 'Wittgenstein, Religion, Freud, and Ireland' in Irish Philosophical Journal 6 (1989), p191-249.] Wittgenstein wanted to prepare his second book, Philosophical Investigations, for publication and to do this he needed to be free of the distraction of people. He considered going to live in either Norway (where he had done philosophical work before the First World War) or Ireland. Having visited Drury in Dublin in August, he returned to Cambridge clear that he should resign his Professorship but still undecided about his future country of residence. He then visited his home in Vienna, a city now occupied by the Russians, and found the experience bleak beyond words. On his return, he resigned his Professorship (effective December 31st, 1947) and after spending a month working on the philosophy of psychology, his major philosophical preoccupation for the last period of his life, prepared to move to Dublin.

Wittgenstein arrived in Dublin at the end of November 1947, stayed at Ross's Hotel (now rebuilt as the 'Ashling') for a few days and from December 9th lodged as farmhouse guest of the Kingston family at Kilpatrick House in Red Cross (near Arklow), Co. Wicklow. At first, he seems to have found life congenial, especially the walks offered by the beautiful countryside [For a good account of Wittgenstein's life with the Kingstons cf. George Hetherington, 'A Sage in Search of a Pool of Darkness' in the Irish Times (26 April, 1989), 12.] Drury visited him there regularly. In early 1948, it was clear that all was not well with Wittgenstein. He was suffering from indigestion. In February to wrote to Malcolm that he occasionally had 'queer states of nervous instability'. [Wittgenstein to Malcolm (5 February, 1948) in Norman Malcolm, op. cit., 106.] In April, he wrote to Rhees that he had suffered 'terrible depressions' for six to eight weeks and that this experience had been followed by a 'bad flu'. [Wittgenstein to Rhees (15 April, 1948). Quoted in Hetherington's Irish Times article, ocit.] He came to Dublin to see Drury and told him that he could not work; 'the continual murmur of the people in the room underneath his', talking late at night, was driving him 'crazy' [C., 155. Maria Bagramian's article, 'Ireland in the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein' in Hermathena CXLIV (1988), 69-83 is also particularly helpful on this period of Wittgenstein's life. It would appear that Wittgenstein greatly exaggerated the degree to which the Kingstons contributed to his condition.] Drury gave him some sleeping tablets and suggested that he go to Rosro--an offer which Wittgenstein promised to consider.

Although Drury did not publish the fact, it was probably at this time that he referred Wittgenstein to his chief at St Patrick's, Norman Moore, who saw him in St. Patrick's on five or six occasions 'in the late 1940's'. These consultations seem to have had an informal character. They met as friends rather than as doctor and patient. According to Moore, Wittgenstein appeared a 'depressed and sad man'. He spoke 'slowly', was 'down with depressed affect', 'slowed down' and 'gloomy' [Norman Moore is quoted to this effect by Michael Fitzgerald and David Berman, who interviewed him on 12 November, 1993. This was in a letter to Nature (368, 10 March, 1994. 92), which was in belated response to one written by J.R. Smythies (National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London) in the same journal (Vol. 350 on 7 March, 1991, 9). Smythies' letter was itself part of a debate begun between John C. Marshall (Neuropsychology Unit, University Department of Clinical Neurology, The Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford) and A.J. Greenfield (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London). Marshall had written in a review of Theodore Redpath, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Student's Memoir (London: Duckworth, 1990) in Nature (347, 4 October, 1990, 435) that Wittgenstein had created at Trinity a 'superheated circus'—a la Schnitzer at the Cafe Griensteidl—for 'students in a strange land who would be incapable of understanding who he was and what he taught' and that 'one of the profound mysteries of the twentieth century' was 'how did a minor Viennese aphorist come to be regarded (in some circles) as a great philosopher who had twice changed the course of the discipline?' In Vol. 348, (29 November, 1990, 384), Greenfield tried to offer a 'few remarks ... [to] help towards a more balanced view of Wittgenstein's work than that allowed by Marshall's sadly vacuous "hatchet job"'. This was a futile exercise if one is to judge from Marshall's response to Greenfield in the same issue, in which he tried to quote Wittgenstein against himself: 'nothing seems to me less likely than that a scientist or mathematician who reads me should be seriously influenced in the way he works' (Culture and Value). It was at this point that Smythies joined the fray, claiming that Marshall had suggested an alternative view of Wittgenstein to that of 'great philosopher' viz.,
as just one of a long line of German-speaking philosophers (such as Hegel and Heidegger) who have dazzled some innocent English-speaking philosophers by writing material whose basic nonsense is concealed by the impenetrable thickets of the German language
and that Smythies was now proposing a third hypothesis as follows:
Russell in his autobiography (among others) draws attention to Wittgenstein's schizoid and paranoid personality. Canon C.E. Raven (who was vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge during Wittgenstein's tenure of his chair there) told me that Wittgenstein at times actually suffered from paranoid delusions and would flee to outlying villages to escape from his imaginary enemies
and went on to inform the reader that 'certain schizoid personalities develop the ability to write in a form of speech disorder known as schizophrenese'. He gives the example of Joyce in Finnegan's Wake (though he was 'never overtly schizophrenic, although very schizoid') before stating that Wittgenstein's philosophical writing exhibits the same tendency to a 'singular degree'. The popular and not so popular press then took up the matter. The Sunday Telegraph, No. 1,554 (10 March, 1991) ran a front-page story from its science correspondent headed: 'Revealed: the great philosopher was just a nutcase'. This belongs to what is now a genre of psychiatric diagnoses of various philosophers—at a distance. In respect of Wittgenstein himself, there had been the claim by Charles Hanly that in his remarks on Freud, Wittgenstein exhibited an 'unconscious need for psychoanalytic therapy' ('Wittgenstein on Psychoanalysis' in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophy and Language Alice Ambrose and Morris Lazerowitz (eds.) (London: George Allen and Ltd, 1972), 941). Some other instances are mentioned in these notes. A defence of Wittgenstein against Smythies appeared in an editorial in The Times (Monday, March 11, 1991) entitled 'Witlessgenstein' stating that 'it has taken a lesser modern wisdom to slur with the charge of insanity the wit and wisdom of Wittgenstein' (13). For a poignant aspect of Smythies' intervention, cf. infra.] From the evidence presented in his biographies and elsewhere, it is clear that this was very far from the first occasion on which Wittgenstein suffered from depression. Brian McGuinness makes some allusive statements that suggest a higher than average incidence of manic depression in families with the background of the Wittgenstein family and also that Wittgenstein's mood swings might need to be described as cyclothymic or otherwise accounted for. At the same time, McGuinness also appears to suggest that Wittgenstein's early depressions were of no clinical importance. [McGuinness, ocit., p23 and 156/7. On 23, McGuinness writes:
intermarriage has tended to produce among Jews a higher incidence of scientific and musical gifts and of the manic-depressive psychosis, so in this one instance what Karl and Poldy [Wittgenstein's parents] had inherited and transmitted...conspired to form a generation of human beings remarkable much more for the exceptional gifts distributed among it than for its capacity to achieve harmony and happiness.
On 156/7 (regarding a typical diary entry expressing Wittgenstein's discontent), McGuinness states:
no psychiatrist would regard it as a clinical indication of importance. [William] James suggests that those whom it [feeling discontent] oppresses to the degree that Tolstoy and Wittgenstein were oppressed have a lower "misery threshold" than others. It does not matter here whether this linear model is adequate, whether we have to supplement it by allowing for fluctuations in the threshold—cyclothymia—or replace it by some account that allows the same nature, in some cases, to be the most easily depressed and the most easily elated.
In his review McGuinness's biography, Stephen Toulmin (Times Literary Supplement, No. 4,457, 2-8 September, 1988, p947-48) takes McGuinness to task for being
unwilling to recognize how far Wittgenstein's afflictions were self-generated, and might have been open to therapeutic intervention...I have no doubt that—however much he dislikes the idea—McGuinness will see his work made a starting point for useful essays on perfectionism and the pathology of "grandiosity"'.
According to Bartley (ocit., 110), Wittgenstein had to undergo a psychiatric examination in 1926 as part of the investigation into the incident in the elementary school in Otterthal when Wittgenstein struck a pupil.] Drury does not use the terms 'manic depression' nor 'cyclothymia' at all. A fortiori, he does not speculate about the aetiology of Wittgenstein's depression although the history of Wittgenstein's fraternal siblings and perhaps the pattern of behaviour towards his pupils that marked Wittgenstein's career as a primary school-teacher—if it were known to him or Norman Moore—might have given cause for alarm. [Three of Wittgenstein's four brothers committed suicide: Hans, in 1902, in mysterious circumstances in the Chesapeake bay; Rudi in 1903 (by drinking cyanide in milk) of grief over the death of a homosexual partner, and Kurt because of a subjective feeling of loss of military honour probably arising from having lost control over his troops in a disintegrating Austrian army in 1918. Of Kurt, Wittgenstein himself wrote to Eccles on 7 May, 1925 that he 'was in the army' and 'was killed' (Eccles, ocit., 62) In the first part of his biography, which covers only the first 32 years of Wittgenstein's life, McGuinness documents Ludwig's suicidal thoughts going back as far as the age of ten or eleven (48). Later, McGuinness records, Wittgenstein told his friend, David Pinsent, that he had had thoughts of committing suicide continually for 9 years (50). Sometimes, such thoughts arose because of difficulty with his work, sometimes because of difficulties with relationships—or grief because of the loss of friend—and sometimes, because of a sense of futility about life itself. The vicissitudes of war helped him—an effect so common as to appear in a lowered statistical incidence of suicide during war. On at least one occasion, he himself put his condition down to the fact that he had no faith (293). Of the attraction of Freud he said to Rush Rhees in 1946:
many people have at some period, serious troubles in their lives—so serious as to lead to thoughts of suicide. This is likely to appear to one as something nasty, as a situation which is too foul to be subject of a tragedy. And it may then be an immense relief if it can be shown that one's life has the pattern rather of a tragedy—the tragic working out and repetition of a pattern which was determined by a primal scene. ('Conversations on Freud' in Barrett, ocit., 51).
But the '100% Hebraic' Wittgenstein, who rejected cyclicism, would hardly have accepted such 'relief'.]

On April 28, after spending Easter with the Kingstons in Co. Wicklow, Wittgenstein went to the Drury cottage in Connemara. His needs were tended to by a family retainer, Tommy Mulkerrins, who seems to have been appraised by Drury that Wittgenstein 'had suffered a nervous breakdown' [Joseph Mahon, 'The Great Philosopher Who Came to Ireland' in The Irish Medical Times 20, no. 7 (14 February, 1986), 32.] Wittgenstein preferred Mulkerrins to the Kingstons. Each day, Wittgenstein had him remove and burn large piles of rejected manuscript material—an indication that Wittgenstein was working very hard. Wittgenstein kept aloof from the local people, who formed a negative impression of him, and had few visitors. The journey was too far for Drury, who had a demanding hospital schedule to fulfil. Ben Richards, a friend, who was a medical student, and an Indian student, K.J. Shah, later Professor at Dharwar University, did visit but of Shah he wrote to Malcom that their conversation was not 'good' and he added that he was sorry to have to say that he was 'often tired and irritable now'. [Wittgenstein to Malcolm (5 July, 1948) in Malcolm, ocit., 112.]

In August, Wittgenstein went for a few days to Dublin, thence to England, and spent most of the month of September in Vienna with his family, finishing off his trip with two weeks in Cambridge, which were spent dictating from his manuscripts what has now been published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology (1980). He returned to Dublin with the intention of returning to Rosro but Drury was apprehensive of his spending the Winter in Connemara. Instead, Wittgenstein again booked into Ross's Hotel—a short walk across Kingsbridge to St. Patrick's Hospital, where Drury was working. Thereafter, Drury and he met almost daily, often strolling in the Zoological Gardens in the nearby Phoenix Park, where they discussed the great philosophers. Obviously, this was not sufficient for Wittgenstein because he wrote to Malcolm about this time that 'I think I could still discuss philosophy if I had someone here to discuss with, but alone I can't concentrate on it'. [Wittgenstein to Malcolm (1 April, 1949), Ibid., 119.]. Drury's insufficiency in this regard is not surprising as his understanding of Wittgenstein is rooted in the Tractatus; and there is no evidence in his writings of an appreciation—sometimes even an awareness—of the later Wittgensteinian puzzles about private language (and the associated ones about consciousness, thought, and imagination), solipsism, rule-following, or of the debates about his relationship to logical behaviourism or therapeutic positivism. [In a letter to Rush Rhees (May 1966), in Lee, ocit., Drury listed a number of Wittgenstein's remarks from the 1916-18 Notebooks and wrote:
when I left Cambridge it was ideas like this that I felt were for me the essence of what Wittgenstein had taught me. And these conceptions have remained central with me ever since...Thus when the Investigations came out I read them with these fixed ideas in mind, and still do. But am I right? I sometimes have the feeling that I have completely misunderstood the Investigations...The remarks from the Notebooks...are for me more revealing than anything in the Investigations...and I have tried to see the Investigations as more detailed exposition of just such conceptions. If philosophy is not an attempt to state the "Wesen der Welt" then, I feel lost. And yet I also have the feeling that such a phrase...would be foreign to the diction of the Investigations. Again the thought of the self as not a part of the world but a boundary of the world is one that I keep coming to with wonder and certainty. And then once again this is not stated in the Investigations; am I right in thinking that it is there shown? (Philosophical Investigations 6, ocit., 174)]
However, Wittgenstein was not altogether bereft of philosophical interlocutors nor, to judge from the results, was work wholly impossible: He was visited at Ross's by Elizabeth Anscombe (who stayed for two weeks) and Rush Rhees, both professional philosophers.

If Drury was worried about Wittgenstein's health, Wittgenstein, for his part, believed that Drury was too single-minded in his pursuit of hospital duties and had to help him handle a crisis when he lost his temper at an alcoholic patient whose behaviour was abusive. Wittgenstein welcomed the new methods of physical treatment for psychological illnesses; Drury was involved in the introduction to St. Patrick's of lithium as a treatment for manic depression—but, true to his master's principles, tried to establish the parameters appropriate to such interventions. He was to become very interested in the treatment of phobias by hypnosis. Wittgenstein had had himself hypnotised while a student in Cambridge to enable him to concentrate better on his work on the foundations of mathematics. In the event, he could not be hypnotised 'during the session but fell into a deep trance the moment it was over' [McGuinness, ocit., 29.] Drury wrote an unpublished treatise on hypnosis, Introductory Lectures on Hypnosis, which, while being thoroughly competent, does not exhibit any special originality. In a general way, Wittgenstein gave excellent advice to Drury the blossoming psychiatrist: 'let your patients feel they have time to talk to you' [C., 154].

There is evidence that Wittgenstein socialised with some of Drury's colleagues —Dr.Tim McCracken, in particular. Dr. McCracken says he introduced Wittgenstein to the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and to Professor T.G. Moorhead of the Trinity College Medical School, who gave weekly dinner parties at the club. [Letter of 24 January, 1990 from Mrs. Eileen McCracken on behalf of Dr. Tim McCracken.] Paddy Lynch, emeritus professor of Political Economy at University College, Dublin, recalls dining once with Wittgenstein as fellow guests of Moorhead. Further to an enquiry as to whether any records still existed at the RIYC that might help date this occasion, the answer was that 'the only records that might have existed would have been entries to the Visitor's Book. But these books were never preserved' [Private communication (29 May 1990) from Judge James J. MacMahon who kindly made this enquiry of the Commodore of the RIYC, Judge Robert Barr.] In the article, written by George Hetherington, where this information first came to light, Professor Lynch recalled driving Moorhead (who had been blinded in an accident at Euston Station, London, in 1926) to Ross's Hotel when on one occasion in late 1948, Moorhead's dinner at the club was interrupted by a sick call. Moorhead did not disclose the identity of his patient to Prof. Lynch although Hetherington is 'almost certain' it was Wittgenstein. [George Hetherington 'Wittgenstein in Ireland: An Account of His Various Visits from 1934 to 1949' in Irish University Review 17, no 2 (1987), 183. On 179 of this article we read that when the poet Richard Murphy took up residence in the cottage at Rosro that had been occupied by Wittgenstein, he made a 'chance discovery of the identity of the earlier tenant of the house' in the form of a letter beginning 'Dear Wittgenstein' and signed 'Isaiah Berlin'. Perhaps it makes no difference to the value of the sonnet 'Killary Hostel' (in The Price of Stone (London: Faber, 1985)), which celebrates this 'discovery' but on 29 May 1990, Sir Isaiah Berlin, wrote to the present writer, who wished to get details of this correspondence, as follows: 'I can assure you that I have never in my life written a letter to Ludwig Wittgenstein, nor received any communication from him'. On 15 July, 1993, President Mary Robinson unveiled a plaque commemorating Ludwig Wittgenstein at the cottage in Rosro, now the Killary Harbour Youth Hostel. On 16 May, 1988, on the initiative of George Hetherington, a plaque was unveiled at the Ashling Hotel, commemorating Wittgenstein's stay at its predecessor, Ross's Hotel.]

Ray Monk writes that Wittgenstein consulted a doctor (unnamed) in January, who diagnosed gastro-enteritis, and Prof. Lynch has since written that he may have conveyed Moorhead to Ross's at the beginning of 1949 rather than the end of 1948. [Monk, op cit., 539; Lynch, Private communication of 22 January, 1990.] What we do know is that Wittgenstein felt weak and in pain in February and was unable to work after March. In April, he visited his sister, Hermine (called 'Mining' in the family), who was dying, in Vienna. On his return, Drury advised him to consult Moorhead. It is, however, difficult to read Drury's record of what Wittgenstein said to him when he agreed to this consultation as other than a first meeting (professionally—or even of any kind) with Moorhead: 'Yes, I will go and see this man; only I want you tell him I am a man of intelligence who likes to be told exactly what is found wrong—to have things explained to me frankly' [C., 167]. The investigation (in hospital) found 'a severe anaemia of a rather unusual kind' [Wittgenstein to Malcolm (4 June, 1949) in Malcolm, ocit., 119.]—but the X-Ray definitely showed no stomach tumour, as had been feared.

On 29 January, 1949, Wittgenstein wrote that 'Drury, I think, is growing more and more unfaithful. He has found friends with whom he can live more easily' [Quoted in Monk, ocit., 539.] Yet, Drury saw that Wittgenstein's medical needs were attended to, ensured that he was supplied with books, and continued to converse with him about the great philosophers, whom Wittgenstein categorised as 'deep' (Kant and Berkeley) and 'shallow' (Schopenhauer) and also, more and more, about religion. Wittgenstein's time in Ireland was drawing to a close. Lured by the promise of intellectual stimulation, he decided to visit Norman Malcolm in America.

Monk recounts that on one of their last evenings together in Ireland (13 June, 1949) Wittgenstein and Drury listened to a BBC Third Programme, which was a discussion between A.J. Ayer and Frederick Copleston, the Jesuit historian of philosophy. What is certain, however, from the BBC archives, is that this programme was not about 'The Existence of God', as Monk has it, but 'Logical Positivism'. Drury does indeed mention listening with Wittgenstein to a radio discussion on 'The Existence of God' between Ayer and Copleston but dates it to '1948' [C., 159]. Monk, however, redates Drury's record to June 1949. There had been indeed another discussion in the series about 'The Existence of God' in 1948 (on 28 January) but while Copleston was a discussant on that occasion, Ayer was not; the other speaker was Bertrand Russell. This instance can only make us cautious not only about Drury's dating but, even more, his accuracy. To be fair, he warned that his dating is reliable only insofar as the entries are given in chronological order—and even that is in question here—and as to the substance of what is reported he reminds us that the 'memory, even the most recent, is deceitful' [C, 98].

Wittgenstein departed Ireland for what was to be the last time on or about 18 June. He left behind him half a dozen books, including (as Rhees remembers it) a second-hand school edition of Livy and memories for just a few people. Wittgenstein became very ill in America. However, a definite diagnosis of cancer of the prostate was not made until after his return to England in October 1949. The diagnosis was arrived at by a former army medical colleague of Drury's, Dr. Edward Bevan, on 25 November. Hormone therapy and X-Ray treatment were prescribed but fourteen months later, at the beginning of February 1951, Wittgenstein accepted an offer to move into Bevan's home in Cambridge to die. Drury visited him there in April on his way home from his honeymoon in Italy; he had married Eileen Stewart, matron of St. Patrick's. Wittgenstein insisted on accompanying him to the railway station. Wittgenstein's last words to Drury were: 'whatever becomes of you, don't stop thinking' [C, 170].

Back in Dublin a few days, Drury was recalled by Dr. Bevan at Wittgenstein's request. On arrival, he found that Wittgenstein was already unconscious and dying. Other friends had assembled: Elizabeth Anscombe, Yorick Smythies and (now Dr.) Ben Richards. A Dominican priest, Fr. Conrad Pepler (son of a close associate of Eric Gill), who had paid a pastoral visit in Oxford to Wittgenstein, at the latter's request, the previous year, and had instructed the converts Anscombe and Smythies in the Catholic faith, was also present. Drury recounts how the group decided on praying the Office for the Dying and having conditional absolution pronounced by Pepler on the basis of his recollection that Wittgenstein had once expressed the hope that 'his Catholic friends prayed for him' [C., 171] Drury also provided the information which led to the subsequently controversial decision to bury Wittgenstein according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

The nature of the information was that Wittgenstein had once told Drury he approved of Tolstoy (described as a 'stern critic of the Russian Orthodox Church') ['C.', 171], having his brother interred according to the Orthodox rite. As related by Drury, this seems to be an example of Tolstoy respecting the religious affiliation of his deceased brother, despite his own reservations. Ray Monk observes that it is doubtful whether 'the story about Tolstoy quite fits the occasion' [Monk, 580] since Wittgenstein had said from time to time, including to Drury, that he could not believe what Catholics believe and since, furthermore, he was not a practising Catholic. And, indeed, afterwards, Drury was troubled by what his words had facilitated.

However, in getting it wrong, the chief mourners were closer to the truth of the Tolstoy case than they, or Wittgenstein, apparently knew. In 1904, Tolstoy (by then, in fact, an excommunicate) had his brother, Sergey Nikoloyevich, buried according to the Orthodox rite even though, as Tolstoy writes in his diary (26 August), so far as he could judge, 'effective religious feeling was denied' to Sergey. [Tolstoy's Diaries, Volume 2, 1895-1910, edited and translated by R.F. Christian (London: The Athlone Press, 1985), 528 (entry for 26 August, 1904)] It seems unlikely, however, that this is the action that Wittgenstein was praising and thus, ironic, that what he miscited as an exemplary act by Tolstoy, was apparently re-produced in his own case.


By all accounts, Drury was a very hard-working psychiatrist. From 1951, he worked not only in St. Patrick's but also in a subsidiary nursing home—generally for well-off patients—St. Edmundsbury's, in Lucan, Co. Dublin. He treated the wife of the physicist Erwin Schrodinger—who was a Professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and where Drury's son, Luke, is now Senior Professor in the Astrophysics Section of its School of Cosmic Physics—for depression and also Yorick Smythies, one of the close friends assembled around Wittgenstein's death-bed, for schizophrenia [The source of this information is Prof. Frank Cioffi of the Dept of Philosophy, University of Essex. On 10 March, 1989, he wrote:
I have been familiar with Dr. Drury's name since my undergraduate days through my friendship with someone who knew Drury, and like him, had been an intimate of Wittgenstein's—Yorick Smithies ... I didn't hear of Drury again until Smythies went to consult him about his (Smythies') schizophrenic episodes.
J.R. Smythies writes in his letter to Nature, supra that he was a 'cousin' of Yorick Smythies.]

Drury gave lectures on psychology to medical students in Trinity College and in the Royal College of Surgeons, in St. Stephen's Green. Apparently, his style of delivery did not make his material especially attractive to his student audience. One student of his (Michael Fitzgerald, now Henry Marsh Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychology at Trinity College Dublin) has written, however:
I have a sense of him in real life as an intellectual. While he worked very long hours and was extremely committed to his patients, he also had a very active intellectual life, especially in the area of philosophy and its relationship to psychiatry. In later life, this was particularly expressed in a very intense correspondence between Rush Rhees and himself. As he spoke, one was aware of quite an intellectual man, who was very much speaking and relating to an audience as an intellectual.
In 1969, Drury was promoted Consultant Psychiatrist and in 1973, published The Danger of Words, which was based on his non-academic lectures to a medical club. It must be said that, whatever about the delivery, they read very well indeed. Ray Monk describes this book as 'the most truly Wittgensteinian work published by any of Wittgenstein's students' [Monk, ocit., 264.] That is not so easy to see in the detail of it—and Wittgenstein is not much quoted in the book [Drury wrote a lengthy reply to a review by Ilham Dilman of The Danger of Words, ('Fact and Hypothesis' in The Human World, p136-139) and took the opportunity to spell out the Wittgensteinian influence more.] Clearly, however, the project, indicated by the title, to get us to reflect on the place language occupies in 'our life'—the plural refers primarily to those engaged in medical practice, particularly psychiatry—is Wittgensteinian. He writes in the belief that 'a natural science which is not subjected to philosophical criticism becomes blind' [DoW, 99].

Pursuant to this belief, Drury engages the themes developed out of his favourite tractarian texts and applies them to psychiatry. The conjectural nature of scientific knowledge, the boundlessness of reality, and the corresponding necessity not to make of science—nor the scientist—a god, are discussed. Psychological science is especially tentative because the observer is also subject. Drury sees special difficulty arising from the fact that, necessarily, one is using one's mind to explore the mind. Consequently, psychology is not very advanced. Neither is neurophysiology. With regard to the latter, he rejects the view that psychological experience can be correlated in an exact way with brain activity. His understanding of the body/mind relationship is dualistic, positing a noumenal mind/soul. This clears the path for his subscription to the Lamarckian thesis that the inheritance of acquired psychological characteristics is possible. Any detailed theses, however, are proposed very tentatively. He keeps reminding his readers that mental phenomena are intractable. Such knowledge as we have is drawn from a never diminishing pool of mystery.

Drury's main method of keeping in touch with the Wittgenstein inheritance was through his voluminous correspondence with Rush Rhees, previously mentioned. Nevertheless, and although the influence is much more difficult to document, Drury said himself that 'after Wittgenstein's death I became acquainted with the writings of Simone Weil. These have had as profound an influence on my subsequent thought as Wittgenstein had had on my earlier life' [DoW, 88]; it is an influence that certainly surfaces in The Danger of Words, but complementary to Wittgenstein's intriguing references to the 'inexpressible' and 'the mystical' in the Tractatus.. Weil wrote
There is a reality outside the world, that is to say outside space and time, outside man's mental universe, outside any sphere whatsoever that is accessible to human faculties. Corresponding to this reality, at the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world ['Notes', 83; Also, 'Facts and Hypotheses', op cit., 139. The quotation is from Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations (1943) Given as Ecrits de Londres et dernieres lettres (Paris, 1957), 74 by Rhees.].
The most interesting essay in the volume and the one that Rush Rhees felt most strongly about, was Chapter 5, on 'Madness and Religion'. Here Drury is in his specialist field, and he bases his remarks on a number of cases drawn from his clinical experience as well as his reading in the history of spirituality. This material provokes Drury's central question viz., how to distinguish between spiritual experience and mental illness that takes a religious form. He notes that this was becoming a more urgent question when relatively effective physical treatments for depression, mania, hallucinations, and paranoia—conditions which often present themselves in guises not easily distinguishable from classical religious experience as described by saints and spiritual directors—were emerging for the first time to replace older less reliable therapies. Such treatments could be successfully administered by psychiatrists who were totally uncomprehending of the patient's subjective conviction about the religious nature of their experience. Drury raises an important issue and handles it with considerable finesse, eschewing extreme or facile solutions.

He rejects, in particular, the extremes of Freud and Jung. He will accept neither Freud's view that all religion is collective neurosis nor Jung's contrary contention that mental health is almost impossible in a non-religious mode. His rejection of Freud does not engage Freud's theory of religion as such. Drury adduces instead the distinct phenomenon of inconsistency between the theory of ethics (admittedly sharing the same root as the theory of religion) and Freud's own sense of duty. His point is apparently that Freudian determinism is belied by Freud's practice. Freud's mode of life proclaimed the reality and value of ethical action. It is not clear how this argument establishes the parallel reality and autonomy of the religious sphere. Drury finds Jung's view more appealing than Freud's but impractical. His clinical experience was that drugs, not words, were called for in the cases under discussion. At the same time, although 'our sanity is at the mercy of a molecule' [DoW, 134], the story is not entirely physical and this not only because of his philosophical dualism but also because physical disturbances do not invariably accompany mental illness. Perhaps we can make some progress if we base our judgements on what a person does with their religious experiences i.e., on what they have 'achieved' [DoW, 131]? This apparently was Wittgenstein's position, as noted earlier. But this simply raises the further question as to what is to be accounted success and what failure.

In the final analysis, therefore, and consistent with his profound sense of the mystery of mental health, Drury accepts that he has no clear criteria to hand to judge whether a person is saint or simply ill. He declares that the distinction between religion and madness 'we spent so much time looking for was nothing but a will-or'-the wisp' [DoW, 136]. Great spiritual achievement may be preceded or accompanied by episodes of mental illness, as instanced in the lives of Tolstoy, George Fox, and Joan of Arc—and perhaps, we might add, Wittgenstein in the philosophical sphere. Drury accepts that the doctor should follow his vocation in trying to alleviate suffering by whatever means are at his disposal. He is, however, prepared to at least entertain the idea that it may not be ethical to administer drugs to someone suffering from what one considers a genuine religious experience. He goes even further and expresses his belief that, in any case, madness is not a loss of what is ultimately valuable because religious salvation, and the Christian virtues that accompany it, are of higher worth. Consistent with this, Drury suggests that the ancient pagan belief that sometimes those whom God intends to destroy he first has to make mad should be baptised as 'sometimes those whom God intends to save he first has to make mad' [Ibid, p133/6. Particularly germane is a quotation cited from Kierkegaard's Journal:
To lead a really spiritual life while physically and psychologically healthy is altogether impossible. One's sense of well-being runs away with one. If one suffers every day, if one is so frail that the thought of death is quite naturally and immediately to hand, then it is just possible to succeed a little; to be conscious that one needs God (135)].
The battle with a mental illness may curb pride, self-sufficiency and smugness and teach humility through suffering. This robust attitude Drury found also in Kierkegaard and Weil.

The therapist too must learn humility. Wittgenstein had stressed this to Drury: 'You should never cease to be amazed at symptoms mental patients show. If I became mad the thing I would fear most would be your common-sense attitude. That you would take it all as a matter of course that I should be suffering from delusions' [quoted by Drury in Fann, ocit., 67]. And the reader of the Danger of Words and of the other material printed here can judge for herself or himself whether Wittgenstein's 'pupil' [DoW, xi], as Drury called himself, had not learnt that lesson well when he wrote:
there is, and always will be, a mystery regarding mental ill-health which makes it different from any disease of the body. Every mentally ill patient is an individual enigma, and we should always think of him as such. There is something more disturbing and puzzling in the dissolution of the personality than in any bodily disease [DoW, 89].

First Published as the Introduction to M. O'C. Drury: The Danger of Words and Writings on Wittgenstein, Thoemmes Press, 1996.

© John Hayes, 1996.

John Hayes is Head of the Philosophy Department, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

Mail to: Dr. John Hayes

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