0785 E L Adams tells of difficulties in getting permission to publish Terry lrs: sees him as great egotist
12/29/31 Bernard Shaw was
pictured by Elbridge L Adams last night as the greatest living
egotist but not a bore. Mr Adams, who purchased the letters of Mr
Shaw and the late Ellen Terry, spoke at a dinner of the New York
branch of the National League of American Pen Women, held at the
Fifth Avenue Hotel. "G. B.," he said, "has the great
gifts of laughter, magnanimity and generosity." Mr Adams
told of his difficulty in getting the agreements of Mr Shaw and T
Gordon Craig, son of the actress, to publication of the letters. He
reported Shaw as saying, after giving many reasons for withholding
his consent, "Now I'll give you the real reason: Mrs Shaw
doesn't want them published."
0784 Harris's biography banned in Ireland
12/23/31 Another American author has been placed on the contraband list by the Irish censors. Major Elliott White Spring's new book, "Warbird and Ladybird," appears on the list of banned works published in The Dublin Gazette tonight. Frank Harris's "Bernard Shaw" is also blacklisted as indecent in general tendency. The London picture paper, The Daily Sketch, also is banned for advocating birth control in several recent issues. The prohibition is effective for three months, when it automatically expires.
0783 Excerpt from s on Russia to Fabian Soc
When I went to Russia I
at Moscow by a large delegation of authors. To begin with, they
always planted authors on me in all directions. They were the very
last people I wanted to see. There were also men of science, artists
and the rest of it. They all came. I noticed they looked
uncommonly jolly and prosperous and so on.
I said to the authors: "I am glad to see you looking so prosperous and so on." Not a single author in Russia tried to borrow a single shilling form me. That is an absolute record for the earth. I said to them: "Are you not the intelligentsia?" They replied: "Certainly not. We are not the intelligentsia."
I said: "I knew that, of course, but I thought it was more or less of a family secret between ourselves. How did the Russian Government find it out, and if you are not the intelligentsia, what are you?"
They answered: "We are the intellectual proletariat.
0782 Results of contest for hypothetical cable offering him the Amer throne
12/10/31 The Manchester
prize contest for a hypothetical cable by Bernard Shaw,
replying to an offer of "the American throne" has produced
thrusts both at Mr Shaw and at the United States. The winner, George
Hay, represented Mr Shaw as cabling in part: "I quite
understand your desire, seeing Stalin is not available, to
the only other infallible human being as your first king, but your
offer is totally inadequate. Do you consider attractive an offer of
limited monarchy to the absolute monarch of intelligentsia and
film clown's salary to a dramatist surpassing Shakespear? Besides, I
have no desire to captain a compassless ship. When your vessel is
steering by common sense like Stalin's, offer me the post again."
Bits from other contestants are as follows:
'I elected myself king of America in 1890 and have been ruling successfully ever since."
'It is insulting to offer your kingship, since you would not permit the king to retain his self-respect and life for more than a month.
12/6/31 A new American painter, Mary Tompkins, formerly of Athens, Georgia, made her debut today at the Leicester Galleries, leading London gallery, where the exhibitions of the most prominent modern artists are held. She and her husband, Lawrence Tompkins, a sculptor, now live in Italy.
She may be described as a protegee of Bernard Shaw, one of the most enthusiastic of many celebrities attending her private showing today. She has been painting only a few years, but she has produced a roomful of canvases which Mr Shaw said would do credit to many long-established artists. The best test of her work is the fact that five pictures were sold by noon, remarkable in these depressed times. Several portraits also were commissioned today.
Mr Shaw told the writer he and his wife were staying at the Tompkins villa on an island in Lake Magiore, near Stresa, when she started painting.
"She brought me a picture she had done and was outraged when I didn't call it a masterpiece. I told her it was good, but she should study ten years and go to art classes every night. Instead, she went right to work and this is the result." He waved his arm around the gallery. "Very fine, indeed. I also told her to paint me a picture of her villa in Italy and I would give her five pounds for it. There it is."
Today was the first
exhibition of Mrs
Tompkins's work anywhere. She will remain in London a month working
on portraits of well-known persons here, probably including Mr Shaw,
before rejoining her husband in Rome. She expects to arrange a New
York exhibition next year. Her work is mostly colorful flower
studies and striking nudes, showing the influence of Gauguin, Van
Gogh and Cezanne which Mr Shaw points out, although it has an
independence of its own.
0781 Lr on correct retort to statement in Harris's biography
12/1/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: Would not the retort proper of Bernard Shaw to Frank Harris's statement quoted in The Times of the other day to the effect that Shaw would be known a thousand years from now only as the subject of a bust by Rodin be that he would also be known as the subject of a biography by Harris?
T Richard Witmer
0780 Int about lrs to E Terry and G Craig's latest book, Ellen Terry and Her Secret Self; continues old feud with G Craig
11/29/31 Gordon Craig, in his latest book 'Ellen Terry and Her Secret Self,' begins by accusing Bernard Shaw in the first seven lines of blind vanity and jealousy and in the twelfth line of insulting the dead. In a postscript tucked away in a special pocket in the cover of the book, he describes Mr Shaw as 'a man without sense or ordinary good manners,' as the author of 'a pack of deliberate lies, purposely invented to damage my mother, my father, myself, my family, Irving, and a few more,' and as 'a very large, malicious poke-nosed old woman with an idle and vindictive tongue spreading falsehoods up and down the street.'
To interview Mr Shaw on the subject was clearly a delicate and hazardous business; and I (G W Bishop) was not surprised when I had no sooner uttered the words 'Gordon Craig' that Mr Shaw exploded: "Oh, bother Gordon Craig! The baby is squalling again, I suppose. It always squalls when it sees me; and nobody will whack it because it is Ellen Terry's baby. Well, let it squall."
I remonstrated. I said
that the habit
of talking about Lord Randolph Churchill, the Kaiser, and Gordon
Craig as if they were youths of eighteen and only five feet two in
height was a nineteenth century trick that had now become
unintelligible. It dates. Besides, I pointed out, Mr Craig is now
on the verge of sixty, and is putting up a very passable imitation of
Mr Shaw himself as a sage.
"Except the beard," said Mr Shaw. "He should grow a beard. I wonder could he? I believe he is still too young."
It was not such a bad opening, after all. I had broken the ice; and Mr Shaw had blown off steam. I laughed politely, and came to the point.
'What,' I said, 'is the explanation of the anti-Shaw complex which Mr Craig undoubtedly suffers from? Is it, to speak psychoanalytically, jealousy arising from a mother fixation? Is it the Oedipus complex?'
"Good gracious, no," cried Mr Shaw. "Craig flew away from the nest the moment his wings were fully fledged; and he saw very little of his mother afterward. And he was perfectly right. He had to save his soul alive. Make no mistake about it; Ellen Terry, with all her charm and essential amiability, was an impetuous, overwhelming, absorbing personality. She could sweep a thousand people away in a big theater; so you can imagine what she could do with a sensitive boy in a small house. It was not until he had put the seas between them that he himself developed an impetuous and charming personality; and the result was that Isadora Duncan ran away from him exactly as he had run away from his mother. And Isadora was no nonentity either, as I found when I met her. What makes this book of his so tragically moving - for if you disregard the rubbish about me, which is neither here nor there, it is a poignant human document - is his desperate denial of the big woman he ran away from and his assertion of the 'little mother' he loved. He still resents the great Ellen Terry, the woman who would have swallowed him up if he had stayed within her magnetic field, so intensely that he is furious with me because I did not tear her letters up and stamp them and her into the earth so that the world would never have known her, and she could never have played Nelly the little mother off the stage. I quite understand that; and this book of his, which will perhaps seem rather a skimpy little one to those who do not understand it, is a very full one, and a very touching one, to me.
"There is also the complication that I am the ally of his sister Edith Craig, the Edy of the correspondence. Now if you read the account of Edy's childhood which Ellen Terry wrote to me, and compare it with what Craig says in this book, you will see that Edy was unsympathetic to her mother in her early years because she was developing her powers of resistance to this domestic tornado that would have swamped her if she had not had the strong will to which Craig testifies, and much greater tenacity than either her mother or her brother. Edy finally got the upperhand, and so lost her fear of her mother and with it her hatred of her - the word is a hard one; but children do really hate their parents in the struggles for independence. She became the champion of the great Ellen Terry, and had no patience with Nelly. That is why the brother and sister are at loggerheads over the publication of the letters."
I said that I found this very interesting, but reminded him that Miss Christopher St John, the editress of the Terry letters, had pointed out that Mr Craig's anti-Shaw complex had been evident for many years, long before the existence of the letters was known to him. How did he account for that?
"Well," was the reply, "perhaps there is no explanation needed. To many people I am a repellent person with an odious character. One of my professions is the profession of critic, a sort of literary gangster whose business it is to put my victims on the spot; and the more skillfully and accurately I do it the less they like it. Mr Craig is under no obligation to like me. His mother did not like me at first; quite the contrary. And then, consider Mr Craig's very odd profession: he has presented himself to the world, and to some extent conquered it, in the capacity of a thwarted genius. No doubt that began at home, when he was up against the all-conquering mother and her faithful lieutenant, the strong-willed sister. But he not only kept it up when he had thrown off the yoke, but actually made a profession of it. And he has not done so badly out of it, because the world does not know that all geniuses are thwarted in this world of commonplace. Look at the other men whose work in the theater has been associated with mine: Paul Shelving, Norman Wilkinson, Albert Rutherston, Granville-Barker! Look at Edith Craig herself, who, under conditions that would thwart any genius if it were thwartable, has not only produced many interesting plays but dressed them as well. There was nothing to prevent Gordon Craig from doing what they did except that if he had he would no longer have been a thwarted genius. That is the worst of being a thwarted genius; the moment you do anything your whole stock in trade is gone; and so the thwarted genius instinctively recoils from a job.
"But do not conclude that Mr Craig has been of no use. The people who do the jobs - who are dextrous enough to adapt themselves to all the circumstances, however desperate, and can yet produce a presentable result - people like myself, for instance - are the curse of the theater because they accept its poverty and insecurity and subjection to commercial considerations instead of going on permanent strike against them, like Craig. To him they are artistic blacklegs. They undersell him at every turn. He demands a hundred thousand pounds - or is it a hundred million? I forget - with a free hand, absolute dominion, and a theater to play with; and though he doesn't get it and never will get it, I am very well pleased that he should keep reminding people that such a thing as a model performance of a play today is quite impossible: even the most brilliant and satisfying of our productions is still a makeshift, acted by artists whose position is terribly precarious, managed and financed at risks which make failure ruinous, and saved from absurdity mainly by the imagination of the spectators."
Mr Shaw stopped for breath. Before he could begin again I asked him whether the statements about him in the folder attached to the book are true. "Technically and literally," said Mr Shaw, "no; they are a string of flat whoppers. Here is his written consent to the publication of the letters: you cannot mistake the signature: You can quote if you please. He not only consents to the publication but explicitly gives his word not to do what he had done in his book. But do not get virtuously indignant: his consent was extorted by circumstances and his heart was not in his promise. I do not blame him, for I knew my man; and my object in refusing to allow my letters to be published without his assent was to make it impossible for him to attack his sister and denounce the publication of the letters as an outrage without putting himself hopelessly in the wrong. I guessed that he would be unable to resist doing it; and I guessed right. But I shall not pretend to mount the moral high horse at his expense; for he was not on the spot, and does not know what really happened. There was a change of attitude on my part which no doubt misled him.
"When Ellen Terry died, Miss Craig thought that a volume of her letters might be compiled for publication; and she wrote to me as to other friends to ask if I had any letters. I replied that I had some hundreds; and I sent them to her so that she could pick out any that were suitable for such a volume, just as Ellen Terry, in her Memoirs, had included a suitable letter of mine. You must understand that I had never read the correspondence as a whole, and that I recollected it at a distance of thirty years. But Miss Craig did read it as a whole, and at once formed the opinion, which has received such overwhelming confirmation from the reviewers, that it brought her mother to life in her real character and in all her strength with a force and vividness which made it a duty to her memory to publish the correspondence in full. At first I was almost as stupid as Craig: I remembered only the very intimate and affectionate character of the letters and declared that their immediate publication was impossible. But as it was clear that some day or other they would be published, and I had better leave a document to explain them, I wrote an explanation for posterity. This was entitled 'Preface to be attached to the correspondence of Ellen Terry and Bernard Shaw should it ever be published' and was marked 'Very Private.'
I sent a proof of it to Mr Craig and another to Edith Craig. Mr Craig declares, and will probably declare to his dying day, that this document was a pamphlet which I was circulating widely to confound, destroy, insult and ruin himself, his father and his entire family. It is now before the public as the preface to the correspondence. Mr Craig and his family are none the worse for it; and I will give a penny to any one who can discover in it the faintest disparagement of his father, Edward Godwin, whom I never met, and whose production of a Greek play at the old Circus in Argyle Street many years ago pleased me very much.
"The effect on Miss Craig was that she made up her mind that the preface should be published at once as well as the letters. I was perplexed, and shewed the proofs to a small court of honor consisting of two persons, one of them a famous soldier and the other a lady, the head of a religious house, much respected by both of us. Without the letters the preface suggested to them only a correspondence that should not be published. I accepted their verdict, but Miss Craig remained unshaken. Presently legal questions arose. Ellen Terry's executors had to realize her estate for the benefit of Miss Craig and Gordon Craig's children. My letters and Ellen Terry's copyrights were sold, and the assignee of the copyrights announced his intention of publishing Ellen Terry's Letters by themselves if he could not induce me to consent to the publication of mine with them. Under this pressure I consented to the publication of a limited edition at a high price for the benefit of the Ellen Terry Memorial Institute which Edith Craig and Lady Maud Warrender were establishing at Smalhythe, in Kent, and which could be financed by no other means. It was the preparation of this edition which led to my reading the correspondence as a whole for the first time and it converted me at once to Edith Craig's opinion.
"When I make up my mind I do not make it up by halves, and I agreed that my hesitations had been absurd and that the limited edition should be followed by an ordinary unlimited trade edition at ordinary prices. But I made it a condition that Mr Craig should be consulted, and he, swearing he would ne'er consent, consented, as you have seen. I proposed that he should write a preface, and he entertained this until he learned that the proposal was suggested by me, whereupon he repudiated it with vehemence, declaring that it was a trap for him. He was treated by me throughout with inhumanly scrupulous correctness and by his sister with anxious consideration.
"To sum it all up, I don't think the public will be misled by Mr Craig's grouch against me. After all, I wounded that sacred thing, a boy's idolatry of the first great actor he ever saw. And his psychopathic hatred of 'the great Ellen Terry' will be forgiven for the sake of his romance about 'little mother Nelly.' But he has allowed his psychosis to carry him to the length of suggesting that his mother's last days were darkened by his sister's excessive surveillance, and then making the crazy statement that the stroke which killed her was caused by her eating something that disagreed with her when his sister was absent, implying that he was orphaned by this neglect. Here he seems to me to go beyond the bounds within which it is possible for even his greatest admirers to defend him; and at this point accordingly, I throw up my brief for him and wish you good morning."
The letter shown me by Mr Shaw ran as follows:
41 Downshire Hill, N W
1st October, 1930
Dear Mr Shaw: Mr Adams, our mutual friend, is as you know a little bothered by the situation. He wants to do something that you and Edith both wish to have done, so I will not stand in the way and you may rest assured that having said this I shall stick to it; and when the book containing my Mother's and your letters is published you can rely on me not to write about it in the papers or to give interviews.
'I read Bernard Shaw's
"explanation" and I liked it very much. It is the first
time that he has made certain points quite clear to me - yes, very
clear. Another thing is that I had never felt, till I read these
columns of Shaw's, what his powers were as a dramatist. I won't say
anything more. Mr Shaw and a few others will understand, and I think
the public will understand, and I thikg the public is already
getting bored to death by this quarrel. I know I am. Beside, it is
all finished and done with. What I set out to do three years ago is
done - first, to write my book on Irving, and then, later, my book on
Ellen Terry two people who loomed large in the early days of my
career, and whom I loved - from whom I learnt and who gave me so much
more than I can ever give to them. Hence my two books - small
'The books were necessary, because Shaw had concerned himself with these two, and I don't think he had them right - I don't think he has got them right even now. While I am sure he could write magnificently about Tolstoy, about Cobden, about Sidney Webb that was, I really don't think he could write about any artist at all - about William Morris, for example; really I don't. And I am perfectly certain that he has not been able to write about Irving and Ellen Terry. I think he has got them quite wrong. I have got them right, for I knew them, and he did not - it was not his fault, he couldn't know them.
'The trouble between Shaw and myself has been worked up to a terrific theatrical pitch, for the very simplest reason he never will admit that there is anything he doesn't know; and most of us are quite willing to admit that there are hundreds of things that we don't know - but we'll be damned if we'll have the one thing that we do know commandeered. And so far as I have seen in this world no one has ever wanted to commandeer every one's private property - except the enterprising burglar, and GBS. Mr Shaw is a very enterprising mental burglar. Bless his heart, it is a misfortune - it's nothing worse. It reveals itself this way: whatever he hears referred to - for example, suppose it to be ices, especially if referred to by a man who has dealt in ices for forty-five years, and is past master of making ices - GBS will up like any young bantam, and tell that man, in the chortling voice of twenty, that he knows nothing about it, and that he - Bernard Shaw - will tell him everything there is to be known on the question of how to make, sell and profit by ices.
'By the way,' asked Mr Craig suddenly breaking off, 'how do you think I am looking today?' I have always seen E G C looking hale and hearty and merry, so for the moment I was nonplussed; but he went on quickly: 'I mean to say, you don't think I look at all haggard this morning? - there's nothing bloodshot or desperate about my eyes? - my hair isn't tousled, it it?'
No, I said,
'Well, I didn't know - I mean, those are the outward and visible signs of the "thwarted genius." Shaw must have got it wrong again, bless him!'
Here E G C paused and gave vent to a long and hearty burst of laughter. 'But why is GBS so cocksure about everything? What does it all mean?' he went on. 'It really is explained in a very simple way - though God forbid that I should begin to "explain." It is that Shaw still remains the journalist - he isn't Bernard Shaw, the philosopher-politician, at all - he is still the thoughtless but happy Mr Shaw of The Star and The World. If you come to think of it in this way, it is something rather modest and charming that he still looks on himself as one of those "unfortunate journalists" (you call yourself unfortunate, don't you?), doomed, because of circumstances, to write on any given subject at a moment's notice - never mind whether you know about it or not - and to rattle things off and convince the readers of the penny paper or the shilling or five-guinea books into which you put them.
'Have you got time to waste in listening to my praises of Bernard Shaw? For I assure you that even I could indicate his qualities to you and could grow lyrical about some of them! I know you want none of my lyrics; so instead of soaring, let us keep on the earth and to the point.
'Shaw offers a penny to any one who can discover in his preface to the Correspondence the faintest disparagement of my father. He will kindly send me that penny tomorrow - and I need not tell him where the disparagement lies, for he knows. I shall certainly not draw your attention to it. I don't give the passage in my book. I found, on the publication of the Correspondence that Mr Shaw had cut this passage out of the original preface, which was privately printed and circulated, not many copies, but over a hundred people must have read it, and ten thousand can still read it. I have explained in my book why Shaw writes such things, and there is an end to it.
'Now we come to my so-called "consent" to the publication of the Correspondence, which consent Mr Shaw himself says was "extorted by circumstances." Well, I accept the handsome admission, and it will do no harm if I add this: that I received a promise from one of them - I forget which it was - that the Correspondence, when published, should be preface by a note containing a brief statement of my feelings on the whole matter - which would have balanced the "extorted consent" given by me to satisfy the longing of one or two of 'em. This note was not inserted in the book of Correspondence. It doesn't worry me very much, but it automatically canceled my agreement. Again, in saying that I agreed not to express my opinion in a book, Mr Shaw has got it a little wrong. I have always said to every one that I should write a book about it.
'One more word and I have done. When I sent Mr Shaw the formal and "extorted" letter of consent which you quoted last week at the end of your interview, I received from him this answer: "As to your complete liberty to write about the letters about the Lyceum, about E T, H I, and G B S, you must continue to exercise that in all respects as before. G Bernard Shaw,
Oct 3, 1930
0779 F Harris, in biography, Bernard Shaw, says he is held in exaggerated importance
11/29/31 Long practice as professional critic and simultaneously as actor-manager for the international star, Bernard Shaw - confessedly a creature no less self-made than his old enemy, Henry Irving, laboriously manufactured out of Richard Brodribb - has endowed the world's most eminent Irishman with an exceptional degree of seeming objectivity toward himself - as a dramatic figure, at least. This seeming objectivity Mr Shaw used with superb cunning to distort the perspective of the correspondence of an ambitious dramatist and Ellen Terry. The editing of this work by Miss Christopher St John was meticulously overseen by Mr Shaw, so that the story of the relationship between the two great letter writers emerges as his own story. He has, of course, directed entirely the authorized biography of his protege, Dr Archibald Henderson of Chapel Hill in North Carolina. The objectivity there present - what there is of it - is precisely the objectivity of the star who is his own stage manager.
In the case of the late Frank Harriss's "unauthorized biography based on firsthand information" a sardonic turn of fate left Shaw to do the final proofreading of a work which set out to handle him with the merciless candor which only privileged old acquaintances and unscrupulous professed friendship could undertake. The opportunity for stage management here was magnificent - the opening unsurpassed for the most convincing display of objectivity. Naturally, Mr Shaw has not missed his chance. The urbanity of his epilogue, his indulgent attitude toward poor Harris's inevitable inadequacy to the task of interpreting Shaw rightly - because Harris couldn't rightly interpret Shaw in terms of Harris, and Harris's perverse imagination peopled the world exclusively with Frank Harrises - the combination reduces the entire elaborate debunking of Shaw by Harris to the level of a personal misunderstanding. In such a situation nobody knows better than Shaw that the world must take sides either baldly according to prejudice or else upon estimation of the character of the witnesses. Thus Harris is bound to have the worst of it.
To get down to the gist of the debate, Harris objects to Shaw mainly on the ground that he is an incurable Puritan. The world's ultimate reaction to Harris (with all his cleverness and ability) was that he carried not being a Puritan to a point beyond the bounds set by even excessive modern liberality. Harris argues that Shaw, though his vociferously self-advertised business is iconoclasm, is really too much of a conformist to be a true reformer - that he makes a great noise in the world as an idol-breaker, on paper, and leaves the idols be - that, at last, he sits snugly in the shadow of the whole bourgeois regiment of idols, including Mammon paramount. On his side Shaw says, in effect, that Harris wasn't housebroken to civilization - that he behaved like a bull in a china shop and that smashing the household crockery is not a part of the idol-breaker's serious business. Oscar Wilde's gibe is cited, that Harris was "received in all the great houses - once." And it is affably suggested that ability to get into trouble is not the measure of a man's significance as a force in remolding the world into something better - following an amiable aspiration confessed to by Shaw and Harris alike.
Harris quotes Shaw as, with characteristic modesty, giving himself seven reputations - as philosopher, novelist, sociologist, critic, statesman, dramatist, theologian.
"Gladly making him a present of six" (the friendly unauthorized biographer goes on), "I cannot see for the life of me where he gets in as a philosopher - at most a court jester. Shaw thinks more of a drain pipe than a cathedral - the plumber philosopher, if you will, but no Plato."
Harris's not illogical notion is that a philosopher must have a body of doctrine, disciples. Harris's verdict is that Shaw has neither. Yet.
"Despite the fact that he is not a philosopher, he was the first readable philosopher's digest for many young men thirty years ago. He gave life a meaning that the dried-out sermons of their pastors had destroyed. But after you had read all Shaw has written and said, you realized that his mentality was comically befuddled. His thinking was a broth stewed by an Irishman of the most varied schools of thought - chiefly from Schopenhauer, Strindberg, Butler, Bergson, Morris, Nietzsche, Marx, Tolstoy, Ibsen and Wagner."
What is worse, Harris insists, the events of the world since the great war have taught the Irish stew concocter nothing. He remains still a doctrinaire of the nineteenth century school whereof the recipe for the millennium is benevolently despotic governmental control of everybody and everything. This school bases on an extinct economic theory of human relations at bottom purely economic, and Shaw has learned no better in the fact of all that has happened to the practical experiments grounded on that theory since Armageddon cleared the way for the experimenters to show what they could do on the loose. Russia, Italy and America present each a different method of applying wholesale the same essential religion of the supremacy of matter over mind - the divine right of the mechanical gadget as the measure of human progress and the ideal expression of the individual in the social mechanism which is life.
Thus one may summarize Harris's analysis of what is the matter with Shaw that leaves him, mighty publicist that he is, short of the stature of true greatness. The rival Irish publicist - Harris also boasts of his origin in the island of Kathleen ni Hoolihan - gives Shaw the figure of a modern Don Quixote. The Knight of La Mancha "living in an imaginary past, tried to realize the ideal of an earlier age," like Ralph Adams Cram building Gothic cathedrals as if modern methods of construction were non-existent. The modern expression of the type does not, however, run to Crams. Rather what arrives are creatures like Shaw, who "live in the future and hug a belief of their own making, an ideal corresponding to their own personality." The two don Quixote types are alike in this, that "They despise the present." What it all comes down to, obviously, is that Shaw's ideal of the world is a world made to measure for a race of Bernard Shaws. So that the issue joined in the end between the biographer and his subject is simply whether the world shall conform to the Shaws or the Harrises. Nevertheless, Harris grants Shaw this: "He alone has gained an honest fortune and high social position by telling the world unpleasant truths."
Having dismissed the philosophical pretensions of his old friend, editorial subordinate and play-reviewer, Harris takes up his status as a playwright. An outstanding factor of Shaw's success on the stage is, it appears, his aptitude for fitting actresses with tempting parts even in plays which they thought impossible. "I am a good ladies' tailor," he wrote to Ellen Terry. The indictment proceeds:
"It was perhaps more by good tailoring than by flattery, persuasion, sarcasm, humor, or straight convincing arguments that he managed to get Alma Murray, Kate Rorke, Lillian McCarthy, Ellen Terry, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Sybil Thorndyke, Fanny Brough, Grace George, Gertrude Elliott, Gertrude Kingston, Winifred Lenihan, Phyllis Neilson-Terry, Forbes Robertson, Richard Mansfield, Arnold Daly, Louis Calvert, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Robert Lorraine, Cedric Hardwicke, everybody, in fact, but Henry Irving, into his caste. You can see how well he digested the old saw about hitching your wagon to a star."
No profound or
here , it is plain. Add the eminently Harrisian dictum, "In
fact, really all his first successes were written,published
or produced while he was under my wing on The Saturday Review," and you have a fair measure of Harris as a serious dissector of Shaw's dramatic achievement. There is not a line to show that he has grasped the essential fact, seized upon by the late Cecil Chesterton, brother of G K and sometimes himself a Fabian - that the talky-talky Shaw has a native dramatic instinct so persistently on the job that even a prodigious dead weight of propaganda cannot quite submerge it. The way Chesterton put it was that "Shaw can make dramatic even a debate on parish politics."
Shaw's relations with women naturally pique his biographer's curiosity prodigiously. In going over the proofs Shaw has corrected (as he says) only glaring errors of fact due to a perverse or mistaken inference. The Harrisian interpretation is allowed to stay for what if is worth. The reader may be interested to know that according to Harris, Orinthia with her "curiously innocent relations" with King Magnus in The Apple Cart represents roughly Mrs Pat Campbell, for example and Queen Jemima, she who became Mrs Shaw - the same figures in the Terry-Shaw letters as "the lady with the light green eyes and the million of money" that Shaw "has got to like so much it is superfluous to fall in love with her." That leaves the part of King Magnus for Shaw himself. Harris does not conceal his complete distaste for King Magnus.
Though Mrs Warren's Profession has in it the making of a great play, it falls short of the mark of a great play because Shaw lacked the courage to make the indictment of society ruthless enough. At the critical point, Harris maintains, Shaw's realest and noblest woman stands aside from the path of glory which leads to first-rate immortality - through martyrdom if need be. Exactly why Shaw should be expected to produce the stuff of martyrs does not appear. But then is he not a Puritan?
Harris approves Candida as Shaw's realest and noblest woman and rejects most of his other female figures as "puppets out of Ibsen's doll's house." The Irishman's Cleopatra and his Joan of Arc are equally dismissed as deplorably inadequate and essentially false. Ann, who ruthlessly conducts the man hunt for John Tanner in Man and Superman, contributes to the pursuit of her predestined victim "about as much sex appeal as a time table." These are only samples of Harris's objections to the Shavian drama, the sum of which is that he would have written all of the Shaw plays differently if he had been the author and rebuilt from the ground up most of the characters - especially the women - using for raw material another sort of flesh suited to stir the blood of eaters of red meat. After all, as they stand they are creatures of a vegetarian imagination. Finally, Shaw himself is "a male flirt." Ellen Terry called him a "minx" with clearly flattering unction, but Harris's view is disparaging. What the man with seven reputations essentially lacks, we gather, is knowledge of the world - in the man of the world sense. Harris "never knew anybody who could talk more on less experience than Shaw."
In his way Frank Harris writes well- with animus and emphasis if not with polish. But there is no doubt that Shaw is the better writer.
11/27/31 George Bernard Shaw lectured for an hour and a half on Russia tonight, proving that at 75 he is more earnestly absorbed by his Russian experiences of last Summer than by any political adventure of his life.
There was no limit to Mr Shaw's enthusiasm over Russia as it bubbled over to the 2,000 who packed the hall for his annual Fabian lecture. His witticisms were more subdued than usual and he preached communism with as much fervor as he had preached Fabian socialism forty years ago.
But Russian communism, he explained, is merely Fabianism under a new name. "Lenin owes a great deal of his eminence to the fact that in his younger days he studied the works of Sidney Webb," he said, with a sly look at Lord Passfield on the platform beside him. "Lenin became a graduate. The result was that syndicalism, anarchism and class war, which had been the basis of Russian communism, were squeezed out under the pressure of economic necessity and the residue is Fabianisn.
"The success of the Russian experiment means that old words like Fabianism and socialism are all out of date. There is nothing now but communism. Henceforth you are either a Communist or you are what Prime Minister MacDonald and Viscount Snowden are - whatever that may be.
0777 Harris Says He Will Be Forgotten; Dramatist's Only Claim to Fame Is Bust by Rodin, Biographer Asserts. BOOK REVISED BY SUBJECT Playwright, Leaving In All Jibes, Says Work Has Viewpoint of a Sex Study. Sees Fame Already Dying. Asserts Personality Will Live
11/27/31 Bernard Shaw is held in
greatly exaggerated importance by the world and by himself, and his
only claim to immortality is that Rodin has cast his features in
bronze, according to Frank Harris, whose posthumous biography,
"Bernard Shaw," is to be published today by Simon &
Schuster. There will be simultaneous publication of the volume in
Europe. The biography is based on a half century's intimate
friendship and contains a postscript and heretofore unpublished
letters by Mr Shaw.
Mr Shaw, in his postscript, explains that since Harris died before the proofs could be read, he had read them himself. He says that certain mistakes have been eliminated, but "All the criticisms, jibes, explosions of passing ill humor, and condemnations have been piously preserved; and I have taken care that they have lost nothing by a few inevitable displacements. Naturally, I do not endorse all the judgements in the book," he says. "Its scale of values, on which my sociological work appears so insignificant and the most negligible sex episodes - or absence of episodes - appears of supreme importance, could be justified only in a book avowedly dealing with my sex history solely. I think that in every case where Frank Harris does not understand me, or any other of his contemporaries, the real difficulty is that he does not understand himself."
Shaw's life as a dramatist ended after the writing of Saint Joan for "surely The Apple Cart was written by a dead man," Mr Harris writes, conceding that Shaw deserves sympathy, "for he has tried hard and deserves a better fate."
"On re-examining Shaw's
volumes on every subject in the world and beyond it, I find only one
consistently persistent idea throughout all his writing, views and
opinion, he always wanted things to be better than they were. Never
mind that he was a scoffer and religious at the same time; an atheist
and pew renter, a socialistic supporter of war, a peace-loving Fabian
favoring a strong army, a libertarian eulogizing Mussolini, a zealous
champion of state control fighting the government censor, a believer
in freedom advocating compulsory equalization of incomes, a
zealot of 'the true joy of life' scoffing at love and sex, and a man
of many other parts like a crazy-quilt."
Although Shaw's fame as a writer is "already dying," the vividness of his personality is likely to keep his memory alive longer than his plays and other literary efforts, Mr Harris admits, saying:
One question that will be asked, says the Daily Express, is: "Ought Shaw to have done it? Ought he to have written the letter printed in full in the chapter headed 'Shaw's Sex Credo'? It is far and away the most astounding piece of writing Shaw ever published."
0776 Writes new play
11/19/31 Bernard Shaw has written a new play which will have its world premiere at the Malvern Festival next Summer. At present entitled Too True To Be Good, the play is said to deal with the overturn of the world's moral standards as a result of the war. Shaw call it a comedy but adds "It is something of a sermon with a few vaudeville tricks thrown in to make people laugh, also a dash or two of Edgar Wallace."
0775 Incident of necktie in Soviet film
11/16/31 In a lecture here today, entitled "With Shaw in Russia," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, great-grandson of the poet Longfellow, told this story: "One scene of a motion picture in which Shaw appeared had to be taken over. On the day of the original shooting, Shaw wore no necktie, trusting that his beard, which is growing a trifle thin, would cover the lack. On the day of the "re-shooting," he wore a red necktie. When the picture was patched together, Shaw appeared to be delivering a speech without a necktie. Suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, the necktie popped into view. Inasmuch as the film is to be a permanent tribute to Lenin, it will immortalize Shaw in Russia as a magician able to make neckties pop out of his whiskers."
0774 Lr from G Wells upholding publication of Shaw Terry correspondence
11/15/31 To the editor of The New York Times: I can state with entire assurance that Mr Bernard Shaw has been placed in a wholly wrong light in the matter of the publication of the Shaw-Terry correspondence. But, then, he has only his kindness to blame. I know as a fact that he resisted obstinately the publication. So much so that he was threatened with legal action unless he relented, the buyer of the letters claiming that Mr Shaw consented to the purchase which was gone into with a view to publication. For nearly three years the matter had been held back. And why did Mr Shaw consent? Because, as he told me, he wanted the heirs of Ellen Terry, specifically Miss Edith Craig, to get hold of a neat sum of money. That was his motive. I know it.
I gather that the attack of Gordon Craig is based mainly and naturally on the publication of the letters of Ellen Terry, his mother. "It isn't done," he protests. No, it is not. But who is responsible for that? Plainly the heirs of Ellen Terry, and they alone. Mr Shaw did not possess the copyright. That belonged to the heirs of Ellen Terry.
And what about the preface? As to that I am reminded of what E V Lucas once said to me when I told him that Shaw should not have done a certain thing the way he did it: "He would not be Shaw if he did it differently."
0773 Called "quack" by E Walsh
11/13/31 Senator Borah's assertion in his interview with the French correspondents who accompanied Premier Laval to Washington that the United States was afraid to recognize the Soviet Government of Russia was denounced as a libel on the intelligence of the American people, in a radio address delivered tonight by the Rev Dr Edmund A Walsh, amplifying his previous broadcast of Oct 18 in reply to the American Boob Talk from London of Bernard Shaw.
Dr Walsh, who is vice president of Georgetown University and regent of its foreign service school, has made a special study of Soviet Russia and the five-year plan. He declared that the American Government "rightly refused to compromise with malevolent agencies of world revolution."
"The Soviet challenge is not so much to our stability as to our self-respect," Dr Walsh said. "It is a salutary warning against overconfidence. The menace does not lie in the danger of America surrendering to the fear or force of Moscow but in succumbing to decay of spirit, to cupidity of heart and to ignorance of the mind masquerading as liberalism."
Attacking Senator Borah's "incredible interview," he asserted that "false counsel or continued misrepresentation, no matter in what guise, whether conscious or unconscious, whether broadcast from London or Capitol Hill is as much a crime against the common good as quackery or medical skullduggery during times of dangerous epidemics. Once the intellect is clouded by falsehood or harried by doubts, fears and subtle innuendo, the will is drained of both power and motive to resist evil: then passion, which is blind, runs riot.
0772 Comment on him in connection with recently published books and lrs fills London papers
11/9/31 Between the Shaw-Terry letters, Gordon Craig's onslaught, the new standard edition of Shaw's works which appeared Thursday, and the late Frank Harris's "unauthorized" biography of Shaw appearing shortly, Bernard Shaw is now having the time of his life. Today's London newspapers contain little else but Shaw. G W Bishop devotes the better part of three columns in The Observer to an interview with "the sage of Whitehall Court," mainly on Dame Ellen Terry and her son, Gordon Craig, while another Irishman, Liam O'Flaherty, has written a long article entitled "Saint Shaw" for The Sunday Dispatch. The literary pages of all papers also are full of Shaw, while the publishers have huge advertisements announcing the Harris biography.
"To many people I am a repellent person with an odious character," Mr Shaw told Mr Bishop. "One of my professions is the profession of critic, a sort of literary gangster whose business it is to put my victims 'on the spot,' and the more skillfully and accurately I do it, the less they like it." He had many harsh words for Mr Craig and Sir Henry Irving and a further tribute for Dame Ellen.
Mr O'Flaherty says unique things of Mr Shaw, such as, "He will be remembered chiefly after his death as the most amusing aristocrat of the twentieth century." Again Mr O'Flaherty observes, "I take Mr Shaw no more seriously as a writer than he takes himself. It is as a man he is outstanding, as the most astonishing man who ever trod this earth."
0771 Attacked by G Craig for publication of correspondence with E Terry
11/3/31 An attack on Bernard Shaw for consenting to the recent publication of the Shaw-Terry letters is made by Gordon Craig in a sketch of his mother's life, "Ellen Terry and Her Secret Self," published today.
While the bitterest part of the attack is confined to a twenty-one-page "annex" entitled "A Plea for G B S" and tucked away in the pocket of the back cover, Mr Craig commences his onslaught in the preface, with repeated caustic reference to Mr Shaw throughout the book.
Remarking that Mr Shaw is "no gentleman and even no man," Mr Craig accuses him of jealousy of Sir Henry Irving, the actor, asserting that this was the reason why Mr Shaw tried to persuade Miss Terry to break away from her association with the Lyceum, and brands the published correspondence between the actress and the dramatist as made up and insincere. He sums up the matter thus: "As far as I know a man who holds in his hands letters from a woman as Mr Shaw held my mother's does not part with them or show them to any one. I won't discuss why - it is simply not done - it is an old, everlasting courtesy observed by all."
Mr Craig accuses Mr Shaw "in his blind vanity and jealousy" of detracting from Miss Terry's fame by publishing the letters and "writing an apologetic preface in which he descends not to salute but to insult the dead."
He finally comments that Mr Shaw "seemed to me to resemble nothing so much as a very large and malicious poke-nosed old woman meddling with persons and things about which he knew not much, with his idle and vindictive tongue quite fussily spreading falsehoods about them up and down the street" for the sake of "one more post-mortem kick at Sir Henry Irving - for he was jealous of him, as the letters prove."
10/29/31 "The country has been frightened out of its wits and has run away," Bernard Shaw observed from behind his newspaper this morning, "straight into the very danger it was trying to avoid." It wasn't an election - it was a stampede," the playwright said. "The returns show it. I have no hope for the rest of the country. There isn't going to be any opposition. Of course, it won't make much difference, because the real government is underground." The government, he said, was going to be one of financial interests and the press.
"The danger," he said, "lies in the political ignorance of these financial interests. They are clever in high finance, but hopeless duffers when it comes to genuine public finance. These financial interests are very much at the mercy of circumstance and one does not know exactly how the circumstance will go. Ramsay MacDonald, like a sorcerer's apprentice, has got more than he bargained for," Mr Shaw said, with a chuckle. "The Conservatives will now imagine for a moment they can do what they like. The last time they had a big success because of the Zinovieff letter and they went quite mad in the first week or two. They might do it again. In the first week they might make war with Russia, propose an enormous coercion bill for India, repeal the Irish Free State and make Ireland a crown colony, totally abolish the dole and do a lot of fancy things of that kind. Of course, these things won't happen, but the country must be prepared for any sort of folly for the moment."
10/25/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: Better be witty than right - a joke at any price. That seems to be the guiding principle of our friend Bernard Shaw, whose clowning regarding Russia has appeared in The Times. The venerable jokesmith found himself in fine form and put on a good show - and indeed only the world's most distinguished playboy could be equal to such a feat - that of "laughing off" such trifles as the world depression and the Russian Government!
In days of old the court jester's quips and sallies were not punished nor were they even answered, except in kind. Shaw does not expect to be taken seriously any more than our own Will Rogers expects us to write to our Senator if the bard of his wit pricks too deep.
Taking Shaw more seriously than he deserves, however, his talk strikes one as being that of a man who had gone to Russia thoroughly scared with communism and who is now immensely exhilarated to be safe home again and able to joke about it. His wit exploits the fact that Russia, having repudiated her debts, has a budget balance and we have none. Shaw's wit is better than his logic when he tells us that the government that has abolished capital punishment will "liquidate"you for just nothing at all. It makes good joking, but how take it seriously? There seems to be nothing to do but liquidate Shaw's logic and put his wit on a capitalistic basis. It helps sales, and these are hard times even for authors who go to Russia.
I Montefiore Levy
0768 On Prohibition; s to World Prohibition Fed
10/23/31 Bootlegging in the
States results in the corruption of police and law courts, but that
is no reason for doing away with prohibition, Bernard Shaw
told the World Prohibition Federation today. He attacked
who utilize the glass to obtain jollity or courage, saying he should
feel ashamed if he had to resort to such measures. And he accused
Gilbert Chesterton of being a "secret teetotaler" because
Mr Chesterton "is so very loud" in singing the praises of
The direct results of prohibition in the United States have been "eminently successful in every way," Mr Shaw said, "but some of the indirect results are very curious. There is an industry called bootlegging in America, and its profits are so large that the people who conduct it have immense sums for the corruption of justice. In some of the Eastern States this corruption of the police and the bench has meant that the work of the bootleggers has become quite safe. That is a very serious result, but it is not a reason for going back on prohibition. Rather is it a reason for the reorganization of law and order."
The way to cure drunkenness, Mr Shaw continued, is to "make the common man not want to drink." I believe a greater proportion of the people of this country are not only not ashamed of drinking but actually are proud of it. Take my friend Gilbert Chesterton. I always have supposed him to be a secret teetotaler because he is so very loud on the other side. He is a man of great influence of great spiritual insight and great good-will, and yet he and Hilaire Belloc have spent a great deal of their lives producing praise of drink and wine.
"What we ought to teach people is not that drink does harm or good or gives them courage or makes them jolly, but that it is in the last degree disgraceful that a man must have a drink to screw up his courage or to become jolly. I should myself feel utterly ashamed to have to drink whisky if I want to feel jolly. I believe that to make people ashamed of drinking is the right way to abstinence."
0767 Walsh charges Shaw with falsehoods
10/19/31 Bernard Shaw was described as the "licensed charlatan on English letters" and his statements concerning Russia and its Five-Year Plan denounced as "demonstrable falsehoods" today by the Rev Edmund A Walsh, vice president of Georgetown University and regent of its foreign service school. The Rev Dr Walsh spoke on the radio in reply to Mr Shaw's talk on Russia, broadcast from London last Sunday to "the dear American boobs."
Dr Walsh is the author of
two books on
modern Russia. He was a member of the Hoover American Relief
Administration in Russia during the famine, and since 1924 has
devoted himself to a study of the revolution and the Soviet State.
Commenting that "even a court jester must keep his pranks within
his privilege and not don cap and bells at every turn," Dr Walsh
deplored the "carping cynicism" of Mr Shaw's address
when "men of good-will everywhere, and statesmen charged with
the responsibilities of public office, are straining every nerve to
relieve the crushing weight of human woe and restore confidence to a
The people of the United States, "by and large," Dr Walsh said, have been satisfied with the political ideals outlined in the Constitution, profited by its wisdom, accepted it protection and generally approved it amendments, "with one notable exception. That one unfortunate tampering with its spirit," Dr Walsh predicted, "will be dealt with as a purely domestic issue to be resolved in due time by the sovereign will of the American people themselves."
"Mr Bernard Shaw, however, went to Russia last Summer and made an important discovery," Dr Walsh said. "Within the brief compass of ten days, spent in observing the selected facts and Potemkin villages arranged by these skillful window dressers in the Political Bureau of the Communist party, that venerable comedian was enabled to compare the entire Russian achievement with conditions in the United States - which he has never visited for so much as one day. Addressing his American hearers as 'boobs' and stooping down to accommodate his tone and language to their illiteracy, he urged the American people to scrap their Constitution and the political experience of 150 years in favor of a better plan which he found in Moscow."
Besides successive invasions and violations of rights, liberties and lives, the people of Russia, he continued, know "haunting spectres" of espionage, and had been confronted with an "obscene war on God, financed by the State and designed to suffocate the inalienable right of conscience."
He described convoys of dispossessed peasants herded by Red guards to forced labor in the lumber and coal camps, and declared that 3,000,000 peasants had been exiled since 1928 to distant points where "these supposed beneficiaries of the Russian revolution are forcibly employed in the production of monopolized commodities destined for indiscriminate dumping on the free markets of the world for the profit of the most colossal capitalist on this planet."
0766 Criticized by G H McCulley
10/14/31 George Howard McCulley of 36 Central Park South, who returned a few days ago from Soviet Russia, where he roamed about without a passport on the pretense of being a common seaman, has taken exception to some of Bernard Shaw's remarks about the benefits of communism, broadcast from London last Sunday. Mr Shaw spent ten days in Russia last Summer as the guest of the Soviet Government. Mr McCulley spent eighteen days there during August and September, a fortnight in Leningrad, wandering about the street in old clothes as befitted a common seaman, and four days in Moscow, garbed in his best clothes as an American bourgeois.
"I heard Mr Shaw over the radio in my apartment," said Mr McCulley, "and, having returned so recently from Soviet Russia, my feelings bristled at some of his remarks. I certainly take exception to his impression, as broadcast, that every intelligent Russian he met there had been in America and 'didn't like it because he had no freedom there.' Compared to conditions among the masses, as I found them in Leningrad and Moscow, I have no hesitancy in saying that the unemployed in New York City have more liberties and wear better clothing than the most privileged citizens in Russia.
"Now, I made this remark to a couple of passengers while traveling by train from Leningrad to Moscow. My conversation was reported to the police as soon as the train arrived in Moscow, and I had considerable difficulty in talking myself out of being arrested. And as a result of several other remarks, I was shadowed for four days while in Moscow by the G. P. U., who tried their best to get something to pin on me, to put me in jail. On the train we discussed 'cheap' money. At the present rate of exchange there you receive only two rubles for one American dollar. It is against the law to buy or sell cheap money, but there are some men who will risk a sentence of death or exile to Siberia to sell ten to twenty rubles for a dollar.
"I had my money receipts with me, so the report that I had gotten cheap money was not confirmed. If I had been cast into jail the ship company would have been forced to pay a big fine for my release. The Soviet Government is hard up for money and will resort to almost anything to get an American dollar. I found that human life in Russia is very cheap. They will shoot you at the drop of the hat. I was told by a reputable ship captain that a British engineer employed on a freighter a month ahead of us, who failed to show his pass at the port gate in Leningrad harbor, and did not hear the guard call after him, because of deafness brought on by the noise of the ship's engines, was shot in the back of the head by the guard and killed instantly.
0765 Text of radio s on Russia
10/12/31 Bernard Shaw, who spent ten days in Russia last Summer as the guest of the Soviet Government, told American radio listeners yesterday that although the present generation may remain blind to the benefits of Communism the next would not. The cynical critic of life and letters, directing a typical Shavian barb at President Hoover, appeared as convinced as was Dr Panglos of Voltaire's Candide that in his short stay in the land of the Soviets he had glimpsed, if not the best of all possible worlds the next thing to it.
In the present financial storm that has broken upon the world, he said, Stalin's ship of state is "the only big one that is not rolling heavily and tapping out S O S on its wireless." Throughout his praise of the Soviet regime there ran the pride of authorship, for the bearded Irish philosopher explained that the present Russian government merely was carrying out ideas he had propounded many years ago.
Still, he warned prospective visitors to the land he described so glowingly, one must not expect to find "a paradise." There still remains "a good deal of the poverty, ignorance and dirt we know so well at home," he admitted, because Russia is too big a country for any government to transform into a complete and perfect Utopia in fourteen years.
Mr Shaw's address, delivered into a microphone in a London studio of the British Broadcasting Company was rebroadcast here over the Columbia network. It was his first radio address intended exclusively for America. His low-pitched, animated voice came in clearly and distinctly, virtually unmarred by static.
Hello, America! Hello, all my friends in America! How are all you dear old boobs who have been telling one another for a month that I have gone dotty about Russia? Well, if the latest news from your side is true, you can hardly be saying that now. Russia has the laugh on us. She has us fooled, beaten, shamed, shewn up, outpointed and all but knocked out. We have lectured her from the heights of our modern superiority and now we are calling on the mountains to hide our blushes in her presence. We have rebuked her ungodliness, and now the sun shines on Russia as on a country with which God is well pleased, whilst his wrath is heavy on us and we don't know where to turn for comfort or approval.
We have prided ourselves on our mastery in big business and on its solid foundations in a knowledge of human nature, and now we are bankrupt. Your President, who became famous by feeding the starving millions of war-devastated Europe, cannot feed his own people in time of peace. The despairing cries of our financiers have resounded throughout the world and created a run on the Bank of England and broken it. Our budget shews a deficit to $850,000,000; yours shews a deficit of $500,000,000. Our business men cannot find employment for 3,000,000 of our workers and yours have had to turn twice as many into the streets.
Our statesmen on both sides can do nothing but break the heads of starving men or buy them off with doles and appeals to charity. Our agriculture is ruined and our industries collapsing under the weight of their own productiveness because we have not found how to distribute our wealth as well as to produce it, and in the face of all this business incompetence, political helplessness and financial insolvency, Russia flaunts her budget surplus of $750,000,000, her people employed to the last man and woman, her scientific agriculture doubling and trebling her harvests, her roaring and multiplying factories, her efficient rulers, her atmosphere of such hope and security for the poorest as has never before been seen in a civilized country on earth.
What can we say in reply? "Who would have thought it!" Pretty feeble, that, eh? Too true to be pleasant, isn't it?
Well, let me give you a word or two of consolation. After all, some of the most wonderful things the Russians are doing were suggested fifty years ago by Americans, many of whom have been sent to jail for their pains. I am not an American, but I am the next worst thing, an Irishman.
When I was a young man I was got hold of by an American named Henry George, who opened my eyes so surprisingly that I felt I must follow up his notions. So I tried a German Jew, named Karl Marx, who opened my eyes still wider, leaving it quite plain to me that our capitalists system, though we could fozzle along with it for a time, at the cost of frightful unhappiness and degrading poverty for nine-tenths of the population, was bound to end in bankruptcy.
Fourteen years later, a Russian named Ulanev, better known as Lenin, followed my example and read Marx. In 1914 our imperialists involved us in a war. You tried to keep out of that war, but were forced in. Thanks to you, that war, instead of doing what the imperialists meant it to do, abolished three empires, changed Europe from a royal continent to a republican one, and transformed the only European power that was bigger than the United States into a federation of Communist republics.
That was not quite what you expected, was it? Your boys were not sent to the slaughter cheering for Karl Marx and echoing his slogan 'Proletarians of all lands, unite!'
However, that is what happened. This wonderful new power in the world, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, or, for short, the U S S R, is what you got for your liberty loan and the blood of your young men. It was not what you intended to get, but it seems that it was what God intended you to get. Anyhow, you got it, and now you must make the best of it.
I know that it is hard because you and poor old England are in the bankruptcy court where France has already had to compound with her creditors for 10 cents on the dollar, while the U S S R, your baby, is scoring on the upgrade. That looks a little, doesn't it, as if the Russians were managing their affairs better than we? However, you do not bear all the responsibility for establishing communism in Russia; you share it with me, me, now speaking to you - Bernard Shaw.
But in 1917 an astonishing thing happened. The Russian soldiers said, "We have had enough of this," and they came straight home. They formed bodies of workmen and soldiers, called Soviets, and they raised the cry of all power to the Soviets. The government of the Czar, which was as rotten as it was abominably tyrannical, collapsed like a house of cards. The Soviet could do nothing without leaders and a plan of social reconstruction. That was the opportunity for Lenin and his friends, who had followed my example and educated themselves politically by reading Marx. They had the courage to jump at it. They took command of the Soviets and established the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, exactly as Washington and Jefferson, and Hamilton and Franklin and Tom Paine had established the United States of America 141 years ago.
If you have any doubt about the similarity of the two cases let me suggest an amusing Sunday game. One of your Sunday papers might hunt up the material for it. Make a collection of the articles in the royalist newspapers and political pamphlets, American as well as British, remember, issued during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, strike out the dates, the names of the countries, and the names of the leaders. The game is for your friends to fill up the blanks.
"What country is this?" you will ask, "which has broken every social barrier and given itself over to anarchy and infamy at the bidding of a gang of atheists and drunkards, libertines, thieves and assassins?" Your friends will get that wrong. That is where you will have the laugh on them.
When the right answer is "America" they will get "Russia." When the right answer is "Washington" they will cry "Trotsky." They will declare that the puzzle is too easy to be worth solving, and they will declare that Jefferson is Lenin, that Franklin is Litvinoff, that Paine is Lunacharsky, that Hamilton is Stalin. When you tell them the truth they will probably never speak to you again, as you will have given them a valuable modern lesson, which ought to be the object of all Sunday games.
By the way, you might
finish the game
by looking at the newspaper that you yourself are in the habit or
reading, and if, as is possible, you find that it is putting into
your household day by day the same scurrilous venom that your
grandfather used to have to swallow about the founders of the United
States of America, you might write to the editor, to wit, that you
would prefer something a little more up to date and that if he cannot
give you some reasonably believable and clean-mouthed news about the
most interesting political experiment in the world you will have to
take in a saner paper. Or, if you cannot find one to read, read the
I suppose that now you would like to know what was my reaction to Russia when I visited it. Americans always want to know my reaction to the latest thing in scareheads. My first impression was that Russia was full of Americans. My second was that every intelligent Russian has been in America and didn't like it because he had no freedom there. This was no doubt only an illusion produced by the fact that all the Russians who thought they could speak English really spoke American, but the same can be said of all European countries now.
To get to and from Russia I traveled trough France, Belgium, Germany and Poland. In each of these countries I was received with some sort of official welcome. But in every case the official or the one to whom that duty was deputized to receive me was shunted aside by an enthusiastic American, beaming with hospitality and shouting genially, "Mr Shaw, welcome to France, or Poland, or Russia, or Germany," as the case may be. "I am an American!"
That is what makes you so popular all over the world. You make yourself at home everywhere and you always have the first word. It is such a pleasant surprise for me when I think I am giving my hand coldly and formally to a native King or President or Secretary of State or an Archbishop or a chairman of the local academy of literature to find that I am being embraced by one of dear old Uncle Jonathan's nephews who has been only two hours longer in the country than myself.
Mind, I'm not complaining. I like it. Native Kings and Archbishops and Presidents and Secretaries of State like it, so I just thought I'd mention it. You don't mind, do you?
They will not treat you
deference, for those Russians do not stand in awe even of an American
lady. In fact, I must break it to you that their feeling toward you
will be a mixture of pity for you as a refugee from the horrors of
American capitalism, with a colossal intellectual contempt for your
political imbecility in not having established communism in your own
unhappy country. But they will be quite friendly and helpful,
just as they would be to a lost and starving monkey, and if you are
nice to them they will take you to their bosoms and tell you the
stories of their lives on the slightest provocation. They are
so free from all your worries and anxieties about your affairs and
your children and your rents and taxes that they can afford to
be kind to you and they are so proud of their communistic
institutions that they are only too anxious to shew them to
But you must be careful. You must not count on human nature being the same in Russia as in America. My friend, General Dawes, your Ambassador here, was talking to me the other day about human nature, how you can't change it no matter how you change your institutions. Now, before you go to Russia you had better study human nature scientifically. The easiest way to do that is to send to the nearest glazier's for a piece of putty. Putty is exactly like human nature. You cannot change it, no matter what you do. You cannot eat it, nor grow apples in it, nor mend clothes with it; but you can twist it and pat it and model it into any shape you like, and when you have shaped it, it will set so hard that you would suppose that it could never take any other shape on earth.
Now, the Russian putty is like the American putty except perhaps that the American putty is softer in the head and sets harder. Well, the Soviet Government has shaped the Russian putty very carefully into a shape quite different from the American, and it has set hard and produced quite a different sort of animal. The mouths are much the same, and the chin and ears and eyes not so very different, but the inside does not work in the American way. In particular, the conscience is startlingly different so that the achievements which are America's pride and glory seem to the Russian to be infamous pride.
For instance, the first thing that would occur to a real 100 per cent American in Russia is that with its huge natural wealth it must be a splendid country to make money in. Even without the natural resources a good deal might be made by speculating in the difference between the value of the half dollar ruble in Moscow and the six-cent ruble in Berlin. Wages are low and profits are high, so why let all the profit be wasted on the government when a capable man can organize business for himself and put the profit in his own pocket? What is the use of wasting good money on the public? As a deceased American financier once said at a public inquiry, "Damn the public." Men make money by looking after themselves, not by looking after the public.
Now, do not for a moment think that this is a punishment or that it has anything to do with the criminal law. All it means is that the Russian putty has been shaped to believe that idiots are better dead. Idiot, as you know, means a person who can see no further than himself. Your views will satisfy the Russians that you are an idiot, and in mercy to yourself and society they will just liquidate you, as they call it, without causing you a moment's unpleasantness. In this they are merely carrying out a proposal made by me many years ago. I urged that every person who owes his life to civilized society and who has enjoyed since his childhood its very costly protections and advantages should appear at reasonable intervals before a properly qualified jury to justify his existence, which should be summarily and painlessly terminated if he fails to justify it and it develops that he is a positive nuisance and more trouble than he is worth. Nothing less will really make people responsible citizens and a great part of the secret of the success of Russian communism is that every Russian knows that unless he makes his life a paying proposition for his country he will probably lose it.
I am proud to have been the first to advocate this most necessary reform. A well-kept garden must be weeded, so you must be careful. To console you, let me assure you that if you lose your temper in Russia you need not read that sort of savagery with which we treat our criminals. If you happen to kill somebody in an honest and natural way you will not be hanged nor roasted in the electric chair, for capital punishment is abolished in Russia. You will probably get off with four or five years of quite mild restraint. They are very lenient to their criminals.
All this will perhaps feel a little strange at first, but now you got the idea of communism you will understand the Soviet point of view and find yourself wondering how it would work in Chicago or Pittsburgh or Detroit. It grows on you amazingly after a day or two.
But you will not go to Russia to smell out the evils you can see without leaving your own doorstep. Some of you will go because in the great financial storm that has burst upon us your own ship is sinking, and the Russian ship is the only big one that is not rolling heavily and tapping out S O S on its wireless. But most of you will go, I hope, with stout hearts, knowing that what is the matter with us is not natural poverty but sheer stupidity, mismanagement and lazy abandonment of public interest to private selfishness and vulgar ambition. You will have heard that the Russians have put a stop to this, and you will want to see how they have done it, for what the Russians can do you can do. You may think you can, but you can't. At present, you are like an old prisoner in the Bastile sawing the bars of his little window with a watch-spring so intently that he does not notice that the door has long been wide open. Well, perhaps you will all go on sawing in America until you are dead, but I expect your sons will be wiser than you and will not let themselves be outrun in the great race of civilization by any Russian that ever set foot on the ground, and so , good-bye until next time - and good luck to you
0764 S S Wise disputes statement of Jews
10/5/31 Bernard Shaw's recent statement that the Jew suffered from a superiority complex was denounced yesterday morning by Dr Stephen S Wise, rabbi of the Free Synagogue, as a "cruel falsehood." Speaking at Carnegie Hall, Dr Wise listed tokens of what he called abounding evidence that the Jew instead was the victim of the devastating disease of inferiority.
Shaw's pleas for intermarriages of the Jew and the Gentile as a solution of the Jewish question would be racial suicide for the Jews, Dr Wise said, and the "assimilation of alien weaknesses in place of the conservation of inner strength and distinction. The aggressiveness of the Jew and his miraculous survival after 2,000 years of persecution has been sadly misinterpreted by Bernard Shaw," Dr Wise said, "as an indication of a superiority. What it really indicates is the defense mechanism of an obvious inferiority complex.
0763 Dispatch to Gen Burgoyne, quoted in his play about Amer Revolution, proved by finding of document
10/1/31 When General John Burgoyne faced defeat at Saratoga in 1777, Bernard Shaw in his American Revolutionary play has made him say "some gentleman in London" forgot to dispatch orders to General Howe at New York to support him. Of course Burgoyne could not know any such thing, and Shaw admits that the General did not say it, but it was the truth.
Proof that the "gentleman in London" did not dispatch an order to General Howe the day an order was sent to Burgoyne to join Howe at Albany, N Y, has been brought to America by William L Clements, regent of the University of Michigan. Dr Randolph G Adams, director of the Clements Library here, announced today that Mr Clements has purchased the official papers of William Knox, Permanent Under-Secretary of the British Colonial Office from 1770 to 1782 from the great-great-grandson of the English statesman, Captain Howard Vincente Knox of Oxford.
Evidence that "some gentleman in London" forgot is contained in a memorandum written by Knox, who, Dr Adams says was in a position to know as much about Colonial affairs as any British official. Lord Germain, then Lord Sackville, was in a hurry to drive to his country estate on the day orders were to be sent instructing Burgoyne and Howe to meet at Albany, Howe to go north from New York and Burgoyne south from Canada. In his memorandum Knox wrote:
"When all was prepared and
them to compare and make up, Lord Sackville came down to the office
to sign the letters on his way to Stoneland. When I observed to him
there was no letter to Howe to acquaint him with the plan or what was
expected of him in consequence of it, his Lordship stared, and D'Oyly
stared, but said he would, in a moment, write a few lines. 'So,'
said Lord Sackville, 'me poor horses must stand in the street all the
time, and I shan't be to my time anywhere.' D'Oyly then said he had
better go, and he would write from himself to Howe and inclose copies
of Burgoyne's instructions, which would tell him all that he would
want to know; and with this his Lordship was satisfied, as it enabled
him to keep his time, for he could never bear delay or
D'Oyly, Secretary in the War Office, afterward asserted that he sent an order to General Howe to take his army to Albany. Howe denied receiving such instructions, and D'Oyly had not retained a copy.
9/26/31 Bernard Shaw believes Britain will have to return to the gold standard before she can regain her industrial equilibrium. "It is a serious business," he declared in an interview today. "It is all very well for the people of this country to go about saying we would never return to the gold standard. They are entirely wrong. We cannot go on buying our daily bread and butter with paper unless there is something behind it, and gold is the only logical background. Russia, France and Germany tried the experiment of departing from the gold standard but it was a failure. You will see Britain coming back to the gold standard sooner than some people think. I would not be surprised, in fact, if she finds it necessary to do so tomorrow."
0761 Leaflet instructing audience how to listen to one of his plays, published in Colophon
9/16/31 A heretofore unpublished letter from Bernard Shaw instructing an audience how to listen to one of his plays is reproduced in the issue of The Colophon, the book collectors' quarterly, released today by the Pynson Printers. When Shaw's John Bull's Other Island was revived at the Kingsway Theater, London, in 1913, a letter to the audience in the form of a printed four-page leaflet was distributed among those who attended. With typical Shavian tartness, the dramatist attempted to persuade the audience "to let the performance proceed in perfect silence just this once to see how you like it."
The publisher explain that this leaflet has never been collected in Mr Shaw's works and is unknown to his bibliographers. Mr Shaw himself had forgotten all about it by the publishers, who obtained what they believe to be the only copy of the letter now in existence from a member of the Quarto Club on New York.
"It is your custom to receive my plays with the most generous and unrestrained applause," Shaw wrote. "You sometimes compel the performer to pause at the end of every line until your laughter has quieted down. Are you aware that you would get out of the theater half an hour earlier if you listened to the play in silence and did not applaud until the fall of the curtain? Do you know that what pleases actors and authors most is not your applauding them but your coming to see the play again and again, and that if you tire yourself out and spoil the play with interruptions you are very unlikely to come again?"
0760 Lr in reply
9/10/31 To the
Editor of The New
York Times: The sins of certain writers of letters to The
were adumbrated by a lady in a letter published in today's paper. Her
particular grievance was Mr Shaw. She took a parting slap at The
Times because it mentioned the gentleman in its columns whenever it
So it is with others. Not content with venting their spleen on the object of their disapproval, however right, they must reproach the editor for ever having anything to do with their particular aversion. They would abort the greatest purposes of a newspaper by sacrificing news, truth and open-minded opinion to prejudice.
L G Levingson
0759 Lr criticizing his humor
9/8/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: I want you to know that at least one of your women readers is sick and tired of Bernard Shaw's celophane humor. It is the same feeling that a lady named Michel registered some three thousand years ago - and women have been registering ever since - when she saw her aged husband, David, jigging before his god and the Ark of the Covenant, and exhibiting his nakedness for servant girls to laugh at.
I have never discovered what Mr Shaw's gods are, or the covenant they made with him to fill his purse, unless their names be Mental Tinsel and Psychic Satyrism, whom he serves with jocose insincerity and penny-shockerism. Anyway, a veal exhibitionism is bad enough, but one can somehow excuse it because it is the nature of a calf to fling its heels and toss its tail for fun. But the sight of an old man playing calf, jigging to win shocked titters from servant girls and morons is to women who know the burden and the heat of life a sight not equaled in disgust by any other that they see from the cradle to the grave.
The inane facetiousness and loquacity of the senile have to be put up with in the private home by heartsick, mind-weary women, wondering each day how they can live through another day of it; but why, in the name of common sense, inflict them with more of it in print? Isn't it enough that we have to trudge through, somehow, with an honest day's work to keep the home going without your adding moral nausea to our task?
Well, I want you to know that I for one - a reader of The Times for a quarter of a century - have come to resent having that old man's insincerities and drool brought into my home and stuck under my nose by a paper I have always supposed was trying to be good.
M H Carter
0758 D MacCarthy says he is losing vogue in England
9/7/31 Shaw, Wells, and
have lost some of their vogue, Thackeray is passe
and Scott is
hardly read at all in England today, according to Desmond MacCarthy,
literary critic of The London Times, who spoke yesterday on
"What England Reads" in a radio address broadcast from
London over the WABC-Columbia network.
Of the classics, only Dickens is read for his creative vigor, said Mr MacCarthy. The post-war generation is a disillusioned one, "interested in the cold, discontented cynicism of an Aldous Huxley, and D H Lawrence writes about things which interest them more than the future, the way to save your soul in spite of sex prohibitions and other things."
Discussing the new school in actual literature, Mr MacCarthy observed: "Few of our younger clever novelists write to give us pleasure. They write to do us good, to expose us, to scold us, to teach us, to show us their own discontented and powerful minds, but few of them, I am afraid, write to entertain and delight us."
Nevertheless, Mr McCarthy noted a revulsion of feeling, and the success of such a genial book as "The Good Companions" and the writing of David Garnett bore this out, he said. More popular than ever, he said, are mystery, crime and detective novels. Edgar Wallace is still the rage. England is also reading a good many "improper novels," he said.
The passing of prudish writing, Mr McCarthy said, is noted in American literature. "We read a lot of your fiction," he said, "and we admire it. We are all beginners where all is new. As I view America and England, it appears to me that they are in the same sort of turmoil, and that can breed sympathy between us."
0757 "Shaw Discovers The Almost Perfect State"
8/30/31 Bernard Shaw's article on Russia and America, published in our Special Features Section today, will be generally taken, it is to be supposed, as a supreme example of his flippant hilarity. He assumes that lurid dispatches about racketeering and murder in this country yield a fair and complete picture of our civilization. He jovially declares that "Americans are the most absurd people at present on earth." That must be the reason why they have long been paying Mr Shaw huge royalties. With gay insouciance he declares that in Russia "if you make money, they shoot you ruthlessly." Reason enough for his refusing to live there. Imagine the levity of a man notorious for having an eye to the main chance, writing gleefully that if you go to a bank in Russia and they find that you've got "more than your fair share, you will not turn up again."
Nobody could do justice to the extravagance and inconsistency of this article but Mr Shaw himself. He ought to write a little play about it under the title, "You Always Can Tell." He might introduce a simple-minded and sincere Russian Communist saying to him: "Brother, why do you not practice what you preach, and why, while pretending to believe that the Russian Government is the ablest and most enlightened in the civilized world, do you say things about it to bring it into contempt?" And then Mr Shaw himself might appear on the scene and reply with his finest Mephistophelian sneer: "Ignoramus that you are, do you imagine that I ever write anything seriously?"
0756 Article on finding the "almost perfect state" in Russia
8/30/31 Mr Shaw's recent visit to Russia attracted world-wide attention, among capitalists as well as Communists. In the article that follows he weighs capitalism against communism, finds the former deplorably deficient and draws what is, if nothing more, at least a striking contrast between the two.
A French sentimentalist has said that to understand everything is to forgive everything. He was quite wrong. The result of a thorough understanding between reciprocally dangerous parties is that they do their best to kill one another. They may agree with the Frenchman to the extent of wasting neither time nor virtuous indignation in lecturing one another on their respective morals; but that only makes their warfare more businesslike and implacable. I am not at all sure that in clearing up the ridiculous misunderstandings between Communist Russia and the capitalist civilization elsewhere I am abating the hostility which they foment. The more light I throw on Russian communism the louder may our capitalist newspapers and imperialist politicians clamor for its destruction. But if they must clamor, they may as well clamor intelligently as nonsensically. An intelligent agitation is education.
The current American anti-Russian bosh and baloney expresses only the vulgar phobia which leads capitalism to underrate its enemy and overrate itself very dangerously; all the more so as the misunderstanding is not reciprocal. The Communist leaders understand both communism and capitalism. The spokesman of capitalism understand neither capitalism nor communism. Stalin may well say, with Archbishop Whately and Palmerston: "The silly people don't understand their own silly business."
In Russia at present criminals are more leniently and sensibly dealt with than in any other country known to me. In England recently a man convicted of robbery with violence committed suicide in prison after receiving a vindictive sentence of ten years' penal servitude and a flogging.
In France the horrors of Cayenne and Devil's Island, and in America the frightfully long periods of solitary confinement and Delaware's flogging suggest the civilization of fiends rather than of human beings.
In America families by the million are starving or selling their last sticks of furniture for food without even the dole that in England stands between the unemployed workers and Wall Street. In both countries the governing class is doing nothing to save the situation by social and industrial organization. It is buying off a desperate insurrection against starvation by the charity, voluntary in America, partly compulsory in England, which burns the candle at both ends instead of at the top only.
In Russia there is no unemployment, the people are healthy and carefree and full of hope, going a bit short and working a bit hard, but confident that all the benefit of their work will go to themselves and not be squandered by idlers in luxury hotels from Palm Beach to the Adriatic. In Russia, though capital punishment is abolished, such idlers are not endowed with millions before they are born; they are either set to work or painlessly shot as not being worth their keep, and they are not replaced.
I might multiply these contrasts; but I have cited enough to make even the most absurd American (and Americans are the most absurd people at present on earth) remember when he feels tempted to lecture Russia on the wickedness of her social and political morals, or the condition of her people, that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
The first question a traveler asks for his safety and guidance when he sojourns in a strange State is: "What do these people kill you for?" The next question is: "What do they praise you for?" In America the answer is simple. They kill you for committing murder and praise you for making money. In Russia they have abolished capital punishment for murder and substituted four or five years' imprisonment. But if you make money they shoot you ruthlessly.
And there will be no visible jury to intimidate, no visible patrolman to corrupt, no visible magistrate or judge with an interest in your booty. Your sole guarantee that this invisible power will not be maliciously used against you is that it is to the interest of the secret tribunal to keep you alive and at work and at large as long as you are of any use to your fellow creatures, and that only when you become or try to become a thief or beggar is it worth any one's while to take the trouble of liquidating you - or shall I say bumping you off?
It was that eminent and highly respectable English Tory property owner, John Ruskin, who pointed out that there are only three possible sorts of persons in human society: workers, beggars and thieves. A Russian would perhaps put it more shortly by admitting only two sorts: producers and parasites.
Now the theory of capitalism is that without the incentive of becoming parasites men will not produce and that parasitism is therefore one of the inevitable costs of production. A factory, it declares, is impossible unless there is a landlord to let the land on which it stands for the highest competitive rent he can obtain for it, the capitalist extorting the highest interest his spare cash can command from it, the employer determined to make its profits cover both rent and interest and as much as he can make for himself by keeping down to the utmost the cost of labor which is sold to him at heavily cut prices by workers who must either work or starve.
Russia confutes that theory by shewing you factories with full modern equipment, modern American machinery and several Americans on the technical staff who deliberately prefer life in Russia to life in America, working at full pressure without a single parasite. Rent goes into public exchequer as advised by a deceased American named Henry George, who happened strangely enough to possess some common sense; interest on capital follows it, by an obvious deduction from his principles; profit goes the same way, and the public fund thereby created is used to build and equip new factories and establish collective farms for the production of food on an unprecedented scale to maintain a formidable army to liquidate Mr Winston Churchill and Mr Babbitt if they proceed from anti-revolutionary ink-slinging and platform balderdash to anti-Russian military business and to distribute what is left in more abundant well-being for the workers.
There is no need and no room in the whole process, from beginning to end, for any idler, parasite or exploiter, save only the inevitable Russian baby who preys voraciously on its mother and will not even move across the room unless it is carried. And even the baby has to pay back when it is old enough to work.
There is no longer any use in protesting that all this cannot be done because human nature is greedy and selfish. It is being done. It works. It pays. And even the greedy and selfish do not want to exchange it for life in America. Also it works without party politics, votes-for-everybody elections and all the rest of the shams and follies which profess to achieve the aims of democracy and, as a matter of fact, make their defeat an automatic certainty.
When the Russians give a man a national job to do they do not set another man to prevent him doing it and amuse themselves by watching the sport and betting on it. They do not allow Fundamentalist farmers to control scientific education, nor ask the opinion of the village wagoner on finance and foreign policy. Yet the neglect of these pseudo-democratic precautions has not restored the tyranny of czars, princes of the church and nobles, nor thrust back the people into serfdom and chattel slavery.
"Strange," says Mr Babbitt. "How do they do it?"
These exceptional individuals are easily recognized by their continual clamor for the betterment of the world, their criticisms of society, their greed for books and their consequent knowledge of history and economics, their contempt for vulgar ambitions and cupidities, their lack of reverence for wealth and artificial rank and, when they are poor, by their frequent sentences to imprisonment and even martyrdom.
Such persons as these made the Russian revolution and built up the Soviet State. They were not elected by adult suffrage and would not have stood the smallest chance of being appreciated or understood by Tom, Dick and Harry sufficiently to be chosen as parish beadles. Most of them were thoroughly disliked and feared by their respectable neighbors. Instead of being elected, they occurred. Nature selected them. They still occur. Nature keeps on selecting them. When they occur in the United States they are vilified, ridiculed, jailed, and even electrically chaired.
When they occur in Russia they are added to the Communist party; and the Communist party and nobody else rules Russia by electing and appointing to the administrative bodies and departments the committees and chairmen and secretaries who carry out the policy of the Supreme Economic Council.
This is Russia's original contribution to science and social organization. Unpopular Americans, from Henry George to Judge Ben Lindsey and Judge Henry Neil, have urged most of the suggestions on which Russians are experimenting; but this solution of the problem of democracy, with its foundation in natural history, mankind and mysterious ways of providence, leaves America a century behind Russia. Its highest possibilities will not be realized until the field of selection is widened to the uttermost by raising the general level of culture to a point at which no capable person shall be disqualified by ignorance, poverty or lack of opportunity.
But the madness works in Russia. There are no millionaires nor ladies and gentlemen there. Priests are so scarce that unless you go into a church where they are actually officiating you will not notice their existence. There aren't streets of luxury shops and no mendacious commercial advertisements; but nobody seems a penny the worse. There is no idolatry: the soldier and his officer hobnob on terms of perfect equality off duty; yet discipline is strict in the Russian Army. Children are citizens with civic rights. A beaten child may summons its parent for assault; and marriage, though compulsory on couples who live together, is dissoluble on strict conditions as to provision for children at the will of either party; but family life goes on much as it does among reasonable and kindly people elsewhere.
Eminent statesmen have no private property and receive salaries at which a country bank manager would turn up his nose; but their condition might well be envied by the Presidents, Chancellors and Premiers of the West. If you doubt it, offer Stalin Mr Hoover's job and emoluments and see what he will say to you.
Liberty is laughed at as a bourgeois superstition. But in Moscow you can wear what you like, while in New York, to which liberty welcomes all mankind with her waving torch, no man can even choose the sort of hat he is to wear. In short, nothing in Russia produces the results that respectable Americans have been taught to expect. Foolish, respectable Americans try to save the credit of their teaching by denying the facts and maintaining that the truth must be in accordance with their Babbitriolic logic.
But sensible, respectable Americans will conclude that there must be something wrong with their teaching, even at the cost of facing the stupendous possibility that the United States may have something edifying to learn from Moscow.
8/27/31 Bernard Shaw would rather pick up a piece of small change many times than take a big profit once in a while, he said today at a rally here in the interests of the national theater movement. It would be surprising to know, he said, how much money he gets from little groups of players putting on his dramas in halls where the admission price is 10 cents to 25 cents. Although some dramatists would demand $25, he said, "I take my 50 cents, touch my hat and trust for a renewal of favors."
0753 Int on Brit Natl Govt
8/27/31 Bernard Shaw said in an interview published today giving his views on the National Government, that until the problem of unemployment was solved and the bankers made up their minds the world was not going on as it did through the nineteenth century, there was really no use of talking seriously.
"You'll only have
crises and desperate expedients to keep up the pound sterling,"
he said. "The only thing I don't understand at the moment, and
what I'm waiting to hear Prime Minister MacDonald explain why, if
this particular way of dealing with the situation is impracticable,
he has mixed himself up with it? Why doesn't he leave it to Baldwin
and leave the Conservative party to bear the brunt of if? Mr
MacDonald doesn't do things without good reason, and I want to hear
0752 Lr calls him "easy mark" for Soviets
8/23/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: To the Topics of The Times on the utterances of G. B. Shaw I might add that he has made fame and fortune out of freedom, toleration and good-nature of the civilization he desires to upset. How could he make all that money in Russia? How could a G. B. S. be developed and maintained in the Soviet machine? Irresistibly one is reminded of the bird that befouls its own nest. It looks as though this cynical, hard-boiled and worldly wise literary man had been a particularly easy mark for the personally conducted tours in which the Soviet authorities are said to excel.
0751 Shaw Not Hypnotized by Stalin
8/23/1931 Sir, -
Nobody seems, so far, to have taken in the full significance of Mr Westgarth’s
statement that when I visited Russia last year I saw, not the real Russia, but
an elaborate show staged for my special benefit, like the operatic Russian
staged for Catharine II by Patiomkin when she took a holiday tour through her
If Mr Westgarth is right, then all I can say is that the Soviet Government has achieved a feat of which no other Government in the world is capable.
Just think of it!
According to Mr Westgarth, the Russian Government, at a fortnight’s notice (for my journey was unpremeditated), built two enormous cities, presumably of papier mache and painted canvas, each swarming with millions of inhabitants, all specially washed, dressed, and fed up for me; and passed off these two scenic impostures on me as Moscow and Petersburg (the name Leningrad is inappropriate and has caught on very imperfectly).
And this had to be done so thoroughly to avoid detection that I could not stop my motor-car without warning to step unexpectedly into a church or police court, or take a babies’ crèche by surprise with Lady Astor, without finding in full swing a service of the Greek church, a couple of trials, and a supply of specially fattened babies ready for me.
But this was not all. I did roughly about fifty hours of daylight railway traveling in
When I say that I was completely taken in, it must be remembered that as a professional playwright of forty years’ experience, I am an expert in theatrical illusion, and know all the tricks of the actor, scenepainter, property man, and producer inside and out.
To have deceived me is a triumph of Soviet administration.
One trick in particular completely beats me; and Mr Westgarth makes no attempt to explain it. How did the Russian Government, with the Russian children and adults all starving, manage to fatten so many up for me at such short notice?
I did not see a single under-nourished person in
If this is the explanation of the absence of emaciation in the clothed people in the streets, how about the many hundreds whom I saw every day in Moscow at the centre of repose and culture, sun bathing and swimming in Lido costumes which revealed every possible degree of plumpness; or in the country as the train crossed the rivers, where the Soviet had tastefully introduced groups of figures, adult and juvenile, who were no doubt intended to be “noble and nude and antique,” and were certainly nude and robustly muscular.
The children who were specially shown to me may have been washed and dressed up for the occasion, as Mr Westgarth declares they were; but the boys had nothing on but the most exiguous bathing slips, and there was no getting over the fact that they had plenty of tallow on their ribs. The girls’ ribs were not visible; but they could have lived for a fortnight on the chubbiness of their calves.
I photographed them, and my photographs, which were published in Nash’s Magazine here, are not in the least like the terrible photographs of English starved children which are sent to me every year with appeals for help from the English charities which have sprung up to rescue such little unfortunates from the worst horrors of Western capitalism and democracy.
How was it done? Is there a Red Magic that can produce illusions that are beyond the utmost art of Elstree and
The most plausible explanation is that I was hypnotised, and only imagined what I saw. And yet there are difficulties in accepting even this.
I cannot think that Stalin hypnotised me; for I saw him only at the very last moment before I left; and as he is rather a busy man he can hardly have had time to pursue me in disguise through the streets making secret passes at me all the time I was there.
It is true that there may have been relays of hidden hypnotists at work; but if so, why did they not make a better show for me; since the utmost prosperity and magnificence would have cost them no more than commonplace shabbiness.
They might at least have made all the women beautiful and all the men’s boots look new. They might have repainted all the shops. They need not have grotesquely overcrowded the trams nor put so many people to sleep in the same room. But perhaps that was only their artfulness, lest I should overdo my praises of the New Dispensation.
I am sorry for Mr Westgarth. It is clearly not his fault that when he returned from
Yet when we are forced to choose between believing that what I saw was either a colossally expensive theatrical imposture or a hypnotic delusion, and believing that Mr Westgarth is simply telling our anti-Communist editors what they want and are ready to pay for, I am afraid some of the more cynical of your readers will take the line of least resistance.
For my own part, I am inclined to suspect that Mr Westgarth’s standards are so high that what seemed to my modest scale of expectation an enviably promising state of things seemed to him too miserable to be endured.
What he must feel as he contemplates the hard times we are passing through in this unhappy country is something that no feeling heart can contemplate without tears.
0750 Shaw calms Stalin on Churchill fear
Chancellor of the British Exchequer, recently assailed Bernard Shaw
for the pro-Soviet views expressed by Mr Shaw during his visit
"Shaw," wrote Mr Churchill, "is at once a wealthy, acquisitive capitalist and a most sincere Communist. His spiritual home is in Russia, but he lives comfortably in England, which he derides and abuses on every occasion."
Mr Churchill also vigorously criticized Viscountess Astor, who accompanied Mr Shaw to Russia. This is what Mr Shaw has to say to Mr Churchill:
Winston Churchill, in his very entertaining account of the trip to Russia made by Lady Astor, the Marquess of Lothian, and myself, has naively overlooked its main political object, which was to undo as far as possible the mischief made by his Russophobia.
It will interest him to learn that he was the leading subject in the conversation we had with Joseph Stalin, general secretary of the Communist party in the Soviet Union.
The situation was a quaint one. There were we, who are on most cordial personal terms with Mr Churchill (like all who know him,) protesting that Russia is the bee in his bonnet: that on this subject he is only a schoolboy and an anti-Jacobin echoing Burke's romantic blather about Marie Antoinette, a century out of date, and hopelessly pre-Marx in his historical equipment.
His description of Russia, we maintained, was precisely anticipated by Shakespear 300 years ago as a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.
But Stalin was skeptical. He has a high opinion of Mr Churchill's ability. He compelled us to admit that Mr Churchill has literary talent, that he has wit and energy, and that on the Conservative benches he shines as an intellectual force.
As - said Stalin - no intelligent man could possibly believe the nonsense Mr Churchill talks about Russia, is it not clear that he is deliberately trying to work up a renewal of his counter-revolutionary war against the Soviet? Was not that more credible than that a very clever man could be on one subject only a ridiculous monomaniac?
We pleaded that this sort of human paradox, though no doubt impossible in Marxist Russia, is quite common in England, and that, clever as Mr Churchill is, you have only to mention Russia to set him raving as the late President Kruger used to rave when you mentioned Cecil Rhodes.
Stalin was not convinced. There he sat, not in the least "the Monster Stalin," quite at his ease and setting us at our ease (Louis the Fourteenth would have called him well bred), unaffected, charmingly good-humored, able to say anything he pleased without giving the least offense, patient, amused, letting us talk back to our heart's content, and disarming us at every attack by a smile in which there was no malice but also no credulity.
We could not pretend that Mr Churchill is, in respect to Russia, the only fool in England, or that Russia can with any prudence disband a single Red regiment while there is a daily possibility of Stanley Baldwin coming into power and including Mr Churchill in his Cabinet.
All we could say was that such an inclusion was highly improbable, as Mr Baldwin must know that if the next general election is fought on foreign affairs and the nation asked to choose between Winston and "Uncle Arthur" (Henderson), Labor will win hands down.
Stalin hoped so, but would take the second half of my advice, which was to put his trust in God and keep his powder dry.
We suggested that Stalin invite Mr Churchill to Russia and get him to blow off steam on the spot. Stalin laughed heartily and intimated that he would be delighted to have him in Moscow. We changed the subject.
Mr Churchill has a fixed
idea that I
"squealed" when I was supertaxed, and that Lady Astor is a
notorious gambler on the turf. The only occasion on which I squealed
was when I condemned Mr Churchill when he was Chancellor of the
Exchequer for letting himself be humbugged by the city and
intimidated by his back-benchers into taking sixpence off the income
tax when, as is now obvious, he should have put another shilling on
it and half a crown on the super-tax into the bargain, instead of
leaving a bankrupt exchequer to be liquidated by poor Phillip
He is misled by some muddled recollection of how I agitated for an act - which I got - to save poor men who had married rich suffragettes from the possibility of being imprisoned for life when these ladies refused to pay their taxes.
As to Lady Astor, her husband breeds horses but she never bets on them. I should not myself say this amounts to gambling, but Mr Churchill no doubt argues that a lady who goes to Russia and actually discusses him with "the Monster Stalin" is capable of anything.
0749 Criticized by Daily Worker, London, when he refuses int
8/15/31 The Daily Worker, London's Communist newspaper, has a grievance against Bernard Shaw. To a request for an interview on Mr Shaw's impressions of the Soviet Union, the author's secretary replied: "In answer to your letter of the 7th inst., Mr Shaw has asked me to say you must keep an eye on the capitalist press for his articles on Russia as he comes to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance, and his contracts do not allow him to anticipate his contributions by interviews."
In reply The Daily Worker commented: "When bidding farewell to the workers of Electrosaved, the great electrical machinery factory in Moscow, Shaw said, 'Comrades, I am very happy in having seen such enthusiasm here. When I return to England I shall exert myself to persuade British workers to do the same as you are doing here.' And when Shaw returns to England his method of persuading British workers is to inform the only working class newspaper in Britain, after the gratuitous insolence of over a week's delay, that his contracts with the capitalist press do not allow him to give interviews."
Bernard Shaw recently visited Moscow and Leningrad with a party which included Viscount and Viscountess Astor. Mr Shaw praised the workers of the Soviet Union for their overthrow of capitalism and told them their British comrades should be ashamed for having not done so first. Mr Shaw stressed in one of his addresses in Russia that he had been a Communist before Lenin.
0748 Calls Soviet a "Fabian Union"; defends remarks in lr pub in London Times
"To take an opportunity of repeating in print my spoken warnings that communist Russia must be taken seriously.
Most of our comments so far have been beneath the level of ghost stories. Russsian communism is neither anarchism nor sindicalism, both of which are called, even call themselves, communists in England. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is really a Union of Fabian Republics and the sooner we realize that as such it has the support of our most serious political students, and might even, (if so disposed) claim their islands as its ideological and scientific fatherland, the sooner we shall cease incurring the present enormous contempt of its able statesmen for our intelligence by speaking and writing as if it were a transient orgy of drunken buccaneers.
Russia, what we call a great country, is making a great experiment which we ourselves lead up to through many empirical but steadily converging paths. She is lead by men of impressive ability and unprecedented freedom of thought operating a system from which the disastrous frictions of our continual conflict of private interest and the paralyzing delays of our parliamentary engineers of opposition and obstruction have been ruthlessly eliminated. If we intrigue against them, as they all naturally suspect us of doing, by an attitude of moral and intellectual superiority we shall add dangerously to the series of very unpleasant surprises they have already given us. Even those to whom Russia is an enemy had better not underrate her."
Mr. Shaw donates more than 1,000 words to the Russian cause, worth more that $1,000 at his current newspaper price of $1 a word.
0747 Lr on his views on capitalism
8/10/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: The publicity given to Bernard Shaw's views on his short visit to Russia should not be taken too seriously, for after all Mr Shaw, in order to be consistent, had more or less to maintain his views. Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that Mr Shaw will sell to the capitalistic public his observations, and I dare say they will be duly copyrighted, and if any one infringes he will be the first to protect his interests.
This experiment of Russia certainly should not be considered as successful, especially in view of the fact that it is through the capitalistic system that Russia today is able to sell such products as platinum, furs and oil. In exchange for her platinum, furs, oils, &c., she is clever enough to purchase our latest developments in the engineering field and able to secure the services of some of our best technical men, and the purchase of electrical power equipment, as well as machines of all kinds, all of which have been developed through the capitalistic system.
It is rather misleading to deal with one group whose standard of living is far below that of the other, and at the same time later to find yourself in competition with them. This may act as a boomerang, to a certain extent, but in the long run the Russian experiment will never succeed.
This does not, of course, relieve the capitalistic form of society from a realization that as conditions change it too must more or less meet the new order; and it is to be admitted that the capitalistic form has not always kept pace, especially at this time, when, due to the science, technology, chemistry, machinery, together with mass production on the farm, the capitalistic form will have to find some way of taking care temporarily of the maladjustments that have resulted from this great change in our economic condition.
It is too bad Mr Shaw hesitates to make a pilgrimage to the United States, so that he could get a very good idea of the contrast, for possibly he would then be in a better position to see which holds the greatest future for the happiness and well-being of the entire group.
We must not, however, overlook the fact that Mr Shaw has expressed himself for many years as being more or less dissatisfied with the capitalistic form of society, although so far he has not offered a formula that would be any better, except to say that we will have to look out. In this respect he is right, for a capitalistic form must constantly strive to take the best, and to reach more and more to the time when it can guarantee happiness and success to all, always with the idea of not losing the benefit of the initiative, so that the greatest number can receive the full benefit.
It is to be assumed that no group can make progress if it closes its eyes to the errors that have developed, and I am sure that the capitalistic system will wake up to its responsibility and, as in the past, carry on.
criticizing views, Ag 7, 16:5;
Excerpt from s, Ag 9, IX,2:2
0746 Excerpt from s to Independent Labour Party Summer School at Digswell Park
George Bernard Shaw bubbled with enthusiasm today when he told an audience of Labor party leftwingers why he liked Russia and what he saw there. There was no shadow in his picture of the land of the Soviets. It was mostly sunshine, and as Mr Shaw described it for the students of the Independent Labor Party Summer School here as a land with little fault or flaw. Mr Shaw was so happy over his trip that he addressed the students as "Tovarishi" [Russian for comrades] and appeared before them wearing a cream-colored linen suit with a bright blue shirt and necktie. The Soviet's five-year plan, he said sympathetically, was "the only hope of the world," while the capitalistic system, he asserted, was visibly running western nations to the abyss.
Sees Obstacles in Britain
"The reason we can do nothing like the Russians," he said, "is that we have a parliamentary system that is the pride and wonder of the capitalistic world. It has broadened down the centuries from precedent to precedent until it now takes thirty years to get half an hour's work done. Russia's work is done by dictators. The Russian system puts all responsibility on one man who knows he must do his job properly. With us the only people who get things done are those who have the corrupt motive of enriching themselves. With the Russians there is no fear of jobbery; the thing is too serious. It is a complete reversal of our system and, of course, we call it a tyranny and a dictatorship."
Mr Shaw said he told the Soviet leaders, "to their intense astonishment and great amusement" that their systems is "intensely religious," and that the Third International is its established church. "Lady Astor told Stalin Russia couldn't get on without God or religion," Mr Shaw revealed. "Yet Russia is full of religion. The Russians have simply recognized that their old Greek Orthodox Church was hopeless. The whole anti-religious movement in Russia is an attack, not on religion, but on priestcraft. I wished I could have had Martin Luther with me or possibly a group of citizens from Belfast. They would have jumped for joy."
Inspiration of Plan Religious
"The whole inspiration of the five-year plan is necessarily religious. The people driving the Russian machine have purely spiritual, evolutionary inspiration. They are working for a purpose outside themselves, giving their whole lives to their ideal." He predicted, however, that, like all established churches, the Third International would soon find itself in difficulties with the State and might soon have to take second place in the Russian system
Mr Shaw's blue eyes twinkled when he compared Russian institutions, houses, police courts, factories and schools with their counterparts in the western world. The Russians, he asserted, are working their industrial governmental machine under almost ideal conditions. "They are working it with oil in its bearings," he said. "We are working ours with sand. The frictions of our capitalist system do not exist there. The Russian workers put their back into the five-year plan so that what comes out of it will belong to them. They pay rent in Russia, too, but the difference is that here we pay rent to a gentleman who may go and blow it all at Monte Carlo. In Russia you pay rent to the local Soviet which uses it for public purposes, of which you get the benefit. In other words, the people of London are fools; the people of Moscow are sensible."
Found Dwellings Congested
Mr Shaw added, however, that Russians "don't like privacy," and that they never seem to sleep less than five in a room and often ten.
In some respects, Mr Shaw said, the Soviet Government is ruthless, in others it is humane. "You can commit murder on very reasonable terms in Russia," he explained. "But if a man begins sabotaging, speculating or trying to enrich himself he disappears." He admitted the intellectuals in Russia live in terror, but explained, "They simply do not understand the system."
Bernard Shaw, back from Moscow in company with Viscount and Viscountess Astor, disappointed a lot of cameramen and others today by getting off the train before reaching the main station, flitting across Berlin and leaving for London three hours after his arrival. Looking marvelously fit, lively and debonair, Mr Shaw expressed great satisfaction with his visit to Russia. "Stalin is one of the world's outstanding personalities," he said. "The Western World has nothing like him. If I were 18 I would have stayed in Russia, but I am too old to change my domicile. I hated to leave Russia for Berlin, and can't bear to think of having to go back to London."
Asked, 'what about going to Ireland?' he exclaimed, "Good God, no!"
Among those disappointed was Professor Albert Einstein, waiting at Caputh to take Mr Shaw for a sail on the Havel. As Mr Shaw had not time to come so far - he managed to squeeze in between trains only a short visit to the building exposition - Dr Einstein had to take his daily sail alone, leaving Frau Einstein to survey ruefully a basket of vegetables laid in especially for the most celebrated of vegetarians.
"Bankers," he said, "bah! They are the very ones who have made a mess of things. They haven't the vaguest idea what the trouble is about. They've been playing with theories, and apparently they don't know the first thing about their business. Any child knows the world can't exist on credit. You've got to build houses with sticks and stones, and you've got to eat in order to live; but they don't seem to realize it. They think credit will take care of everything. The best remedy for the world's ills is good hard work all around."
He saw some of Germany's new churches exhibited in model at the building exposition, but they reminded him of modern movie theaters. In Russia he didn't go to church, but he said he was sure nobody would have stopped him had he wanted to go. "Everybody there is too busy working to think of going to church," he said. "For that matter, Christopher Wren's handsome churches are empty in London, too, but there would be no end of protests if anybody suggested tearing them down."
He spent about forty minutes at the station, most of the time being occupied by the task of getting his one suitcase and topcoat transferred to a taxicab and making arrangements to stay until this afternoon with Viscount and Viscountess Astor and their son.
Lady Astor, who with her husband and their son, got her biggest thrill out of a talk with Joseph Stalin which lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. "I'm sure," she said, "he never talked to any one that long before." Lady Astor said she was dismayed at the state of affairs in America, referring in particular to the sentence of death imposed on eight Negroes in Alabama convicted of attacking two white girls. She said she wanted to see Berlin's new cooperative buildings for the poor during her stay here.
A microphone waited for Mr Shaw at the station door. He tried to evade it and made for a side entrance but finally was induced to stand in front of the instrument. "It is the first time I have seen a microphone like this," he told Berlin over the air, "but I am glad to have seen it." There was a gauze cover on the microphone, apparently a new dodge to Mr Shaw.
This afternoon Mr Shaw and the Astors left for London by way of the Hook of Holland. The Astors' son remained behind to see the sights.
0744 In Berlin
8/2/31 I want to express thanks and personal feelings on the part of myself and my friends for your welcome. Some of them, Lord and Lady Astor and the Earl of Lothian, are capitalists and landowners on a vast scale. It is not their fault; they cannot alter that. But the British proletariat will alter it, and the proletariat of the whole world.
On leaving for Russia we were given supplies of food and bedding and pillows by weeping relatives who warned us we would be killed or starve here. The nearer we got to the border the more we threw out the windows.
We are going back much impressed. You have come face to face with real things here and we have seen it. I have seen, too, real persons who before were only names to me: Lunatcharsky, in whom I found, and only in him and the Russians, the power and subtlety to deal adequately with my works, and Litvinoff.
Some of us foreigners ask why did not England begin this instead of Russia. Marx said the advanced capitalist state would be the first to make a Communist revolution. The English should be ashamed of themselves not to be the first, and the other Western nations too. When you have finished your job and succeed there will be a hurry to follow your example.
0743 In Poland on way home from Russia
8/1/31 Bernard Shaw, arriving here tonight on his way home from a nine-day trip into Russia, said: "I was a Communist before Lenin and now that I have seen Russia I am more of a Communist than ever." Viscountess Astor was traveling with Mr Shaw's party. In Russia there was no lack of food, Mr Shaw told interviewers. The workers were happy, he said and were working for the common good. The Irish playwright said he did not believe the Five-Year Plan would collapse. Work was proceeding according to the plan, he said, and good progress was being made.
Lady Astor said she was enchanted with Soviet Russia, which, she said, "is the best-run country on earth." Remarking on armaments in other countries, she said Russia would not act aggressively. All nations should work for peace, she said, and corridors between countries should be internationalized. The train stopped only briefly in Warsaw en route to Berlin.
0742 With Lady Astor and party, calls on Lenin's widow; leaves Russia for London
7/31/31 Bernard Shaw and Viscountess Astor ended their first visit to Russia tonight, leaving for London by way of Berlin after nine days of intensive sightseeing and conversations with notables of the Soviet Union.
The members of the party, which also included Mrs Shaw, Viscount Astor, his son David and the Marquis of Lothian, expressed delight with the hospitality extended by their Soviet hosts. They ended their visit as it was begun - with a rapid round of sightseeing which occupied them almost to the hour of the departure of their train. Among other things they called upon Mme. Krupskaya, widow of Lenin, and also inspected the barracks of the Red Army.
Fortunately, the key to a really interesting passage at the end of the speech was supplied by M Lunarcharsky, former Commissar of Fine Arts, who quoted part of it last night. What Mr Shaw said was that Lenin's significance for the future lay in the fact that he had found a new way out of the impasse in which previous civilizations had ended. Our present civilization, Mr Shaw said, was now reaching this point where its predecessors had failed and degenerated. Then comes one line in the report which sounds more like Mr Shaw, "Again and again men of the human race have tried to get round this corner and have all failed" - though the report says "almost" instead of "all."
Mr Shaw argued that Lenin's experiment in socialism might ultimately save modern civilization because "Lenin originated a new method and got round the corner. If other countries follow the methods of Lenin we shall have a new era, we shall have avoided the collapse and failure that overtook previous civilizations and we shall have a new history, a history of which we now have no conception," he concluded. "If the future is with Lenin I can only rejoice, but if the world continues on the old path we shall leave this earth with a heavy heart."
Mr Shaw spoke with deep feeling, and both then and last night abandoned his usual trick of satirical paradox. It is for this reason that your correspondent has ventured to give the sense of what he said rather than the "mistranslated" version. In any event the English-speaking world is soon to hear for itself his actual words as uttered.
0740 Urges Jews to lose "superiority complex"; sees intermarriage as end of distinction between them and Christians
Jews must discontinue believing themselves superior to other races,
even if sometimes they have justification for thinking themselves so.
I have never shared the viewpoint that Jews suffer from an inferiority complex. On the contrary Jews suffer from a superiority complex. This is very detrimental for them and the cause of great annoyance to others. The world has long made peace with the Jews but the Jews wont make peace with the world.
I understand the Jews better than many others because I am an Irishman, and the Irish are even more race proud and arrogant than the Jews. Such arrogance is incongruous in the proletarian world in which we live. In the solution of the Jewish question it must be for the Jews to rid themselves of the feeling of superiority over other nations.
0739 Assails vaccination
7/27/31 Bernard Shaw
changed his opinion of many years ago when he attacked vaccination as
useless and dangerous. In a letter received yesterday by Dr Charles
F Pabst, director of the department of dermatology at Greenpoint
Hospital, Brooklyn, the famous playwright wrote: "General
infantile vaccination is an unscientific abomination and
be made a criminal practice.
Dr Pabst wrote to the author of The Doctor's Dilemma recently, asking Mr Shaw if he had ever been vaccinated and whether he still condemned vaccination. The reply, dated London, July 9, was as follows: "I was vaccinated in infancy and had 'good marks' of it. In the great epidemic of 1881 (I was born in 1856) I caught small pox. During the last considerable epidemic at the turn of the century I was a member of the health committee of a London borough council and learned how the credit of vaccination is kept up statistically by diagnosing all the revaccinated cases as postular eczema, varioloids, or what not, except smallpox. I discovered a suppressed report of the Metropolitan Asylums Board on a set of revaccinations which had produced extraordinarily disastrous results. Meanwhile, I had studied the literature and statistics of the subject. I even induced a celebrated bacteriologist to read Jenner. I have no doubt whatever that general infantile vaccination is an unscientific abomination and should be made a criminal practice."
Dr Pabst, who has also been dermatologist at Trinity Hospital, Brooklyn, and who was in charge of skin diseases at the United Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Va., during the World War, said yesterday that Mr Shaw was 25 years old when he caught smallpox, and added that "this apparently accounts for Mr Shaw's attitude toward vaccination."
'As a matter of fact,' said Dr Pabst, 'I believe that Mr Shaw owes his life to vaccination. If he had not been vaccinated his attack of smallpox would have been much more severe, and in all probability he would have lost his life.'
0738 75th birthday in Moscow
7/27/31 Bernard Shaw celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday by a red hot speech at an entertainment given in his honor in the Hall of Columns where the treason trials are held. He began with the word "Tovarishi" [Comrades], which aroused vast applause, and then added in English:
"That is the only Russian word I know, and I have grown fond of it since my stay here. I want to express thanks and personal feelings on the part of myself and my friends for your welcome. Some of them, Lord and Lady Astor and the Earl of Lothian, are capitalists and landowners on a vast scale. It is not their fault; they cannot alter that. But the British proletariat will alter it, and the proletariat of the whole world.
"On leaving for Russia we were given supplies of food and bedding and pillows by weeping relatives who warned us we would be killed or starve here. The nearer we got to the border the more we threw out the windows. It is hard to express the gratitude for what your government has done to make us happy and comfortable. If it can make the people equally happy, which I believe is its object, this will be a fortunate country.
"Previous speakers expressed the hope that when I return to England I shall tell them of what I have seen and of my confidence in your success. I have been telling them that since ten years. In 1918 I sent Lenin a book with an enthusiastic dedication. Even then I believed you would win.
"The reason of this visit is not to learn something I did not know before but to reply to those who say I had not seen what I told them: 'Yes I have, and I know they will win.'
"We are going back much impressed. You have come face to face with real things here and we have seen it. I have seen, too, real persons who before were only names to me: Lunacharsky, in whom I found, and only in him and the Russians, the power and subtlety to deal adequately with my works, and Litvinoff. I intend Stalin to be real also to me before I leave, so if any of you know him, well, please tell him so. [This correspondent understands Mr Shaw is to see M Stalin Tuesday or Wednesday.]
"Some of us foreigners ask why did not England begin this instead of Russia. Marx said the advanced capitalist state would be the first to make a Communist revolution. The English should be ashamed of themselves not to be the first, and the other Western nations, too. When you have finished your job and succeeded there will be a hurry to follow your example. It is up to you to work hard and succeed quick so they will have no other choice but to follow."
The visitor's reaction is interesting and varied. Mr Shaw plays the game with custom. He seems to defy fatigue, and his bright, blue eyes glitter with malicious enjoyment. This eminent patriarch, now in the full wealth of honors, has a bitter core of rebel and revolutionary in his own Irish heart. He is fundamentally and utterly cynical, but has been saved from sourness and a crabbed old age by his absorbing interest in life and human ways, at which he gibes.
The stupendous upset here of all that the rest of the world admires and the fierce heat of the new creation that is Russia today warms his chill heart to chuckling remarks like, "It is a pity they can't do something like this in England," or "Nothing like making a good clean sweep of your opponents; rifles are an argument to which there is no answer."
Perhaps it is more than as an Irishman or a revolutionary that there is a kinship in Shaw to the Bolsheviki, because he is such a 100 per cent. person, and they, too, are so whole-heartedly ruthless and contemptuous of any opinions save their own.
She inveighs against the Russian custom of telling the visitor what they think he wants to hear - or ought to hear - rather than the stark truth, not realizing, as Mr Shaw admitted, that they share this quality with the people of Ireland, partly from politeness, partly from native astuteness and partly because of centuries of oppression.
Viscount Astor keeps his own counsel for the most part, but asks shrewd questions about the mechanism of State industry, finance and business, and the reasons for or against collectivization from the peasants' angle.
Another silent observer is the Earl of Lothian, formerly Phillip Kerr, 'David Lloyd George's Colonel House' during the World War, who is regarded as one of the keenest brains in the British Empire. Soon after his arrival Lord Lothian remarked quietly that his country was animated by war psychology. 'Indeed, the whole atmosphere is one of the tightest war tension, like England in 1917 and 1918,' he continued.
Lord Lothian also said communism had many of the elements of a new fanatic religion and that in judging Russia one must remember Asia no less or even more than Europe. His three points seem to this correspondent, after ten years' experience, to be the chief master keys to the solution of the Bolshevist enigma today.
The Soviet Intourist organization handles them all on inclusive rates at varying cost according to the length of the tour and the quality of hotels, food, interpreters, autos and access to the Kremlin and other points of interest. The first visit of which Mr Shaw said the other day in his talkie at Leningrad, "Henceforth Napoleon's tomb ranks second instead of first in human interest."
The visitors generally start full of eagerness and energy but gradually the plethora of new sights and the voluble if sometimes inaccurate information of guides who are unfamiliar with conditions and food become tiring. The Soviet has a somewhat peculiar attitude toward foreign visitors. In all fairness it must be admitted the money they bring in is not the first consideration, although every scrap of foreign exchange is welcome to help meet commitments abroad.
The Soviet views the tourists with something of the naive pride felt by a man who has inherited or acquired ancient property which he is making over to suit his own ideas mingled with the feeling that each on of them is a sort of potential missionary to carry to the world tidings that the Soviet Unions is an up and coming progressive country instead of the hell of mud and blood its adversaries contend.
The Intourist, like all new organizations, has a determination that nothing save physical collapse shall hinder the visitor from seeing every last thing that can be jammed in his time schedule. The visitors cause some bewilderment to Russians because the foreign bourgeois, who have been reported in the last stages of decay, still looks happy and prosperous. Feminine Russians envy the visitors' clothes.
Weariness rather than boredom forced the Irish sage to doze. He had been on the move steadily all day after an overnight train ride from Leningrad and he made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was tired.
He refused to say much about his reaction to the races, but he seemed to enjoy those he saw. On the way to the racetrack he observed to one of his Russian hosts: "I suppose there will be only one horse in the race, since there is no competition in a Socialist State?"
Asked how he felt at reaching 75 he said: "I don't know. I stopped observing birthdays when I was 70."
0737 Feature article; por
7/26/31 Any one who has the courage to compliment Mr Bernard Shaw upon a birthday ( a festivity which he has sternly disavowed, along with so many other festivities) will at least know him well enough to be certain about three things that he would intensely dislike. The first is being treated solemnly because he is an old institution. The second is being treated frivolously because he is an old comedian. And the third is being treated indulgently, on the theory that he may say anything.
But the man who may say anything has nothing to say. Shaw has something to say and enjoys saying it, but he would notenjoy saying anything. When we use the conventional phrase of writing or celebrating in his honor, the first fact to emphasize is that we are honoring something that is really honorable - a very rare celebration indeed. His intellectual honor is as solid as it is splendid. He would loathe chivalric allusions to the stainless sword or the unspotted shield, and I therefore introduce them with all the malice of truth. He has written much that I think is nonsense, and much that he knew was nonsense; but he has never dodged responsibility; he has never hedged; he has never intrigued; he has never revenged attack; he has never quibbled to gain support; he has never been professionally jealous or practically vindictive. Through a long and combative life he has maintained magnanimity.
He has been consistent as no statesman is consistent; convinced as merely solemn people are never convinced; a Socialist more individualist than all the herds of individualism; a demagogue who insults his mob; a Puritan always puzzling to his court of Bohemians; a man always ready to get into hot water, especially by throwing cold water. But certainly a great man; and, what is much more important, a man of honor.
Shaw appeared as a new writer chiefly as a champion of Ibsen, who was then himself, for the English at least, almost a new writer. About those new writers there was a lean or naked quality which I know not how to define except in words not worthy of their nobler qualities. I should be disposed to call them the generation of the Disinherited. I mean that they did not inherit the full culture of their own past, but had been cut off from it by curious accidents. And so, like many a son cut off with a shilling, they did literally live by their wits, and Shaw's wits were very witty.
But even their boasts betrayed their limitations. When a man normally sensible, like Bernard Shaw, writes, "I know no man, with the possible exception of Homer, for whose intellect, when I compare it with my own, I have more contempt than Shakespear," we only smile very faintly. It is really too funny to be funny. Shaw probably could not read Homer's poetry, because it is in Greek. Also, he could not read Shakespear's poetry, because it is in poetry. And he had never taught himself to read poems, but only to read pamphlets.
I do not say it in a superior spirit. He taught himself much more ever learned in one way or the other. He probably owed the first feature of ignorance to learning nothing at school, like myself, and the second feature of knowledge to learning a great deal by industry and work in the world, which I could never equal. But the fact remains that these reformers grew up in narrow circumstances, intellectually speaking, and had been cheated of their full heritage of a great civilization. For instance, they were forbidden to study its religion. Thus it happens that the most dogmatic of writers is still shocked by dogma.
Thus Shaw was always saying that Ibsen, with his "soul-dramas," and searchings of the inner realities of psychology, made such people as Shakespear seem superficial. And I well remember that the very first time I saw an Ibsen play acted it seemed to me overwhelmingly obvious that exactly the opposite is the truth. The play was John Gabriel Borkman, in which there are very vivid characters, some very suggestive notions and an admirable sense of drama.
But what struck me most in comparison with more ancient drama, was that none of the people on the stage had really any inner life at all. Borkman wants his business restored and the town placarded with his name; Mrs Borkman wants a new success for her son and the town placarded with his name; the son does not care who placards the town as long as he is allowed to paint the town red; the poet wants to be recognized as a poet, but not really to enjoy his own poetry. The deepest person of all was the sentimentalist: the aunt, who, like so many types of the time, tried to turn a romance into a religion.
But what is the matter with them all is that none of them has a religion. And, as they have no religion, they have no real inner life. The play consists of real people, but of superficial people. Macbeth felt like a murderer because he had committed murder and would have felt the same in a desert. But Borkman did not feel like a man who had committed fraud, or even not committed it, but only like a man who had been put in prison for fraud. In other words, what the play really records is the decay of the Lutheran creed in Scandinavia.
This is illustrated in the way in which Shaw from the first adopted his cheery habit of bragging. True, he showed his serious sincerity by bragging of bragging. Even when he was merely an obscure musical critic his contributions to music often consisted of blowing his own trumpet, the one form of private property in which a Socialist can freely indulge. When he became a dramatic critic he made quite as little secret of his readiness to play the lion, too, and to roar applause of his own roaring. It was, of course, partly a joke, but it was a joke he was prepared to justify in all seriousness.
Now, for my part, I prefer the joke to the justification. I have a very great admiration and even affection for Bernard Shaw; but I have no great admiration for his admiration of Bernard Shaw. I know it was largely a lark, but there was a notion in it which was not merely nonsensical, but rose to the dignity of being false. Even when it is not amusing it is still interesting, for it illustrates this break with the broad historic traditions; this quality of the cleverest men of that age of being, as it were, the orphans of civilization.
An Irish Calvinist who had lost his Calvinism, just as Ibsen had lost his Lutheranism, could not see the meaning of all that old idea of modesty or humility which had once been a part of manners as well as morals. He did not see why a man should not blow his own trumpet or pay graceful public compliments to himself. And, as in all such cases, because he could not immediately see the reason for the convention he assumed that conventions were always unreasonable.
That was the attitude of these revolutionists to all the human conventions, religion, marriage, property and, incidentally, humility. He must have known that the whole civilized world had in fact distrusted the man who blows his own trumpet and regarded him as liable to appear later as the man who forges his own letters of introduction. He must have known that the Pagan as well as the Christian believed in verecundia and the grandeur of understatement. He must have known that the great Confucius himself would have been careful to say, "Permit me to disturb blaze of philosophical facetiousness with inferior but as yet unanswered question: as certainly as the great Professor Huxley would say, "You and I" instead of "I and you."
In other words, all culture and experience is on the side of deprecating rather than praising one's self. But what was the matter with this generation of reformers was that it seriously believed that all culture and experience was all cant and prejudice. They really thought that thousands of millions of people having believed something true was a reason for believing it false.
Thus the fountain of the living past began to fall within them; I know that in the eighteenth century it had been rather an artificial fountain, and that toward the end of the nineteenth century it had almost turned into a feeble trickle, but it was none the less a terrible catastrophe when it dried up altogether. Huge human facts and factors, whole vast dark maps of human history, monuments and masterpieces of human art, began to be utterly unintelligible to the brilliant intellects of the new age.
Men who could not understand the idea of intercession in the priest, the idea of final defiance in the soldier, the idea of expiation for the penitent or inspiration for the poet; men who did not grasp the popular idea of legend, or the normal need of ritual, or the symbolic character of good manners; these were simply men who did not understand men. It was just about the period at which men were least able to understand men that they first began to worship Man.
It is true that Bernard Shaw would probably say that he did not worship Man but rather Superman. And Superman, or the worship of Superman, it will be agreed, is even more difficult to understand. But the truth is that these two names (coupled together in the title of one of his most famous and fascinating plays) do cover a sort of change or joint in his intellectual life; and connect a younger with an older Shaw who are really rather different people.
Accompanied with the same blowing of the trumpet of laughter, the same rattle of the rapier of wit, the same delightful technique of dramatic philosophical surprises and inverted intellectual quarrels, there was in fact something very like a complete reversal of Shaw's original philosophy. For it began as a mere philosophy of living and ended with a rather mystical philosophy of life; in the sense of the Life Force. To understand this evolution, which has really been the history of Shaw's serious opinions, we must go back to the point from which I recently started, the point at which Shaw first appeared as a sort of independent interpreter of Ibsen.
For men really looked to Bernard Shaw to translate Ibsen into English, in the matter of thought, just as they looked to William Archer to translate him into English in the matter of speech. Shaw's first really important book was called The Quintessence of Ibsenism, though it might have been more correctly called The Quintessence of Shavianism - at least the Shavianism of that time.
The original moral philosophy of Shaw, in the Ibsen period might be simply described as opportunism. It was not even sufficiently metaphysical to be called pragmatism. Actions were to be judged, he said, by their immediate effect on happiness and not by their relation to any ideal or general rule. So far it was not so much that he set expediency against right as that he denied that there was any right except expediency. Only, I suppose, it must not merely be expedient for one person but expedient for all the persons involved.
But he was clearly thinking of separate solutions for separate groups, in which there were only a few persons involved. It might be better for Nora to leave her husband; but it might be better for Candida to remain with her husband. Anyhow, it must not be decided by an ideal of married constancy or romantic love or any other idealism. Even realism must not become an idealism. That was the point of The Wild Duck, which might in our idiom be called The Wild Goose, there being the same inopportune idealism in the wild-geese chase of Gregors Werle. With the truth or falsehood of this theory we may deal later, but the first point to seize is that it was, at this stage, a theory against theories.
Where Bernard Shaw stood out from the start, in striking intellectual independence and inspiriting humor, was the fact that he did apply this notion fairly and did apply it all round. He applied it to the people on his own side as well as on the opposite side. He applied it to those associated with rationalism and reform as well as to those associated with religion or tradition. For instance, he used it as a stick to beat the scientist quite as much as the parson.
This is a very important point about his high revolutionary reputation which has not been adequately appreciated. This is where he may be sharply contrasted, for instance, with that other great Fabian of the same generation and tendency, Mr H G Wells. Bernard Shaw saw at once that if Bishops are to be guyed, for being pompous or privileged or protected by an etiquette, the bigwigs of science are every bit as much privileged and protected as the Bishops or bigwigs of religion. The medical men of The Doctor's Dilemma are simply the hierarchy of a mystery, not to say a mummery. The opportunist in The Philanderer specially insists that the Scientific Conscience is a more false ideal than the Nonconformist Conscience.
Mr H G Wells, on the other hand, has always held a brief for men of science as such. He insists on that very sanctity in the scientific craft and mystery at which Shaw has always poked fun. In The Soul of a Bishop he punches and pommels the body of a Bishop as if it were a stuffed dummy, as indeed it is. But in the debate in which Mr Belloc caught out Sir Arthur Keith in a perfectly palpable blunder, Mr Wells was simply shocked, and said in shuddering tones that anybody ought to be honored by Sir Arthur Keith saying anything about him, whatever it was.
A great deal of the intellectual success of Bernard Shaw is due to his really having no scientific snobbishness of this kind. He fights fairly and impartially, and hits out in all directions; and if he does not quite understand what was behind ancient mysteries, at least he does not accept mummeries merely because they are modern mummeries. He is not frightened of being cursed with bell, book and candle, merely because it is an electric bell and a biological book and a million-candle-power candle.
Touching sex and sentiment and similar things, Shaw showed the same real freedom of thought; that is, freedom from the free-thinkers. There was a hole in his philosophy as I shall point out, but the hole was open for all. He was perhaps most severe on the silly and morbid modern woman, who wanted to be a free lover and yet to have a lover who was not free. And he gave the old generation a good innings in making her father say: "If you can't behave like a lady, by god, you shall behave like a gentleman."
But when we come to look at the Opportunist philosophy itself, we find that it has a weakness like most modern philosophies. It sets out to be practical and it is entirely impracticable. This was well illustrated in the war controversy when Shaw actually praised the Prussian for 'treating a scrap of paper as a scrap of paper." But it is not businesslike to treat a scrap of paper as a scrap of paper. He has only to try it with a check or a bank-note or a business contract of any important kind and he will soon find that the whole practical world depends on the sanctity of the scraps of paper.
In the same way, it would be morally and mortally impossible to go about propounding a special and separate solution of every special and separate moral dispute; carefully avoiding any sort of allusion to any sort of moral standard. It would take too long: it would come too late; it would fall in its calculations for want of a ready reckoner. It would do what opportunism always does; it would miss its opportunity.
I think that Shaw has felt this vaguely himself; and certainly his original war on idealism has slowly changed to a sort of large and rather mysterious search for a new ideal. The result has been that his later works have often almost contradicted the opportunism of his earlier works. Like all clear and independent intellects, he saw the new world's need of a religion; or at least of something to act as a religion. He found it in what he called creative evolution; but it is vital to insist that it was not only evolutionary but creative. It exactly ratifies what I said about his hitting right as well as left, to note that he attacked Darwinism with a hatchet, even while he demonstrated evolution with a geological hammer. He would be an evolutionist, but not an official or orthodox evolutionist.
Wells, on the other hand, was strictly orthodox. In the earlier strata of The Outline Of History you will find Darwinism duly embedded, with other fossils. To Shaw natural selection seemed very unnatural selection; but in truth it is not selection at all. It is a chapter of accidents; and like a chapter in a rather improbable novel. Shaw disliked the long arm of coincidence in romantic fiction; and in the Darwinian romance it is very long indeed. In any case, Darwinian does not meet the desire to find a purpose in things; and Shaw really values evolution for providing exactly what Darwinism does not provide.
I think it very extraordinary that amid the thousand things that have been said about Shaw, hardly anybody notices how completely he had by this time turned his original idea upside down. "Man and Superman may well mark the summit of his achievement. But Man And Superman is a complete contradiction to The Quintessence of Ibsenism. Opportunism has been abandoned for a sort of martyrdom in honor of a mystical and remote superman.
Obviously we are apt to judge actions by their effect on happiness, in the common sense, but we are to judge them by conformity to the ideal of creative evolution. Tanner would be much happier if he remained a jolly bachelor instead of being carried off kicking by a woman whom he regards as a ruthless liar. There seems no immediate happiness in everybody being sacrificed to her selfishness. But even her own defense of her own selfishness is that it will not necessarily be for her own happiness. "Perhaps it will be death"; but we must all die for the life force. This is not only about as far as possible from the expediency of Ibsenism, but it is exceedingly near to the most thoroughgoing theological asceticism. I am not sure that the creative evolutionist realized all he had admitted with that dangerous word, "creative."
The great and even glorious work achieved by these men of genius, like Shaw and Wells, who made the passage from the nineteenth to the twentieth century a path of pure progress, an upward evolution content that "there is always a beyond" will be found in the last resort (I think) to suffer from the fact that these progressives did not really go far enough. That is, they did not carry their own train of thought far enough. I darkly suspect that when they had got very near the nerve of the truth they became a little nervous.
If Shaw had really asked himself what is logically involved in saying that the Life Force chooses Tanner or passes by Tavy, he might have begun to lay solid foundations for that religion which he clearly sees as needed by the world today. If he had set himself to answer the question (which seems to me the really challenging question) of how a mere expansion of new and nameless things in the void can possibly tell whether the novelties are improvements or not, unless there is an unchanging standard - he might have begun to build up those very standards which the wise now demand.
As it is, he has resembled Mr Wells in this, that he has thought it enough to go on offering suggestion without working them out into systems. A little less of their amazing intellectual fertility and a little more of intellectual continuity and consistency might have produced a real progress. It is not enough that there is always a beyond. Intelligent people want to know what it is that is beyond and how it can really be shewn to be better than what is behind. Therefore Shaw's ideas will be used by thousands of people rather than by Shaw, and from that gigantic quarry will be built many tiny towns. Perhaps the Superman comes first; and Man arrives later on.
0736 Spends 2 days in Leningrad with Lady Astor and party
7/26/31 Bernard Shaw, Viscount and Viscountess Astor and their party spent a strenuous two days in Leningrad. They visited first the Hermitage Gallery, of which Mr Shaw later remarked, "We marched past acres of pictures, but they all looked alike to me." They saw the prehistoric gold treasure in the vaults. Next they visited Tsarskoie Selo, now called the children's village. Last evening they saw selections from leading Soviet movies, whose artistic quality Mr Shaw praised highly. This morning former Commissar of Fine Arts Lunarcharsky and Mr Shaw took part in a talking picture in which the former made a brief introduction and Mr Shaw delivered a eulogy on Lenin.
After a luncheon given by the Writers' and Printers' Union, Mr Shaw visited St Isaac's Cathedral, now a museum, and took a much needed rest at the British Consulate, later visiting the Anti-Religious Museum.
After a quiet dinner the party took the midnight train for Moscow, where Mr Shaw's seventy-fifth birthday will be celebrated tomorrow at a meeting at which he is expected to make a speech about his impressions of Soviet Russia.
0735 Reception at Brit Embassy
7/24/31 A sensation was caused at a British Embassy reception in honor of Bernard Shaw late today when Viscountess Astor and Mr Shaw received identical cables signed by Dmitri Krynin of New Haven, Conn., who identified himself as a Yale University professor, reading as follows: "In the name of humanitarian principles please help my wife in Moscow."
Lady Astor, who received her message first, in the midst of the festivities which were participated in by the diplomatic corps and high Soviet officials, went to Maxim Litvinoff, Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, who was on a terrace surrounded by a knot of people, and presented the message to him in dramatic fashion. Kneeling, as if in obeisance, she said "I come to you as a peasant before a Czar," and handed the cablegram to him.
M Litvinoff read it as the circle of persons around them grew thicker. Then, addressing Lady Astor, he said, "such a matter is not in my province."
Some one suggested that it should be taken up by the political police, whereupon Lady Astor, Mr Shaw, Viscount Astor, and an attache of the Embassy left immediately in an automobile with the avowed intention of referring the matter to that organization. Stopping at their hotel en route, they made an unsuccessful attempt to reach high Soviet officials by telephone. The matter was then put aside so the party could attend to packing their baggage preparatory to their departure to Leningrad tonight.
Professor Dmitri Krynin, whose name was signed to the cables delivered to Lady Astor and Bernard Shaw at Moscow, is a professor in the Civil Engineering department at Yale. He was not at home tonight. Attaches of Yale University said they knew nothing of his wife's whereabouts.
0734 Welcomed in Moscow; refuses to comment on Soviet Union; discusses capitalism with Lady Astor
7/22/31 Bernard Shaw arrived here today in the best of spirits and seemed delighted with the welcome of the Gosizdat, which is the biggest publishing house in the world, with 27,000 employes, and the Society of Soviet Writers, who will be his hosts during his visit. They met him with a band and banners, the president of the Gosizdat, M Khalatof, who looks more like the popular conception of a Bolshevik than any cartoon, with his swarthy features, bushy black hair and beard, Tartar cap and leather jacket, being flanked by the urbane former Commissar of Fine Arts and Education, M Lunarcharsky, who speaks six languages, looks like a university professor, and was one. Mr Shaw posed at the station for photographs and made a big impression with his white beard and lofty stature, a whisper of 'What a noble old man!' passing through the crowd
At the frontier town of Negoleroe, Mr Shaw shook hands with the waitresses in the station restaurant, both of whom were familiar with his works, and said he doubted that their English sisters were so well read.
On his arrival at his hotel Mr Shaw was asked by a reporter what he thought of the Soviet Union. "Not yet," came the quick reply. "In a week maybe I'll tell you something if I can't avoid it, but nothing now."
The party, which included Viscountess Astor, then went to Lenin's tomb and the Kremlin. The tomb was rather startling to Lady Astor's ideas about Bolshevik strict materialism. She was particularly struck by Lenin's fine, delicate hands and lofty forehead, and Mr Shaw concurred, remarking: "A pure intellectual type - that is the true aristocracy."
In the Kremlin's former throne room, which is now the council hall of the Soviet Congress, Mr Shaw jumped nimbly upon the platform under a sounding board and tried the effect of a sort of wordless chant, which echoed past the marble columns. Later, when the conversation turned upon Marxism, he warned gayly, "Don't attack Marxism. Remember, I was a Marxist almost before Lenin was born," and a moment afterward, when Lady Astor expressed regret that there was no freedom here, in the Western sense, of free speech and opposition parties, Mr Shaw remarked, "At least they are free from the illusion of democracy."
Tonight the party attended a performance of 'The Beggars' Opera,' which as the only English piece in the current repertory was put on as a special compliment. Otherwise there will be no regular program.
The party expects to stay eight or nine days altogether and may visit Tambov to see the country and collective farms. There will be a garden party at the British Embassy Thursday and a banquet at the Writers' Club one evening. It is hoped that Mr Shaw will deliver a radio speech on July 26, his seventy-fifth birthday.
One of the first thrills he got after his arrival was being stuck for five minutes in the elevator shaft of the Hotel Metropole when the elevator became wedged four feet below the level of the main floor. Mr Shaw and Lady Astor, later than other members of their party, had taken the elevator while the others walked. A servant girl and a Mongolian mujik also were in the elevator. The party was starting on an afternoon sightseeing round and the operator, apparently overcome with the importance of his passengers, left the elevator sink too far below the lobby floor, where it jammed. Mr Shaw assumed a pained expression when repeated shaking by the operator failed to budge the car, and Lady Astor also became impatient. Both heaved sighs of relief when two American newspaper correspondents assisted in lifting them out through a narrow aperture.
As Mr Shaw crossed the crowded station platform, closely guarded by Red soldiers, on his arrival, he was introduced to a young Englishman who has lived here two years. Having been informed that his compatriot liked Russia and intended to stay here, Mr Shaw said: "Good! If I were as young as you I think I should like to stay here, too."
On his visit to the Kremlin, before luncheon, Mr Shaw was photographed perched atop a Czarist cannonball. Afterward, snatching scarcely more than an hour's rest, he went to the Park of Rest and Culture, a recreation center for workers on the Moscow River.
Just as indefatigable as the noted satirist was Lady Astor, one of whose sons also was among the six making up Mr Shaw's party. Several times she visibly shocked members of the Communist party who accompanied them on the sight-seeing tours by reiterating: "I am a capitalist!" and critcizing the Soviet system for what she described as "its materialism and lack of religion."
Told that the ancient little red church which stands next to the large cathedral where the Czars worshiped would be destroyed, Mr Shaw said: "Well, then, I think they'd better have a five-year plan. But," he added, "if a revolution like this had happened in America, England or France, they would have looted everything. Such churches and art treasures as these here in the Kremlin would not have been left untouched as they have been here."
"If you stand there soliloquizing," Lady Astor interrupted, "we won't cover the ground." She led him away by the arm.
The Russian newspapers today devoted a great amount of space to Mr Shaw's visit although his works are little known to the Russian masses in general.
0733 At Berlin En Route to Moscow
7/20/31 Bernard Shaw, accompanied by Viscount and Viscountess Astor and their party, spent a quiet Sunday in Berlin, en route to Moscow. Mr Shaw went into hiding soon after his arrival, calling at the British Embassy and then joining the Astors at the station, where the party boarded the Warsaw Moscow night express. Mr Shaw scattered a few crumbs among a small group of reporters and photographers, but declined to say how long he intended to remain in Russia. He would not discuss politics, but admitted he had just completed a new play.
'In New York you would be mobbed by 5,000 reporters,' importuning newspaper men reminded him. "That's exactly why I don't intend to go to New York," the dramatist retorted.
7/15/31 Viscountess Astor was at her Plymouth home tonight, making final preparations for a visit to Russia in company of Bernard Shaw and the Marquess of Lothian, who was formerly Philip Kerr. They will leave London on Friday for Berlin, en route to Moscow. Their stay in Russia will probably be brief, inasmuch as Mr Shaw intends to return to England in time to address the Independent Labor Summer School on his Soviet impressions next month.
0731 To visit Moscow
7/13/31 The International Union of Revolutionary Writers announced receipt today of a telegram from Bernard Shaw,saying that he would arrive in Moscow July 20 for a visit. The Irish dramatist is coming to acquaint himself with the Socialist construction of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. The Soviet Government recently granted visas to Mr Shaw, Viscountess Astor and several other distinguished Britons who expected to accompany him.
0729 Discusses forthcoming trip to Russia
7/1/31 Bernard Shaw is going to visit Russia shortly because, as he explained today, he thinks he ought to visit a non-capitalist country before he dies. The dramatist came out from the garden of his Hertfordshire home to answer questions about his forthcoming Russian trip.
'Why shouldn't I go to Russia?" he asked. "As a matter of fact I have been asking myself that question for several days, and I am really quite unable to answer it. If I had given the slightest thought to this trip I don't think I should take it. It is the very worst season of the year, and I am not at all sure I shall be anything like comfortable. But when I've been there I shall perhaps be able to tell why I went. At least I shall then know what I have got out of my visit. For the moment I have no definite object in going but that I do want to see Russia before I die. Hitherto I have only been in capitalist countries, and surely it will be interesting to go to the one Communist country on earth."
Mr Shaw's first public engagement after his projected Russian trip will be a lecture at the Independent Labor party Summer school at Welwyn in August, when he is expected to give his impressions of Russia. Mahatma Gandhi also has been invited to address the Summer school if he arrives in England in time.
0728 Remarks on Joan of Arc criticized by Card Bourne
6/9/31 Bernard Shaw's recent radio speech in connection with the Rouen commemoration of Joan of Arc, in which the playwright declared the French girl was lacking in "sex appeal" and was not pretty, drew a reply tonight from another churchman, Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster.
"Both in letters to correspondents and in communications to the press," the Cardinal's statement said, "the British Broadcasting Company has suggested that the choice of Mr Bernard Shaw to speak on St Joan of Arc was made with the knowledge and implied approval of the Archbishop of Westminster. His Eminence desires it to be known that this suggestion is without foundation, and that in his opinion the choice of words by Mr Shaw was unfortunate. Those words have given grave offense to Catholics both in England and abroad."
When Mr Shaw's attention was called to the Cardinal's comment, he replied: "I never speak without giving offense to a very large number of people, and there is nothing new in it. Perhaps I did not deal with the subject in the way that many Catholics would like to have it dealt with, and I am sorry I did not have time to develop the side which the Church was celebrating at the time. After all, my business is to say what other persons leave out."
0727 Writing new play, Too True to Be Good; said to deal with post-War morals
6/6/31 Bernard Shaw today consented to give a few details of the new play he is writing, a comedy to be called Too True To Be Good. There had been a rumor that his The Apple Cart was the first of a trilogy he had planned, but Mr Shaw denied this. "Never repeat a success," he remarked.
Concerning the new play, he added: "It will be something of a sermon, with the few usual amusing tricks thrown in to make people laugh. There is also a dash or two of Edgar Wallace." The first draft of the play is now about two-thirds finished. No date or contract has yet been made for its production, and the play probably will make its appearance first between covers, as it is to be published by Constable here in the Autumn.
0726 Lrs on his comments on Joan of Arc
6/3/31 To the Editor of The New York Times : How grateful America ought to be to her famous humorist who coined the phrase "He knows so much that ain't so." This may not be the exact wording, but as I listened to the address of Bernard Shaw on St Joan of Arc I felt a deep sense of gratitude to Mark Twain, for in no better or truer word could one sum up Mr Shaw's remarks.
I count among my close personal friends in London people who know Mr Shaw intimately, and I would like to assure my fellow-countrymen that no one who knows Mr Shaw intimately would think of taking him seriously. They laugh at his wit, but no one who has an ounce of common sense or who has the least regard for history would think of consulting G. B. S. as an encyclopedia. Unfortunately, however, America has the reputation of swallowing every "camel illusion" that is presented to her, but the "camel" that was offered to us last Saturday was a little too large.
England is not too pleased with us about some things, and we are not
too pleased with ourselves about some things, but I really didn't
think the resentment would be carried so far as to inflict Bernard Shaw on us. We must try and send a peace messenger to London
to assure England that we have nothing but the best of good wishes
for her - we'll even go so far as to drink her coffee to prove it -
but Bernard Shaw is a little more than we can stand.
0725 S on Joan Of Arc criticized by Rev F Woodlock
6/1/31 Joan of Arc, personified by a young girl of Rouen, rode proudly this afternoon through the streets of this ancient capital of Normandy, scene of her martyrdom, to the sound of trumpets and cheers. With all the wealth of color of the Middle Ages, an imposing procession revived the scene of King Charles VII's triumphant entry into his "good city of Rouen." More than 1,000 persons, representing every section of the medieval community of Joan's own epoch, participated. Wide-eyed children, just beginning their study of the nation's history, saw pass before them the knights in armor, the archers, the halberdiers of olden days, and following them the craftsmen of the age, the goldsmiths, weavers, wood-carvers, spinners and other skilled artisans. About Joan were grouped horsemen representing her principal lieutenants in the famous sieges and battles, such as Aintrailles, Dunois, Richemont and La Hire. At the conclusion of the spectacle Mlle Brebant, who embodied the heroine for the day, was seen surrounded by 200 soldiers dressed in all the costumes worn by France's warriors, from those of Vercingetorix's half-savage Auvergnats, who fought Caesar's legions, to the poilus of 1918.
The commemoration began with a solemn high mass in the great Catholic Cathedral. Five Cardinals, headed by Cardinal Bourse, Archbishop of Westminster and Catholic Primate of England, specially designated by Pope Pius XI as his Legate, occupied thrones placed near the high altar. Nearly fifty other Archbishops and Bishops, including those whose cities had been delivered by Joan during her lifetime or linked to her memory by other ties of association, attended. The imposing cathedral was decorated with its famous Aubusson tapestries, hidden during the war for fear of bombardment or capture and only recently restored and repaired.
The speech of Bernard Shaw over the radio last night, in which he said among other things that Joan of Arc lacked "sex appeal," brought down on his head today the wrath of the Rev Francis Woodlock, a widely known Catholic priest. The Irish writer had declared that officers and men followed the Maid of Orleans so blindly because she "lacked that quality so well known in Hollywood - sex appeal."
Father Woodlock said today while preaching in London: "I want to offer a strong word of protest against the impudence - I might almost say criminal folly - of British Broadcasting Company authorities for issuing an invitation to Bernard Shaw to speak on St Joan of Arc over the wireless last night. The British Broadcasting Company has no right to let loose that irresponsible playboy and mountebank to preach of this solemn occasion a panegyric of a Catholic and national saint. One can only hope that Mr Shaw's unseemly utterance was not overheard at Rouen."
promised to give a chat here tonight about that very extraordinary young woman
who was burnt five hundred years ago.
Now, when I say that I promised to give a chat, I really mean that. I am playing the game quite strictly with
you. I have not got a manuscript, mostly
copied out of the Encyclopedia Britannica,
to read solemnly to you giving all the historical details about Joan of
Arc. I am sitting here in
You know, of course, that Joan of Arc was a young girl who was burnt. But I want you to get that out of your head; it is not really a matter of very great consequence to us now, the particular way in which she died, and the fact that she was burnt does not distinguish her at all, and does not explain why we are talking about her here tonight, although hundreds of thousands of women have been burnt, just as she was burnt, and yet they are quite forgotten and nobody talks about them.
It was not that she was young, because after the Bull of Pope Innocent VIII, which began the burning of witches (and Joan was burnt because she was a witch), young girls were burnt; but also young children were burnt; quite beautiful young children were thrown into the flames. All that you have read. She is only one of a great many people.
There is a parallel case really to Joan’s which is very well known throughout all Christendom, and that is the case of the Founder of Christianity Himself, and I sometimes have to remind people that a belief in Christianity does not mean getting very excited in a sensational way about the very horrible way in which the Founder of Christianity was executed. I think of all the hymns in the English Hymnal the one that I dislike the most is When I survey the Wondrous Cross. When people sing that I always feel inclined to say, “Will you please stop surveying the wondrous Cross, which is not an emblem of Christianity but an emblem of what the Romans called justice, a very cruel, unchristian, and horrible thing, and I am sorry to say that we still call exactly the same sort of thing justice.” Not very long before Jesus Christ was crucified, 60,000 persons were crucified because they had revolted against their conditions as slaves and gladiators, and they all suffered in the same way that Jesus suffered. And, therefore, in talking of people like Joan and of Jesus Christ you must not think of Jesus Christ as the Crucified One, because there were a great many crucified ones, and the two who were crucified with Him were not persons of very respectable character.
What we have to consider then is, simply, what manner of persons these executed people were that we should, five hundred years and nineteen hundred years after their executions, be still talking about them. And I want particularly to insist on this in the case of Joan, because people think it is such a romantic thing to be burnt, and to be a young woman being burnt, that they begin to insist on the young woman being a beautiful young woman and they begin to imagine that she must have had some very touching and charming love-affairs in her life. Now, I am sorry to disappoint those of my hearers who have that particular romantic turn, but it is a perfectly well-established fact that Joan was not beautiful. It is not merely that people have not mentioned whether she was beautiful or not, but it has been placed on record by her military comrades, by the officers with whom she worked in battle and also by the men, who adored her and believed her to be something divine. These officers liked her very much, always remembered her with affection as a comrade, and the men, as I have said, worshiped her; but they all expressly – those of them whose testimony we have still got – explicitly said that the reason, or one of the reasons, why they believed her to be divine was that, although she was a woman, she had none of what out American friends in Hollywood and elsewhere call “sex appeal.” She was outside that. They felt towards her as they felt towards the Saints and towards the Blessed Virgin; but all that romantic kind of thing was out of the way, was a thing almost blasphemous. And so you must make up your minds to Joan of Arc as being a person who was not beautiful, who was not romantic, but who, as I said, was a very extraordinary person.
Now, she was burned by a Christian Tribunal. You hear people occasionally discussing whether the French burned her of whether the English burned her and who was to blame in the matter. You need not worry about that. The really significant thing for us today is that she was burnt by a Tribunal which represented Christianity in the world. She was burnt by a Catholic Tribunal, one which at that time really represented the whole Christian feeling of the world. And, furthermore, they gave her a very long, a very careful, and a very conscientious trial; they found her guilty on all the counts of the indictment that was made against her, and she was guilty on every one of those counts according to the ideas of those people, and, I may say, probably according to the ideas of the great many of you ladies and gentlemen whom I am now addressing. She was found guilty of heresy; she was found guilty of witchcraft; she was found guilty of homicidal soldiering, which was a horrible sin for a woman; and she was found guilty of a blasphemous habit of wearing men’s attire, which also was considered a very grave and frightful thing for a woman to do. But I may say that the reason it was called blasphemous was that she not only wore men’s dress and insisted on wearing it, but she said that she had been ordered to do it by St Margaret and by St Catherine, and that was an appalling blasphemy in those days, and I think it may possibly shock one or two of those whom I am now addressing.
You cannot deny that all these accusation were true accusations. To begin with the heresy. At a time when the whole world was Catholic and when the Reformation had not yet taken place, she was a Protestant; that is to say, she said that God came first with her. He came before the Church; and when she was asked, “Will you not accept the Church’s interpretation of God for you?” she said, “No; God must come first.” That was heresy. That was about the most shocking thing that could be said to a true Catholic by a true Catholic. And she said this quite naturally. She was not a person who had studied the works of Wycliffe or any of the early Reformers or their precursors. She said that as a mere obvious matter of course. She was so ignorant of the fact that she was a Protestant – she had never heard the word – that she actually proposed to go and lead a Crusade against the Bohemian Protestants, against the followers of John Hus [Jan Hus] – as we call them, Hussites; and she was quite ready to lead a Crusade to fight and suppress those people, not knowing that she herself was uttering precisely the thing for which the Church had quarreled with them. They tried her quite mercifully; they did everything they possibly could when they were trying her to get her to take that back; they implored her to consider what she was saying, but she did not realize herself its gravity; it seemed to her to be the perfectly natural thing. She could not understand that the “men of the Church,” as she spoke of them, rather slightingly, although she was such a devout Catholic, as she believed – she could not understand how anybody could propose to come between her and God. In that way she was guilty of heresy, in a manner of speaking the most shocking heresy, the most terrible thing that you could be guilty of in those days, the crime for which people were burnt; and it was that mainly for which she was burnt.
Furthermore, she was guilty of witchcraft in the sense of the Tribunal before which she was standing, because she declared that her inspiration had been converted to her by voices and by visions. In particular, there were three saints – St Catherine, St Margaret, and St Michael – and these, she said, visited her, spoke to her, told her what to do, and she undoubtedly honestly believed that these voices that came to her did come from these saints. Now, the main sin of witchcraft in these days was having intercourse with spirits, and the Church told her that those spirits were evil spirits come to tempt her to damnation. As I have just told you, she said that one of the things that they told her to do was to dress like a man and, furthermore, to take a sword and go and slay men, and to take part in war. In saying that, in claiming it proudly as being her justification, she was condemning herself to execution for the crime of witchcraft. There was no question of trapping her into these admissions. They did not try to trap her. On the contrary, they really did their best, as you will find, if you read the accounts of the trial; they did all that could be expected of them to make her withdraw them. But she was perfectly steadfast in these statements.
As for the soldiering, that was considered a dreadful thing for a woman to undertake; and I think we who are now speaking to oneanother may say that it is a shocking thing to think of a woman going out to kill, and risking being killed; I happen to think that it is an equally shocking thing for a man to do, and perhaps some of you will agree with me. But there are certain people who have the misfortune to be born with a talent for soldiering, and there is no doubt that Joan was an inveterate soldier. Whenever there was a battle within her reach Joan got into the thick of it. She fought as a company officer; when her men were flinching or faltering she threw herself into battle, she led them into danger, right up to the danger point. When they were storming a fort she was the first officer at the fort wall and made them come after her. Even when her battles had been successful, to such a point that many of the statesmen and soldiers of her time wanted to stop the fighting, she wanted to go on with it, and, as I told you, even when there was no more fighting to be done in France, she was looking forward to having some more fighting in Bohemia, by conducting a Crusade against the Hussites in that country.
I have already spoken to you about the male attire. So that you see on these counts – heresy, witchcraft, homicidal soldiering, male attire – Joan was guilty. If you consider that sort of conduct guilty, she was unquestionably and on her own confession guilty. She was accordingly sentenced to be burnt to death, that being the usual punishment, the allotted punishment, by the custom of the time, and practically by the rules of the Inquisition, because although the Catholic Church and the Inquisition would not kill anybody directly, they nevertheless handed the condemned person over to what they called the secular arm – that is to say, the military or the civil power – knowing perfectly well the result would be that the person would be burnt to death.
On that particular point of the burning, I want to remind you of one thing. Joan chose to be burnt. She could have escaped being burnt. She tried to escape being burnt by recanting. When they told her that she would be burnt if she persisted, she then said, very well, she did not want to be burnt; she was a very sensible kind of woman and she said, “Since you say so, I do not want to be burnt; I will take it all back and I will sign a recantation.” She signed a recantation and then it became impossible to burn her. But when she learned that she was not going to be set free, but that she was to be condemned to perpetual imprisonment, she then deliberately withdrew her recantation; she put on her man’s dress again, she reaffirmed that her voices, her saints, were saints and not devils, and that she was going to obey their instruction; she relapsed, as they called it, completely into her heresy, and by her own deliberate choice was burnt instead of being perpetually imprisoned. Now, I recommend that to all of you who are listening to me, because in almost all your criminal codes, here in England, in America, In Italy, in France, we are always condemning people for crimes to this very punishment of imprisonment, of long terms of imprisonment, sometimes of solitary imprisonment, and in that we are using a crueler punishment than burning, according to the judgment of this woman who had her open choice between the two. That is something for you to think about. I will not dwell any more on it.
Now let me say a word as to Joan’s life and her abilities. She was, unquestionably, an exceptionally and extraordinarily able woman. She was a farmer’s daughter, with no special advantages of education. She could not read and she could not write, although she could dictate letters and did. She had, unquestionably, military ability. In her campaign, the campaign by which she brought King Charles to the throne, she knew exactly what to do at the time when the military commanders of her time were muddling, were hesitating, were wasting their forces in all directions. She concentrated them, she knew how to make soldiers fight, which they did not, she made them fight, and she made them conquer soldiers by whom they were accustomed to be conquered. She had great political ability. She saw exactly what was needed to strike the imagination of the French people in getting the Dauphin crowned in the cathedral at
The trial is very curious. It is not so much the trial of judges who are speaking from the height of their position to a culprit. The whole thing became something like a parliamentary argument, of which she very often got the best, or the better. I cannot elaborate that although the burning of Joan was an inexcusable thing, because it was a uselessly cruel thing, the question arises whether she was not a dangerous woman.
That question arises with almost every person of distinguished or extraordinary ability. Let us take an example from our own times. After the late war the Late Marshal Foch was asked by somebody, “How would Napoleon have fought this war?” Foch answered, “Oh, he would have fought it magnificently, superbly. But,” he said, “what on earth should we have done with him afterwards?” Now, that question arose in Joan’s case. I want to bring it close to the present day. It is arising today in the case of a very extraordinary man, a man whose name is Leon Trotsky. Leon Trotsky’s military exploits will probably rank with those of the greatest commanders in future history. The history of Trotsky’s train – the railway train in which for a couple of years he practically lived while he threw back the whole forces of Europe, at a time when the condition of his country seemed desperate – that was a military exploit which we are too close to appreciate, but there is no doubt whatever as to what history will say about him; it will rank him along with the greatest commanders. But he is just in the position of Napoleon: when the question arose what was to be done with him afterwards, his own country,
I will just give you one more thing to think about. If you want to have an example from your own time, if you want to find what women can feel when they suddenly find the whole power of society marshaled against them and they have to fight it, as it were, then read a very interesting book which has just appeared by Miss Sylvia Pankhurst describing what women did in the early part of this century in order to get the parliamentary vote. Miss Pankhurst, like so many other women in that movement, was tortured. In fact, except for burning, she suffered actual physical torture which Joan was spared. Other women suffered in that way with her. She describes from her own experience what those women felt, and how they did it. They were none of them exactly like St Joan, but I believe every one of them did regard herself as, in a measure, repeating the experiences of St Joan. St Joan inspired that movement, that curious movement, which I think is within the recollection of most of you. Think of it in that way. If you read Miss Pankhurst, you will understand a great deal more about the psychology of Joan, and her position at the trial, than you will by reading the historical accounts, which are very dry.
I say one thing finally. Joan was killed by the Inquisition. The Inquisition, you think, is dead. The Inquisition is not dead. Whenever you have a form of government which cannot deal with spiritual affairs, sooner or later you will have the Inquisition. In
That is all I can say to you tonight. I have not, I am aware, said the conventional thing, or said the historical thing. Well, you can read that. You will find it told very often in a very dull way. I have only spoken here because the whole value of Joan to us is how you can bring her and her circumstances into contact with our life and our circumstances. Now, the British Broadcasting Corporation is in a state of great impatience because I have already stolen nearly ten minutes. I should have taken twenty minutes; I have taken half-an-hour. Just like me, isn’t it? Goodnight.
0723 Laughs at rumors that he is to sue biographer, F Harris, for libel
5/29/31 The new biography of Bernard Shaw by Frank Harris is not likely to be hindered by libel suits instituted by the dramatist, he said today. Informed tonight of rumors that he had threatened libel action, Mr Shaw laughed uproariously. "I was told that Frank's life of me would be shewn to me," he said, "but it hasn't been yet. I won't sue for libel, however. When Frank wanted to know something especially bad about me he called me up and asked me about it. If there's libel in the book the chance is that it's mine and not Frank's. You must remember Frank and I have been friends for a long time."
When Mr Shaw was asked, however, if he meant that he intended to take no notice of libel from any source, he sputtered into his graying red beard and made a hasty denial. "Don't let that idea get around," he said. "Don't give people the notion they can say anything they want about me. I am likely to come down on somebody at any moment with a tremendous libel action, but not Frank Harris."
0722 Adds verse to M Hurl's latest Irish song
5/22/31 'My Irish Daddy,' Miss Maisie Hurl's latest song, has been launched into the musical sea with the benediction of Bernard Shaw - and the benediction is typically Shavian. Miss Hurl sent a copy of the song to Mr Shaw. The first verse is:
When Mr Shaw returned the copy it had the following notation:
L'Envol, by G Bernard Shaw:
At last I went to Ireland,
'Twas raining cats and dogs;
I found no music in the glens,
nor purple in the bogs;
And as for angels' laughter
in the smelly Liffey's tide!
Well, my Irish daddy said it, but the
dear old humbug died.
0721 Advocates use of "pidgin English," in address in London
5/17/31 Bernard Shaw
pidgin English may be the classic English of the future in an address
at Letchworth today on "Libraries and the English Language."
"Grammar is an abomination," he declared. "For the most part it is superfluous, and English has the advantage of having precious little grammar in it. But a Chinaman is far more concise and lucid. An Englishman says, 'I am sorry I cannot oblige you,' while a Chinaman says 'No can' and expresses himself perfectly.
0720 Says Eng press is slow to evaluate news, in s to Inst of Journalists
5/9/31 Bernard Shaw,
he was a journalist and nothing but, jeered his fellow members of the
Institute of Journalists at their luncheon today for what he called
He backed his charge that the press was always years behind events by citing the fact that it took a long time for it to recognize the reality of the American Revolution and to discover that George Washington was not a scoundrel. He also cited the newspaper attitude toward the Russian Revolution as evidence of the same slowness in waking up to facts, and predicted that Germany and Austria were going to have not merely customs union, but a national union which anybody not afflicted with a bad time-lag should realize immediately.
"We journalists are a little under a cloud now like all the institutions of this country," said Mr Shaw. "We had our extremely foolish war. The press might have prevented it but didn't, just as the Kaiser might have prevented it and didn't. The trouble is that the press is far too much dominated by the ideas which dominated the Kaiser. He was badly brought up, so were we, so between us we pretty nearly ruined civilization. All we can say in defense is that the church disgraced itself, too, all professions disgraced themselves, Parliament disgraced itself and we are at present in a condition of humiliation of confession that on the whole all we achieved was revelation of the fact that the world that believed itself civilized was not in any serious sense civilized at all.
"At the present time the press is time-lagging very badly in many ways. Take such a cheerful example as the Russian Revolution. The press has not yet recognized that the revolution has taken place. Take the French Revolution. I was a grown up person in 1876 during the Great French Exhibition when Lord Salisbury, English Foreign Minister, who, for an aristocrat and diplomatist, had an exceptionally intelligent mind, refused to allow England to be represented at that Exhibition because France was a republic. He was convinced that the Bourbons, or at least the Bonapartes, would come back and that there would be a return to the old regime. He was nearly a century out of date. Washington was one of the blackest scoundrels that ever existed. Tom Paine was an atheist whose books the police chased about. It took us a very long time to recognize the United States as a republic that had come to stay. Lord Salisbury probably never did find out that the French Republic had come to stay, and we have not found out the Russian Soviet has come to stay. The consequence is that we have thrown away one of the most magnificent commercial chances any of us can hope to see in our lifetime.
"Do not start time-lagging, for example, about the customs union between Austria and Germany. They are bound to unite, not merely in a customs union but in a national union, and every person who has not got a bad time-lag cannot but have recognized it at once. They have done this thing on us and we have got to accept it. It is a desirable thing in itself; however we may complain, we must smile and make the best of it.
"We have not only thrown away a tremendous commercial opportunity but a political friendship which may be of the greatest possible value to us. All our political friendships in the future will be not with Bourbons, Plantagenets, Valois and Romanoffs, but with modern republics. They will each involve, like our own country, a very great deal of communism which we cannot possible do without for a single week.
"Do not write about them like a very old-fashioned governess in a very old-fashioned cathedral town. If you do time lag will beat you. You will lose your power over the public mind, and a great deal of that is already passing to the wireless, which is also a thing you have to think about. On the radio you have a different type case from those we have been studying. You can hear exactly what sort of man is speaking. People for whom we write have never seen us or heard our voices, and I often think a journalist in a city should be made to go round in a large cart as if in a circus and people would say, 'Great respect. Look at him.'"
Mr Shaw closed his
speech with the toast: "The profession of journalism - God
" Is it a profession," he demanded, "or is it the last refuge of any young person who is hopelessly illiterate and hopelessly inaccurate?"
3/22/31 To the
Editor of The New
York Times: I was greatly amused by an article in The Nw York
Times magazine entitled "Why Shaw Won't Visit America." It
seems unbelievable that Mr Shaw would make such remarks as: "My
brilliance; my genius; my originality; and, although I speak
brilliantly, I do not speak as brilliantly as I write." Mr Shaw
then says: "That's the trouble: no one understand me."
Oh, yes they do, Mr Shaw. Every schoolboy in America understands that kind of language.
M O R
0718 Feature art on his reasons for not visiting Amer; por
3/15/31 "Yes, it's a good portrait of you, Mr Shaw," I said, taking up his latest photograph and examining it curiously. "But I wonder what you are really like in yourself - you, who appear to be so much the victim of your own vanity? You must have been photographed at least a thousand times; but I would like to know if you had ever once seen yourself? Surely no man who had seen himself could write the way you write and talk.
"Tell me Mr Shaw," I went on, before I had time to remember myself, "is it not a fact that, like Nietzsche, whose name you so often mention with your own, you have never in your whole life been humiliated enough to be in love?"
"Good gracious!" cried Mr Shaw, shooting up his eyebrows. "Are you going to write about my love affairs?"
"No," I said. "You have already dealt with that subject. I am going to write about what you, who apparently are afraid of nobody and nothing, refuse to write about; why you have never been to America; why you will not even write why you will not go there!"
I thought his expression changed slightly; I thought I heard a note of sulkiness in his voice.
"Thirty years ago I was first invited to go to America and every year since then the invitation has been renewed," he said. "And still I do not go! Do you ask me for a reason? OK. Rejection. I never had farther to go than this (England.)
There was a pause. I looked into the blue-gray eyes and at the ruddy complexion on which, as he has told you, he does not use soap. The vigorous, tawny beard of the '90s, seen on a million platforms with his snuff-colored suit and flannel shirt, is now white and fine and silky. I looked at the broad shoulders and at the six-feet-odd of bony length which has never known the meat and drink of ordinary men. I remembered his description of himself as having the temperament of a schoolmaster and the pursuits of a vestryman. I thought, from the look of him, the description seemed nearly perfect.
"But Mr Shaw," I protested, "I cannot accept the obvious inference that you do not like America. That is unthinkable!"
"And beside the point," he retorted. "There are many things I do not like - interviewers, for example. Why on earth should I go to America? They have my books, my plays, my pamphlets, my sermons; I have admonished them. They have heard me on the talkies; they know what I look like."
Our eyes traveled round the room. There was a bust of Shaw by Rodin; to the left there was a caricature of Shaw by Max Beerbohm; I thought I read the signature of Rothenstein among the innumerable drawings of Shaw on the walls. He was everywhere - in line, in stone, in bronze, in plaster, in wood, in water-colors - the Superman he has sold to the world ever since he began that long course of hypnotic suggestion by which G. B. S., the journalist, manufactured Bernard Shaw, the author.
"The legend in a thousand forms," I ventured. "But in America," he said, "I am not a legend. I am a god. They worship me. They have worshipped me for years."
My eyes rested on a tall obelisk on which were inscribed the words: "Project of a monument to Bernard Shaw to be a hundred and fifty feet high." It was meant to represent what the artist had called the "eternal formula" of the man. When the sculptor submitted his design the author wrote underneath: "Highly approved. G. B. S."
Again my eyes traveled round the room. There he was in every stage of his well-advertised repertoire, the superman, the intellectual man and - Anti-Eros, glowering at us, quizzing us from every direction. I turned from these many facets of his public personality to the man himself - the vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker, anti-vivisectionist, anti-vaccinationist, non and anti-everything, grown old and silky. Inexplicably, I recalled the pictures of him circulated last year, sunworshiping, in his bathing suit.
I thought a look of understanding passed between us; but before I knew he spoke again in a great rush of words:
"Why should I go to America - a nation of copyists! I, the natural-born mountebank who first caught the ear of the British public on a cart in Hyde Park, to the blaring of brass bands.
"Why should I go to America where there are so many of me? Where my advertising has grown out of date; where every little manufacturer has learned the secrets of my trumpet and brass band. They could teach me a thing or two now, only I am arrived and need it no longer.
"Have I not put over them my originality, by brilliance, my life force, my genius and all the rest of my claptrap? Why, I have so hypnotized them that if I were to republish Buckstone's 'Wreck Ashore' as my latest comedy, it would be hailed as a masterpiece of perverse paradox and scintillating satire. After that, why need I go to America? I certainly should not have the treatment there that I have had in England. They are not a nation of English gentlemen. They are business men; they might see through me. Why should I risk their finding out that I, the well-advertised Irishman, am really awfully like an English gentleman? Again: there is my faultless English accent; and that alone would put them against me.
"People in my line of work make a mistake in going to America. At this distance they believe everything I say about the English; and in England I can say it safely. If I went to America and told the Americans what I think of them, they might come after me with a gun or put the police on me: and you know how I deplore violence, physical violence especially. I am not a violent man. I am essentially a fencer - fanciful, rather feminine, and I have a marvelous style! I bring men to their knees when I put my pen out at them. I should not know what to do in the company of Al Capone and his gunmen; or my compatriots, the New York police. I do not like things on a big scale. I told my American biographer Mr Henderson: Nothing delights me more than to create around myself a miniature reign of terror; but I do not want the parts reversed."
At this point we refreshed ourselves with a glass of barley water and, thus emboldened, I said: "Now tell me, Mr Shaw, why you have refused to write down your feelings about America after you were so nicely invited to do so?"
"Because I have already written them down," he answered a trifle impatiently. "If only the Americans had the capacity to realize it, they would know that I have expressed some, at least, of my feelings about them and their incredible county in The Apple Cart. That's the trouble: no one understands me!"
He looked at me so reproachfully that I took down from the shelves a copy of The Apple Cart. "What, in essence, have I said there? 'You want to be British, but we don't want you! Heaven forbid.' I could only repeat the same thing and, although I speak brilliantly, I do not speak as brilliantly as I write. Moreover, they might understand what I was saying; and from all I hear about America, that would be no joke. Again, I most clearly indicate my belief that every American has at heart an inferiority complex, if I may use the popular jargon. Of course, I did not put it so crudely; but read the play and see for yourself what I say. I tell them that they have never ceased regretting their break with us and never will cease regretting it. Surely I make this unmistakeble enough through the American Ambassador, Mr Vanhattan, through King Magnus and through the Queen? Most brilliantly I present Vanhattan talking about his errand as a great historic scene, one of the greatest, perhaps, that history has ever recorded, or ever will record: America coming back to England as the prodigal son!
"Vanhattan concludes his interview by saying how much he looks forward to presenting himself in court dress; which is mild compared with the speech I make the Queen say: 'They know we are their natural superiors. You can see it by the way their women behave at court. They really love and reverence royalty; while our own peeresses are hardly civil - when they condescend to come at all. Finally, let me remind you that I am always my own hero: I am King Magnus! With the polish and the politeness of the perfect English gentleman, which I so ably exemplify in myself, I tell Vanhattan that England, backward as it is, would nevertheless sooner perish than accept his proposal for a reunion with America."
I put down the portrait of Mr Shaw. The interview ended. His dazzling personality leaves you not knowing whether you are on your head or your heels. And how he fires the imagination! What was that defense of the imagination he made in the preface to St Joan?
"There are people in the world whose imagination is so vivid that when they have an idea it comes to them as an audible voice, sometimes uttered by a visible figure. Socrates, Luther, Swedenborg, Blake, saw visions and heard voices just as St Francis and St Joan did."
I saw that I was in good company, and slowly my own vision faded and the voices ceased.
The action of The Apple Cart, in which Mr Shaw says he has expressed "some, at least, of his feelings about Americans and their "incredible country," takes place somewhere in the not remote future. It sets forth the attempt of the then existing Labor Cabinet of Great Britain to reduce the reigning King, Magnus, to a rubber stamp for the policies of that Cabinet, which is scandalously subservient to a monster grafting corporation, a commercial octopus, called Breakages, Limited. The King upsets the apple cart of the well-laid plans of his Ministers by threatening to abdicate and stand for Parliament as a self-made commoner and the champion of the people.
Mr Shaw's "feelings" about this country and its inhabitants find expression in the last act of the play. The King has received the Ministers' "ultimatum" at a Cabinet meeting in the morning. It is now afternoon and the Ministers are presently expected to wait upon him and receive his answer. Magnus is seated with the Queen, Jemima, on the terrace of the palace, having tea, when Pamphilius, one of his secretaries, announces the American Ambassador.
The Queen - Has he an audience?
Pamphilius - No, ma'am. He says he must see his Majesty at once.
The Queen - Must! An American must see the King at once, without an audience! Well!
Magnus (rising) - Send him in, Pam.
Pamphilius goes out.
The Queen - I should have told him to write for an audience, and then kept him a week waiting for it.
Magnus - What? When we still owe America that old war debt? And with a mad imperialist President like Bossfield! No, you wouldn't my dear; you would be crawlingly civil to him, as I am going to be, confound him!
The American Ambassador, Mr Vanhattan, enters effusively and salutes the Queen "with a handshake so prolonged that she stares in astonishment, first at him, and then appealingly at the King."
Magnus - What on earth is
Mr Vanhattan? You are shaking her Majesty's rings off
Vanhattan (desisting) - Her Majesty will excuse me when she learns the nature of my errand here. This, King Magnus, is a great historic scene: one of the greatest, perhaps, that history has every recorded or will ever again record.
Magnus - My dear Vanhattan, what the devil is the matter?
Vanhattan - Sir: Let me recall to you the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal, sir, has returned to his father's house. Not poor, not hungry, not ragged, as of old. On, no. This time he returns bringing with him the riches of the earth to the ancestral home.
Magnus (starting from his chair) - You don't mean to say -
Vanhattan (rising also, blandly triumphant) - I do, sir. The Declaration of Independence is canceled. The treaties which endorsed it are torn up. We have decided to rejoin the British Empire. We shall, of course, enjoy Dominion home rule under the Presidency of Mr Bossfield. I shall revisit you here shortly, not as the Ambassador of a foreign power, but as High Commissioner for the greatest of your dominions, and your very loyal and devoted subject, sir.
Magnus (collapsing into his chair) - The devil you will! (pulling himself together with a visible effort) May I ask Mr Vanhattan, with whom did this - this master stroke of American policy originate? Frankly, I have been accustomed to regard your President as a statesman whose mouth was the most efficient part of his head. He cannot have thought of this himself. Who suggested it to him?
Vanhattan - I must accept your criticism of Mr Bossfield with all doo reserve? but I may mention that we Americans will probably connect the good news with the recent visit to our shores of the President of the Irish Free State. I cannot pronounce his name in its official Gaelic form; and there is only one typist in our bureau who can spell it; but he is known to his friends as Mike O'Rafferty.
Magnus - The rascal! Jemima, we shall have to live in Dublin. This is the end of England.
Vanhattan - In a sense that may be so. But England will not perish. She will merge - merge, sir- into a bigger and brighter concern. Perhaps I should have mentioned that one of our conditions will be that you shall be Emperor. King may be good enough for this little island; but if we come in we shall require something grander.
Magnus - This little island! 'This little gem set in a silver sea."
The Queen - You forget, Mr Vanhattan. We have a great national tradition.
Vanhattan - The United States, ma'am, have absorbed all the great national traditions and blended them with their own glorious tradition of freedom into something that is unique and universal.
The Queen - We have a civilized culture which is peculiar to ourselves. It may not be better than yours; but it is different.
Vanhattan - Well, is it? We found that vulture enshrined in British material works of art, in the stately country homes of your nobility, in the cathedrals our common forefathers built as the country houses of God. What did you do with them? You sold them to us. I was brought up in the shade of Ely Cathedral, the removal of which from the county of Cambridge to New Jersey was my dear old father's first big professional job. When you find some country gentleman keeping up the old English customs at Christmas, and so forth, who is he? An American who has bought the place. Your people get up the show for him because he pays for it, not because it is natural to them.
The King rises very thoughtfully and Vanhattan follows his example.
Magnus - I must think over
may survive only as another star on your flag. Still we cling to the
little scrap of individuality you have left us. If we must merge, as
you call it - or did you say submerge - some of us will swim to the
Vanhattan - I thank your Majesty. (To the Queen.) Good evening, ma'am. I look forward to presenting myself in court dress soon.
The Queen - You will look very nice in it, Mr Vanhattan. Good evening. (The Ambassador goes out.)
Magnus - (striding grimly to an fro) - The scoundrels! The blackguard O'Rafferty! That boob bullroarer Bossfield! Breakages Limited have taken it into their heads to mend the British Commonwealth.
The Queen (quietly) - I think it is a very good thing. You will make a very good Emperor. We shall civilize these Americans.
Magnus - How can we when we have not yet civilized ourselves? They have come to regard us as a mere tribe of redskins. England will be just a reservation.
The Queen - Nonsense, dear! They know that we are their natural superiors. You can see it by the way their women behave at court. They really love and reverence royalty; while our English peeresses are hardly civil - when they condescend to come at all.
At the Cabinet meeting the King's threat to stand for Parliament wins the game. The Ministers are departing. Among them is Lysistrata, an ex-schoolmarm, who is Power-mistress General.
Magnus - (to
Lysistrata) - They
don't take it in, Lizzie, not one bit. It is as if another planet
were crashing into us. The kingdom and the power and the glory will
pass from us and leave us naked, face to face with our real selves at
Lysistrata - So much the better, if by our real selves you mean the old English stock that was unlike any other. Nowadays men all over the world are as much alike as hotel dinners. It's no use pretending that the America of George Washington is going to swallow up the England of Queen Anne. The America of George Washington is as dead as Queen Anne. What they call an American today is only a wop pretending to be a Pilgrim Father. He is no more Uncle Jonathan than you are John Bull.
Magnus - Yes, we live in a world of wops, all melting into one another; and when all the frontiers are down, London may be outvoted by Tennessee and all the other places where we still madly teach our children the mentality of an eighteenth-century village school.
0717 French reporter gains int in Cairo by hoax
3/14/31 Bernard Shaw has been hoaxed into giving an interview, but all will be forgiven if he can get Rudyard Kipling into the same boat. The newspaper Revell said today that Mr Shaw had been so hotly pursued by admirers since his arrival here that he instructed the hotel porter to "tell 'em I'm dead," but a French journalist got in by scribbling on his card, 'Einstein's nephew wants to shake hands with Shaw.'
What do you think of nudism?' the reporter asked when Mr Shaw received him. "When one's body is so esthetically formed as mine," the British author replied, "one likes the world to admire it. Nudity puts an end to the Darwinian quarrel for when they are naked all humans look like gorillas." When Mr Shaw discovered the hoax he told the journalist he would be forgiven if he would play the same trick on Mr Kipling, who is now at Assuan.
0716 Lr from H Saalberg scoring his conceit and criticisms of others
3/8/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: This morning, March 2, in The New York Times appeared another one of those artistically impertinent criticisms of the United States, and all things and people American, by the eminent English criticiser (the last word used advisedly to mean just what it says, instead of critic). I read it on the way to my office and the thought came into my mind, what would this honorable man think could he read what some of us thought of him? Being one of the "fools who rush in where angels fear to tread" and having the courage of my convictions, I thought I would put in writing just what I, a normal man, with only a normal college eduction (I haven't been a champion of anything), really think of these slaps at my countrymen.
When I reached my office I asked my secretary, who, by the way, is quite well read and fairly intelligent, which one of England's great men could best be given the label of "Great Britain's Wise Guy." With practically no hesitation she answered Bernard Shaw, showing even inferior minds run in the same channels at times. (!)
Before going further, perhaps Mr Shaw does not know what we mean by a "wise guy." If he does not, it might be well to tell him that here in America, when we wish to call a man a really clever man, we just say he is a wise man. I am sure Mr Shaw will have intelligence enough to see the difference.
1. While Mr Shaw's style
technique were beyond any possible criticism of mine, still they both
were of a sameness that gradually began to bore me.
2. Everything he wrote was meant to criticize, and not in a constructive way, but in a manner entirely destructive.
3. He was purely a "money writer.
4. As is the case with most people who live to criticize, his ravings gradually assumed the tone of those of an educated washerwoman who had seen better days.
5. Mr Shaw must think himself very close to God, as he could not be wrong. The whole world might be out of step, but not Bernard Shaw.
6. The only people who continued to like his writing were those who thought they had to like them in order to be considered of the intelligentsia.
Everything Mr Shaw has ever written has been a deliberate attempt to slap (perhaps I use the word slap too much, but what else can you call this kind of criticism?) some one's or many some one's feelings, without regard at all as to how these some ones might regard it. And right here let me say that the one thing I have admired in Mr Shaw has been his absolute disregard for what others thought of him, and his courage in saying and doing exactly what was in his mind. But, then, a bull has the same characteristics.
When Mr Shaw dislikes something or some one, he tells us all about it, but does not often tell us the reason for this dislike, and never tells us what we can do about it to make him or others change opinion. Examine his works carefully. See how many times he has told us to become even as he is. Not often, I might add, thank Heaven! I have a little son at home. He often says to me, "I don't like that." When I ask him why, he answers "because." Mr Shaw should know better. He is much older.
This is best proved by Mr Shaw's actions in regard to his plays being produced as talkies. A man who has been able to collect as much of the world's goods as he has must be a capable financier as far as his own business is concerned. The truth is that Mr Shaw knows his plays will be "flops" today, just as this latest one has been. Why should he jeopardize his future earnings, or his earlier successful name, by having "flops" produced? Mr Shaw is too clever for that. Why, it is one of the things he has criticized in others. He at least knows his limitations.
Oh, Mr Shaw, why couldn't you be honest? Why did you have to criticize our American film producers and our American public just because your picture did not go well? Why for once were you not honest with yourself and say, "Well, perhaps I'm not so smart"? Why not at least be consistent? But I can see the reason.
I trust, Mr Shaw, that you
can take it
as well as give it. Most successful men can, and that you have
been a success I do not question.
Take all of this, then, from one who admires some things in you, who dislikes other things, and who knows that, should you wish to, you are capable of being one of the greatest influences for good in the whole wide world.
0715 J F von Sternberg answers his criticisms of Amer pictures; calls him antiquated
3/3/31 Bernard Shaw got his answer today from Hollywood, and Theodore Dreiser, linked with "other so-called literary giants," came in for mention in verbal fireworks set off by the Irish playwright in his reply yesterday to an American criticism of his English-made talking picture of his play How He Lied To Her Husband.
"Bernard Shaw is antiquated and old-fashioned," said Josef von Sternberg, the film director, who led the attack. "He is operating, thinking, talking and writing in terms of the last century. He emptied himself twenty years go, and that also applies to many of the so-called literary giants - in particular, Theodore Dreiser."
Von Sternberg, who began production today on the American novelist's "American Tragedy," would offer no personal reasons for special mention of Dreiser, who by terms of the sale of film rights to his book to Paramount two years ago for $150,000 was entitled to read the screen adaptation before production.
Samuel Haffenstein, the screen writer who prepared the treatment, was meeting Dreiser in New Orleans to show him the script for the first time, von Sternberg said. The director implied that Dreiser represented "the superior attitude" toward movies affected by many, including Shaw, "who know nothing about screen requirements." He said that portions of the Shaw picture which he had seen were "pretty terrible." In reply to Shaw's remark yesterday that the American movie makers can do things "after they have been shown how," he said: "Hollywood has absolutely nothing to learn in motion pictures from any European country, neither from Russia nor Germany, and least of all from England. I am European-born, but all I know of pictures I learned in America."
Other Hollywood directors took exception to Shaw's criticism, while some were inclined to Edwin Carewe's opinion that it all "proves again the Mr Shaw is the world's greatest jokester."
Tod Browning, pointing to Hollywood's box-office successes, remarked that "if Hollywood pictures kept as many people out of theaters as Shaw's pictures in the British Empire, the entire industry would have to close in thirty days."
Mack Sennett, veteran comic maker, said: "Don't pass the buck to Hollywood."
John Stahl declared that "because Shaw is unable at his age to learn the technique of a new art form which has arisen while he was growing old and out of date, he would insist that the new art be limited to his own medium."
Fred Niblo and Wesley Ruggles emphasized that interest lags when motion stops, no matter how brilliant "the photographed dialogue."
Clarence Brown, director of Greta Garbo's recent pictures, commented that even Shaw himself might get tired of a picture "projecting drama to the brain through the ear alone."
There's not a word of truth in it. American experts insist on
frequent changes of scene and long intervals of silence during which
the film is a movie and not a talkie. I have repeatedly challenged
them to produce my plays on the screen just as they are produced on
the stage. They declared it impossible. They could work only on
condition of being allowed to adapt the play to their technique
instead of adapting their technique to the play. British
International Pictures accepted the challenge and achieved the feat
that Hollywood found impossible. How He Lied To Her Husband
was selected because it pushed the test to the utmost. But
Americans will do it very well when they've got over their first
shock. They always do when shown the way.
Hollywood doesn't think so but we have proved it. Real dramatic entertainment in the talkies must conform to the same rules as on the stage. Some technical conditions are different. You can spend money on the screen, you cant on the stage; but finally the test is whether the play is a good play or a bad play.
0713 Calls C Chaplin Genius
2/28/31 Charlie Chaplin's London tonight gave his "City Lights" such a rapturous reception that the little comedian said he would write it all down some day in the book of his reminiscences. First nighters whose memories went back thirty-five years could remember nothing like it. It was a welcome divided between Chaplin, who sat in the dress circle with Bernard Shaw on one side of him and Lady Astor on the other, and the film itself.
"The little fellow is a genius whom none of us has properly appreciated," said Shaw afterward, and he was merely echoing what the first-night crowd felt. Certainly Londoners left no doubt in Chaplin's mind that he is their hero. It might have been Armistice Night outside the Dominion Theater, where the film was having the first European showing. Thousands stood in the drenching rain waiting for a glimpse of him and the police and ticketholders were helpless in the crush until he had made his appearance. Inside the theater hundreds crowded in front of the stage until they spied him shaking hands with Shaw and waving at the crowd.
At the end of the film, when the laughing was over and women w ere still weeping at the closing scenes, Chaplin walked out alone on the large empty stage. "It would be silly to say how much I feel all this emotion," he said earnestly. "This has been a wonderful triumph for me, coming home to my own country like this. Some day, perhaps, when I have a few more gray hairs I may sit down quietly and write it all down in a book about my life."
The film critics write with wonder not only of his pantomimic genius but of his directing, which never overemphasizes what might otherwise become tawdry. His handling of Virginia Cherrill, who plays the blind girl, is praised as much as his own clowning. Above all, the reviewers are happy that Chaplin has not made his film a talkie.
0712 Calms C Chaplin at Lady Astor's luncheon
2/26/31 Charlie Chaplin met
Shaw today at the home of Viscountess Astor. The film comedian said
he was "very nervous" at the prospect of being
introduced to the great writer.
"I was frightened on my way to the luncheon," he said, "but as soon as I got there the warmth of Shaw's personality put me perfectly at ease. I've always been interested in Shaw and read most of his plays, but he is quite different from what I had supposed. We talked about pictures, and the conversation drifted to world economics."
After the luncheon Chaplin, Shaw, Lady Astor and Amy Johnson, British flier, posed for photographers. Then Chaplin rushed off for dinner at the country home of Winston Churchill.
0711 Predicts universal rule of dictatorships if parliamentary govt on English model continues
2/25/31 The Third Reich owes its existence and its vogue solely to the futility of liberal parliamentarianism on the English model. What we need now is positive, efficient state control and initiative everywhere. And what we get is resistance to the state, obstruction and endless talk about liberty which is 200 years out of date.
Hence, we are being swept into the dust pan by steel helmets, fascists, dictators, military counsels and everything else that represents disgusted reaction against our obsolescence and weakness. The remedy is to reform our political constitutions and to set to work on our social problems with new and effective political machinery to outbid the Third Reich in efficiency and rapidity of social change. If we do this the steel helmets will melt in the sun. If not, no eloquence about democracy and no protest in the name of liberty will help us in the least. We shall simply be kicked out of the way and it will serve us right.
0710 Lr on his tirade against H Irving
2/15/31 To the Dramatic Editor: The old saying that "there is no fool like an old fool" would certainly apply to G. B. Shaw in his latest tirade against the late Henry Irving. It is surprising that Shaw could harbor such an ancient grudge, because his dislike for Irving is little else than a personal matter, and has nothing to do with the actor's contemporary art. Before Shaw became known as a dramatist he solicited both Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in regard to the acceptance of his own plays for production at the Lyceum Theater. Why did he do this? Was he so anxious to improve their art? It is hardly reasonable to believe so. Also if Irving was as archaic in his methods as Shaw would have us believe, would Irving have proved suitable for the advanced Shavian roles? To quote Shaw, "Irving was fifty years behind the times," and taking for granted that Shaw was twenty-five years ahead of his, how could the actor have bridged the distance of seventy-five years without making both himself and the dramatist ridiculous?
We are simply left to believe that Shaw was greedy for the Irving audiences, a following that Irving had built up through years of untiring effort. Then we have to take into consideration the audiences themselves. Were they ready for Shaw? Did they want him? Evidently Irving thought not, and cannot be blamed for his judgement, because it was his judgment in the past that put him where he was, the greatest English actor of his generation. The actor's art is only transitory at best. Even ill health can upset his whole career, whereas a playwright can go on writing his plays in bed. Collectively the actor and dramatist both belong to the theater, but as individual artists they are often widely apart.
All great artists are egotists. It is their peculiar brand of ego that places them apart from their fellow-men, and Shaw is one of the finest living examples, so why blame Irving for his? Although Duse approved of Gordon Craig's settings, she discarded them after a few performances. It was the old story that the audiences came to see the actress and not innovations in scenic design. Occasionally the egos coincide and that is, indeed, a fortunate state of affairs, but by no means common. Irving may have lacked foresight as far as dramatic literature was concerned, but he had learned the art of acting, and was too busy building up his own experience to indulge in long rest periods for the sake of pioneering among the playwrights. The actor cannot both build up his acting art and go scouring the countryside for new dramatists. The audiences and subsidized theaters must do it for him, the audiences by refusing to see that actor in trash, and the subsidized theaters by changing the popular taste. But such a theatrical Utopia, even today, is a long way off.
The great personalities in
profession, with Irving as an example, Shaw puts under the
heading of "Magicians and Enchantresses, Cagliostros and
Circes." What a splendid description, if it were true, because
that is exactly what the theater needs - enchantment! We have too
many crooks and wisecracks, and too much jazz to know what a Magician
or Circe means. As time moves on, the actor's art becomes a memory
and later a myth. It so happens that Shaw's particular talent is to
explode myths, and his attack on Irving may be another of his loud
reports. In Shaw's younger days, when he tried exploding Shakespear
one of his remarks read, "Shakespear borrowed his moralities,
whereas Shaw invented his." The venerable gentleman must
regret this youthful epigram today since so many of his own
inventions are not old-fashioned. Shakespear, however, is still
alive, for his art does not rest on passe moralities or exploded
myths, and so let Shakespear make his own magic retort, "Age
cannot wither nor custom stale (my) infinite variety."
0709 Lr on grammatical error
2/11/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: Quoting from The New York Times of today, and sub-quoting the infallible Bernard Shaw, I crave light on the subject: "Astrophysics have become enormously popular perhaps because of the gorgeous mendacity to which they lend themselves."
Granting a modicum of
which this science is subject, I have found nobody except the
immortal G. B. S who indulged in mendacity to the extent of
classifying the name of the science as plural. He not only
relegates it to the plural number, but, in order to carry out
the impression, employs plural verbs to substantiate his
understanding of the word. I always supposed in the case of Mr Shaw
"the king can do no wrong," but when he offers such a faux
pas to readers, my faith begins to wane.
Geneva Viola Wolcott
0708 Favors ending of representation of univs in Parliament, and disfranchisement of holders of univ degrees
2/8/31 Great Britain's electoral reform measure now pending in the House of Commons is the sixth in the last ninety-nine years. Unlike the previous measures it will not increase the number of voters but will change the machinery for choosing members of Parliament by substituting an alternate vote for the present system. If the bill is enacted into law it will abolish the ancient rights of British universities granted by James I in 1603 by which they have had special representation of their own in the House Of Commons.
The justification offered by the Labor Government for now abolishing this privilege is that it is not democratic and contrary to the spirit of the age. The burden of protests of the Conservatives against the change is that the universities have become so democratic themselves they are catching up with the rest of the country and should be left undisturbed in possession of the favor they have enjoyed more than 300 years. The Liberals are inclined to sidestep this phase of the question because they hope to increase their representation by means of this bill and are doing nothing to jeopardize its passage.
Lecky, the historian, another Irishman, took the other end of the matter fifty years ago when a similar attack was being made on the universities' privilege, but what he said then is today's chief argument against this feature of the present bill. "It would expel from Parliament,' said Lecky, 'the small class of members who represent in an eminent degree the intelligence and knowledge diffused throughout the country, who from the manner of their election are almost certain not to be members of a political party and independent characters who for that very reason are especially obnoxious to demagogues."
In the Labor party the opinion is that Lecky was as wide of the mark as Shaw. Since the franchise was given to Cambridge and Oxford by King James in 1603 it has been extended to the Scottish universities, the University of Wales, Queens University in Belfast, London University and the combined English universities not otherwise provided for. Altogether these institutions have twelve seats in the House Of Commons for an aggregate electorate of about 120,000 voters, all of whom are graduates and eligible to vote, no matter in what part of the world they may be, either by mail or by proxy or in person for the candidates of their respective universities. This gives the university Member Of Commons an average constituency of about 10,000 voters, whose unanimous support he is almost sure of without a contest. He is a 'sheltered' candidate. But the ordinary Member of Commons represents about 60,000 constituents, and has to fight a rival candidate to win his election.
The Socialists cannot see that the Tory members, who invariably have most of these special places in Commons, any longer live up to Lecky's ideals of 'political purity and independent character.' Neither will the Labor benches admit the university members any longer have a monopoly of eminence in such intelligence and knowledge as may be diffused throughout the country in the year 1931.
"Elgar's music holds the same position in England as Beethoven's in Germany," Mr Shaw said, "and the vulgarity of his more popular tunes is the vulgarity of Handel's 'See the Conquering Hero' or the finale of Beethoven's Fifth."
Sir Edward's best know work is the "Pomp and Circumstance" series.
0706 Lr on supposed opposition to filming of his plays
1/25/31 To the Editor of The New York Times: Bernard Shaw's supposed opposition to the filming of his plays has grown into something of a legend. Endless stories there are which would lead us to believe that this inimitable Irishman flamed with indignation at the suggestion of such desecration of his brain children. We are told that the irrepressible bearded satyr capitulated only when a British producer agreed to render Shaw's playful bit of bombast, How He Lied to Her Husband, into a "talkie" under the personal supervision of the reputedly (but really not) frightening champion of dialogue writers. The Times critic apparently holds to this belief in his review of the picture.
But the idea is erroneous. With all his characteristic ridicule of motion pictures, Shaw finds in them - in the stupidest of them - a childish delight. Often I have seen him enjoying himself in London cinemas. That he regards the screen as a medium for infantile intelligence, however, must be conceded. But this would not prejudice the sage of the Adelphi Terrace that was, for he is pretty much of a big, prattling, boyish show-off, and a brilliant and delightful one.
The fact is that Shaw long
have yielded to the picturization of his plays had the producers been
sufficiently interested. Since the advent of the "talkies"
he has been keen to have his work appear upon the screen. But
without success until now, incredible as that may seem. I know that
Shaw's most popular play - and the one most suitable for screen
purposes - was offered to all the leading film companies in Hollywood
- and rejected.
0705 His film, How He Lied to Her Husband, a disappointment in London
1/13/31 Bernard Shaw's first talkie, a three-reel playlet, How He Lied to Her Husband, which was shown in London tonight, is a dull, disappointing effort, according to the British film critics. It was produced at Elstree, the English Hollywood, by Cecil Lewis under the supervision of the author, who also chose the cast. The picture, according to The Daily Mirror, "only proved mildly amusing and hardly raised a laugh." The Shaw picture was a "curtain raiser," preceding the latest Ernst Lubitsch production, "Monte Carlo," in which Jack Buchanan makes his first talkie appearance. Buchanan, who is popular with American audiences, apparently scored where Shaw failed.
Sir Barry Jackson said recently that a new Shaw piece might be expected for production at the Malvern Festival next Summer.
0703 Feature article on letters to E Terry; por
1/4/31 An intensely dramatic situation is revealed - a fantastic association of three great names, of three extraordinary and extraordinarily different personalities - by the announcement of the existence (and proximate appearance in print) of a large number of intimate letters exchanged between Ellen Terry and Bernard Shaw. The third name, inevitably and deeply involved, is that of Sir Henry Irving, Miss Terry's partner for three-and-twenty years in the Lyceum Theater, London.
The Lyceum was the set of an absolute monarchy which ruled the English stage during all the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The monarch there was Irving. Indeed, the English stage of Shakespear, of classic drama, of romantic and macabre tragedy was Irving. That great gentleman and great actor, hand-forged himself out of John Brodribb, a Somersetshire farmer's lad, born to nothing at all - except a mighty will and a consuming ambition - nearly sixty years before. The Queen delighted to honor him with knighthood - the first of all his trade. Mr Gladstone, the Prime Minister, beetle-browed, and looking very like an eagle, sat in the wings of his theater (protected by a crimson curtain) and watched his players perform. The rich and the great, the beautiful, the witty and the wise were his guests on first nights and at supper in the famous paneled Beef Steak Room
Ellen Terry was his leading lady - had been from the beginning of his reign. She was the most famous and glamourous actress on the English-speaking stage. Painters and poets, statesmen and men of letters, ranging roughly from G F Watts to Whistler and Oscar Wilde, had petted her and adored her since she was a little girl in her tiny teens. Though the middle of the last decade of the nineteenth century found her getting along toward 50, the spell of the grace that pervaded her still held captive the imagination of the public of two worlds. The pair - Irving and Terry - were then at the climax of the great adventure of their joint career, and with that joint career in most men's minds was entangled the entire destiny of the theater as the nineteenth century saw the theater.
Into the picture walks Shaw, an upstart (he calls it "downstart") Irishman who had come to London to make his way at 20 and was at this time around 40. He was not yet even a recognized playwright, though he had written half a dozen stage pieces, generally regarded as unactable, and about the same number of unsuccessful novels. He was known as a critic of music and the drama, and as a Socialist spouter. He proclaimed himself a vegetarian and refused to wear evening clothes to the theater, as his betters were content to do. He was the sworn evangelist of the "new theater," which he identified with the cult of Ibsen. He was the incessant and relentless foe of the Lyceum regime - Irving's regime - and all it stood for; as he said himself, "battering at it in preparation for its subsequent downfall."
The entire operation to which he devoted his brilliant armament of aggressive talent, he has described with characteristic objectivity. It was a siege laid to the nineteenth century theater by an author who had to cut his way into it at the point of the pen and throw some of the defenders into the moat. In the midst of this siege Irving's leading lady and the arch-enemy of Irving's dominion "developed a perfect fury for writing to each other" I quote Miss Terry's own words, as set down in her autobiography.
"Sometimes" - again the words are Miss Terry's - "the letters were on business, sometimes they were not." In either case, so much at least is known about the letters, though the actual text is withheld - they expressed a warmth of mutual regard which justifies the literary description of them as "love letters," profuse in endearments. Honi soit - because the correspondence was at its warmest between 1894 and 1896 (the years of Shaw's active service as dramatic critic and the last years also on Irving's personal control of the Lyceum), and the correspondents never met face to face until 1900.
What is important is that in the case of the Lyceum Mr Shaw's pen point was doubly employed. It was slashing away in open assault in the columns of The Saturday Review, in which Shaw's criticisms appeared. It was busy with peaceful penetration within the castle walls. The fascinating had fascinated Ellen (there seems no reason to doubt that both Ellen and Bernard were fascinated) received not merely ardent love letters - "literary" love letters if you will - but manuscripts and proofs of plays. Especially there was one play, The Man of Destiny. Thus is partly explained why "some of the letters were on business."
It has been no secret these many years that Mr Shaw wrote this, his sixth play, with a view of getting it performed by Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry; that he designed that part of Napoleon and the Strange Lady with a cunning eye to the aptitudes of these two pre-eminent players. Edward Gordon Craig, Miss Terry's son, has lately set forth with considerable acrimony some of the reasons which led Irving to reject the play. Miss Terry herself, as long ago as 1908 (when she publicly confessed the Shaw correspondence), told us that it was at her request that Irving considered Mr Shaw's piece at all. But we must wait for the letters to learn just how insistent was that request and how busy was Mr Shaw's pen in stirring up Miss Terry's interest in his behalf, while the official dealings were on with the head of the Lyceum management.
Miss Terry says of Irving that "his soul was not more firmly in his body than in the theater." Her son, who served eight years in the Lyceum company, writes that Irving "thought only as an actor, for himself and of himself"; that "in his theater he was what Napoleon was in the midst of his army"; that, as the ruler of the English theater since 1871, "what he cared most for - cared solely for - was the thing he had come to rule." Since Shaw, as we have seen, was out openly to destroy the theater which Irving ruled and loved with all his passionate soul, since his avowed purpose was to thrust Ibsen and Shaw into the place of Shakespear and the tinkered plays which Irving had hand-fitted to himself, Irving's instinctive attitude of "Oh, Pshaw" when it came to a Shaw play - and a mere curtain-raiser trifle at that - is easy to imagine.
It hardly helped the situation for Shaw to have won an advocate in the leading lady whom Irving had chosen precisely because she possessed the qualities which he lacked and to whom he had remained faithful for twenty years, while other actor-managers changed their lady stage partners between tea and dinner.
Picture, now, Sir Henry seated at his managerial desk after some expert wheedling by one of the women most infallibly equipped to please of all the women in the round world. Sir Henry is face to face with the script of a play by Mr Shaw, who had contrived to please that woman exceedingly - to capture her imagination with his winged words. Meantime, almost every issue of The Saturday Review contains expression from Mr Shaw's pen like the following (he is speaking of Ellen Terry, of course): "When I think of the originality and modernity of the talent she revealed twenty years ago and its remorseless waste ever since in 'supporting' an actor who prefers 'The Iron Chest' to Ibsen, my regard for Sir Henry Irving cannot blind me to the fact that it would have been better for us twenty-five years ago to have tied him up in a sack with every existing copy of Shakespear and dropped him into the crater of the nearest volcano."
As a serious man, with a religious regard for the art to which he had devoted himself - the art of which he and Shakespear were the keystones at the moment - how otherwise could Sir Henry look at the author of these words and of the script before him than as a dangerous radical or an extravagant ass? Probably he devoted Shaw to a double damnation as both. And yet, there was his partner Ellen - and a most loyal, helpful partner she had been and was still - converted to this jackanapes as a proper playwright for her and for him to interpret. Craig says that Shaw's copious stage directions in the text annoyed Sir Henry. The jackanapes seemed to presume to teach the king of the theater his business. But, as Craig does not fail to notice, many or most of these stage directions were the result of close observation by the author of good stage business - much of it sir Henry's own stage business. So that this annoyance (Henry being a highly intelligent person and an infinitely patient craftsman) was not perhaps too powerfully contributory to the decision not to play Shaw's Napoleon to the Strange Lady who so mightily intrigued Ellen.
As a matter of fact, Shaw's attacks on the Lyceum policy were motived not only by his outraged sense of the injury to the theater as he would have it - by the sinful waste of Ellen Terry upon the fustian which, Ellen herself says, Irving "reveled." Shaw thought - and proclaimed - that Irving's own great talents were squandered in being applied to anything less than Ibsen. It will not do to forget that at this time Shaw seemed to proclaim that Ibsen was the quintessence of the drama, while to Irving the Old Man of Norway appeared more nearly what he seems to many of us now, a passing, if important, phase of the drama, and a little dank with local color both in time and place, at that. It is worth remembering here that if Irving was first and last and actor, Shaw is, and always has been, first and last a journalist.
Also Irving was to the public a demigod and subtly affected by that fact. In Ellen Terry's words, "superfine incense was burned before him" and by very great persons. His passion was the stage, which had made him what he was, and yet, because he had made himself on the stage and had bent the older tradition of acting not a little to his will, he was a very practical man of the theater. He cherished no illusions about his business. When Shaw flicked him on the raw, he suffered because he did know his business. It was intolerably galling to have this impudent but uncannily perspicacious person at one moment recalling sharply to the public the fact that Irving was really a first-chop modern actor and next seizing the occasion offered by the Lyceum's lavish production of "Don Quixote" (in 1895) and Irving's first appearance as the Knight of La Mancha to write this:
"Some actors when they have to be unnaturally dignified on the stage cannot relieve themselves by being ridiculous in private life, since the good sense of their private characters makes this impossible to them. When they can bear it no longer they must make themselves ridiculous on the stage or burst. No actor suffers from the tyranny of this grotesque necessity more than Mr Irving."
In spite of Shaw's attitude of delendum est Lyceum, I find myself forced back upon Shaw's analysis for the real quality, the great quality, of the great man he so actively helped to pull down and was quite willing to chuck into the moat. "A curious lack of connoisseurship in literature" is in Irving not really curious, considering his self-education as an actor. Did not Ellen say "he reveled in fustian'? This lack (says Shaw) "would disable Sir Henry Irving seriously if he were an interpretive actor. But it is happily the fault of a great quality - the creative quality. He is as incapable of acting another man's plays as Wagner was of setting another man's libretto." When he played Shakespear, he used the bard's lines - as many of them as suited his purpose - but the character he played was not Shakespear's creation but his own.
Irving's Shylock was confessed a great achievement. But it was "not the Jew that Shakespear drew." Conspicuous failure in certain other Shakespear parts was inevitable because "Shakespear at his highest pitch cannot be set aside by any mortal actor, however gifted." According to Shaw, Lear "smashed" Sir Henry. On the other hand, Sir Henry got tremendous effects in plays by persons of no importance - plays of no importance, except what Irving gave them. Here "the author's futility is the opportunity for the actor's masterpiece" So "obsolete tomfooleries like 'Robert Macaire' and blank verse by Wills and Comyns-Carr" served Irving and served him well in the intervals of Shakespear. But - Shaw returns to the main attack - "what a heartless waste of an exquisite talent" - Ellen Terry's - "what a theater for a woman of genius to be attached to! And all the time a stream of splendid women's parts pouring out of Ibsen's volcano and minor craters!"
Here in Irving's mind you get back to the nub of the matter: The Man of Destiny, ejected by a minor crater (as yet) is rejected by the Lyceum. It seems that we have here a state of dramatic tension in which Shaw and Irving would have rejoiced equally - on the stage. Shaw enjoyed it off stage, though he was not a little peevish over the rejection of his little masterpiece. Irving enjoyed it much less - though he rejected the masterpiece.
At an acute moment (it was in 1896 or 1897), Ellen Terry was around 48 years old. One of a large brood of children of a couple of trouping players (the mother Scotch, the father Irish), she had begun her stage career at 8 years old, enacting with Charles Kean at the Princess Theater, in a little red dress, the little Prince Mamillus in A Winter's Tale. Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales were present upon her very first night. Her wages were 15 shillings a week, which went to her parents. All she got was sixpence a week pocket money and was well content. Yet on Christmas night (in a home-made frock) she dance with the Duke of Cambridge. Playing Puck next, she caught her toe in a trap and the legend grew up later that a pale young man rushed on and released and consoled her - and that his name was Henry Irving. Ellen says this is pure fiction.
When she was 13 years old she had played many grown-up parts, besides Cupid in a tunic so short that it shocked the fastidious - for Ellen was a very tall girl. Her first "really beautiful dress" was worn as Titania at about this age and was designed by Edward William Godwin, to whose house in Bristol she and her elder sister Kate used to go to very proper parties. Afterward it was Godwin who was the father of her children. She was married before she was quite 16 to George Frederick Watts, an elderly person, who love to paint her in Joan of Arc's armor and otherwise, and in whose house she met Gladstone, Disraeli and Browning and became a pet of Tennyson. Tennyson taught her the names of the wild flowers, but she really preferred to play at Knights of the Round Table with the laureate's big boys.
Before a year of married life was out she was sent back home to her mother - so she puts it and admits that it hurt. However, she comforted herself by tubbing her little brothers and sisters. Tom Taylor, dramatist, editor of Punch and critic of The London Times, was her steadfast friend - he was the man through whom she met Watts. Taylor got Ellen back on the stage just about the time D G Rossetti was painting the beautiful red-haired actress, Miss Herbert, as "The Blessed Damosel," and buying and tethering in his lawn in Chelsea, a white bull, because "he had eyes like Janie Morris." These are the things that Ellen sets down. They are set down again here because they help paint Ellen's picture for the reader - the picture of the woman who, among many others, fascinated G. B. S.
In 1867 she acted with Irving (whom she met then for the first time), playing Katherine to his Petruchio. The strange, pale young man liked to hover over the piano while the tall girl played. He was very courteous about giving her his placed in the bread-line on paydays. But he meant nothing to her, nor she to him, she insists. He suggested a "dash of Werther with flourishes of Jingle," not at all the finished, controlled, urbane man of the world he had become when he ruled at the Lyceum a decade later and asked her to be his leading lady.
About at this point (1886) she left the stage for what she calls a "six-year vacation." She spent that vacation in Hertfordshire, in a little place in the county where she kept house on £3 a week, and where her children, Edith Allen and Edward Gordon Craig, were born. In 1874, when he was out with the hounds one day, Charles Reade, all in pink, jumped over a hedge almost into her pony cart. "My God, it's Nelly!" he cried - and offered her £40 a week to play Philipps Chester in his success, "The Wandering Heir," then running in London with Johnstone Forbes-Robertson already in the cast or presently to join it.
Thus Ellen Terry returned to the stage, which she had left so suddenly and so secretly that the body of a fair, tall young girl fished up out of the river was actually identified as hers by her father and brothers - though her mother knew better. In 1875 she was playing Portia in Squire Bancroft's revival of "The Merchant of Venice," for which Godwin furnished the settings - and much admired they were. In 1876 she sat spellbound in Charles Coghlan's box and watched the now nearly perfected Henry Irving play King Philip of Spain in the costume in which Whistler has painted him - though he himself, with what Ellen calls "a strange affection for the wrong pictures of himself," preferred the "weak, handsome picture by Millais, which held the mirror up principally to the refinement of his features." He would have none at all of the portrait Sargent painted.
Two years later, after she had played Oliver Goldsmith's Olivia (in the Wills version) for John Hare and married an actor-recruit from the ranks of Crimean War veterans - Charles Wardell, whose stage name was Kelley - Henry Irving took Ellen Terry on as leading lady. First, he had to get rid of Mrs Bateman and Isabel Bateman, widow and daughter of Colonel Bateman, the American under whose management he had originally come to the Lyceum, About this Ellen says: "He had to be a little cruel, not for the last time, however, in a career devoted unremittingly and unrelentingly to his art and his ambition."
Thus began twenty years' great adventure of the pair as co-stars paramount of the stage in England and America - the great adventure into which in 1892 Mr Shaw intruded. This he did when he answered a letter from Ellen requesting his good offices for a musical young woman, a protegee of hers, for Shaw was at that time still musical critic of The World. He answered Ellen's letter with one which so intrigues the Queen of Hearts of the stage that she plunged into that "fury of letter writing" which was by no means one-sided. At the height of it, letters were exchanged every day - often long letters, or ardent letters, or both - though there was much about The Man of Destiny; and Shaw undertook to coach Ellen (at long distance) in the part of Imogen, which she has somewhere set down as the "only inspired performance" of her later years. Add this item, of his enemy's coaching his leading woman right under his nose, to the situation outlined in the beginning of this article and I think the poignancy of the affair to Sir Henry was nearly complete.
Ellen must have seen "Bernie's" face across the footlights. She took good care at this period not to meet him, as she says, with apologies to his vegetarian sensibilities, "in the flesh." But Shaw did come to Ellen's house, while she was at the theater, and her daughter met him there and a Miss Satty Fairchild from America, who reported that he'd coquette with a bit of string - which sounds kittenish. He read a play to them - I think it was Arms and the Man. The impression is of the great G B S as a sort of male minx in this adventure, which was relieved by philanderings in The Saturday Review critiques and otherwise with Mrs Patrick Campbell and Miss Janet Achurch, and later with Miss Gertrude Kingston, who played his Great Catherine.
The fury of writing abated notably when Shaw married, in 1898, Miss Charlotte Payne-Townsend, whom he had met two years before and who figures considerably in the correspondence. When Sir Henry's star began to wane, beginning with a serious injury to his knee while he was playing Richard III in 1897. Ellen commanded Shaw in no uncertain terms to lay off Henry, because he was a sick man. When it came to the maternal instinct, Ellen was a very lioness with her cubs. Yet it would be hard to say that the steady pressure of the Shaw influence during those years did not contribute to the break between the two old partners, which came when, in 1902, Miss Terry declined to play in "Dante," which Irving was not to be deterred from doing. In that year she played with Irving in the provinces, to be sure, but in London with Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty's. In that year, too, Shaw sent her a characteristically Shavian letter. It was about the play he had written expressly for her several years earlier, using her letters as "copy" for the drawing in her image of the leading character, Lady Cicely Waynflete. For at that time they still had not met. No part in this play was originally designed for Sir Henry. Shaw had abandoned that part of his program which consisted in breaking into the Lyceum. The Lyceum was on the toboggan anyway, having been turned over to a limited liability company. But to the letter, which presents Mr Shaw's compliments to Miss Terry and proceeds:
"Mr Bernard Shaw has been
approached by Mrs Langtry with a view to the immediate and splendid
production of Captain Brassbound's Conversion.
Mr Bernard Shaw, with the last flash of a trampled-out love, has repulsed Mrs Langtry with a petulance bordering on brutality.
Mr Bernard Shaw has been actuated in this ungentlemanly and unbusinesslike course by an angry desire to seize Miss Ellen Terry by the hair and make her play Lady Cicely.
Mr Bernard Shaw would be glad to know whether Miss Ellen Terry wishes to play Martha at the Lyceum instead.
Mr Bernard Shaw will go to the length of keeping a minor part open for Sir Henry Irving when "Faust" fails, if Miss Terry desires it."
By this time Shaw had become impatient. Ellen, though no longer tied up with Irving, had been a long time getting at the play he had written for her. He was not above dealing a double blow below the belt - one at the failing Henry, the other implicit in the suggestion that though Ellen is no longer young enough to play Margaret (which Ellen herself confessed), she may fall back on a secondary part of a fat clown woman. Miss Terry had actually met G. B. S. two years before at the Stage Society's presentation of Brassbound (with Henry Irving's son Laurence in the cast), and found him "quite unlike what I imagined from his letters." She lost most of her money the next year trying to run the Imperial Theater and show off her son, Gordon Craig, as producer and scenic artist, Ibsen's The Vikings was on the bill as a tribute to Shaw, perhaps; Much Ado About Nothing as a Shaw gesture of Irish loyalty to Irving.
When Irving fell ill in the Spring before his death, which occurred just after a performance of Beckett at the Bradford on Oct 13, 1905, Ellen dashed down to Wolverhampton, where he was, and entered his hotel room with a bunch of yellow daffodils. Some years before she had returned from her mother's death-bed and found her room filled with daffodils by Henry. "To make it look like sunshine," he said.
Henry meant a great deal to Ellen - in spite of Shaw. His was "the kind of fine acting like the purest steel produced by the perpetual fight against difficulties," and his "strength was in quietness and confidence." So ran her verdict. But she looked at him with open eyes: "he had," she proceeds, "precisely the qualities which I never found likable. He was an egotist - an egotist of a great type, never a mean one. All his faults sprang from egotism, which is in one sense, after all, only another name for greatness.
"So absorbed was he in his own achievements that he was unable or unwilling to appreciate the achievement of others . It was never any pleasure to him to see the performances of other actors and actresses. He has none of what I may call my bourgeois qualities - the love of being in love [Shaw, on the contrary, was tremendously in love with being in love], the love of home, the dislike of solitude. But he never pretended." Also he was long on patience, kindness and courtesy. When Ellen saw him buried in Westminster Abbey she remembered that at Tennyson's funeral in the same place "no face there looked anything like Henry's." She missed the face sharply. But she thought "how Henry would have liked it" - this grand funeral of his.
In March of the next year - the year of her stage jubilee - Ellen did finally play Lady Cicely Waynflete in Granville barker's production of Captain Brassbound's Conversion at the Court Theater, London. Shaw was "wonderfully patient at the rehearsals," but Ellen came away to America (where many of us saw Lady Cicely) and married in Pittsburgh James Carew, who played Brassbound. Even then the Shaw correspondence still flickered fitfully along. But Shaw wrote no more parts for "old Ellen" - who so wanted work to do.
Before Henry Irving was cold in his grave Shaw had contributed to a German paper what Miss Terry regarded as a most unkind article on her dead partner. Says Ellen: "The power to sustain is not mine. I cannot even sustain resentments." In 1906, still with twenty years of life ahead of her, for she lived to be 80, she wrote: "I look upon him (Shaw) as a good, kind, gentle creature, whose brainstorms are due to an Irishman's love of a fight; they never spring from malice or anger. He is not a man of convictions. That is one of the charms of his plays - to me at least. One never knows how the cat is really jumping. But it jumps. Bernard Shaw is alive - with nine lives, like that cat."
In this aliveness was, no doubt, the
secret of the spell which he cast upon Ellen for ten years or more -
or, roughly, till she lost the power to keep him bewitched. A
careful reading, after a third of a century, of his admired and
admirable dramatic opinions shows that he was so susceptible to
female fascinations that the philanderer often took possession of the
critic's chair and crowded the critic out. The "fury of
writing" between him and Ellen was a more complex matter.
0702 Advocates secs as wives; sees no need for love
1/4/31 The business relationship probably is a much surer basis for married life than love, Bernard Shaw declared today, commenting upon the assertion by Dr Edward Lyman in a New York lecture that their secretaries make the best wives for professional men. "I don't say that I ever thought of proposing to one of my secretaries," the dramatist said, "but I happen to be already married. There is no need for love to come into the question at all. Taken all around, the doctor's advice seems sound common sense to me. I should think it is a very desirable arrangement. I have known many such marriages to turn out well. The question is whether secretaries would have their employers. If they won't, it is a serious reflection on the employers."