0286 Denies that British bar his coming to US and that G H Brennan is promoting lecture tour
12/19/16 Asked about a report recently published in the New York Times of an invitation from the Drama League to visit America, Bernard Shaw today said his reply could not without incivility be made public until the league had received it, "and its publication must be their act, not mine."
"I have received a cutting from a Glasgow paper, which has been extensively reproduced in this country, it says: 'George H Brennan, who is promoting a lecture tour for Bernard Shaw in America, declared yesterday that fear of British authorities of Mr Shaw's views on war is preventing the well-known author from obtaining permission to leave Great Britain.'
"There is not a word of
this statement. Geroge H Brennan is not promoting a lecturing tour
for me, though, like many other people, he has tried to persuade me
to allow him to do it. I have not applied for permission to
leave Great Britain. There is no reason to believe that the British
authorities have the slightest fear of my views on war, nor, on the
other hand, that their personal attachment to me is so uncontrollable
as to tempt them to retain me in this country by violence if I had
any intention of leaving it.
0285 Quoted on religion by Rev. Dr. J H Jowett
12/17/16 "I am ready to admit that after contemplating the world of human nature for sixty years, I see no way out of the world's misery but the way which would have been found by Christ's will if he had undertaken the work of a modern practical statesman."
0283 Interviewed on Irish problem by F V Conolly, special article
11/26/16 Although Bernard Shaw has lent the British Government one hundred thousand dollars at four and a half per cent, he is "agin it," like the good Irishman he is. I recently met him in the Strand and suggested an adjournment to a restaurant.
"Sir," said Bernard Shaw, drawing himself up to his full height, "can it be that you are unaware that I dislike all cooked food and all drink? I have been proclaiming this on the housetops for thirty years, and yet you outrage me by inviting me to a restaurant?" Shaw stared at me with an air which the early Victorian lady novelists would describe as being of "ineffable disdain." He turned on his heel and walked in the direction of the Embankment Gardens, where he bought a paper and commenced to read John Redmond's speech in the debate on Ireland in Parliament.
I followed close behind and, wishing to pacify him - no one who has not met a lifelong vegetarian can imagine how bellicose they can be; the fighting propensities of the Irish is merely a result of their potato diet - I mildly asked: 'What sort of Government do you think is best for Ireland, Mr Shaw?'
The philosopher of the Fabian Society stroked his beard and said: "As to a Government suitable to Ireland, I do not admit that the problem of government differs in Ireland from the same problem anywhere else in the British Empire. Ireland should have home rule of the Australian type. Many social and political experiments of great value have been made in Australia which might just as well have been made in Ireland, which, with free initiative, might have become a political laboratory from which England could learn a good deal.
"The Home Rule act is of the usual 'How Not To Do It' type, very evidently made in England without any assistance from the Irish party, which does not represent Irish political ability at all adequately. Dublin Castle is hopeless and always has been. Nominally it rules the country absolutely. Really it has never been able to control its own police or to execute even the noblest of it's good intentions, and most Chief Secretaries have gone to Ireland simply bursting with them."
'Seeing how the coalition Government,' I asked with the best intentions in the world, 'only appears to alienate all factions of the Irish people, do you think that the Irish of this and the coming generation will ever become loyal to the British ascendancy Government?'
"Neither Ireland nor any other country, including England, will ever be loyal to ascendancy of any sort," was the reply. "A common loyalty to liberty and justice is the bond that can bind nations and individuals permanently."
'You favor the rights of small nationalities to rebel. Would you extend this right to Sir Edward Carson's followers in Ulster?'
"Yes, if they want to - though I have very little patience with small nationalities merely as such. I favor the right even of the individual to rebel if he finds his conditions intolerable. But it must presently occur to some intelligent person in Ulster (it may already have occurred to Sir Edward Carson) that the very worst thing that could happen to Ulster would be the establishment of an Irish Parliament in Dublin with Ulster excluded from it.
"It is all very well for Ulster to say 'We won't have it,' but when 'it' comes in spite of Ulster, clearly Ulster's business is to be in 'it' from the first. If the Catholic South gets even a single session's start of the Protestant North, it may take the Protestant North ten years to overtake the South.
"There are only two sane policies for Ulster: one, the Union; two, a front place for Ulster in the reconstitution of Irish affairs by a Home Rule Parliament. Sulking and falling between two stools will not help Belfast. As to Ulster becoming a province of England, with the law running in Antrim exactly as in Yorkshire, the notion is entertained only by people who don't know Yorkshire or don't know Antrim. There would be a rebellion after the first round of the collector of rates and taxes. The gates of Derby would swing to by themselves. Home rule with Ulster excluded means that the Protestant boys will never carry the drum in Ireland, and Ulster had better realize that while there is still time."
'Do you consider, Mr Shaw, that after a few years of home Government the present political and religious feuds would disappear and that the Orange lion would lie down with the Nationalist lamb?'
"I hope not. A nation which is not in a chronic state of violent political and religious controversy is spiritually dead. The evil of Dublin Castle rule is that it has destroyed controversy and muzzled the Irish People. Neither the Catholics nor the Protestants dare reform their Churches - neither the Home Rulers nor the Unionists dare reform their parties - because to do so would be to divide their forces in the face of the enemy.
"Home rule would set us free to sweep out our Augean stables. The Orange lion may have to make common cause with the Nationalist lamb against the Orange jackal and the Nationalist wolf; but that, thank goodness, will mean more controversy than ever. "But in any case," continued Shaw, "let it be understood that we claim home rule as a right, and not as a prize for good behavior. The English have home rule; but their behavior is mostly disgraceful. We shall not behave worse than they - we cannot do the impossible - but we do not undertake to behave better; we are only human beings, and must be taken with that unfortunate limitation."
"If your confidence in the future of Ireland is so great Mr Shaw, would you back it up in a similar manner to the way in which you expressed your belief in England's ability to beat Germany, by subscribing £20,000 to the War Loan? To put it plainly, would you invest £20,000 in a Home Rule Government loan, to carry out social and industrial improvements in your country?'
"I invest money, not as a matter of patriotism, but as a matter of business," Shaw replied. "My inducement to take up the War Loan was 4.5 per cent. The British nation abused me heartily for telling it the truth about the war: a service by which I lost money heavily. To regain its respect and affection I had to arrange to make it pay me £900 a year for the rest of my life for doing nothing. It is now convinced I am a perfect gentleman."
'Finally, Mr Shaw, assuming that you had absolute power, how would you settle the Irish problem as it is understood today?'
"I shall certainly not be given that power if I let out beforehand what I should like to do with it. Besides, I am fortunate in the possession of a practical mind which refuses absolutely to work out unreal hypotheses. I do not ford streams until I come to them; and I am never in a hurry to bid the devil good morning!
"It seems to us especially fitting," runs the invitation, "that you should come to us at this time, because in a world at arms the United States is perhaps the only country where representatives of all the nationalities can, and will, unite in doing honor to the thinker and artist whose work tends to bind the nations together instead of driving them apart.
"We, therefore, representing the authors and playwrights of America, the actor managers who have produced your plays in this country, the audiences who have applauded your words, and all those who have at heart the best interests of literature and the drama in America, desire to assure you of a welcome in the event of your coming to the United States."
The letter was sent in conjunction with a journey to London. George H Brennan, Willaim Faversham's manager, will embark on next Saturday. Mr Brennan will represent a syndicate which will make the author an offer to finance his tour and to deposit a guarantee before he leaves England. From information at hand it is said Mr Shaw will probably accept the offer. One reason given is that his is said to be keenly sensitive to the hostility manifested to him in England on account of his criticism of the British Government and his outspoken views on the war.
11/12/16 The actor who in the course of human events decides that he would like to produce a Shaw play has an interesting experience ahead of him whether or not he is successful in executing his desire. For with G. B. S. life is just one letter after another, and before the deal has been consummated or abandoned, as the case may be, the applicant is pretty apt to find himself the possessor of some Shavian literature written especially for him.
Some years ago William Faversham read Getting Married and made up his mind that he would like to play the role of Hotchkiss. He communicated his desire to the author, and there followed a desultory correspondence which decided nothing in particular beyond indicating Mr Shaw's willingness. The author and actor met one night at Lady Gregory's Abbey Theater in Dublin. Mrs Faversham, who, as Julia Opp, had acted in London and was already acquainted with Mr Shaw, and Mrs Shaw were with their husbands, and the four had subsequent meetings at which the matter was discussed. The author had formed an opinion before meeting Mr Faversham that he was better suited to the role of the General, but he admitted upon becoming acquainted that Hotchkiss would be a better part for him.
Then Mr Faversham became interested in his Shakespearean productions and the Shaw adventure was deferred. Finally, last Spring he got back to his idea of playing Getting Married, and negotiations were resumed. The months that followed showered letters, cablegrams, and postcards upon the actor. The deluge kept up until a few days before the first performance last Monday night. Every detail of production, from the color of the flooring to be used in the setting to the date of the premiere, was touched upon by Mr Shaw. The suggestions of the author show an amazing grasp of the minutiae of play production, and the correspondence reveals a knowledge of American affairs remarkable in view of the fact that Mr Shaw has never been in this country. These things are plainly illustrated in the excerpts from Mr Shaw to Mr Faversham that follow.
The terms of the transaction were the subject of several exchanges of notes. The following details were submitted on a postcard presumably to conserve the energies of the British censors:
"You have probably puzzled out the meaning of my cable by this. I am compelled to state the percentage as per performance, because the number of performances per week varies from seven to nine, according to business. But sometimes it is, as you say, the Saturday house that turns the scale from the lower to the high rate. Suppose you take $300 at each show until Saturday, when you take $3,500 for the two shows. Instead of paying - percent on $1,800 and - per cent. on $3,500 you pay - per cent. on $5,300 saving $-, because the average arrived at by dividing the total gross for the week by the number of performances remains within the - per cent. limit. See?"
Mr Faversham replied that he did not, whereupon the author explained his system of royalties at still greater length, concluding with the characteristic query, "Now do you see?" The attention of New York managers who are unhappy when their plays are criticized adversely is called to the following:
"But first-night successes and notices leave me cold. I pay no attention until the first fortnight's returns arrive. One used to know by the booking, but of late years people have given up booking, and pieces sometimes still do big business and are safe for months with the booking at a figure that would have sent the notices up some years ago. I don't know whether this is so in New York - it certainly is here."
The following excerpt illustrates what a thorough man of the theater GBS really is:
"I am glad to see that you are already feeling the necessity of prudence to the extent of asking me to reconsider my terms. You might as well ask the Stature of Liberty to waltz round the town with you. My terms are an institution more mighty than the Constitution of the United States. You know very well that terms can never be kept secret. If I let you off a single cent all the other people with whom I have contracts would know it within a fortnight and would claim the benefit of what is called in politics a "most favored nation" clause. You must console yourself with the reflection that I am not treating you worse than I am treating everybody else. Don't try to persuade yourself that conditions can be favorable until the election is over. They won't be. You must come in on the reaction after all the screaming and raging. During the election the only sort of piece that will succeed is something that reflects the excitement and intemperance of the hour, and Getting Married is not a bit like that.
"I find that I have mislaid my flashlights of Getting Married, but I will find out who the photographer was and instruct him to send you a set, if he has the negatives. The scene is simple enough, but it must be done by somebody with real feeling for Norman architecture. The table is simply a massive kitchen table which must not on any account be stained or polished, and it , too, must be looked after by somebody who knows what these pieces of timber were like. I am afraid the flooring will have to be painted cloth representing flags. For the original production I got a splendid piece of very rough fibre matting which suited the scene to perfection. But unfortunately when we rehearsed on it, it caught all the ladies' dresses and threatened to tear them to rags, so we had to discard it. The business demands an appalling supply of chairs, but if you follow the printed direction exactly, you will find that it will all work out correctly - the place of every chair is described and all the movements given. The producer need not trouble to plan out the mechanical part of the action - it is all cut and dried for him.
"There is no difficulty about the uniform of a General in the British Army, especially as his regiment is not specified. As to the Alderman's gown, every local authority in England which has aldermen on it can please its fancy as to whether it will have gowns at all or what they will like within the broad limits of the conventional type. Any costumer can rig out a British beadle; innumerable versions of Oliver Twist have made Bumble a stock figure.
"By the way, O P Heggie, who played Androcles, and for whom I wrote that part and another in Misalliance, which he played extraordinarily well, has a curious fancy for playing Collins in Getting Married. I rather choked him off because I thought he would have played the Bishop much better, but as you are going to play the Bishop you may as well know that Heggie fancies himself as Collins. But I think I should not cast him for Collins even as second choice. I should cast him for Soames, which is a very important part and might easily be utterly spoiled by an actor playing it as a comic curate instead of as a tragical fanatic. The are lots of Collinses going, but not many Soameses. I think this is all for the present, and quite enough, too, as you will probably add."
Here is a typical bit that came after Mr Faversham had announced some other plans in view for the season: "I have received a cable asking me for Getting Married and adding that as you have announced a new play it is presumed that your feet are cold. You might drop me a line to say whether there is anything in this. I am not very eager about the new offer, though it involves a pretty good Bishop for the cast, but it is one which is worth considering faute de mieux.."
The keen business sense of the author, unusual in a literary man whose intent may be said at least to border on genius, is displayed in this letter:
"The old careless custom of tying up a play, not only on the manager's circuit but in places where he is never likely to go or send, and even in whole countries of districts that he never heard of, is indefensible. You will see how I got round it; but I had better tell you how it works. The manager, instead of carefully naming a list of towns and giving an undertaking to perform in them, either forgets all about it or, what comes to the same thing, purposely leaves himself uncommitted and trusts to the fact that no author with an ounce of sense would deliberately spoil his own business by granting off-licenses, and that no manager would dream of asking for them, because he would assume that the first licensed manager had all the rights.
"I have met only one manager suspicious enough and - don't tell him I said so - shortsighted enough, to name all the towns he could think of. Of course, the result was that he didn't perform in several of them and would have had to pay up damages if I had not restrained the third party to the contract from suing him. You may ask what, in that case, is the advantage to me of the clause. The reply is, none at all if the play is a success and you go on with it. But if you drop it, I get it back unhampered. You may say on that that if it is not worth while for you to go on with it it is not worth any manager's while to go on with it. But this argument does not apply to my plays. There are all sorts of little enterprises, some of them in out-of-the-way places, which will perform my plays under conditions which you would not entertain for a moment. I naturally would not let them touch a play of mine with a regular production coming along. But if I had no other alternative, I should let them try their luck, and such forlorn hopes are sometimes successful enough to set the regular machinery to work again."
With such directions as these the producer's task was paradoxically made easy and difficult:
"You will want a good comedian for Collins: and the General must be a fine man and a gentleman, and not a ridiculous butt. Lesbia and the Bishop's wife must be really dignified ladies. The Bishop's wife must be lovable, and Lesbia, a handsome and fairly young woman with plenty of style. An attempt to play the stage old maid would be fatal. There must be no staginess about the Bishop's family group; the conception of the old English Bridgenorth family is an essential part of the play; and though the oldest brother may be a bit weak and fussy, and must obviously be much less of a strong and able man than the General or the Bishop, he must be a gentleman and not merely a comic personage. His wife is the least likable person in the play; so she had better be as good looking as possible. Get a good looking girl with some style for the Bishop's daughter, and do not tolerate the least attempt on her part to play the comic strong-minded female. In fact, you will have to keep a sharp eye on any tendency to play the parts as if they were ridiculous. In our still rather bohemian profession there is unfortunately a tendency to suppose that all women - or even men - who have any views of any kind are merely funny. People with those notions don't succeed in my plays; and my plays don't succeed with them."
The casting of the bishop gave such trouble that Mr Faversham finally relinquished the idea of acting the part of Hotchkiss and assumed the role himself. There follow some of the author's ideas on who would be acceptable in some of the principal roles:
"I have suggested Heggie for the Bishop if you will not play him yourself. But as Heggie may not be available, let me warn you that if you put up an old actor whose only notion of a Bishop is a Shakespearean stage Bishop, you will kill the play dead. The man you name, besides being a hammerheaded atheist, without the smallest sympathy with the part, would play him like the Ghost in part, would play him like the Ghost in Hamlet - and he is the worst ghost that ever walked. The Bishop must be a sweet, gentle, humorous comedian popular with the audience, but with plenty of quiet authority."
There was considerable debate over the date of the premiere. The author was insistent that it should not be until after election: "I hasten to write this before receiving your letter, because though it will be full of the most excellent reasons for believing that I can play Wilson and Hughes off the stage, not one of them will have the smallest effect on me. I spend my life in saving managers from themselves though they love authors who ruin them."
Mr Faversham was equally insistent that it should take place the middle of October, but the nearest to a compromise he could get was the night before Election Day. In the following letter GBS qualified as a political prophet:
"But as for the election I remain inexorable for both our sakes. The date agreed on was Nov 13. It is natural for you to think that your great production will thrust the Presidency out of the centre of the stage. But this election is going to be one of the most intense you have ever had, and New York will listen to nothing until it is over, except exciting things that it can yell at. I am a politician as well as a playwright, and I know what I am up against. And I positively will not throw away a big play, or let you throw away a big production in what would be taken as an impertinent attempt to ignore a much greater issue than the fate of any play.
0280 Letter to Gertrude Kingston
11/12/16 Gertrude Kingston, the English actress is in New York to appear in a program of playlets at the little Neighborhood Playhouse in East Grand Street. Her engagement will begin Tuesday night and continue several weeks and her repertoire will include G B Shaw's little drama Great Catherine, written especially for her, and a playlet, The Inca of Perusalem, a short play of anonymous authorship, which, it is strongly hinted, is by the same author. It is described as an 'almost historical comedietta' and the fact that some of the royal characters are said to be almost recognizable may account for the mystery of is authorship.
When Miss Kingston decided to come to America she wrote Mr Shaw of her intention and he replied in the following characteristic letter:
"I was certainly rather taken back on your account when the news came of the resumption of the run of the submarine melodrama, but as a Zeppelin has just passed straight over my roof after a preliminary tour of Welwyn Valley, while the aircraft guns and searchlights were taking their Sunday out within short range of her, I am far from sure that the Atlantic is not safer than Mark's Hall or Chapel Street. Anyhow, life would be impossible if we allowed ourselves to be deflected by torpedoes. One has to do just what one would have done had there been no war as one is let. So though I shall certainly not quarrel with you if you stay at home, I shall make no attempt to dissuade you from braving the voyage. I am very anxious about the theater on Broadway, as that seems to be now disabled by excavations, which make it inaccessible until the new subway is completed.
P. S. - Do not worry about your mother. She is wonderfully young, but after 60 or so the torpedoing of a daughter or two only makes breakfast more lively. Children always exaggerate their importance to their parents."
Miss Kingston has converted her Little Theater, near Charing Cross, into a hostel with double-deck beds in the dressing rooms and a canteen in the auditorium.
"The change that has come over England," said Miss Kingston yesterday, "is most amazing. Nothing else but the war matters, and the thoughts and energies of every one are centered in it. It is surprising how every one is doing his bit and how men who didn't have to do anything before the war, and therefore didn't, have been transformed into heroes. I have a friend past the age of enlistment who didn't do anything more strenuous that read poetry and raise orchids up to two years ago. In spite of his age he enlisted and is now an officer who has done distinguished service.
"When he joined the colors his man was disconsolate, and he solved the problem by joining the same regiment, so that he could be near his master. Every night before my friend retires for the night in his dugout his valet comes to him and asks when he would like to be called. One night it was bitter in the trenches, and this officer finally succeeded in finding three empty sacks and using them as covers. Now, whatever the weather those three sacks are carefully laid out by his master's bed."
0279 Criticized for cynicism with regard to Anglo-American relations by H B Hulbert
10/26/16 To the Editor of The New York Times: In the name of all that is internationally decent and wholesome I wish to protest against the cynicisms of Bernard Shaw's article on Anglo-American relations in last Sunday's issue of The Times.
I am a very humble representative of that class which he characterizes as "the implacably exclusive New England snobs," and I have seen the United States from the outside. It may be that Mr Shaw belongs to that unfortunate minority who hold that international animosities are perpetual, but I would press the point that, as between England and America more than between any other two peoples, each generation has taken to its grave its own international grudges. He would make us believe that the very fact of brotherhood makes quarrels inevitable and deadly. Now every one knows that while brothers sometimes quarrel they are the more quickly reconciled in the memory of their common motherhood. The man who denies that blood is thicker than water would quarrel with the stars.
When he says that "Ireland always appealed to the United States as to a recognized enemy of England, and did not appeal in vain," he is speaking in the vein of the Victorian - nay, the Georgian - era, and that is as far from the present temper of the people of America as Yuan Shih-kai was from Mencius. He is merely comical, and shows that he knows as little about real American feeling as he knows about the Irish.
I venture to say that at the present moment the American people as a whole are animated by a huge admiration of England. We are not blind to her faults, and yet we cherish a very real feeling of essential spiritual kinship. There is no other nation, with the possible exception of America, that could have disposed of the South African question in the same spirit that England did, and with the same astoundingly successful results. It was an act of the wildest chivalry, but justified of its children. There is more than blood kinship between these two nations. There is a kinship of ideal, a spiritual rapport, which to my mind makes war between the two unthinkable. Bernard Shaw should be made to walk the international Canadian border from the Bay of Fundy to Puget Sound.
H B Hurlbert
0278I Have Nothing To Withdraw
I made a carefully considered statement on the European situation about fourteen months before the war, and again seven months before. Three months after I made a further statement, equally carefully considered. And I have made several statements since then.
Everything that has occurred has confirmed even my conjectures with a presicion that has startled me. I have nothing to withdraw, and no changes of opinion to record.
As I was violently abused for my utterances during our Reign of Terror, I suggest that you should invite contributions from the writers who frantically attacked my Common Sense About the War. They will have plenty to confess, and are doubtless anxious to apologise.
10/22/16 A few years ago I was invited to the Mansion House to celebrate the conclusion of a hundred years of peace between England and the United States. The invitation was irresistible to any one with a sense of comedy. The two great powers had been bound to one another, like the members of the Chuzzlewit family, by the tie of kinship. And their relations had been precisely those of the Chuzzlewit cousins as described by Charles Dickens in the book in which he expresses so vividly the English view of America as a land of Jefferson Bricks and Hannibal Chollops and Seadders and Hominies, with a top-dressing of implacably exclusive New England snobs. A hundred years of noggin and squabbling, of dislike and ill-natured stories, of fits of temper just saved from actual violence by pettiness and prudence; in short, of the least cordial relations of any two independent free nations in the world. Ireland appealed always to the United States as to a recognized enemy of England, and did not appeal in vain. The British governing classes took the anti-national side in the great conflict in the sixties as a matter of course, and were amazed to find that the English working classes were on the side of the North. Like most cousins, the two nations were natural enemies - a condition which their community of race and language tended powerfully to develop, because they understood one another's minds and one another's insults. Nobody in England ever said, "They do these things better in America." Nobody dreamt of an entente cordiale. Italian heroes, Hungarian heroes, Polish heroes, all sorts of European heroes except Irish heroes, were heroes in London; but with the single exception of Buffalo Bill, no American hero shared these honors; and even he was admitted to no more than a brief spell of fashion as a scalp hunter who had nothing to do with American politics, but could ride and shoot and kill Indians.
The celebration of a century of this sort of thing brought out the British character in its most exquisite specialty. We rose at it, gorged it, wallowed in it. Never had there been such a meeting, even at the Mansion House. Headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister, we sang rapturously of the century of perfect peace from Venezuela to the Canadian border, and contrasted the silken calm of the sea of love in which we and our cousins across the sea had been basking all that time with the turbulent ocean that so cruelly separated us. Not an unkind thought, not an angry word, ever had, or ever should, come between us and our stock in the west. A glorious hand-in-hand achievement, a shoulder-to-shoulder stride in the march of human progress toward the parliament of man, the Federation of the World (hear, hear!) was this hundred years of heartfelt amity and unruffled concord between 127,102,487 white men occupying no less than 3,095,523 square miles of the earth's surface, (figures gathered that morning from the Statesman's Year Book by our secretaries.) No such globe-encircling brotherhood had ever existed before; and, best of all, it was indissoluble.
We went on like that for hours. The Archbishop boomed it, the minor speakers bleated it, Mr Asquith swayed from side to side in a solemn delirium, to innocent eyes a profoundly impressed and deeply moved philosopher statesman; to my sophisticated eye (for I, too, have had to do platform stunts) a weary and heavily preoccupied Cabinet Minister wondering whether he could find another platitude to go on with.
If I am asked what good this orgy of lying - for that is just the blunt truth about it - could have done, I reply that it was a display of good taste and good feeling, and a quite friendly shake-hands. It was not hypocrisy. I cannot too often repeat that British hypocrisy is not real hypocrisy, because its first condition is that it shall not deceive. In English public life it is a point of honor, when once the truth is so apparent that there can be no possible deception, to get up and lie about it. A man who tells the truth unnecessarily is not considered a gentleman. A man who tells a lie that is believed is considered a liar. The perfect gentleman does not give pain to his audience. He says what they like to hear. He proclaims the thing that ought to be, the nice thing, the good-natured thing. And that is never the thing that is. As nobody is taken in except the people who want to be taken in, nobody objects. Very often that is the condition of the entire audience, representing therein the entire nation. Conscientious persons, or, as they are called in London, cantankerous persons, perceive that this voluntary self-deception may prove dangerous. They are apt to say on sufficient provocation: "Take yourself in if you like, but don't expect me to encourage you; and don't forget that the actual facts are thus and thus." Hence the unpopularity of the conscientious objector, whose appearance in English public life is by no means confined to the military service tribunals.
Let us forget the Mansion House platform for a moment and consider what are the real relations between the British Empire and the United States. To begin with, let us banish the illusion, if it really exists, that on sentimental grounds the British Empire is less likely to go to war with the United States (or vice versa) than with Germany. The King Of England is, to say the least, not less likely to quarrel with his republican fourth or fifth cousin, who is only his cousin "in a manner of speaking," than with the actual grandson of his grandmother, and an Emperor into the bargain. Our Foreign Office is not republican. It will allow an allied Emperor to saw a Bishop in two (provided he is not a well-connected English Bishop) and march his troops in triumph between the two halves; but a very trifling discourtesy on the part of a republican Government to a British official bigwig would move it to a passionate conviction that the republican riffraff must be taught a stern lesson. This is not anti-American feeling; it is the kind of political prejudice that is founded on class exclusiveness, and that is the chief danger to the peace of the world today, and must remain so until all the powers become republican. The importance of my insisting on this, in defiance of all good feeling and good taste, is that general expressions of good feeling and good taste are really only a pretext for not coming to business. Sentimental twaddle is practiced and encouraged because it commits neither country to anything; the most profuse gush of it raises no presumption that Sir Edward Grey or President Wilson will not announce next week that they have declared war on one another, and that they leave it to their countrymen to uphold the glorious traditions of the flag. It will not be forgotten that in 1914 Sir Edward Grey did not even pretend to consult the House Of Commons on the war until the day after he had placed the British fleet at the service of the French Government.
For my part, I think the two powers will have to come to an explicit understanding one of these days. After the present convulsion I presume the United States will no longer neglect to equip themselves with war material enough to take the field as a first-rate power, and, by a system of compulsory training, (which is not the same thing as compulsory service,) make it possible to improvise an army on the European scale in case of necessity. The world is growing smaller; and the saying that Great Britain is no longer an island will come surely to the whole North American continent. When the bridging of the sea by aircraft and submarine has gone a little further we shall become acutely conscious of the fact that the belt of habitable land round the waist of the globe is now practically continuous; and that the hemming-in process, by which we in England have so craftily and successfully circumvented the Germans, has possibilities perilous both to ourselves and to our American cousins.
With Russia and the yellow world on one flank America must be considering what she has on the other. Is it an aristocratic ally of the Mikado and the Czar, in instinctive sympathy with the Old World which these new allies still represent, or is it the England that, on the point of embarking in the Mayflower, changed its mind and cut off King Charles's head instead? That is going to be a very momentous question, and I sincerely hope that when it becomes pressing Sir Edward Grey will not be at the Foreign Office. On our side, if the war ends as we hope it will end, the very success of our great diplomatic coup, which, thanks to the folly of the Hohenzollerns in attacking France instead of manoeuvring for the defensive, now threatens to carry us further than we ever intended to go, will effect a formidable reinforcement of Russia. The war may end with Russia in Constantinople, in Persia, and in part of Prussian Poland, with the German barrier between Russia and the west battered down. So much we triumphantly anticipate. What we forget is that when that dread of the German Army which is the real cement of the Alliance, is dissolved, the whole European situation from the point of view of our balance of power diplomacy will change to an extent which we are too preoccupied at present to conceive. A world in which nobody is any longer afraid of Germany, while everybody is afraid of the British fleet and of Russia, is a Europe in which the value of every factor will have changed as completely as the value of the German factor. With the binding string cut, the difficulty will be to prevent the faggot we call the Alliance falling to pieces in an instant. It will for a time be each for himself. The French will strengthen their navy and their air service. It will occur to English diplomacy that the alliance with France and Russia is not the only possible combination in the world; and one of the possible alternatives will be a combination with the United States and Germany. The necessity for choosing between France and Germany will then be so inconvenient that we shall begin to ask whether it is really a necessity at all - whether it was not a mistake all along not to play for a combination of the British Empire with America, France, and Germany to defend that homogeneous part of the earth's waistbelt that extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Carpathians; the heterogeneity beginning with Japan at one end and Russia at the other.
I said in November, 1914, that, without peace between England, France, and Germany, there could be no peace in the world. That America must also be a party to that peace is now too obvious to be worth saying. Germany has been deluded for a moment by the romantic dream of making this peace a Pax Germanica by the simply Napoleonic or Caesarean process of conquering the other parties. It has been necessary to knock that notion out of her head by violence; but when it is finally and thoroughly knocked out - and already there can be little left of it - she must seek for alliances; and it is clearly not our interest or America's to allow her to seek her allies in the east. To put it in another way: Germany must be defeated; but the British Empire and the United States will have to take the consequences; and I hope I have said enough to make it clear that they will be wildly unlike what our fire-eaters expect. I prophesy that the scientific pro-German will yet shake hands with the scientific jingo power balance on a basis of smashing the Hohenzollern Holy Roman ambition by an allied victory, and then roping Germany into a combination which will include the whole of Western Protestant civilization, uncomplicated by the heterogeneous impermanence of the present Eurasian Alliance. France would not stand aloof even if she could afford to; for France is republican and Voltairean; and the deism of Voltaire and Rousseau, once absurdly called atheism, has practically become the faith of all the Free Churches of England and America that are still intellectually fermenting; though they have not yet noticed it, being largely ignorant of what Voltaire and Rousseau really preached. And how old-fashioned do those names now seem in the days of Bergson! It will indeed be a struggle between France and North America for the honor of being the Mecca of republicanism
If this is not our aim, then will some one kindly tell me what is our aim, and why the United States is helping us so powerfully to achieve it?
0276 Attacked by M Leon
7/16/16 To the
Editor of The New
York Times: The Shaw article in Sunday's Magazine Section of
Times shows its author to be the devil's advocate of the German
propaganda in the United States. That he should be living in London
under British protection while denouncing as a sham the bias of
Britain's ultimatum to Germany - adopting as his own the arguments of
the unlamented Dernburg - is a situation the irony of which G B Shaw
would be trusted to bring out if he did not happen to be the main
actor of the comedy.
He speaks of the Lusitania case as "settled." When, and how?
0275 Sir Edward Grey
7/9/16 "The interview accorded by our Secretary of Foreign Affairs to the Chicago Daily News, and authorized for reproduction in the British press, is alarming, because its apparent date is August, 1914. Now, if Sir Edward Grey has not advanced a step since that distressful month, when everybody was talking a great deal of nonsense, and Sir Edward was contributing his full share of it, the prospect is disquieting. For it must not be forgotten that in spite of all British discussions as to the terms on which England will sheath its sword, as Mr Asquith puts it, and all the declarations of London journalists that they will insist on this, and die rather than suffer that, and fight to the last man and the last penny and the last drop of our blood for the other, yet what will actually happen is that one day Sir Edward Grey will come down to the House of Commons and inform it that he has just signed a treaty and that if England does not like it she can lump it. That was the procedure when Britannia went to war. That was the procedure when she bound herself not to stop fighting until her allies have had enough. And as that will be the procedure when all the belligerents have had enough, it seems rather silly for persons not in the Foreign Office to be excitedly writing and haranguing as if they were going to have any finger in Sir Edward Grey's pie. It cannot be too clearly understood that, for the ending of the war as for its beginning. England is entirely in the hands of her Foreign Office, and that as long as Sir Edward Grey remains Foreign Secretary her interests, her honor, and, indeed, the future of Europe, as far as her diplomatic action can affect it, are absolutely at the mercy of Sir Edwards capacity and character.
"This is a serious responsibility; and on the most favorable estimate of Sir Edward's genius the British Empire will be taking more chances than can be heartily enjoyed by any one but a confirmed gambler or a fanatical devotee of British junker government. That is why it is so startling to read, in an utterance of his which must be presumed to be as closely up to date as any utterance during war time can be, assumptions, and statements which have dropped out of currency among serious students of the war since public opinion began to steady itself toward the middle of 1915.
"Sir Edward, it appears, is still going to negotiate on the assumption that he is engaged in a crusade against certain sentences written by Treitschke, for which the German Government and the German Nation are no more responsible (having mostly never read them) than the British Nations and the British Government are responsible for precisely similar sentences written by General Butler and other English militarist writers. And if the Imperial Chancellor should take it into his head to negotiate on the assumption that Germany is engaged in a crusade against Lord Roberts' British 'will to conquer' and his aspiration to save the world by bringing it under the rule of gentlemen educated in the public schools of England, we can imagine what sort of understanding is likely to be reached on these lines, and how long it will take to reach it.
"Sir Edward is still under the impression that when Belgium appealed to Germany, France, and Britain for a pledge that her neutrality would be respected, Germany refused it and Britain and France gave it. This delusion may have helped out our recruiting at a moment when recruiting was the supreme consideration; but now that we have compulsory military service, and can afford to employ 200,000 soldiers as officers valets, and are therefore sure of as many men in the army as we can prudently spare from civil industry, it is no longer necessary to resort to such expedients. The truth is, as Sir Edward can easily ascertain from his own White Papers, that each of the three powers consented to respect the neutrality of Belgium only on condition that the war did not occur. We must look this Belgium question straight in the face. The independence of Belgium is as much out of the question as the independence of Ireland, and always has been since she was set up as a buffer State between the great powers of the west of Europe. Unless and until Belgium can be placed under the protection of a supranational organization stronger than any of the national powers or their militant alliances, Belgium must fulfill her present destiny of being, as both Sir Edward and the Imperial Chancellor quite accurately call her, 'a bulwark' for England and France against Germany. England is our castle; but Belgium is its barbican; and we cannot allow Belgium to surrender the barbican, nor can we hesitate, if she cannot hold it against Germany, to throw in our troops and defend it as if it were Portsmouth, no matter how vigorously Belgium may protest.
"That is our position and also the French position; and everybody in Europe knows it except the subscribers to the London one-cent illustrated dailies. Sir Edward and his colleagues secured popular support at the beginning of the war by holding up the neutrality of Belgium as something so sacred that only the very vilest of Huns would raise a weapon against it or march a regiment across a Belgian field. I ventured to differ with Sir Edward to the extent of saying that if our own military success were at stake we would violate the neutrality of heaven itself rather than give a German soldier half a chance of setting his foot in a Kentish lane; and what has happened in Greece has shown that I was precisely right, even to the very instance I gave of the landlocked country (Serbia) which might put us to the test.
"Now, Sir Edward, according to the Chicago interview, has not come around to my opinion. He still insists that Germany must come to judgment on the neutrality question, even at the cost of giving away our own position in Greece as morally indefensible. Fortunately I, having in 1914 heroically resisted the temptation to use the Hague Conference and the 1839 treaty as a stick to beat Germany with, am now able to say without making myself publicly ridiculous, that military necessity justified Britain in seizing the Greek islands and in claiming a right of way for her ally Serbia over the Greek railway through Athens, and to repeat that the German attack on France, a quite unnecessary breach of peace of Western Europe, is the true Achilles heel of Germany's moral position. My fear is that any plenipotentiary of ours who goes into this difficult business with his judgment obscured and his attention distracted by pious horror at the short work which war makes of the moral recriminations of the military pot and the military kettle, will have no chance against the German statesmen, who, though apparently no cleverer than our own, yet secure a considerable economy of discussion and directness of aim by hacking their way through moral humbug and discarding, for European as distinguished from domestic consumption, the Pecksniffian airs which imposes on nobody outside their own constituencies, and only on the stupid and ignorant inside them.
"The point is of cardinal importance because, I repeat, we cannot be too clear about the Belgian Question. Our position is that until the present military basis of international relations is underpined by a basis of supranational law, Belgium must be independent of Germany. The German position is that Belgium must be independent of France and Britain. What both belligerents really mean is that Belgium, though nominally independent of them, and indeed really so in peace, must in war side with one or the other of them; and naturally each desires the power of compelling her to side with it against the other. Now if this difference is to be settled by the belligerents only, it must be settled by blood and iron and not by Christmas cards and governesses lectures. Germany being in possession of Belgium, and therefore in a position to say, with Wagner's dragon, "ich liebe und besitze," Britain must drive her out by fighting her or starving her. And Germany must hold Belgium tooth and nail against us to the utmost effort short of suicide she is capable of.
"There is, however, a possible alternative. If the so called neutral countries were to step in for the sake of putting an end to the intolerable situation that will arise (if it has not already) from the establishment of a deadlock of the western front in which, though both sides may keep feeding in fresh drafts of men to be slaughtered every year, neither can shift the other, and were to make Belgium really independent both of Britain, France, and Germany by themselves combining to guarantee her soil against invasion, the belligerents would eagerly accept the guarantee the moment they became convinced that they were engaged in a Kilkennyeat fight; for both sides could claim to have achieved the independence of Belgium by a chivalrous feat of arms.
"The initiative in such an intervention should come from America. A month ago Britain had bright hopes of America coming in on her side. Those hopes have been shot away by General Maxwell in Ireland for the present; and in spite of the powerful war interests which exist in America, and which were revealed in London by well-circulated reports of the section of Mr Tavenner by Congress last December, London and Washington are now back at the point reached in 1914, when I appealed through the press to President Wilson to come to the rescue of Belgium, and incidentally of the peace and order of Europe, by interfering on her behalf in the name of outraged humanity, without waiting for any specifically American grievance or leaning to either the British or the German side. Now that the Lusitania case is settled, the United States is again in the strong moral position of having no axe of her own to grind nor wrongs of her own to avenge. And I still believe that she must settle the Belgian Question by moral force if neither the British nor the Germans can settle it by the force of arms. Indeed, she ought to settle it anyhow in the interests of civilization; but as things are I must not pretend that the belligerents would unanimously welcome her interference if either saw its way to a victory that it could afford. The Imperial Chancellor is right when he says that there can be no status quo ante; but the substitution of a guarantee of Belgium by the comparatively disinterested powers for the present guarantee by powers who guarantee her only to have a grip on her throat would not by the status quo ante; and an acceptance of it would be a concession to the public opinion of the civilized world and not to the threats of a foe in arms. Sir Edward Greys reply to the Chancellor that without the status quo ante "Belgiums independence is gone, as Serbia's and Montenegro's is gone, unless the Allies can get them up again," will not stand half an hours consideration. The world, let us hope, is not yet so completely bankrupt that nothing good can be done unless the Allies do it.
"When Sir Edward forgets that he is Foreign Secretary and remembers only his political idealism he speaks like a man in a trance, the world forgetting, but unfortunately not by the world forgot. No doubt he's quite right in advising the Germans to make a revolution. The Germans not only gave the same advise to the Irish, but contributed rifles and ammunition as well. For that matter, there is not a country in the civilized world that would not be the better for a revolution once a fortnight or so. But I confess I wish Sir Edward would not call himself 'we' when he is speaking for himself and his dreams alone, and ignoring the most glaring facts of the situation. It would not matter if, like so many of our patriotic tub thumpers, his words traveled no further than the circulations of a cheap illustrated paper, of the walls of a public hall in England, of the railings of a London park. But Sir Edward, like myself, is quoted throughout Europe and America; and he should be more careful than I am, because he is the uncontrolled agent of Britain’s foreign policy, instead of which he recklessly says things that would destroy my credit forever.
"We all know that he was not prepared for war, because he never is prepared for anything that actually happens in the crude concrete world, even when it is thundering down on him like a mad motor bus; but when, in the teeth of the assurances of the British Admiralty and the British War Office, through his own Ministerial colleagues, that the command in Flanders was settled five years ago before the war began and that the British commander was studying the field during that period, and that the navy was fully prepared with five years accumulation of ammunition, not to mention the fact that it would have been grossly dishonorable and criminally negligent of Britain if, after her understanding with France, she had neglected these precautions, Sir Edward declares the 'we' were not prepared for war, the impression he produces on Europe is that the Machiavellian Grey of the Germans imagination answers to the reality. Again, when he says that "poisonous fumes were rejected by us as too horrible for civilized people to use," the amazed foreigner asks whether the British Foreign Secretary can really be unaware that Britain hastened to use them the moment the Germans demonstrated their practicability.
"Surely, the foreigner thinks, Britain should blame herself for letting the Germans anticipate her lazy conservatism, as in the case of the Zeppelins, rather than plume herself on as affected humanity, of which war can know less and less until science reduces it to impossibility.
"As to Sir Edward's fine old Whig dreams of materialism and political freedom and his "We want a Europe free," "France, Russia, and Italy are in the war to preserve everything that is precious to nationality," what effect must they produce on the neutral world, to say nothing of our highly critical enemies, when they see that national independence is now an impracticable superstition, and that France in Morocco, Italy in Dalmatia, and Russia in Poland are no more aiming at freedom and national independence that Austria in Bohemia, Germany in Posen and Schleswig-Holstein, Britain in Egypt, India, or Ireland, or the United States (if they are wise) in Mexico? What sense is there in saying these things now to a world which can see nothing in them but the celebrated British hypocrisy which The London Times confesses and defends with affectionate pride as the homage Englishmen pay to virtue, and at a moment, too, when every ear is strained to catch the words of the autocrat of our Foreign Office.
"And, Oh! will Sir Edward never forgive or forget that rude omission of the Central Empires to come and talk it over quietly with him when the fat was in the fire, and every moments delay, if there was to be a war, was adding an ounce to the weight of the threatening Russian steamroller! The Balkan difficulty proved how soothing the conversation of Sir Edward can be to men who do not mean to fight; but when their minds changed and they were prepared to fight in certain contingencies, all Europe shrieked to Sir Edward Grey that straight question as to whether in these circumstances he was going to fight or not. Professor Gilbert Murray had written a most conclusive book, with all the quotations from Sir Edward in italics, proving that he replied that peace was the immediate jewel of England’s past. When popular pugnacity revolted against this view, Mr William Archer wrote another book proving up to the hilt that Sir Edward had on the contrary thrown his blood stained sword in thunder down, and left no possible doubt as to our bellicose intentions. In short, Sir Edward having thought it best to shilly shally, one of his two ablest literary friends collected all the shilly and the other all the shally, leaving the world to judge what the Germans were likely to have made of it when the one chance of averting war was to convince them bluntly that if they took on the French Republic they would have to take on the British Empire too.
"It may be that this was good statesmanship and that it was better to lure Germany to her doom and have it out with her once and for all. Or it may be that if the Germans had accepted that invitation to confer Sir Edward would have soothed them and we should now all be taking our stalls for Bayreuth and our circular tickets for the Black Forest. But what is the use of going back to all that now? The Germans did not walk into Sir Edwards parlor; and by this time his obsession with their unkindness has worn out its interest. The Allies have now either to win the war or at least prevent Germany from winning it; and the old moralizings and recriminations of 1914 will not help us - will, in fact, hinder us most dangerously if our statesmen keep chewing them over instead of tackling the problem in front of them and dealing with it in terms of the strictest objectivity. Sir Edward's column and a half of assurances that the English are the neutral administrators of divine justice and the Germans must be classed with "footpads, safe-breakers, burglars, and incendiaries," will not put a single German gun out of action, and may strain the patience of the neutrals with British self-love and their faith in British statesmenship to the point of doubting whether any material advantages can secure success to a side which talks like that, not only under the first shock of war, but after nearly two years reflection.
"As I write these words the world is all discussing Sir Edward Greys very latest utterance. The Imperial Chancellor has said that Sir Edward threatened war when Austria violated the treaty of Berlin by practically annexing Bosnia. The obvious reply to that was, "The Imperial Chancellor has paid me a compliment I do not deserve." The reply actually made by Sir Edward is "That is a first-class lie." This is a very typical sample of Sir Edwards temper and manners. When Turkey threw in her lot with Germany in the war the Foreign Office announced that fact in a document which described our former proteges as "the degenerate Turks." And the Foreign Office would probably have been just as rude if it could have foreseen Gallipoli and Kut. Apparently it has not character enough to observe even the scrupulous civilities of a common duel, much less a conflict of empires. What likelihood is there of any negotiations turning out happily if this is the style in which they are to be conducted? Already the Chancellor has been able to compel Mr Asquith to climb down by saying, "If you take that tone, negotiations will be concluded before they have been begun." Yet Mr Asquith was not personally offensive, and readily explained when the remonstrance came to hand. Sir Edward Grey has thrown in the Chancellor's face a personal insult for which, according to the Continental code, he ought to offer "satisfaction," (with pistols.) We may have an extra month of war because Sir Edward has lost his temper.
"As long ago as 1906, in referring to a very horrible episode in the history of our occupation of Egypt, I expressed my opinion that Sir Edward Grey was unfitted by his character and the limitations of his capacity for the highly specialized work of a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Nothing that has happened since has shaken that opinion on mine for a moment. I wonder whether I am alone in believing that his self-transfer to a more suitable department would be the greatest service it is in his power to render to his much perplexed country."
0274 Writes to young pacifist Cecilia Zilberman
6/7/16 Cecilia Zilberman,
of age, of 919 Avenue O, Flatbush, a pupil in the Midwood Public
School, got a postal card addressed to her at the school by Bernard
Shaw, a famous writer. Young Mis Zilberman entertains very
strong pacifist opinions. Last winter when a movement was started to
induce school children to contribute toward the building of a
battleship to be given to the nation, she wrote a letter to the
managers of the project protesting against it, suggesting that it
would be a better idea to devote the money collected to
ameliorating the conditions under which children toil in factories.
The letter was obtained by the National Child Labor Committee and sent out by them as a campaign letter. A copy of the postal card printed by the committee and signed by Miss Zilberman was sent by her to Mr Shaw. The postal of Mr Shaw is in answer to that sent him by the little girl. It contained a photo of him and read as follows:
"The point about the factory children is very well taken, but at present I think you had better have both a fleet and a factory act. There are too many rogues about for honest men (such as they are) to be quite safe without weapons.
0273 The Easter Week Executions
Sir, - You say that “so far as the leaders are
concerned no voice has been raised in this country against the
infliction of the punishment which has so speedily overtaken
them.” When Shaw wrote this communication, twelve of the
insurgents had already been executed. Two more, including James
Connolly, were to be shot on 12 May. The remaining
ninety-seven death sentences were commuted to sentences of penal
"As the Government shot the prisoners first and told the public about it afterwards, there was no opportunity for effective protest. But it must not be assumed that those who merely shrugged their shoulders when it was useless to remonstrate accept for one moment the view that what happened was the execution of a gang of criminals.
"My own view – which I should not intrude on you had you not concluded that it does not exist - is that the men who were shot in cold blood after their capture or surrender were prisoners of war and that it was, therefore, entirely incorrect to slaughter them. The relation of Ireland to Dublin Castle is in this respect precisely that of the Balkan States to Turkey of Belgium to the City of Lille to the Kaiser and of the US to Great Britain. Until Dublin Castle is superseded by a national parliament and Ireland is voluntarily incorporated with the British Empire as Canada, Australasia, and South Africa have incorporated, an Irishman resorting to arms to achieve the independence of his country is doing only what Englishmen will do if it be their misfortune to be invaded and conquered by the Germans in the course of the present war.
"Further, such an Irishman is as much in order morally in accepting assistance from Germans in his struggle with
"It is absolutely impossible to slaughter a man in this position without making him a martyr and a hero, even though the day before the rising he may have been only a minor poet. The shot Irishmen will now take their places beside Emmet and the
"I do not propose to argue the question: it does not admit of argument. The military authorities and the English Government must have known they were canonizing there prisoners. But they said in their anger: “We don’t care: we will shoot them; we feel that way.” Similarly the Irish will reply: “We knew you would: you always do; we simply tell you more or less politely how we feel about it.”
"Perhaps I had better add that I am not a Sinn Feiner, and that since those utterances of mine which provoked American Gaels to mob plays some years ago to the very eve of the present rising I used all my influence and literary power to discredit the Sinn Fein ideal and in particular to insist on the duty of Ireland to throw herself with all her force on the side of the French Republic against the Hohenzollern and Hapsburg monarchies. But I remain an Irishman and am bound to contradict any implication that I can regard as a traitor an Irishman taken in a fight for Irish independence against the British Government which was a fair fight in everything except the enormous odds my countrymen had to face.
"I may add that I think it hard that Mr Augustine Birrell, an Englishman, should be sacrificed on the tombs of the fallen Sein Feinners. Mr Birrell and Sir Matthew Nathan
"Why were they not disarmed? Because the Government was afraid of Sir Edward Carson and 'The Mutineers of the Curragh" and to attempt to disarm one side without disarming the other would have been an act of open war on the Irish Nationalism. The only alternative was to introduce compulsory military service, and send all the volunteers to Mesopotamia or
"And this, it seems, is exactly what they very wisely did. But it should not be forgotten that all Governments of the
"At all events, if Mr Birrell and Sir Matthew insist on their assailants explaining exactly what they should and could have done that they did not do, I shall be greatly surprised if either their critics or the gentlemen who are undertaking to replace them will venture to answer them."
0272 Remarks on free speech in US answered by L C R Sedgwick
4/28/16 To the Editor of The New York Times: As there is nothing too bad for Bernard Shaw to say against England, it is safe to assume that any criticism he may make of Germany is at least free from pro-British prejudice. For that reason his article, "The German Case Against Germany," published in The New York Times Sunday, April 16, is interesting.
He actually finds one respect in which England, France, and America are superior to Germany. That is the right to free thought and free speech. To the interference with this right he bases his objection rather upon its stupidity than upon its injustice. To quote: "You may have the best organized and equipped and most numerous universities in the world, but if a professor of history can be ordered on pain of dismissal to write a treatise proving that it was the Kaiser's grandfather, and not Bismarck, who achieved the unity of Germany, the students of that university will not be instructed"; or, "if the University of Berlin appoints the ablest mathematician it can find to its chair of mathematics, and the Kaiser drives him out because his also a Social Democrat, the mathematical school of Berlin University will become second rate." He goes on to apply the result of such principles upon the army. That part of his article, however, does not interest us so keenly, but what does interest us is that in summing up this effect of repression of free thought and free speech by arbitrary interference he adds: "To the American, the Britisher, the Irishman, and French republican this is not merely barbarism but insanity."
The retention of Professor Munsterberg at Harvard University confirms this statement, but it also emphasizes with great force a recent event connected with the University of Michigan. Some fourteen professors of the University of Michigan recently expressed their sympathies with the Allies' cause in the present war. They did this as individuals, not as representing the university. For this act the President of the university was requested by their Congressman, Mr Crampton, to discipline these professors for a breach of neutrality. It is stated that the Congressman was obeyed, and that the professors are bound over to silence on this subject while the war lasts. How does this differ from the system which Bernard Shaw considers to be unthinkable to an American?
That fourteen American professors in a great university should be disciplined for the expression of their individual convictions, and that the President of such a university should be expected, through political interference, to enforce such discipline, is a menace to national integrity and a cause of public humiliation. I submit that it is not only a violation of the inalienable rights of free men, but the destruction of the intellectual life of a people.
L C R Sedgwick
0271 Letters 4/19/16 To the Editor of The New York Times: Having read Bernard Shaw's article "The German Case Against Germany," I would like to say that if he considers German civilization so far superior and higher than English civilization, he had better go to Germany and live there, and Englishmen and England will never miss him. The world has had a good exhibition of German civilization in the past eighteen months. It is hard to say which predominates most conspicuously in Bernard Shaw's mind, his pro-Germanism or his ignorance.
C H C Smith
"But the war has the effect of throwing men back into their primitive phases, and the reasoner who in peace may prefer the President to the Kaiser may in war time find himself exulting in a victorious charge of the Prussian Guard upon the Republican troops of France. Even as a reasoner he may think the Prussian system, though irksome to him personally, a capital thing for other people. Or he may think that, good or bad, it is going to win. Or he may think that, bad as it is, it is better than the Russian system. Or he may think that the English do not deserve to win, because they are Philistines and jobbers and muddlers, while the Germans stand for ideas and for order. Or he may think that practically good local government is more important than theoretically good central government, and may therefore support the Germans on the ground that their local government is superior to anything of the kind in England or the United States. Or he may be exasperated by British command of the sea, with its glorious unconsciousness that any rightminded American shipowner or skipper could possible object to be held up and mulcted in harbor dues when he is going peacefully about his legitimate affairs. There are, in short, dozens of considerations which may induce a German immigrant to overcome his dislike of Germany and become a pro-German.
"I therefore venture to state the case against Germany as it might appeal to a German escaped from Germany, and even to a German still in the bondage of the Prussian system. I am fortunate enough to be able to do so without having to disclaim the electioneering and recruiting case put forward by the British Government, having made the Kaiser a handsome present of it before the war was four months old. I was very violently abused for doing so; but those who abused me have since gone to such frantic lengths in denouncing the conduct of the war that my little criticisms and candors now read more like an apology for the British Cabinet and the British General Staff than an attack on them.
"We hear no more about the sacredness of treaties; the cathedral of Rheims is not spoken of since we came within an ace of bombarding the Acropolis to force Greece to relax her neutrality; we made it as clear that we would, if necessary, batter our way into Saloniki as the Germans did that they would batter their way to Antwerp; we were glad that the Greeks had learned the lesson of German frightfulness too well to dare more than a formal protest; we have denounced American neutrality and Bulgarian intervention in the same breath; we have republished with loud boastings and "I told you so's" our own propaganda of war against Germany after exhausting every vituperative epithet at my expense because I ventured to say that as far as shaking the mailed fist went it was a case of six of one and half a dozen of another; we have superceded the commanding officers who were the Caesars and Napoleons of the beginning of the war, and broken up the Government which we were all to support as a united nation until the hour of victory; we have declared and proved that we were prepared to the last rope in the navy and the last button on the tunics of our promised expeditionary force for the fight which we swore had taken us utterly by surprise in a pastoral dream of peace; in short, there is not a rag left of the official case whose collapse I foresaw and whose exposure I anticipated, while the real case against Germany stands exactly as I stated it, and is now the only case that any one dares to plead on the side of the Allies.
"It seems, then, that our striking of moral attitudes was a mistake, and that in unceremoniously upsetting the attitudinizers I was performing a public service, easy enough to any one with some foresight, some self-possession, some student's knowledge of war, and some understanding of human nature. I neither expected nor received any gratitude from those I upset; but the cry out of pro-German raised against me at least enables me to address myself to the Germans without being suspected of classing them as genetically inferior to the English, the French, the Italians, and the Bulgarians.
"Like all who have seen Germany with their own eyes, who are deeply interested in science and art, and who are constitutionally impatient of anarchy, muddle, and disorder, I rate German civilization far above British civilization at many points; and I quite understand why many Englishmen who know Germany, and whose social opinions are echt Junker opinions, hail this war as a means of forcing England to adopt the Prussian system, which they worship as no German, with his practical experience of it, can worship it. Such enthusiasms are not expressed in the newspapers, and do not prevent those who hold them from taking the most energetic part in the war; but they are quite freely expressed in private discussions of political ideals. Their exponents are under no illusion as to this being a war of Virtue against Villainy; they know it to be a case of diamond cut diamond, and their only fear is that the Prussian diamond may prove the harder. And I do not know a single person, and indeed doubt whether there exists west of the Carpathians a single native person who believes that the overthrow of German civilization by Russian or Turkish or Serbian civilization would be a step forward in social evolution.
"What, then, is the case against Germany?
"It is, briefly, that all its organization, all its education, all its respect for ideas, all its carefully nourished culture, have somehow failed to secure for it either a government fit to be trusted with the tremendous mechanical power its organization has produced, or even a military and naval staff either representative of high German civilization or capable of effectively controlling its own officers.
"What is the explanation of this and of other similar German paradoxes? I have admitted that German local government is very superior to English local government. Its organization, its foresight, its public spirit, all due to its skillful combination of educated well-to-do municipal statesmanship with the primitive criticism of the poorer common vestryman, who knows where the shoe pinches, put us to shame. But the infant mortality of Germany is higher that that of England. That is the damning answer to the claims of the German professor for the superiority of German kultur. And it is so in other departments. The German system of training and selecting men seems far more thorough than ours; but the result is not convincing: the men who secure the commanding posts are not those born to command.
"The truth is that a corrupt Government in control of a highly organized system is much more dangerous than a corrupt Government muddling along with hardly any system. Now the German Government is frankly and hopelessly corrupt because it puts the power and reputation of a family, and of the class of which the family is the head, before every other consideration. It desires the good of the people provided that the good be wrought by the Hohenzollerns, and includes maintenance of the Hohenzollerns on the throne as the supreme good. It desires the efficiency of the army provided that the army be officered by the Junker class, and is primarily efficient as a servile retinue for that class. But the points reserved defeat the end to be gained. You may have the best organized and equipped, the cheapest, and the most numerous universities in the world; but if a professor of history can be ordered, on pain of dismissal, to write a treatise proving that it was the Kaisers grandfather and not Bismarck who achieved the unity of Germany and outwitted and defeated Denmark, Austria, and France, the students of the university will not be instructed: they will be infatuated.
"If the University of Berlin appoints the ablest mathematician it can find to its chair of mathematics, and the Kaiser drives him out because he is also a Social-Democrat, which means no more in Germany than that he holds opinions which are a matter of course to every American, not only the mathematical school of Berlin University, but every other school in it, will become second rate, owing to the impossibility of finding eminence in the liberal arts combined in the same person with idolatry of crowns and uniforms. If promotion is denied in the army to the officer who at the annual manoeuvres either actually defeats the forces of the Kaiser or Crown Prince, or expresses the professional opinion that their tactics would in real warfare have involved the annihilation of an army corps, then there will be no Napoleons nor Lees in High command when real war breaks out. If officers are not only allowed to strike their men, but when a terrified young soldier attempts to escape by flight on discovering that he has accidentally omitted a salute may actually murder him on the spot without any heavier penalty than a few months quite agreeable confinement in a fortress, with the prospect of receiving complimentary messages and a shortening of the sentence from the Kaiser, it is impossible that even the company officers should not be demoralized. If dueling, not of the harmless French sort, but often of the most murderous, is practically forced on officers and on men of their rank by the court, and by a social boycott in which the women of the family are compelled to take part either as the victims or the executioners, no routine of schooling or endowment of art can possibly produce a real modern culture comparable to that of England or America.
"Now, to the American, to the Britisher, to the Irishman, to the French Republican, all this is not merely barbarism; it is paranoic insanity. It has developed, not from the needs of human society, but from the fact that a certain stage of social integration the institutions of standing armies gave monarchs the power to play at soldiers with living men instead of leaden figures, and that a craze for such play was a symptom of the mental unsoundness of Peter the Great and Frederick the Great's father. It is merely the comparatively presentable end of a neurosis which cannot even be mentioned at the unpresentable end. When you reach the point at which an omission to salute an officer is treated as an offense which all but justifies murder, while at the same time practices which in republican and democratic countries are regarded as too evil to discuss are officially tolerated and even encouraged, your culture has evidently taken a wrong turning and must be headed back into the main human road with such violence as may be necessary.
"Now, nobody who is arguing the matter with intellectual conscientiousness and competent knowledge will pretend that these political and moral perversities are any more acceptable to a normal German than to a normal Englishman or American. Nor will he deny that they are as rampant in England and France as the more democratic constitutions and consciences of those countries allow them to be. But that is just the difference. Both England and France, like the United States, have paid the price of a revolution to get rid of the Roi Soleil system, or at least to bring the artificial sun god so completely under parliamentary control that English Mr Asquith is unable to conceive how impotent the Reichstag is, and in the House of Commons speaks of Herr Bethmann Hollweg addressing 'his fellow deputies' as if the German Chancellor were an elected person. The Germans offered this price in 1848, but did not carry the transaction through; and the constitutional position of the Kaiser is accordingly nearer to that of Louis XIV, and Charles I, (or even Richard III,) than of George V or of President Poincare.
"Why do the Germans stand it? Certainly not out of love for Prussia and the Hohenzollerns; Prussia and its royal family are no more sentimentally popular in the other kingdoms of the German Empire than Dublin Castle is in the County Cork. Yet German unity is unassailable: the English publicists who think that the cohesion of the German kingdoms is as feeble as it was when Thackeray ridiculed the Court of Pumpernickel, and that the revived Holy Roman Empire will fall to pieces at the dictation of the Allies, are mistaken. The German support of Prussia is a recent support based on the practical experience of the individual German that under Prussian leadership the Germans, once the butts of Europe, have become the most feared and respected people in the world; that German commerce has made strides that have left even England gasping; and that wherever the German goes he finds employment more easily than the native because it is assumed that he is a more competent man. Above all, he believes in Prussian military efficiency as the center and model of all the rest; so that not even the German Social-Democrats have ever opposed compulsory military service, though every year in the Reichstag they have had to expose a sickening list of abuses of military discipline.
"Now, I submit to the Germans that this war has proved that the Prussian system and the Hohenzollern idolatry do not make for either military efficiency or the diplomatic efficiency without which the control of a big military machine is as dangerous as a loaded pistol in the hands of a child or a fool. Let me illustrate my position by a few examples:
"Take the case of the idiot who sank the Lusitania. His exploit would have paid the Allies very handsomely if they had bribed him with 20,000,000 dollars to do what he did gratuitously out of sheer folly. Indeed, had the Germans disclaimed the deed and maintained that the torpedo was a British one, launched by Mr Churchill's order for the sake of prejudicing the cause of Germany with the United States, it would have been hard to discredit so plausible a story. But it is the weakness of class despotism that its credit and its strategy are at the mercy of the most foolish of its recognized members and agents, because it must never admit that it is fallible at any point. What ever avalanche of objurgation poor Admiral von Tirpitz may have hurled down on the submarine commander in private, to have disowned him in public, or even have withheld from him the rewards of conspicuous service, would not only have implied that the wonderful Prussian machine is not really controllable, but that a Prussian commander can be a blunderer of the first stupidity. It is no use for the Hohenzollern to be infallible if he cannot convey his infallibility, as it were, by laying on of hands, to all his delegates. Once admit that a Prussian officer can err and he drops at once to the prosaic level of General Joffre, the son of a cooper, and General Robertson, promoted from the ranks. The bigger his blunder the more necessary to proclaim it a masterstroke. And as the silliest Junker officer has brains enough to discover that, no matter what he does, he will be backed up, provided it is not too sensational to be concealed, he does sensational things which, even if successful, would gain from General Joffre the order of the boot.
"Take again the monstrous diplomatic blunder which has put Germany so hopelessly in the wrong and hemmed her in with formidable enemies on every side. In 1870, when the European atmosphere was still overwhelmingly Liberal, and Barbarossa and Frederick the Great and the Holy Roman Empire were romantic dreams of the past even to the King of Prussia, Bismarck not only conquered France, but contrived to do it in so correct a fashion that it was quite impossible for England or any other power to come to the rescue of France without gross indecency. People say now that we should have thrown in our lot with France in 1870, but how could we? France had wantonly broken the peace of Europe by suddenly raising the frantic cry of "a Berlin," and attacking her neighbor without a pretense of having any ends to serve but those of the Bonaparte dynasty. Germany was victorious and had the sympathy of the world as well; and Bismarck said that the German Lieutenant was the wonder of the world. It was on the strength of that victory and sympathy that the present Kaiser, having got rid of Bismarck, substituted for his shrewd realism the idolatrous romance of Hohenzollernism, with the result that the wonderful German Lieutenant began to figure at Zabern and elsewhere as a very common sort of blackguard; and in spite of the warnings of Bernhardi, the Kaiser landed the Central Empires in a ruinous war by repeating, not the success of Bismarck, but the Blunder of Napoleon.
"He could, as events have since proved, have beaten Russia in a square fight with her if he had waited for her attack; and if France had then struck him in the back - an outrage to which it would have been hard to reconcile French public opinion - at least England, America, and Italy must have remained neutral and sympathetic. At worst he would have had to fight two first-rate powers, yet he contrived not only to bring four into the field against him, but played his hand with America, which not only made it impossible for the United States to take his part, but may yet lead to their joining the Allies in spite of the ingrained British Junkerism of Sir Edward Grey, who should long ago have offered President Wilson guarantees.
"Now, all this blundering is not military efficiency, but quite the opposite. The Prussian Junkers, like all stupid people who are not rich, are very industrious, very exact, very determined to do their best; and when they come in conflict with British Junker stupidity, which being much too rich, has neither industry nor method, they shine as organizers. But what is the use of that without republican common sense behind it? It was perfectly correct to shoot Miss Cavell; she had committed what is by military law a capital offense, and a flagrant instance of it at that; and she seems to have had her case carefully tried and her complicity proved. But would any commandant with the brains of a rabbit have outraged neutral popular sentiment by having her shot, instead of locking her up until the end of the war, after passing a formal sentence of imprisonment for life? Take the whole case of Belgium. Every one who knows anything of war admits that when a country is invaded, and an army finds itself amid a people to whom the killing of an invader is not only no crime but an act of patriotism, nothing but a reign of terror can protect it. It has always been so: Roberts in Afghanistan and South Africa was no more able to avoid it than the conquerors of Louvain. But would any commanders responsible to democracy, or any General Staff not so intoxicated with idolatry as to imagine that Western public opinion could be imposed on by the rhodomontade of Timour the Tartar, have advertised this horrible necessity as the Prussian officers did? Were the pompous noodles whose proclamations that men who refused to touch their hats to German subalterns must be treated as mad dogs are treated in any sense efficient? Really efficient officers might have burned Brussels and Antwerp to the ground and killed every soul in them with less obloquy than these Junker officers incurred for Germany by burning a few streets in Louvain.
There are places in Flanders of which not one stone has been left on another; but nobody has been made indignant about it. I raise no question of morality; war suspends morality except as a political element that must be considered when the belligerents are surrounded by a precarious neutrality that may at any moment become an active hostility. But efficiency, which is the supreme military consideration, includes a very vigilant and direct regard for the factor of morality, and a careful study of the narrow limits within which reprisals do less harm than good. And it seems to me a mere flying in the face of notorious facts to maintain that Hohenzollernism has produced this vital kind of efficiency in a greater degree than the French Republican system. Prussian efficiency is the efficiency of organized mechanical destructiveness, of big battalions and recklessness of their lives, of high explosives and recklessness of their effects, of blind duty and unreasoning idolatry of King and country, and of the industry that leaves men too tired to think and too confident of having earned gratitude to notice that they may not have deserved it. But you have no lack of this sort of efficiency in the French Army; and you will have no lack of it in the American Army when America has an army without sacrificing the more vital sort to it. In fact you will have more of it than the Prussians have; for the more democratic your army is the more ruthlessly are officers "turned down" for inefficiency. If the Crown Prince were simply a French or American citizen soldier, he would have incentives to efficiency that do not exist for him at present.
0269 J D Hackett Letter
4/15/16 Those who know something about Ireland will admit that Mr Shaw's recent article entitled "Irish Nonsense About Ireland" was appropriate without the quotation marks, though it might as well have been "English Nonsense About Ireland," because it represents, in a large measure, if not the English view, the opinions of the English settler in Ireland, to which class Mr Shaw by heredity belongs.
He quarrels with those who take exception to English misrule, but the fact is that many Irish object to English rule in any shape, just as this country has done in the past, and no one will deny that it was wise in the decision. Mr Shaw thinks that no small nation can stand alone with safety and that Ireland would be gobbled up if left to herself; but he forgets that other small countries are quite willing to take the risk. Belgium, of course, is a horrible example, but then it is jammed in between several warring nations, a position which fortunately Ireland can never occupy.
What would Ireland do without England's army and navy? asks Mr Shaw. In the present circumstance, if Ireland had the luck to be free, she has the utmost security in her geographical situation as well as in the fact that it must always be to England's self-interest to defend Ireland from invasion, whether Ireland is free or not. In such an eventuality it is hoped that England could give more efficient protection than in the case of Belgium. It must be obvious that Ireland would really be safer from invasion if its sons were ready to defend her at home instead of defending her in Gallipoli and in France. The fact is that the Irish suffer too much from the protection of England to acquiesce in its supposed benefits. They pay altogether too dearly for the privilege.
England has been Belgiumizing Ireland for the past sixty years, and one has only to remember the fact of its diminished population as irrefutable evidence. Ireland, with a population of 3,000,000 in 1841, has now a little over 4,000,000. England may not have been responsible for this phenomenon, but at least it occurred under English rule.
Mr Shaw taunts the Irish with the imputation that they are "the champion mendicants of the world." The answer to this may be found in the Report of the Financial Relations Commission, which showed that Ireland was being horribly overtaxed. We have the word of Lord MacDonnell that the contribution, "tribute" he called it, of Ireland to England, over and above the cost of administration, has been $1,500,000,000 in the last ninety years. The most horrible fact of the situation is that the cost of administration is preposterously extravagant, as evidenced by the fact that the Lord Lieutenant receives $150,000 per annum for his casual services of administration. No wonder Ireland is the "champion mendicant of the world." "Damn the mere Irish and you will be sure of a job" is the reason why the cost of administration is so excessive.
Mr Shaw exceeded the limits of credibility when he stated that "Ireland is only a cabbage garden, and a barren one at that" to the least of the States. He has not been in America, so he may be excused for overlooking Arizona, but he can hardly be excused for not knowing something about the exports from Ireland.
Had Mr Shaw remained in Ireland and been more familiar with its situation it is quite probable his too free pen would have long since landed him in jail, but so long as he continues in England and writes smug platitudes about the recalcitrant Irish he will be safe. He seems to believe that there is a pro-German spirit in Ireland and he is not altogether wrong, but any pro-Germanism is possible only because some Irish believe that German government might be better and could not possible be worse than English government. They have killed pro-Germanism in Ireland by a"whupping up" of the crimes against Catholics in Belfast, by which campaign they have been aided by the Catholic clergy, who were gullible enough to believe all they read.
Mr Shaw's most grotesque statement is that the Irish and English are "natural allies." Unfortunately juxtaposition makes no country the natural ally of another, as the present European war clearly proves. Holland will be the next involved because of its geological situation, just as the location of Ireland would have kept it out of the war if it had been lucky enough to be a free country, unless, being "the champion mendicant of the world" it begged to be allowed in.
0268 How to Read Shakespear 4/9/16 "Shakespear is so much the word-musician that mere practical intelligence, no matter how well prompted by dramatic instinct, cannot enable anybody to understand his works or arrive at a right execution of them without the guidance of a fine ear. At the emotional climaxes in his works we find passages which are Rossinian in their reliance on symmetry of melody and impressiveness of march to redeem poverty of meaning. In fact, we have got so far beyond Shakespear as a man of ideas that there is by this time hardly a famous passage in his works that is considered fine on any other ground than that it sounds beautifully, and awakens in us the emotion that originally expressed itself by its beauty.
"Strip it of that beauty of sound by prosaic paraphrase and you have nothing left but a platitude that even an American professor of ethics would blush to offer to his disciples. Wreck that beauty by a harsh, jarring utterance, and you will make you audience wince as if you were singing Mozart out of tune. Ignore it by avoiding "sing-song" - that is, ingeniously breaking the verse up so as to make it sound like prose, as the professional elocutionist prides himself on doing - and you are landed in a stilted, monstrous jargon that has not even the prosaic merit of being intelligible. Let me give one example: Cleopatra's outburst at the death of Antony:
O withered is the garland
of the war,
The soldier's pole is fallen; young boys and girls
Are level now with men; the odds is gone,
And there is nothing left remarkable
Beneath the visiting moon.
"This is not good sense - not even good grammar. If you ask what does it all mean the reply must be that it means just what its utterer feels. The chaos of its thought is a reflection of her mind, in which one can vaguely discern a wild illusion that all human distinction perishes with the gigantic distinction between Antony and the rest of the world. Now it is only in music, verbal or other, that the feeling which plunges thought into confusion can be artistically expressed. Any attempt to deliver such music prosaically would be as absurd as an attempt to speak an oratorio of Handel's, repetitions and all. The right way to declaim Shakespear is the sing-song way. Mere metric accuracy is nothing. There must be beauty of tone, expressive inflection, and infinite variety of nuance to sustain the fascination of the infinite monotony of the chanting.
0267 Special article "Irish Nonsense about Ireland,"
4/9/16 "There has come into my hands, from a quarter it was not meant to reach, a certain address, "To the Men and Women of the Irish Race in America," which is so typical of the stuff which gives its title to this article that I feel moved, in the interests of my unfortunate countrymen in Ireland, to offer America a piece of my mind concerning it. As an Irishman I have been familiar with Irish patriotic rhetoric all my life. Personally I have had no use for it, because I always wanted to get things done and not to let myself go for the satisfaction of my temper and the encouragement of my already excessive national self-conceit. I have seen it going out of fashion with the greatest relief.
"When something like an Irish national theatre was established in Abbey Street, Dublin, and a genuine Irish drama began to germinate, I enjoyed the new Irish plays because the heroes always brought down the house by declaring that they were sick of Ireland, by expressing an almost savage boredom at the expense of the old patriots who were usually the fools of the piece when they were not the villains, and, generally, by damning the romantic Old Ireland up hill and down dale in the most exhilarating fashion. And though this might easily have become as tiresome and insincere a trick as the most obsolete claptrap of the stage Irishmen who, obliged to confess that they have never been in Ireland, call themselves American Gaels, yet it was for the moment a notable step in advance; and it has finally straightened itself out in such admirable essay on modern Ireland as that recently put forward by a genuine Irishman of genius, St John Ervine, in the guise of a biography of Sir Edward Carson, to whom about half a dozen lines are allotted in the course of the substantial little volume.
"The first comment provoked by the appeal "to the men and women of the Irish race in America" is that, though it is dated 1916, there is no internal evidence that it was not written in 1860 (as indeed most of it was) except the inevitable allusions to the present war. In point of learning nothing and forgetting nothing these fellow-patriots of mine leave the Bourbons nowhere. Their belief that the Irish race not only takes with it to America the ideas of Athlone, but invincibly maintains in its new home not only its Irish nationality but its Irish ignorance, its Irish parochial narrowness, its Irish sectarianism, and its Irish conviction that the Irish are the salt of the earth and that all other races are comparatively barbarous, degraded, sordid, irreligious, ungenerous, tyrannical, and treacherous, and that this inferiority is essentially and disgustingly marked in the case of the "English race," shines ridiculously through every paragraph in their manifesto.
"Ireland is to be freed from the horrible contamination of association with England by complete political separation from her. "Ireland looks forward with hope and confidence to the complete breakdown of British misrule in Ireland as the certain outcome of the present war." "Success for England would mean strength to her age-long oppressor and tyrant." Finally, there is an appeal to America to maintain the principles of - among other illustrious Americans - Abraham Lincoln! As Lincoln is the most famous Unionist known to history, the Separatist patriots could hardly have made a more unfortunate selection of a name to conjure with. Now as against all this, I venture to ask the Americans of Irish race, and even those Americans who have to blush for less glorious origins, to keep a firm grip of the following facts:
"It is now half-a-century since the most populous and productive States of North America, compared to the least of which Ireland is only a cabbage garden, and a barren one at that, renounced all idea of independence and isolation and fought for compulsory combination with all the other States across the whole continent more desperately than the many Irish soldiers engaged in the conflict had ever fought for separation. During that half century no small nation has been able to maintain its independence single handed: it has had to depend either on express guarantees from the great powers (that is, the combinations) or on the intense jealousy between those powers.
"In the present war the attack of a huge army of men of different races, speaking half a dozen different languages and estranged by memories of fierce feuds and persecutions and tyrannies, but combined under the leadership of the Central Empires, made short work of national pride, of the spirit of independence, and of bitter memories of old hostilities in England, France, and Russia. These three ancient enemies, any of whom could have swallowed Ireland more easily than Ireland could swallow her own Blasket Islands, had to pocket their nationalism and defend themselves by a combination of the British fleet, the French Army, and the Russian steam roller. And even when these immense combinations were in the field one of them was glad to buy the help of moribund Turkey and immature little Bulgaria, and the other to offer Italy, in defence of all nationalist principles, a lodgment in Dalmatia if she would come to the rescue.
"In the face of these towering facts that blot out the heavens with smoke and pile the earth of Europe with dead I invite America to contemplate the spectacle of a few manifesto-writing stalwarts from the decimated population of a tiny green island at the back of Godspeed, claiming its national right to confront the world with its own army, its own fleet, its own tariff, and its own language, which not 5% of its population could speak or read or write even if they wanted to. Unless the American climate has the power of totally destroying the intelligence of the Irish race its members will see that if Ireland were cut loose from the British fleet and army tomorrow she would have to make a present of herself the day after to the United States, or France, or Germany, or any big power that would condescend to accept her: England for instance.
"Now let me not be supposed to have any lack of sympathy for the very natural desire of the Irish, expressed by "the clarion voice of the Bishop of Limerick," to keep out of this war if possible. If I were an Irish Bishop I should certainly tell my flock to till their fields and serve God in peace. If I were the Pope I should order every combatant in Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa to lay down his arms instantly on pain of excommunication. I should offer the Kaiser his choice between coming to Canossa and going to hell; and I should not hold out the least hope to the President of the French Republic or the Kings of England and Italy that they had any greater claim in the eye of heaven to a verdict of justifiable homicide than the Kaiser.
"But does any sane Irishman hope to persuade an American, or Irish or any other race, that the French people were any less desirous to keep out of the trenches than the Irish? Is the Catholic of Bavaria any less entangled in the net of war than the Catholic of Connaught? On the contrary, he is entangled much more; for he is not, like the Connaught Catholic, exempt from conscription. The English volunteer is a volunteer no longer; he is a pressed man; and if he has rushed to the colors more eagerly than the Irishman it is because the industrial slavery he endured was so much worse than any that the Irish peasant suffers, and the places he lives in so much uglier and so much more revolting to human instincts than the poorest Irish cabins that still survive the activities of the Irish Local Government Board, that the billet in St Albans or on Salisbury Plain, and the trip to Flanders were an adventure as welcome to him as the separation allowance was to his wife and - sometimes - the separation itself to both of them.
"But you cannot knock into the head of the machine-made Irish patriot that either the grievances or the virtues of Ireland are to be found in other countries as well. There have been occasions of which English trade unionists have sent money to help French, Belgian, and other foreign workers in their strife for a living wage. Irish patriots send nothing but demands for unlimited sympathy, unlimited admiration, and unlimited Post Office orders. The money that Ireland has accepted from America without shame, and without perceptible gratitude, both in domestic remittances and political subscriptions, is incalculable.
"We are the champion mendicants of the world, and when we at last provoke the inevitable hint that Ireland, like other countries, is expected to be at least self-supporting, not to say self-respecting, we shall rise up and denounce our benefactors as the parricidal exterminators of the Irish race. We have never seen the other side of any Irish question: to this day the protective duties by which England ruined our manufactures are denounced as an act of pure malignity, and the old notice "No Irish Need Apply" as an explosion of racial hatred although every other working class in the west of Europe is educated enough to know that men willing, as we Irish are, to take the jobs of other men at wages against which a pig would revolt, are the enemies, not merely of the English, but of the human race.
"And now we are told - as if it were something to be proud of - that "the heart of Ireland is not changed." It does not occur to the gentlemen who have made this announcement, which is fortunately not true, that in that case the sooner it is changed the better. "Deprived as Ireland is by the Defense of the Realm Act of the right to express any national opinion" is the beginning of their depressing declaration. Pray, is England any the less deprived of the rights of her people by this reckless act? Has anything happened in Ireland since the war began, whether in suppressions of papers, arbitrary arrests, excessive sentences without trial, even secret executions, that can be compared for a moment to the abuses of the act that have occurred in England? And can such abuses be restrained in any other way in either country than by the peoples of the two countries making common cause against them instead of, as this silly document does, accusing "the English" of guile, calumny, falsehood, cant, and what not, taunting them with the very defeats the English papers try to minimise by such headlines as "Heroic Stand by the Dublin Fusiliers." The cry that "England's Difficulty is Ireland's Opportunity" is raised in the old senseless, spiteful way as a recommendation to stab England in the back when she is fighting some one else and to kick her when she is down, instead of in the intelligent and large-minded modern way which sees in England's difficulty the opportunity of showing her what a friendly alliance with Ireland can do for her in return for the indispensable things it can do for Ireland.
"In short, the war is a convincing demonstration of the futility of the notion that the Irish and English peoples are natural enemies. They are, on the contrary, natural allies. The whole case for Home Rule stands on that truth, and the case against it, on the contrary, flasehood. If we are natural enemies England must either hold us down or be herself held down by us. If we are natural allies there is no more ground for denying self-government to us than to Australia. There is, of course, what the Germans call the Class War always with us; but that is a bond of union between the workers of all nations and not a division. If the two countries were separate the first care of Irish statesmen would be to fasten as many tentacles as possible on Great Britain by pooling the wider public services of the two countries, especially the military and naval services, which would crush Ireland today if they were a separate establishment. That is why it is part of the Home Rule bargain that the English Army and Fleet shall also be the Irish Army and Fleet. There may come a time when international law may be so well established that a small nation may be as safe by itself as a small man already is in the streets of a civilized capital. But that time can come only through renunciation of all the poisonous international hatreds of which the Irish hatred of England is a relic. There may even come a time when some development of the arts of self-defense, which already enable ten properly equipped and trained men to hold their own against a thousand savages, may enable ten wise men to hold their own against a thousand fools. But that time has not come yet; and if it ever does it will be a bad job for the Irish patriot if he is still parroting his dreary litany to St Patrick and Robert Emmet and the Manchester martyrs to be delivered from the wicked English.
"As matters now stand this war is just as much Ireland's business as England's or France's. A mere victory for British navalism over Prussian militarism might be a great misfortune as a victory for Prussian militarism over British navalism. But a victory of Western Democracy and Republicanism over Hohenzollernism and Hapsburgocracy, or a stalemate with the Prussian and Austrian legions held up hopeless by French and Irish republican soldiers, even shoulder to shoulder with Britons who think that they never have been anything else, would be a triumph for the principles that have made the United States the most important political combination in the world, and, through the United States, made the Home Rule movement possible in Ireland.
"I am under no illusions as to the extent to which modern nominal democracy and republicanism are still leavened by the old tyrannies and the old intolerances. I have declared in season and out that the task before us in not so much the sweeping out of the last monarchs as the herculean labor of making Democracy democratic and Republicanism republican. It was by devoting my political life to the solution of that problem that I learned to see mere romantic nationalism in its essential obsolescence and triviality. There is such a thing as Irish freedom, just as there is such a thing as Cork butter. But it was by studying foreign butter and tracing its excellence to its source in foreign co-operation that Sir Horace Plunkett and George Russell, the only two noted Irishmen who have done anything fundamental for Ireland in my time, have kept Cork butter sweet. And it is from England and America that the Irish will have to learn what freedom really means.
"Ireland as a nation cannot keep out of the present conflict except on the plea of utter insignificance. It has yet to be seen whether America will succeed in keeping out of it. Be that as it may, the Irishman who suggests that the right side for any Western democratic nation to take is the Prussian side must find some better argument that the Prussian side happens to be the anti-English side. I hope in a second article to make it clear to the Germans of America (since I can hardly reach the Germans in Germany) why it is that I do not take their side in this war, though they have taken my side very handsomely in my long conflict with Philistinism and barbarism. But if, as I have shown, the choice of sides does not depend on national consideration, still less does it depend on personal ones. My present purpose is to show that the Irishmen who can see only Ireland and England, and see even them only as parties to a feud, can give no counsel worth attending to in this business.
"Ireland, without the least regard to its squabble with England, must group itself in a combination of which the real center is Western republicanism and democratic internationalism. The present appeal against this combination to America would be stupid even if Ireland's interest and traditions were those of Frederick the Great. But as Irish patriotism is by tradition republican, the appeal is quite beyond patience. The Irish patriot may demand in desperation whether he is to fight shoulder to shoulder with the English Unionist and Russian autocrats against the enemies of his "age-long oppressors"; but the reply is inexorably Yes. Adversity makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows. The Czar, when this war came upon him, must have exclaimed to M Sazonoff, "Good Heavens! do you mean to tell me that I, an absolute Emperor and a Romanoff am to fight against my imperial cousins the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns, who stand with me as the representatives of the principle of monarchy in Europe, on the side of this rabble of French and Irish Republicans, this gang of Serbian regicides, this brace of Kings who are so completely in the hands of Parliaments of middle-class lawyers that their own subjects call them india rubber stamps!" If the Czar has to swallow that, even an Irish patriot must not be surprised at not having it all his own way. He must therefore console himself by considering that, in the words of a deservedly celebrated Irish dramatic poet,
drives us all to find our chiefest good
In what we can, and not in what we would
0266 Two Idealized Costers 4/2/16 "Much Ado About Nothing is perhaps the most dangerous actor-manager trap in the whole Shakespearean repertory. It is not a safe play like The Merchant of Venice or As You Like It, nor a serious play like Hamlet. Its success depends on the way it is handled in performance; and that, again, depends on the actor-manager being enough of a critic to discriminate ruthlessly between the pretension of the author and his achievement.
"The main pretension in Much Ado is that Benedick and Beatrice are exquisitely witty and amusing persons. They are, of course, noting of the sort. Benedick's pleasantries might pass at a sing-song in a public-house parlor; but a gentleman rash enough to venture on them in even the very mildest £52-a-year suburban imitation of polite society today would assuredly never be invited again. From his first joke, "Were you in doubt, Sir, that you asked her?" to his last, "There is not staff more reverend than one tipped with horn," he is not a wit, but a blackguard.
"He is not Shakespear's only failure in that genre. It took the bard a long time to grow out of the provincial conceit that made him so fond of exhibiting his accomplishments as a master of gallant badinage. The very thought of Biron, Mercutio, Gratiano, and Benedick must, I hope, have covered him with shame in his later years. Even Hamlet's airy compliments to Ophelia before the court would make a cabman blush. But at least Shakespear did not value himself on Hamlet's indecent jests as he evidently did on those of the four merry gentlemen of the earlier plays. When he at last got conviction of sin, and saw this sort of levity in its proper light, he made masterly amends by presenting the blackguard as a blackguard in the person of Lucio in Measure for Measure.
"Lucio, as a character study, is worth forty Benedicks and Birons. His obscenity is not only inoffensive, but irresistibly entertaining, because it is drawn with perfect skill, offered at its true value, and given its proper interest without any complicity of the author in its lewdness. Lucio is much more of a gentleman than Benedick, because he keeps his coarse sallies for coarse people. Meeting one woman, he says humbly: "Gentle and fair: your brother kindly greets you. Not to be weary with you, he's in prison." Meeting another, he hails her sparkingly with: "How now? Which of your hips has the more profound sciatica?" The one woman is a lay sister, the other a prostitute. Benedick or Mercutio would have cracked their low jokes on the lay sister, and been held up a gentlemen of rare wit and excellent discourse for it. Whenever they approach a woman or an old man you shiver with apprehension as to what brutality they will come out with.
"Precisely the same thing in the tenderer degree of her sex is true of Beatrice. In her character of professed wit she has only one subject and that is the subject which a really witty woman never jests about, because it is too serious a matter to a woman to be made light of without indelicacy. Beatrice jests about it for the sake of the indelicacy. There is only one thing worse than the Elizabethan merry gentleman," and that is the Elizabethan "merry lady."
"Why is it, then, that we still want to see Benedick and Beatrice, and that our most eminent actors and actresses still want to play them? Before I answer that very simple question let me ask another, Why is it that Da Ponte's "dramma giocosa," entitled "Don Giovanni," a loathsome story of a coarse, witless, worthless libertine, who kills an old man in a duel and is finally dragged down through a trapdoor to hell by his twaddling ghost, is still, after more than a century, as "immortal" as Much Ado? Simply because Mozart clothed it with wonderful music, which turned the worthless words and thoughts of Da Ponte into a magical human drama of moods and transitions of feeling.
"That is what happened in a smaller way with Much Ado. Shakespear shews himself in it a commonplace librettist, working on a stolen plot, but a great musician. No matter how poor, coarse, cheap, and obvious the thought may be, the mood is charming, and the music of the words expresses the mood. Paraphrase the encounters of Benedick and Beatrice in the style of a blue-book, carefully preserving every idea they present, and it will become apparent to the most infatuated Shakespearean that they contain at best nothing out of the common in thought or wit, and at worst a good deal of vulgar naughtiness. Paraphrase Goethe, Wagner, or Ibsen in the same way, and you will find original observation, subtle thought, wide comprehension, far-reaching intuition, and serious psychological study in them.
"Give Shakespear a fairer chance in the comparison by paraphrasing even his best and maturest work, and you will get nothing more than the platitudes of proverbial philosophy, with a very occasional curiosity in the shape of a rudiment or some modern idea not followed up. Not until the Shakespearean music is added by replacing the paraphrase with the original lines does the enchantment begin. Then you are in another world at once. When a flower girl tells a coster to hold his jaw, for nobody is listening to him, and he retorts, "Oh, you're there, are you, you beauty?" they reproduce the wit of Beatrice and Benedick exactly. But put it this way: "I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick; nobody marks you." "What! My dear Lady Disdain, are you yet living?" You are miles away from costerland at once.
"When I tell you that Benedick and the coster are equally poor in thought, Beatrice and the flower girl equally vulgar in repartee, you reply that I might as well tell you that a nightingale's love is no higher than a cat's. Which is exactly what I do tell you, though the nightingale is the better musician. You will admit, perhaps, that the love of the worst human singer in the world is accompanied by a higher degree of intellectual consciousness than that of the most ravishingly melodious nightingale. Well, in just the same way there are plenty of quite second-rate writers who are abler thinkers and wits than William, though they are unable to weave his magic into the expression of their thoughts.
"It is not easy to knock this into the public head, because comparatively few of Shakespear's admirers are at all conscious that they are listening to music as they hear his phrases turn and his lines fall so fascinatingly and memorably; while we all, no matter how stupid we are, can understand his jokes and platitudes, and are flattered when we are told of the subtlety of the wit we have relished and the profundity of the thought we have fathomed. Englishmen are especially susceptible to this sort of flattery, because intellectual subtlety is not their strong point. In dealing with them you must make them believe that you are appealing to their brains when you are really appealing to their senses and feelings.
"With Frenchmen, the case is reversed; you must make them believe that you are appealing to their senses and feelings when you are really appealing to their brains. The Englishman, slave to every sentimental ideal and dupe of every sensuous art, will have it that his great national poet is a thinker. The Frenchman, enslaved and duped only by systems of calculation, insists on his hero being a sentimentalist and artist. That is why Shakespear is esteemed a master mind in England and wondered at as a clumsy barbarian in France."
0265 Interviewed On Conscription
1/5/16 "Conscription must not be introduced merely because a general declares it as necessary. It is the business of a general to think it necessary, just as it is the business of a cobbler to think there is nothing like leather. If we raised an army of 20 million for our general and then ask them whether they would like another quarter million men, they would say yes. And they would be quite right, as their business is to have big battalions and not concern themselves about the civilian part of the business, which is to decide how many men we can afford for fighting purposes and tell the general that they must make good with that number and not a man more.
"Any fool can win at hazards if he has money enough to play double or quits, and any general can conquer the earth if he can snow his enemy under with unlimited dead. But fools have to learn, as apparently some of us still have to learn, that nobody is rich enough to play double or quits, and generals have to learn that not even an empire with a population of over four hundred million can fight 'to the last drop of blood.'
"You do not have to lose much blood to feel symptoms that remind you that you will faint, to say nothing of dying long before you come anywhere near the last drop of blood, or for that matter of the blood or your enemy.
"The accepted figure for the full fighting force of a nation is ten per cent of its population. If this figure is wrong, as it quite likely is, it had better be recalculated.
"Meanwhile, it seems probable that we can reach that figure without conscription; perhaps we have already reached it. If we have, all the demands of all the generals in the field for reinforcements will not justify us in going beyond it. If they cannot win with ten per cent, they must just surrender, that is all.