1165 B Russell calls wit armor for sensitivity; sees work dated, article in Va Qrly Rev withheld until after death
waspish wit of the late George Bernard Shaw was developed
as a sensitive man's armor against an intrusive world, in the view of
a friend and observer of the Irish playwright for more than fifty
This explanation of Shaw's behavior came from the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, in a critical appraisal written more than a year ago for the University of Virginia Quarterly Review with the understanding it would be held until after Shaw's death. Shaw succumbed last month at the age of 94 after a fall in his garden in England.
Russell, who received the Nobel Prize for literature early this month, regarded Shaw as 'an incredibly clever' man but not a wise one. He thought Shaw's greatest service was in dispelling humbug by laughter. But he does not regard Shaw's work as deathless, believing the themes are pegged to their time, rather than to eternity.
'When I was young,' Russell said, 'it was considered clever to suggest that the vanity he displayed was a pose. It was, in fact, just as great as he pretended, but he knew how to exhibit it in such a manner that it would seem shrewd to suppose he was putting it on.'
Russell cited a couple of examples of the Shavian style: Shaw was invited with Russell, H G Wells and Swinnerton to meet unofficially with the elder Masaryk who was on a state visit to London. Shaw marched in late, sounded off with "Masaryk, the foreign policy of Czechoslovakia is all wrong." elaborated this theme for a while and walked out without waiting for Masaryk's reply. Another time, Shaw took the center of the stage to explain to a group of scholars the philosophy of a distinguished visitor. The visitor sought to check Shaw on a point and won this response: "My dear fellow, I understand your philosophy much better than you do."
considered psychologically,' Russell said, 'was an almost perfect
example of the shy man with an inferiority complex. When I first
knew him (1896) his shyness was still obvious. He came to my flat on
one occasion to read a new play of his to twenty friends. He was
pale and trembling with stage fright, in spite of the audience being
so small and well disposed.'
'The stories that he used to relate about his family rather bear out this view. I do not vouch for the truth of the stories, only for the fact that he related them. He used to aver that nearly all his family had been drunkards who, as a result of drink, had ultimately become insane and retired to a private lunatic asylum which, according to him, existed mainly for the benefit of the Shaw family.
'The most remarkable of these relatives was the uncle who committed suicide by putting his head into a carpet bag and then shutting it. This uncle almost invariably made his appearance at Shaw's excellent luncheons.'
12/13/50 George Bernard Shaw presented his genius posthumously in a new light today - as the photographer and poet of a charming little "Rhyming Picture Guide" to the beloved hamlet of Ayot St Lawrence where his ashes were scattered last month. Shaw wrote the book in 1949 when he was 93, and boasted at the time that he probably was the oldest active poet-photographer in history. Residents smiled affectionately at the great man as he hobbled around the tiny settlement, miniature camera at the ready.
In deference to Shaw's own wishes the title page reads: "Bernard Shaw's Rhyming Picture Guide"
tour of the village and some of its ninety inhabitants opens with his
own ironwork gateway "Shaw's Corner," and proceeds to the
And to the manor house, where lived Catherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII:
Of his own house Shaw wrote:
His half-humorous lifetime competition with Shakespear crops up in the caption to a photo of his garden:
The guide ends with the lines:
accordance with these lines the Leagrave Press of Luton, publishers
of the thirty-one page booklet, are pricing it at one shilling (14
The booklet will be among the last of Shaw's works to be published. But there still are an unpublished play and some other manuscripts among his effects. Shaw regarded the booklet as his legacy to the ancient village whose chief industry he was, for it will help draw pilgrims to the Shaw shrine - which his home is expected to become.
of the things George Bernard Shaw fought for (beginning in 1901) was
a standard phonetic alphabet which would enable him to translate to
the printed page the "coster English" of the "rather
pretty dahn tahn," the "grave music of good Scotch"
and the "exquisite diphthong with which a New Yorker pronounces
such words as world, bird, etc." For want of such an alphabet,
Mr Shaw had to make do with such makeshifts as the following in
Captain Brassbound's Conversion:
Drinkwater - Bless yr awt, y'cawnt be a pawrit naradys. Waw, the aw seas is wuss pleest not Piccadilly Suckus. If aw was to do orn thet there Hetlentic Howcean the things aw did as a bwoy in the Worterloo Rowd, awd ev maw air cat afore aw could turn maw ed. Pawrit be blaowed! awskink yr pawdn, gavner.
G. B. S. got away with this so long as he was dealing with the cockney Drinkwater. But if he had made Lady Cicely, in the same play, ask for a "cup of cowcow," then Mr Shaw once said, "the entire nation, costers and all, would undoubtedly repudiate any such pronunciation as vulgar and I should have to leave the country."
In the past few weeks a rumor has been going around London that G. B. S. left the major part of his estate - estimated at $250,000 to $1,000,000 - to carry on the fight for a phonetic alphabet. His will is to be probated soon. Last week an unknown person paid the shilling (14 cents) the law requires, and petitioned the court to suspend probate on the will. The petition rested on the ground that the suspected legacy to further a phonetic alphabet would "gravely affect the majesty of the English language and would have serious repercussions on English literature."
1162 Ct protest filed against reptd will provision of funds to further phonetic alphabet
12/5/50 An unnamed defender of the English language has filed a court protest against the will of George Bernard Shaw. There has been speculation that the playwright left the bulk of his money to further a pet project, a revised alphabet to make written English completely phonetic. The terms of the will are still secret, but the unknown objector has assumed that the speculation is correct. He has petitioned the Probate Court to suspend probate of the will on the ground that it would "gravely affect the majesty of the English language, and would have serious repercussions on English literature." The petition asserts that this would be contrary to public policy.
1161 Ed on religious views correction
error of transmission in a dispatch from London led to an error in an
editorial on this page last Saturday commenting on a passage from the
will of George Bernard Shaw. Shaw wrote: "My religious
convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more
specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative
evolution." The final word came through the ether as
"revolution" instead of the "evolution" made
famous in the preface to Back to Methuselah and elsewhere
1160 Ed on religious views
revelation of passages from the will of George Bernard Shaw from on
Thursday when his ashes were scattered in the garden of his home
should answer the controversial problem of his religious beliefs. This
is the decisive passage:
"My religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative revolution. I desire that no public monument or work of art or inscription or sermon or ritual service commemorating me shall suggest that I accepted the tenets peculiar to any established church or denomination or take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice."
Shaw was always attaching, always hiding his own true feelings and even changing them from decade to decade, however true they were. But this is one pronouncement that will not be changed and it tells us that George Bernard Shaw was religious but believed in no formal religion. If Lady Astor, his lifelong friend, wants to call him (as she does in an article in The London Observer on Nov 5) a Christian, she is entitled to do so because of "his purity, his patience, his great kindness and charity, his moral courage and his control of the carnal by the spiritual."
That is a subjective opinion. Shaw did not call himself a Christian. He wrote plays and prefaces of a profoundly religious nature - Androcles and the Lion, Heartbreak House, Back to Methuselah, Saint Joan - but they could have been written by a man belonging to one or another of the great ethical religions. He was not an atheist in spite of what he said, for he believed in the existence of a creative spiritual force that was, in essence, a divine will and hence predicated the existence of a God.
The doctrine of "creative revolution" that he subscribes to in his will can be traced through many of his works where he searches for a religious purpose in life, and often finds it. Of course, he was continually contradicting himself and spouting opinions, quips and paradoxes from which anything can be proved. In the final analysis one has to shed the aberrations. He never allowed himself or others to be tranquil during his life and it is perhaps too much to expect future generations to allow his perturbed spirit to rest. However, the evidence of his will is going to be hard to ignore. He had a philosophy of life that was essentially religious. More than that one cannot say.
1159 Ashes mixed with wife's and scattered in home garden; will barred Westminster Abbey burial; terms cited
ashes of George Bernard Shaw, who died Nov 2, were scattered in the
garden of his home at Ayot St Lawrence today after an interpretation
of his will had ruled out a burial in Westminster Abbey or any
similar memorial. Shaw's ashes were mingled with those of his
wife, in accordance with his wished, and scattered in a private
ceremony by Dr T C Probyn, who attended the playwright during
his final illness. Only six other persons were present. The third
and fourth clauses of Shaw's will were cited by the public trustee, F
Wyndham Hirst, as the reasons for the decision. One referred to his
wish to have his and his wife's ashes scattered in the garden of
their home, 'unless some other disposal of them should be, in the
opinion of my trustee, more eligible." Clause Four, according
to Mr Hirst, was even more conclusive:
"My religious conviction and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative revolution. I desire that no public monument or work of art or inscription or sermon or ritual service commemorating me shall suggest that I accepted the tenets peculiar to any established church or denomination nor take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice."
Mr Hirst said that, after careful deliberation, it had been decided 'that the feelings of churchmen would be offended if ecclesiastical authorities made any move to allow the burial of his ashes in any religious national shrine.' The rest of Shaw's lengthy will has not been published.
Today's ceremony was carried out in strict secrecy. Shaw's housekeeper, Mrs Alice Laden, did not know it was to take place until the last minute. Only one reporter was present by invitation. Rain fell heavily soon afterward, obliterating the whiteness of the ashes spread around the garden.
1158 S O'Casey tribute
place is a large one in the natural world, and it is expanding, as a
common-sense guide and seer in the way to live and move and have our
being; holding, too, perhaps (certainly to me, Sean O'Casey), a wide
space in the spiritual world as a dramatist, a critic, and as a lover
in the lonelier things of life.
Possibly the venerable figure of Bernard Shaw may some day appear in a panel of glass in an equally venerable cathedral as the lively saint of the machine-age and the social revolution. Maybe he was in a glass panel in some big church nigh a hundred years ago as a young, red-headed warrior saint who had died in battle (for Shaw is a saint, the most original saint present, past or to come); becoming a reincarnation of one impatient at the sleepiness of the church in whose window he stood; angrily watching those who came and went, listening to them chanting praises, not to God but to their own canting imposition of a self-righteous respectability.
Borne out of all patience by indignation at the senseless show, the figure faded from the glass panel and came to life as a little boy running round the genteel slum of Synge Street in Dublin City. Here but the breadth of a slender hand divided Shaw from some of the direct shapes and signs of the poverty-stricken parts of Dublin. Here, as a young man, he must have wandered through some of the corroding streets grouped around St Patrick's Cathedral, right along through the Coombe, as far as the Tenters Fields (where of old-time Dublin's linen was bleached), where white-washed hovels gave a dangerous shelter to many of the hard-pressed Dublin workers and their women. A panorama of dirt and drabness enveloped him, itself enveloped by the enigma which Dubliners called "the will o' God."
Shaw saw that there was desperate disorder in poverty, and he liked order; he saw that there was disease in poverty, and he loved health; he saw that there was death in poverty, and he loved life. So, possibly, in these Dublin streets, the resolve first set itself into the young mind to circumvent this satanic trinity of death, disease and disorder by a fight to abolish poverty forever and a day; and not by being meek and mild about it.
Shaw, a born fighter, will be known and remembered, first as a man of unshakable courage (the rarest, maybe, virtue in the world today). His courage, indeed daring, is shown by his flinging aside a good and safe job in Dublin which he had held for some years and his imperious rush to London, which he knew he couldn't conquer in a day, but would have to spend years before finding even a safe corner of life, enduring hunger and illness, and risking all (except his soul) for the sake of the divine call to go forth and preach a sensible gospel to the yearning, ignorant people, those milled in primary schools into the recollection of a load of unimportant facts, and those grassed and groomed in the heyday, high-toned universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
There was little or no audience for Shaw in Ireland, but England, packed with a proletarian population, foolish prosperous England (the Englishman so clever in his foolishness), teeming with controversies, attracted Shaw, and he realized that the wide wavelength of London carried his voice far farther than would the narrower one of Dublin. So this crusader, armed with a grand equipment of qualities, set out to conquer, not Jerusalem but London, to call, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance; to send out golden arrows of thought into hypocrisy's breast and humbug's side, each golden arrow tipped with points of stinging steel; to Shaw, as well, that man's petty and insignificant needs are related to the stars. He became the voice of the everlasting republican, the scientific and witty thinker about the needs of man.
As well as being a dramatist of the first rank, and enlightening critic of music and the theater, a philosopher by no means to be neglected, Shaw stands forth and upright as an original theologian. Like most intelligent men, I am interested in religion, in all religions, though, of course, what is called Christianity has been the one that touched me nearest. I have read a good many books about and around religion, but never anything to surpass, for originality and wit, the analyses of Christianity so deftly done by Shaw in the preface to Androcles and the Lion.
There he laughs at the belief that the world is packed with religious people, pointing out that those deeply interested in religion are only those who "are passionately affirming the established religion and those who are passionately attacking it. You never have a nation of millions of Wesleys and one Paine. You have a million of Worldly Wisemans, one Wesley with his small congregation, and one Tome Paine, with his smaller congregation. The people hunger and thirst, not for righteousness, but for rich feeding and comfort and social position. If Savonarola only tells the ladies of Florence that they ought to tear off their jewels and finery and sacrifice them to God, they offer him a Cardinal's hat, and praise him as a saint; but if he induces them to actually do it, they burn him as a public nuisance."
Shaw leads us very simply and very cleverly through a short history of the ways of man with God to an intelligible reading of the gospels. It is a delightful and stimulating tour, with the great man as guide, through the green pastures of Christian ethics, through the thickets of apostolic contradictions; always going forward, often climbing, but glimpsing clearly the sense, the order and the ecstasy of the promised land within the changing conception and practice of modern life.
He presents Jesus as a capable, brave, great and lovable man; one who is fully related to human life, and not a myth that has been changed into a jewel-encrusted painting of an icon. As Shaw says:
"You may doubt whether He ever existed; you may reject Christianity [for any other faith]; and the iconolaters, placidly contemptuous, will only classify you as a free-thinker or a heathen. But if you venture to wonder how Christ would have looked if He had shaved and had His hair cut, or what size in shoes He took, or whether He swore when He stood on a nail in the carpenter's shop, or could not button His robe when He was in a hurry, or whether He laughed over the repartees by which He baffled the priests when they tried to entrap Him into sedition or blasphemy, you will produce an extraordinary dismay and horror among the iconolaters. You will have made the picture come out of its frame, the story become real, with all the incalculable consequences that may flow from this terrifying miracle. The moment it strikes you that Christ is not lifeless, harmless image He has hitherto been to you, but a rallying center for revolutionary, influences which all established states and churches fight, you must look to yourselves, for you have brought the image to life; and the mob may not be able to bear that horror."
Perhaps the mob wouldn't be so startled now, and the awakening of man's conscience regarding his fellow-man's right to work, leisure and education, shown fitfully in some lands, vividly in others, is indicative that the image has left the frame to receive a warm welcome from the people actively engaged in the fight for a finer life and running more steadily in the pursuit of happiness. Not the happiness of mere enjoyment, of the lotus eater; but the happiness of an energetic and useful life. The preface gives us grand, questioning chats with Paul, with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which everyone interested in life or religion, as long as Christianity lasts, should read. The preface sets down Shaw in the living church, the mass of men, as a theologian deep in common sense, and deep in intuitive wisdom; and, if one adds his play Blanco Posnet and the preface to Saint Joan, he becomes a braver and finer theologian still.
Shaw, too, is a politician of the highest order - the order of the Holy Ghost. His party isn't Conservative, or Liberal, or even Labor (though he supports labor fervently); his party is the wide, teeming seas of all humanity. One has but to read his The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism to see how wise and witty a politician he is. Everything the world knows of is commented upon and criticized in this remarkable book, young still after a life of fifty-two years. The church, chambermaids, kings and workers, conservatism, Uncle John Cobley and all, including even Marxism, are set down before us, examined, and commented upon without fear and without favor. He has never written a word for gain, nor has he done so to kindle any flash of fame, nor to buttress any party, but has been as critical of the Socialists as he has been of the Cardinals.
It is typical of him that when offered the Order of Merit, he replied that long ago he had given that order to himself. He would not be a greater Shaw if another stuck a ribbon in his coat. How constructive he can be even when he is most critical! Even the headings of his book on socialism are revealing; take but one: "The Study of Poverty." "Poverty does not produce unhappiness: it produces degradation: that is why it is dangerous to society. Its evils are infectious and cannot be avoided by any possible isolation of the rich. We cannot afford to have the poor always with us." And the chapter gives, in exciting and salient phrases, the why and wherefor of the headings. Poverty must go. That is Shaw's first gospel, and he has delivered it well.
This man was a great critic of music - about which I know nothing, though I can whistle a tune with the best of them. Someone, writing of Shaw, said: 'I fancy he has got more out of listening to Wagner and Mozart than from all the books he ever read': to which Shaw replied, "Hooray!" For some time, he was an art critic, but, as far as I know, no remarks of his on the plastic arts have been published. Here, it seems to me, Shaw was uncertain: he does not seem to have had any sensuous appreciation of color, line or form, in spite of his beautiful reference to them through Dubedat in The Doctor's Dilemma. It is odd that one so forward in most things should be bothered by painting and sculpture, and that in his one effort to be in step with modern art he called in the scratches of Topolski to enliven his later plays.
But Shaw excels everything (save, perhaps, his soul-searching social essays) in his plays. A lot of what he longed for, socially, will be fulfilled, and so his social gospels will fade; but in his plays Shaw stays to live.
Some critics have said that Shaw is no poet, and a man almost incapable of emotion, opinions that can only provoke in me a grand guffaw. There is poetry in a lot of them, emotion in most of them, and, of course, thought and laughter in all of them: A fine synopsis of life - tears, laughter, thought and song.
He will live in the life that follows his own for his grand plays, for his astounding social wisdom, for his courage, for his fine criticism of music and theater, for his uncanny knowledge of children, so far exceeding the Peter Panism of Barrie, for his fight for the fame of Ibsen, for his love of Wagner and for his brilliant leadership of man.
A man who laughed in pain of body or pain of mind; a man whose loudest laugh was shot through with seriousness; for though some called him a jester - and he could and did jest well - though when he jests, he is clad, not in the formal motley of the fool but in a brilliant tabard woven by the Holy Ghost Himself.
Shaw is one of those mentioned by Yeats who will be remembered forever; remembered for his rare and surprising gifts and for the gallant way he used them. In time these will blend together, and Shaw will shine forth in the cathedral of man's mind a sage standing in God's holy fire as in the gold mosaic of a wall.
1157 Comments on music discussed
Bernard Shaw stumbled in and out of music criticism in the six years
inclusive from 1888 to 1894 and, in the choice phrase of one of our
poets, failed not to adorn whatever he touched in that field and in
that period with his itching pen. He wrote so brilliantly, and
his column, which he contributed at two guineas a week in T P
O'Connor's Star, became so enviably readable that his critics
declared that he could not know that he was talking about; as the
German critic complained of a highly popular virtuosos: "He is
no musician, he plays too beautifully."
They asked what Shaw's musical background was, anyhow. In various autobiographical effusions, that gentleman willingly explained. His "background certainly was not that of a professionally trained musician. It was less than that, and more. Shaw grew up in a decidedly "musical" family. His mother was an accomplished singer and teacher, with such corollaries of artistic education as befitted an Irish lady of that period and social station. There was that odd soul, George Vandeleur Lee, vocal teacher, conductor, music festival impresario of sorts, who was for years almost part of the household. Shaw sang a bad baritone, and was soon reading scores. He says that before he was 15 he knew from cover to cover "at least one important work by Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Gounod." Not a bad beginning. Wagner, Liszt, the modern French and Italians of the day came later.
Shaw says that he read the full score of "Don Giovanni" first, and then figured out a way, by means of a sort of chart which he evolved from some awful volume of a piano "method," to hit the thing out on the piano. He says that he played Bach "Inventions" and the Bach "Art of Fugue" on the piano. We can take this with a pinch of salt. The Bach "Art of Fugue" is written in four terrifically severe counterpoints, for no specific instrument, and if G. B. S. could play the double and triple fugues, the enormously complex inversions, retrograde motion, cancrizans, the mirror fugues of Contrapuncti XII and XIII, and the consummative final triple fugue which Bach himself did not live to finish - well, in that case Shaw could have beaten even a Busoni, who was no chicken as a virtuoso or Bach transcriber either.
is not to excuse his superficialities, which are perfectly evident,
but to marvel again at his wit, and perspicacity, and his
incorrigible genius for communication! Also, for the period in which
these writings appeared, their effect was positively devastating. So
music could be written about like that! It is clear that music was
never with Shaw a predominant interest. It was a side issue with
him, an immediate way, after miserable poverty-stricken years, of
earning a living, one of his artistic and journalistic contacts.
Shaw was only finding himself, and his mind was like a quivering needle of a compass set to point conclusively in the direction of his real destiny as an artist, when he was scribbling so inimitably about opera and concerts. It is our luck, and the immense good fortune of those who struggle up the lower slopes of the reviewer's task, that his writings on music have persevered and are available for inspiration and entertainment.
He could vivify the account of the poorest concert, the most commonplace routine of the job, by his exuberant scintillant play of ideas, his humor and impertinence, his frequent piercing to the very root of the artistic problem in a few words which might convey a profound truth under the guise of irresponsible levity. What he said of Gluck and Wagner, for whom he did so much to educate his public; of Mozart and Verdi; what he accomplished in the later essay, The Perfect Wagnerite, which remains one of the most suggestive expositions of the philosophic and dramatic elements of the incomparable Ring, have the rank, especially in the last instance, of unique achievement.
He meant to make himself read, and few holds barred, "I purposely vulgarized musical criticism, which was then refined and academic to the point of being unreadable and often nonsensical. Editors, being mostly ignorant of music, would submit to anything from their music critics, not pretending to understand it. If I occasionally carried to the verge of ribaldry my reaction against the pretentious twaddle and sometimes spiteful cliquishness they tolerated in their ignorance, think of me as heading one of the pioneer columns of what was then called The New Journalism; and you will wonder at my politeness."
"'The concert concluded with the ever fresh and perennially welcome septet of Beethoven..... The vocalist was the promising young singer Miss Marguerite Hall, who was heard to advantage in some songs by Schubert and... There! How do you like it, friends, all who are wont to say of this column that it is 'amusing, of course, but not musical criticism?' Idiots! I could teach a parrot to twaddle like that if I could catch a sufficiently empty-headed one... when I am thoroughly nobbled and gagged, then I too shall relapse into the beginner's style; and you, if you are wise, will stop reading my column."
1151 Obituary written by H G Wells in '45 for London Daily Express pub
11/5/50 In 1945 The London Daily Express asked H G Wells to write an obituary article on George Bernard Shaw, who was then nearing 90. Wells did. The paper asked Shaw to write a similar article on Wells but the playwright refused. The two had been good friends, but seemingly, at this juncture, not too good. This week Wells article on Shaw was printed in the Daily Express, which introduced it as a 'salty obituary by the only other writer of comparable stature.' The article follows:
have know GBS intimately since I was for a brief interval dramatic
critic - probably the worst dramatic critic who ever criticized - for
Harry Cust's Pall Mall Gazette half a century ago. I found myself
leaving the theater side by side in the same direction with a
long, lean, red-haired, unconventionally dressed individual
I knew by sight and name already as the critic of Frank Harris'
Saturday Review. I accosted him and we walked up to our respective
quarters in Regent's Park together. It was a Wilde play we had seen
- The Importance of Being Ernest; and I found everything I had
thought out and prepared beforehand entirely unsuitable for the
occasion. I had to write something before the pillar box at the
corner was cleared at 1 am and send it in a scarlet envelope to The
Pall Mall Gazette. I asked him frankly what he thought of the show,
and why it was extravagantly not what I had expected from Oscar.
He responded magnificently with a dissertation on the contemporary comedy of manners, pith, sound, shrewd and convincing, so that by the time I sat down to write I already knew something of the business I had in hand.
That was not Shaw's only contribution to my education. Later on he taught me how to listen to music by insisting that I get a pianola, that even-fingered gorilla, so that I knew the shape and intention of anything I was going to hear beforehand, and could listen unencumbered by structural complications.
got his excitement by rousing a fury of antagonism and then
overcoming and defeating it. At that game, which covered a
large part of his life, he was unsurpassable.
And now for his most estranging fault. Shaw was fantastically vain. He was ruled by a naked, unqualified, ego-centered, devouring vanity, such as one rarely meets in life. And I find myself asking: Was this egotistical vanity something innate, or did it creep into an essentially combatant nature and take possession of it? Apparently he could not think of any other human being, and particularly of any outstanding and famous human being, without immediately referring it directly to himself. And even more manifest was his impulse to establish a dominant relationship to it. "Shakespear": is manifestly a syntheses of a group of collaborators, of whom one in particular had a turn for happy language and poetic creations, but Shaw fell into the trap that identifies the author of Coriolanus with the poet of the Midsummer Night's Dream, and found in the collected result a formidable rival who had to be mastered and superceded.
was one method of self-assertion peculiar to Shaw. Another, more
general, has been practiced since Homo sapiens began his career, and
that is to inflict pain. Shaw let himself do that to me, in spite of
the protests of that most lovable woman, his wife.
I was suddenly recalled to England, which I had just left, by an urgent message from my sons. An operation by Bland Sutton some years before had failed to remove a superficial irritant growth completely, and my wife was suffering from secondary cancer which would end inevitably in her death in six months. I had always expected to die before my wife, and the shock I got was terrific. On the return boat to England, fearing the chance enquiries of friends who might be aboard, I took refuge in a private caving and there I blubbered like a baby. But this event released a queer accumulation of impulses in Shaw. He was impelled to write that this was all stuff and nonsense on the part of my wife and imply that she would be much to blame if she died. There was no such thing as cancer, and so forth and so on.
Charlotte! Her last days were embittered by a distorting disease of
the bones which involved deafness and that isolation from the world
which deafness can bring. Shaw wept bitterly when she died; he went
about London weeping. Most of us older people who have known love
know that irreparable sorrow, for endless wasted opportunities for
kindness and for stupid moments of petty irritation. It might all
have been so much better. Shaw drank that cup to the dregs - and
then seemed to forget about it. That is the way with us aging men. In
the decay of our minds the later acquisitions go first. The
Shaw who has just died was the Shaw of twenty years ago. The later
Shaw has wept itself away. After his culminating outburst of grief
he relapsed to earlier and more flattering
associations. But I had no desire to see him now that
had gone, and after one encounter I avoided him.
His is one of those minds to which money is real and not merely a counter in a game, and I shall not be surprised to find that he has devised his very considerable accumulations to a National Theater that will glorify Shakespear-Shaw?
1149 Shaw statements on various subjects
year was 1856. The Crimean War ended, and a peace congress was held
in Paris. In Italy a society aimed at the unification of the country
was founded. An incident at Canton started Anglo-Chinese
hostilities. In the U S John Brown staged a massacre at Pottawatomie
Creek. James Buchanan was elected the fifteenth President. In
Dublin Mrs George Carr Shaw gave birth to a boy, George Bernard.
G. B. S. became a music critic (under the pseudonym 'Corno di Bassetto,' a musical instrument which went out of use in Mozart's day, art critic, drama critic, critic of almost everything else, Fabian Socialist, Communist, public debater, novelist, playwright, iconoclast, wit, Nobel Prize winner, crusader for vegetarianism and teetotalism, maker of money (his income was so large he had to turn 97 per cent of it over in surtaxes), enricher of English language and literature, a man who - to use the words of Shakespear, an author that G. B. S. said sometimes was overrated - "lives in fame."
Success: "The secret of success
if to offend the greatest number of
Art: "Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass-mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see you soul."
Writing: "Journalism can claim to be the highest form of literature; for all the highest literature is journalism."
Praise: "Woe unto me when all men praise me!"
England: "It takes an Irishman years of residence in England to learn to respect and like a blockhead. An Englishman will not respect nor like anyone else."
Truth: "The truth is the one thing nobody will believe."
Christmas: "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."
Laughter: "Oh, do not make me laugh. Laughter dissolves too many resentments, pardons too many sins and saves the world a many thousand murders."
Marriage: "Every man is
frightened of marriage when it comes to the
point; but it often turns out very comfortable, very enjoyable and
happy indeed, sir - from time to time."
Progress: "All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions and executed by supplanting existing institutions.
Poverty: "We, after the terrible experience we have had of the effects of poverty on the whole nation, rich or poor, must go further and say that nobody must by poor."
Doctors: "Is it possible for a man to go through a medical training and retain a spark of common sense?"
Soldier: "Soldiering, my dear madam, is the coward's art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong, and keeping out of harm's way when you are weak."
Conversation: "The ablest and most highly cultivated people continually discuss religion, politics and sex."
Experience: "We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience."
G. B. S.: "Shaw is an incorrigible and continuous actor, using his skill as deliberately in his social life as in his professional work in the production of his own plays. He does not deny this, 'G. B. S.' he says 'is not a real person: he is a legend created by myself.'"
last week Bernard Shaw whispered: "I am tired. I want to
sleep.' He died on Thursday morning. He was 94. His home at Ayot
St Lawrence is to be a national shrine.
1148 Sir C Hardwicke tribute, article
Shaw dead - the news, so astonishing even though he was 94 years old,
fills all of us on the stage, and all who love to go to a play, with
a sense of personal loss. Yet nothing could be more out of place
than a profound expression of mourning. There is only one
person who could write the things that should be said on this
occasion - Shaw himself. He would put what he once called the
"incident of death" in his own gay and wise and courageous
Once a dear friend of his died and Shaw wrote a letter to comfort the widow. I remember that she was deeply upset by the letter because Shaw wrote: "it's too bad of him to do this." He was not unfeeling, but he simply refused to be awed by death or birth or anything else connected with humanity.
This was his character. He was the Great Rebel, and no one who knew him well, personally or through his writings, would have had him change that character. I first saw him in 1908 in Whitehall. As a boy I was impressed with the silk hats of the Government people who filled the street. Then there came striding through the pack a great figure, wearing a Norfolk jacket, of all things, a man with a virile red beard and eyes that glittered with gaiety. You knew he was a rebel.
Before I had ever seen this fiery rebel I was impressed that there were three names which only had to be printed in the paper to produce such emotion in my father that he would wad it up and hurl it across the room: Bernard Shaw, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. My father, being a doctor, hated Shaw for the things he wrote about doctors. Yet, finally, my father saw The Doctor's Dilemma - even saw his own offspring act in it - and roared with delight, never realizing that it contained a perfect portrait of himself.
an actor, I am not qualified to comment on the philosophy of Shaw,
but I can tell something of his dealing with the people of the
theater. In 1922, when I was connected with the Birmingham Repertory
Theater, its leading spirit was the great enthusiast, Sir Barry
Jackson. Shaw's attention was attracted to the company by Sir
Barry's determination to do Back to Methuselah, which is very hard to
put on because of the cycle of three plays that is required and the
unusual costuming. Shaw, hearing of the plans, wired Jackson: "Are
your children provided for?"
When we acted Back to Methuselah, Shaw put on his own characteristic performance. On stage to make a curtain speech, he danced around like a young boy. Then the curtain went up. It was as if a ramrod had been thrust down his collar. He stuck out his beard and launched into a diatribe against the audience, theater building, actors and so on, the mildest words of which were the opening sentence: "I never thought any good could come out of Birmingham."
That rudeness of his was used deliberately. "The way to win a fight, if you're a boxer," he used to say, "is to make your opponent lose his temper." But he never said an unkind word to an actor at a rehearsal, or got an actor fired from a play.
Before Caesar and Cleopatra was put on here last year, he asked to see Lilli Palmer. He opened the interview with a calculated insult, then placated her, won her over completely, made her laugh, and ended by telling her that he had seen her furiously angry, flirting and laughing, and that she would do very well for Cleopatra.
Shaw's wife once told me the effect he could produce even on those he loved dearest of all. "Do you know why I am always knitting?" she asked. "Because if my hands were free I'd hit him." He shook all over at the comment. Of course, she - wonderful woman - had a very great deal to put up with. Her husband used to say the most wittily cutting things about women. The truth is that he could have been the greatest of errant lovers, and she had married him just when his beard was in its flaming forties. But he calmly came to the decision that women were traps for such spirits as Bernard Shaw. If he had devoted himself to being an amorist, he would have written the ordinary romances instead of the distillations of wisdom and wit which he did produce. So he became an ascetic. When you do a Shaw play and listen to the women in the audience laughing about Shaw's women, you know how wise he was to move off to the outskirts of life and write about humanity from remoteness.
Whenever, last season, I uttered Caesar's lines to the Sphinx - "I wander, and you sit still; I conquer and you endure" - I knew I was speaking from Shaw's heart. He used to say, "I have the strength of an oak tree if I sit still, but the moment I move around I lose it." He saw that he had to fight to keep himself free from getting involved in things close at hand in order to do the great things. His strength lay in the fact that he was, not by nature but by determination, ascetic about all things. He truly dedicated himself to the task set forth in Don Juan's speech in Man and Superman: "I tell you that as long as I can conceive something better than myself I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence."
He was wrong, for the world has not heard the last of Bernard Shaw for many years to come. But there was a wonderful twinkle in his eyes when he spoke, and it is comforting to think he knew that his spirit was to be granted the immortality which he so fiercely willed for his body. Theater goers will always love to laugh and wake up to find they have been thinking.
1147 Moscow Literary Gazette tribute; burial in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, urged
first elegy on George Bernard Shaw, two columns in the Literary
Gazette, said today that "all that was genuinely significant,
noble and just in Shaw's work was highly esteemed in the Soviet
Union, where news of the death of the great writer was received with
sincere sorrow. Mr Morozov, Shakespearean scholar and drama critic,
author of the appreciation, said Shaw was "the writer whom, in
the periods of his creative growth, Maxim Gorky called one of the
most daring thinkers of Europe.
"Amidst the decadence and disintegration of art, drama and literature now being experienced in England, where, as Shaw said, money talks, money publishes, money dominates everything, Shaw's best work sounds like an appeal to search for truth, love, mankind and hatred of all the hypocritical bigots who under cover of pious phrases dream of bloody war," Morozov wrote.
The Irish Ambassador in London has been asked to request that George Bernard Shaw's ashes be buried in St Patrick's Cathedral here. The request was made by the Dean of St Patrick's, who said tonight that Shaw, when asked about his final resting place, had spoken in favor of Dublin, his native city.
1146 Pub Trustee says will probate may take several wks; Moscow papers note death
Bernard Shaw's will, disposing of an estate and properties worth
hundreds of thousands of pounds, was in the hands of the Public
Trustee today preparatory to being filed for probate. The Public
Trustee, F Wyndham Hirst, said, however, that this might not take
place for several weeks. The will, a document of several thousand
words, is believed to embody a good deal of Shavian philosophy
and perhaps some farewell advice to the world he lectured so long in
plays, essays and prefaces.
All Moscow newspapers carried without comment today a two-line message from London announcing the death yesterday of George Bernard Shaw. He was the sole contemporary British dramatist whose plays are staged in Moscow. Two of his plays, Pygmalion and Widowers' Houses, which the Russians renamed "Slums of London," are at present running here.
1145 Tribute by Bway theaters, by Pres Truman and others; funeral plans; may be buried in Westminster Abbey
was being given today to the possibility that George Bernard Shaw,
who died this morning, might be buried in Westminster Abbey, the
final resting place of some many of Britain's greatest men, among
whom he was certainly numbered.
In his will, the great playwright and critic expressed a wish that his ashes be mingled with those of his wife and spread over their garden at Ayot St Lawrence. But Lady Astor, a friend of Mr Shaw for forty years, said that he had told her in his last hours, "I want my ashes mingled with my wife's. After that you can do as you like." Mr Shaw's body will be cremated on Monday afternoon after a private funeral in London. Only a few relatives, close friends and members of his household staff will attend the service. In accordance with his wishes, there will not be a clergyman present.
Two of his favorite musical compositions will be played - "We Are the Music-Makers," a poem by A O'Shaughnessy set to music by Elgar for solo chorus and orchestra, and "Libera Mea," from Verdi's "Requiem."
Mr Shaw's death at dawn today brought tributes from all parts of the world, beginning with a simple handwritten note hung on the gate of Shaw's Corner, his home: "Mr Bernard Shaw passed peacefully away at one minute to 5 o'clock this morning, Nov 2. From the coffers of his genius, he enriched the world." Prime Minister Attlee praised him as "one of the most remarkable personalties of our time" and a "revered fellow Socialist."
Ireland's Premier, John A Costello, said: "Bernard Shaw never forgot his Irish birth and he demonstrated many times his good-will toward his native country and his fundamental sympathy with her national aspirations."
The decision whether Mr Shaw's final place of burial will be Westminster Abbey rests with the dean of the abbey, the Very Rev A C Don. The usual procedure is for an influential person or body of persons to suggest that an Abbey burial be granted. The dean said tonight he had not been approached in the matter. The last writer buried in Westminster Abbey was Rudyard Kipling, in 1935.
Today, a five-minute service was conducted by the Rev R J Davies and attended by the village women of Ayot St Lawrence at Shaw's Corner. "Some called Mr Shaw an atheist," said Mr Davies after the service, "but he had paid a great deal toward the church and subscribed to church funds - what he called his pew rent. "He was not an atheist," Mr Davies declared. "I would call him rather an Irishman." The playwright's home is to be maintained as a literary shrine by the National Trust. The body was taken tonight to a private chapel at Welwyn, where it will remain until the cremation.
The most quoted tribute today in London newspapers was the comment of J B Priestley, playwright and novelist: "Now that we have lost Shaw, the world seems a smaller and drearier place. He was not only the last of the giants, but perhaps the first of the truly civilized men."
by the voice of Henry George and guided by the hand of Karl Marx,
George Bernard Shaw stepped from the poverty of Dublin to flit across
the Western World, the flaming, mocking, deadly serious "messenger boy
of the new age." Tossing off sparks of wit and satire as
his heels clicked against the pavement of conservatism, thumbing his
nose at the smug and censorious, urging the world to read his books
and reform, he never stopped his capers even when his red hair had
turned white and his Mephistophelian eyebrows drooped with age.
He criticized the best-loved institutions of mankind - and "got away with it" because he was a supreme wit. Nothing escaped him and those he pilloried the most flocked by the thousands to see his plays and helped make him rich by buying his books.
Mr Shaw's was a life of contradictions. One of the best descriptions of him is by William Archer, who tells that the first time he saw Shaw the Irishman was sitting in the British Museum, alternately studying the French translation of "Das Kapital" and the score of "Tristan und Islode." Shaw himself once said "Karl Marx made a man of me."
His huge energy and mental agility had made him an early controversialist. He moved from the benches of debating halls to the platform after being fired by the eloquence of the American, Henry George.
"George switched me over to economics," he said. "I became very excited about his 'Progress and Poverty.'" Told that no one was qualified to discuss George until he read Karl Marx, the 26-year-old Shaw hied to the British Museum to read "Das Kapital." That, he told a biographer, "was the turning point in my career. Marx was a revelation. His abstract economics, I discovered later, were wrong, but he rent the veil. "Das Kapital" converted Mr Shaw to socialism, transformed him into a political agitator and a revolutionary writer, even gave him a religion.
Shaw was the greatest master of paradox as a destroyer of dogma, but
he was one of the most dogmatic men anywhere in the expression of his
ideas. Happily married for many years, he enjoyed nothing better
than to sit comfortably by his snug hearth and ridicule home and
marriage as institutions. Shy and gentle by nature, he donned
the protective mask of a clown and delighted in shocking and annoying
any who displeased him.
Ever since the turn of the century critics have been writing about and disagreing over Mr Shaw. To some his appellation of journalist was final. By journalist, of course, they took him to mean propagandist for a new social order. They quoted him: "Every play or preface I wrote contains a message. I am the messenger boy of the new age." Other critics found him above all else a comedian. Archibald Henderson, his official biographer, has stoutly maintained (and scanned his prose to prove his point) that he was, more than anything, a poet. The critics could not agree. But the Shaw who let Karl Marx mold him as a man, who let Ibsen make him a dramatist, and who never lacked courage to say his piece on any topic under the sun and claim that he was right in what he said, made all the world read his words.
It was as a dramatist that he did his greatest work. He taught himself to write by laboriously constructing five novels, not one of which is considered to have lasting worth. He earned a living, and made himself known by scribbling criticism on art and music for the daily press.
Shaw was born in Dublin on July 26, 1856. He was the third child and
only son of George Carr Shaw, an impecunious civil servant, and of
Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of Walter Bagensi Gurley, a County
Carlow landowner. The Shaw family traced its pedigree of Capt
William Shaw, a Hampshire gentleman of Scottish descent, who went to
Ireland with William III in 1689. George Bernard Shaw's grandfather
was Bernard Shaw, High Sheriff of Kilkenny, whose first cousin,
Robert Shaw, was created a baronet in 1812. From his father, Mr Shaw
inherited his Irish gayety, wit and humor, but little else. A
few years before the son's birth the father's public post had been
abolished, and he had compounded his pension in a lump sum to engage
in business as a corn merchant. He failed to make a go of it.
Consequently, the family life of the Shaws was one of shabby
gentility, of the kind familiar to readers of nineteenth-century
One of Mr Shaw's pronounced traits can be traced to his father. It was his abhorrence of alcohol. The young Shaw learned about alcohol in a manner that taught him an early moral lesson. His father professed to the boy such a horror of alcohol that Mr Shaw decided to become a convinced teetotaler. Soon the young Shaw discovered that "the governor" was a steady drinker. "Now, a convivial drunkard," he told a biographer later, "may be exhilarating in convivial company. Even a quarrelsome or boastful drunkard may be found entertaining by people who are not particular. But a miserable drunkard - and my father, in theory a teetotaler, was racked with shame and remorse even in his cups - is unbearable." The family, he said, was dropped socially through his father's drinking.
formal education was extremely limited. After receiving private
lessons in Latin grammar from the Rev William George Carroll, vicar
of St Bride's, Dublin, an uncle reputed to be the first Irish person
to espouse Home Rule, he was sent to the Wesleyan Connexional School,
later known as Wesley College, in Dublin. Pride was mixed with
poverty in the Shaw family, and the embryo dramatist was brought up,
as he put it, "to believe that there was an inborn virtue of
gentility in all Shaws, since they revolved impecuniously in a sort
of vague second-cousinship round a baronetcy."
Against this sort of snobbishness Mr Shaw revolted, as he did against the Irish Protestant tradition of his family, in which he saw a combination of hypocrisy and mock gentility resulting in a stultification of the life around him. Mr Shaw was employed for five years in the office of a Dublin land agent, at a salary which ranged from the equivalent of about $90 to $240 a year. This work was irksome to one of his temperament, and in 1876, at the age of 20, he threw it up and fled to London to take up a literary career. There he joined his mother, who had left her alcoholic husband and was earning her own living in that city as a professional music teacher.
this period he was supported by pittances which his father sent him
from his unsuccessful corn business in Dublin, and which his mother
supplied from her likewise meager earnings.
Beginning three years after his arrival in London, Mr Shaw made an effort to become a novelist. The first of his novels was called, "with merciless fitness," as Shaw put it, Immaturity. George Meredith, as reader for a publishing firm, rejected it with an emphatic "No!" Another novel was Cashel Byron's Profession, in which the late Jim Corbett appeared some years later in the role of the pugilist in the dramatized version. The others in this series were The Irrational Knot, which reflected Shaw's admiration for Ibsen; Love Among the Artists, a criticism of shallowness in art and in family relations, and An Unsocial Socialist, which has been described as "the first genuine blast of the Shavian gale." Unsocial Socialist was his fifth and last novel. None had been successful. Altogether he garnered about sixty rejections from American and English publishers. Later, when his fame mounted, American magazines pirated them.
In 1884 Mr Shaw joined the Fabian Society of moderate Socialists, founded in that year, and became widely acquainted among such advanced thinkers as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Annie Besant, Edward Carpenter, William Morris, James Leigh Joynes, Sydney Olivier (later Lord Olivier), Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, and others. He became an ardent pamphleteer and a lecturer for the cause of socialism.
about the same time, he embarked upon a notable career in London
journalism. Through the influence of William Archer, critic and
dramatist, Mr Shaw became art critic of The World in 1885, when he
was 29 years old. He also wrote on books for The Pall Mall Gazette
and on music for The Star under the pseudonym of Corno di Bassetto.
Later, he became music critic for The World, where the initials "G.
B. S." became famous, and drama critic for The Saturday Review. Mr Shaw
as a critic was a sympathetic interpreter and an ardent
champion of Ibsen at a time when that great dramatist was
as dangerously modernistic. He wrote The Quintessence of Ibsenism in
1891, which was regarded by many as the most profound of all his
essays in criticism. In music he was an equally devoted follower of
Wagner, and wrote The Perfect Wagnerite, which appeared in 1898.
While still engaged in journalism, Mr Shaw began his career as a dramatist, but for several years he was unable to get his plays produced in any of the regular theaters in London. They were produced in small "independent" theaters only, but their author, with his indomitable energy and resourcefulness, hit upon the plan, then an innovation in London, of having them published for general reading. With them were published lengthy and brilliant prefaces on social, political and economic subjects, sometimes entirely independent of the plays they accompanied.
Mr Shaw's popularity as an active dramatist began in New York and Germany in the middle Nineties, several years before his plays came to be the vogue in the London commercial theater. He began his first play in collaboration with William Archer in 1885, but the collaboration lagged and Mr Shaw completed the play alone seven years later. It was Widowers' Houses, an attack on slum landlordism and a direct out-growth of his Fabian activities. In the next year, Shaw wrote The Philanderer, a commentary on Ibsenism and the "new woman," for the same theater.
and the Man, Mr Shaw's satire on romanticism and the "false
glory" of war, was produced in 1894 by Richard Mansfield at the
Herald Square Theater in New York and at an independent experimental
theater in London. Candida, a vindication of the woman in the home,
was written in the same year. Mr Shaw suffered a breakdown from
overwork in 1898, at the age of 42. This caused him to abandon
journalism and most of his platform activities, and to devote
himself entirely to the stage. In the same year he married Miss
Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend, of County Cork, a wealthy Irish
woman who shared his interest in social reform and the theater
and was a sister of Lady Chomondeley. She had nursed him back to
health after his illness.
Mr Shaw finally came into his own with the London playgoing public in 1905, when his Man and Superman was produced at the Royal Court Theater under the management of T E Vedrenne and Harley Granville-Barker, with Granville-Barker in the role of John Tanner, author of the Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion. This led to a long association between Shaw and Granville-Barker in prompting the "new theater." Man and Superman definitely established Mr Shaw's fame with the general public and, together with a group of revivals, led to a collective reconsideration of his earlier work. What he was really driving at became clear to thousands who had not hitherto troubled to think of him otherwise than as a political fanatic or a buffoon. The doctrine of "creative evolution" which underlay this play was seen as the guiding social philosophy of all his work. With his position in the theater thoroughly established, Mr Shaw also began turning out new plays which were produced by the same management. John Bull's Other Island, a satire on the land problem in Ireland before autonomy, was a great success. Then came How He Lied To Her Husband, Major Barbara, and Captain Brassbound's Conversion.
the war Mr Shaw's popularity was temporarily eclipsed because
his pacifist attitude. Within a few months of the outbreak of
hostilities, he wrote an anti-war pamphlet, Common Sense and
War, in which he outraged the sensibilities of thousands of
Englishmen by his bitter attack upon "British Junkerism,"
although at the same time he invested $100,000 in British war loans
and insisted that the war must continue until Germany was defeated,
thereby offending the pacifists as much as the patriots. Toward the
end of the war he wrote Heartbreak House, a philosophical and
religious treatise. After the war, when England "went
pacifist," his popularity leaped back to its old heights with
The war and the destruction of life and of civilized standards which accompanied and followed it made a profound impression upon Mr Shaw. On one side, he returned to his old role as a pamphleteer. On the other side, he wrote fewer plays, and in them dealt with even more profound subjects than before, becoming more preoccupied with religious and philosophical themes.
Hans Herzenleid, a mystifying interlude which no one could understand, had a poor reception when produced in New York and Vienna in 1920, but in the next year Mr Shaw published one of his greatest plays, Back to Methuselah. Although it had to wait two years for its first English production, it created a remarkable impression throughout the world. This gigantic work, comprising five plays grouped under a single title and centered in a single theme, was recognized everywhere as an important contribution to modern thought, expressing the idea that mankind, through creative evolution, may reach a state of longevity which resembles eternal life. Next came his great historical chronicle, Saint Joan, which was produced by the Theater Guild in New York late in 1923 and at the New Theater in London the next spring. It was a great dramatic spectacle in which the author dug for truth beneath the traditional crust of history, and succeeded in creating on the stage a masterly living portrait of a woman.
Heartbreak House, Back to Methuselah and Saint Joan were accepted by the critics as formulating a Shavian philosophy in which the dramatist attempted to voice his gropings after a religious purpose in life. According to St John Ervine, the leading British authority on Shaw, this philosophy is based upon the idea that the Life Force (God) is an imperfect power striving to become perfect. All existence has been occupied in this struggle for perfection, in which various instruments that have been found useless or no longer helpful toward this end have been scrapped. But man is still on probation, and will be scrapped as the mammoth beasts were if he fails to achieve God's purpose.
1929 began what was virtually a new phase of his career. The Apple
Cart, Too True To Be Good and On The Rocks were three plays which
showed Mr Shaw responding to the wide movement against the confusions
of parliamentary government. King Magnus in The Apple Cart said
farewell to the old forms of democracy and Fabian socialism. In a
preface to Too True To Be Good Mr Shaw proclaimed the world's need
for new affirmations to replace what he termed the impossible
negativism of old faiths decayed.
On The Rocks revealed him as flirting with the ideas of dictatorship and universal conscription. Read in conjunction with The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, a satirical novel published in 1933, the three plays of this final period disclosed Mr Shaw as having broken with the constitutional Socialists and as having accepted for the first time the principle of revolutionary collectivism.
Mr Shaw visited Russia in 1931 with a party of distinguished Britons, including Lord and Lady Astor and the Marquess of Lothian. Until 1933 Mr Shaw consistently refused all invitations to visit the United States. He habitually ridiculed and scoffed at Americans. In that year he made a world tour with Mrs Shaw on the steamship Empress of Britain. He made two American stops, at San Francisco and New York. While on the Pacific Coast, he visited the San Simeon (Calif.) ranch of William Randolph Hearst, who had syndicated some of his later writings. Arriving in New York on April 11, 1933, he stayed only twenty-six hours, just long enough to make an incognito sight-seeing tour and to deliver his only American lecture before a crowded audience at the Metropolitan Opera House. In a speech of 16,000 words, he advised the United States to scrap its Constitution, nationalize its banks, destroy the power of the financiers and cancel all war indebtedness.
The speech failed to make a good impression. For many years he would have no more to do with the movies or the radio than with the United States, and once refused an offer of $1,000,000 for exclusive movie rights to his works, but he finally succumbed. Late in life he talked frequently over the radio, including international hook-ups, posed and talked for news reels, and in 1930 sold the movie rights to his plays.
During the early Thirties, a sensation was created by the publication in book form of some 300 letters which had passed between Mr Shaw and Ellen Terry, the celebrated actress, for whom he had written the leading role in Captain Brassbound's Conversion. The letters covered the period from 1892 to 1928, and those of 1896 and 1897, just before Shaw's marriage, were passionate love letters in form. There was another sensation, typically Shavian in its paradoxical nature, when it was disclosed that the love affair was an entirely platonic one, and that Shaw and Miss Terry never met until 1905, except publicly in the theater. For years they purposely refrained from meeting lest it spoil their correspondence and end their "delicious flirtation."
Shaw was a vegetarian and also abstained all his life from liquor and
tobacco, which he often made the subject of attack in his plays and
other writings. He was a vigorous opponent of vivisection and
Mr Shaw took good care of his health. In London, where he had an apartment in historic Adelphi Terrace, just off the Strand and overlooking the Thames, with Sir James Barrie as a neighbor, and later in Whitehall Court, also on the Thames embankment, with H G Wells and Sir Gilbert Parker as neighbors, he walked a great deal.
In later years he lived most of the time at Ayot St Lawrence, in a twelve-room, three-story house set on a few acres of ground. In the winter he usually visited Antibes on the French Riviera. He believed in sunlight, and his tall, bearded figure could be seen lying almost nude on the beach or on a raft for hours at a time. Reading, talking, swimming and watching prize fights were among his recreations. A feature of his home in England was his working shop, called The Shelter. Mounted on a swivel, the hut was rotated during the day to admit as much sunlight as possible.
mordant wit, seemingly undulled, turned to any public question. He
scoffed at projected war-guilt trials. He sent his japeries across
the seas to America, which, he said, would soon lose Shaw and would
then be in a devil of a fix.
Always disdainful of birthday celebrations, he tried to ignore his reaching the 90-mark in July 1946. People tried to visit him at his home at Ayot St Lawrence. Mr Shaw snorted: "They've come to see the animal just because he's 90." He also said he intended to have nothing to do with a gala dinner organized on the eve of his birthday. At the last minute, he broadcast a message in which he declared that "it's pleasant to be among friends." The message covered a range of subjects, from his own beginnings as a writer, to advice to parents on bringing up children.
"I assure you," he said, "that the only fun of my birthday is yours. It's the people who celebrate me who have the fun." He had had all the hard work, he added, "and I'm half dead by the experience."
wrote a letter to W D Chase of Flint, Mich., organizer of the United
States branch of the Shaw Society, in which he said: "The
utmost I can claim for myself in my best days is that I was one of
the 100 best playwrights in the world, which is hardly a supreme
distinction." Not so many years before, he had toasted himself
as the greatest playwright and political thinker of his time.
In September, 1950, a theater full of newspaper critics in London, trying hard to be kind, gently but almost unanimously turned thumbs down on a presentation of Mr Shaw's Far Fetched Fables. The six little stories, played like charades without a curtain were described by The Daily Telegraph's reviewer as "an absurd parody of Shaw's Back to Methuselah with out its wits.
Whether he was genius or charlatan, Mr Shaw's age did not know. It hated him, but it laughed at him and with him; it tried to stop him, but he wouldn't be stopped. He confounded his critics, both those who admired him and those who derided him. The newspaper men continued to seek him out for interviews when on his cruises or in his quiet flat. He would not give up the world. He grew old and was the last of his generation. If nothing else, he had made it think and had given it a good time; and if the "messenger boy of the new age" never found what he thought he was looking for, he and his thousands of admirers in two hemispheres lost nothing by reason of his long, tumultuous search.
1143 Shaw Dies, 94
Bernard Shaw, one of the modern age's greatest dramatists and its
most caustic critic, died today at the age of 94. The white-bearded
Irish-born sage, whose wit was renowned throughout the world for half
a century, succumbed at 4:59 am (11:59 pm Wednesday, Eastern standard
His death was announced to newsmen by his housekeeper, Mrs Alice Laden. Wearing black, she appeared at the gates of the cottage, Shaw's Corner, and told the reporters: "Mr Shaw is dead." A few minutes after her announcement, Dr Thomas Probyn, Shaw's physician, hurried into the house. Twenty minutes later, Shaw's longtime biographer, F E Loewenstein, told newsmen that the playwright died peacefully without regaining consciousness. Only two nurses were with him when death came.
The famed dramatist, who professed himself both a Communist and an atheist, was visited in his last hours by an Anglican clergyman, who said final prayers for the old sage's soul. "It is wrong to say that he was an atheist," said the minister, the Rev R G Davies. "He believed in God."
Shaw lapsed into his final coma yesterday morning at 3 o'clock (10 pm Tuesday, Eastern standard time) and never regained consciousness. Operated on seven weeks ago for a broken thigh suffered when he slipped and fell in his garden, he grew steadily weaker. A bladder ailment aggravated his condition.
Lights burned for two nights in Shaw's Corner, the red brick house where he made his home, while his whole staff kept vigil. The reedy sage of Ayot St Lawrence, never noted for modesty, proclaimed himself "the Dramatic Emperor of Europe," and many conceded him the title. He was the author of more than fifty plays. Many, like Pygmalion, Candida and Major Barbara, are world famous. Indeed, Shaw considered himself the rightful successor and perhaps the superior of Shakespear. He was working on a light comedy Why She Would Not, when he fell in his garden on Sept 10.
Shaw ate only vegetables but spoke as if he fed only on raw meat. He gloried in his reputation as acknowledged world master of the studied insult. Even as death approached he continued to shoot vitriol-dipped bards at the notions and foibles of his contemporaries.
describing himself as an "old skeleton" just before his
ninety-fourth birthday, Shaw led an active life, rising before 8
daily and not retiring until midnight. When he wasn't writing, he
was playing the piano, and sometimes even singing in a croaking but
enthusiastic voice. His diet was mostly soup - vegetable - and great
quantities of fruit and vegetable juices.
The tall, gray pundit was cantankerous with the physicians and nurses who attended him after his fall. He refused - and raged in anger - when doctors suggested snipping his famous beard so that he might more easily be given an anesthetic. It had to be taped down, instead. He curtly told his doctors it would be ill luck for them if he did not die on their hands, because, he said, doctors are noted mostly for the eminent men they lose.
the shock of his fall stirred into fatal activity a latent kidney
bladder infection that might otherwise have lain dormant for
On Sept 11, Shaw was taken from this tiny village - where he wrote many of the plays, essays and ideas that stirred the whole world - to Luton Dustable Hospital. After an operation on his thigh, he underwent two operations for his kidney bladder. With the infection and its discomfort went much of the indomitable will to live that carried Shaw through the earlier crises in his career.
Although he was never told, he knew even in the hospital that he could exist only as an invalid, unable to walk. He complained to visitors, among them Lady Astor, that he would rather die than have to be carried about his beloved Hertfordshire countryside.
1142 Shaw int;
Bernard Shaw, sitting in a wheelchair in the garden of his
Hertfordshire home said yesterday: "I don't think I shall every
write anything more."
He said it to The Daily Mail's F G Prince-White in the first interview he has given since his return from the hospital. Mr Shaw broke his left thigh last month and underwent two operations. Describing Mr Shaw in today's Daily Mail, the reporter noted the contrast between Mr Shaw before the accident and the docile gently invalid from whom had gone the fire, wit and barbed incivility. Of the play he was working on in July, The Lady She Would Not, Mr Shaw said: "I didn't complete it. There was more work to be done on it and now it will never be done. That play will be another 'unfinished symphony.'"
1141 E Fuller book George Bernard Shaw, revd
Fuller's "George Bernard Shaw" is a lively survey of Shaw's
plays and prefaces, with only a little attention paid to Shaw the
great comic playwright and a great deal to Shaw the critic of
society. As a critique of Shaw's ideas on nearly everything this is
an admirable work. Mr Fuller is not a disciple, but a brilliant
thresher sorting out the golden wheat from the ridiculous chaff in
Shaw's huge, prolix, paradoxical, wise and foolish output. And
occasionally Mr Fuller makes comments of his own so pithy that only
space limitations prevent their being quoted here.
1140 Jests about dr's reputation
Bernard Shaw observed today that his death would make his surgeon
really famous. "It will do you no good if I get over this,"
the 94-year-old Irish playwright warned the surgeon, L W Plewes. "A
doctor's reputation is made by the number of eminent men who
under his care."
Dr Plewes, who is treating Mr Shaw for a fractured left hip, replied dryly that he would pass fame by in this case. Mr Shaw fell in his garden Sunday and underwent an operation on Monday, but he has been in and out of bed twice since coming out of the anesthetic. He made his second sortie today, stood for a full minute on his good leg, and waved the injured one around for good measure.
1139 Incident over beard
Bernard Shaw's bushy white beard caused doctors more trouble
than his broken thigh bone when he underwent surgery Monday.
The anesthetist could not slip the mask over the 94-year-old playwright's beard, grown seventy-four years ago to cover smallpox scars.
'The doctors asked whether they could snip off part of the beard and the old man raised such a rumpus they had to think of something else,' a source at the hospital said. 'What they finally concluded, after delaying the operation several minutes, was to plaster the beard to his face. That worked fine. But Tuesday morning, when they took off the plaster, he complained it hurt more than his thigh.'
Mr Shaw, who fractured his left thigh bone when he fell in his garden at Ayot St Lawrence Sunday, stood on the injured leg 'for a few seconds' today and, hospital sources said, was in cheerful spirits.
1138 Reptd writing new play
unexhausted at the age of 94, George Bernard Shaw has written or is
writing another play, his third or fourth within the last year or so.
There has been some uncertainty about the exact status of this
latest work, because Shaw and his friends are not always
communicative about his activities. The other day it was reported
that he was writing a light comedy called Why She Would Not.
Two or three weeks earlier, Gabriel Pascal, who had produced three motion pictures of his plays, visited the indefatigable Mr Shaw on the dramatist's birthday and came away with the news that he had spent an hour and a half reading the old master's latest play. "The title?" Pascal said. "I was so busy reading I didn't notice."
So it may have been Why She Would Not or it may not have been. The play that Pascal read was about a male vagabond. "It is modern, but practically timeless," Pascal told The Daily Herald. "All I can tell you is that it's a struggle between a woman and a man. The woman wins."
Pascal suggested to Shaw that the play would be good for television and the sage of Ayot St Lawrence agreed. He is interested in television, but does not have a receiving set, Pascal said.
The latest play that Shaw actually has put into hands of a producer is his Far Fetched Fables, a piece in the form of five conversation pieces and one monologue, which will be shown on Sept 6 at the Watergate Theater, one of London's smallest houses.
Last year Buoyant Billions, his first play since 1939, was presented at the Malvern Festival and later played for a brief time in London. Why She Would Not will be Shaw's third post-war play, and if Pascal was talking about still another work. there may be a fourth in the offing.
1137 Lauds G B and Ireland for selection of 94th birthday to raise their envoys to Amb rank
and Ireland have decided to raise their official representatives in
Dublin and London to the rank of Ambassador, the Foreign Office said
tonight. The changeover will be made Wednesday. George Bernard
Shaw, who was born in Dublin took it as a personal compliment that
Britain and Ireland should have chosen his birthday - he will be 94
tomorrow - to raise their respective representatives to Ambassador.
The famous playwright and man of letters usually detests observance of his birthdays, but as he said tonight in a message to John Dulanty, who is to become the first Irish Ambassador in London, this was a special occasion.
"My birthdays are an unmitigated curse to me," he wrote, "and the people who persist in reminding me of it exhaust my capacity for hatred. This one is worse than ever; but it has one consolation: it has been chosen for giving John Dulanty official recognition of the position he really occupies - that is, of Ireland's Ambassador to England. His Excellency has been a fact so long that it is only diplomatic decency to make it form as well.
The British Ambassador will be Sir Gilbert Laithwaite.
1136 Excerpts from G B Shaw lr on Ulysses on J Joyce comment pub for 1st time
7/23/50 The rara avis most sought by literary ornithologists is a Shaw letter that hasn't been printed. Londoners were treated to a typical, but heretofore unexhibited Shavian petrel recently during a showing of Joyceans. The recipient: Sylvia Beach, publisher of Ulysses (in Paris). Herewith an American premiere:
have read several fragments of Ulysses in its serial form. It is a
revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilization; but it
is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon around Dublin;
round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force
them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see
anything amusing in all that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and
obscenity. To you, possibly, it may appeal as art; you are
probably (you see I don't know you) a young barbarian beglamoured by
the excitements and enthusiasms that art stirs up in
material; but to me it is all hideously real: I have walked those
streets and know those shops and have heard and taken part in those
conversations. I escaped from them to England at the age of
and forty years later have learnt from the books of Mr Joyce that
Dublin is still what it was, and young men are still driveling in
slackjawed blackguardism just as they were in 1870. It is, however,
some consolation to find that at last somebody has felt deeply enough
about it to face the horror of writing it all down and using his
literary genius to force people to face it.
I must add, as the prospectus implies an invitation to purchase, that I am an elderly Irish gentleman, and that if you imagine that any Irishman, much less an elderly one, would pay 150 francs for a book, you little know my countrymen."
G. Bernard Shaw
saw this letter soon after it was written, and commented on it in a
letter to one Robert McAlmon. It is published here for the first
"I think I can read clearly (with the one good eye I have) between the lines. I would also take a small bet (up to 4.75 francs) that the writer has subscribed anonymously for a copy of Ulysses through some bookseller."
1135 Reptd 'indisposed'
5/30/50 George Bernard Shaw, who will be 94 years old on July 26, is suffering from an "indisposition," it was made known today. Friends said that nothing specific seemed to be wrong with the playwright, but that "he has not been himself for some time."
1134 Fails to win contest for essays written in his style at 13 yrs; gets consolation prize,
5/27/50 Bernard Shaw can't imitate his own literary style very well, in the
opinion of the New Statesman and Nation magazine. The periodical had
a literary contest in which the competitors were asked to write such
an essay as Shaw might have written at the age of 13. The dramatist,
now 93, thought it might be something suiting his talents. So he
sent in an entry.
Not so good, decided the magazine. A consolation prize of half guinea ($1.97) was awarded to him. Told of his failure, Shaw laughed and said he was glad to have the half guinea, anyway.