WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig. Typed letter signed ('Ludwig Wittgenstein'), Trinity College, Cambridge, 25 April 1935, one page, 4° (a few small spots, marginal creasing, punch hole).
Alice AMBROSE. Autograph letter signed ('Alice Ambrose'), 58 Bateman Street, Cambridge, 16 May , 2 pages, 4°, with autograph annotation by Wittgenstein 'Don't destroy this letter, it might interest you one day to reread it' (light staining at outer edges, short splits on folds). Provenance: Alice Ambrose Laserowitz (1906-2001).
WITTGENSTEIN'S TESTIMONIAL -- 'MISS AMBROSE HAS BEEN A MOST FAITHFUL AND DILIGENT STUDENT' -- AND AMBROSE'S LETTER REJECTING WITTGENSTEIN'S PROPOSAL THAT SHE SHOULD REVISE HER SECOND ARTICLE FOR MIND AND WITHDRAWING FROM HIS CLASSES: 'I THINK THAT THE SITUATION OF STRAIN NOW EXISTING BETWEEN US MAKES IT VERY UNLIKELY THAT WE CAN WORK TOGETHER'.
Written in support of Ambrose's attempts to find work in philosophy, Wittgenstein's letter of reference records that Ambrose has been attending his two courses of 'conversation classes' in 'Philosophy' and 'Philosophy for Mathematicians' regularly since autumn 1932, adding that 'as my classes are very small', he has been in a good position to assess her abilities. Commenting on her 'extraordinary seriousness and sincerity' and her persistence in 'trying to understand the extremely difficult problems we have been discussing', expressing his belief that she will be 'a valuable, painstaking and patient teacher of philosophy', and noting that 'her ability for philosophical research is well above the average', he concludes with the statement that Ambrose has been a 'most faithful and diligent student'. Ambrose's letter, written some three weeks later, opens by telling Wittgenstein that she has been offered a position at the University of Michigan, teaching logic, before setting out her reasons for not re-writing the second article for Mind under his supervision and for withdrawing from his classes, stating firmly, 'I refuse absolutely to set myself up as a target for you to fire at me the opinions I already know. I resent bitterly your attempts at forcing on me the advice I refused to accept from you more than a week and a half ago [...] If I were to come to you I should come to learn, not to be converted. And I would not tolerate any allusion, open or otherwise, to your feeling that the publication of my article is indecent'. The letter concludes, 'This is to be taken as a real consideration of the proposal you have made and of the conditions under which it might be tried. I think you will agree that it does not look as though it is worth the trying'. Wittgenstein's reaction is recorded in a letter to G.E. Moore of 18 May 1935: 'she wrote me a letter in which she gave me cheek. -- I didn't answer it, only sent it back with the remark "Don't destroy this letter [...]". -- I think you have no idea in what a serious situation she is [...] she is now actually standing at a crossroad. One road leading to perpetual misjudging of her intellectual powers and thereby to hurt pride aand vanity etc. etc. The other would lead her to a knowledge of her own capacities and that always has good consequences' (L. Wittgenstein Cambridge Letters (Oxford: 1995), no. 153). (2)