George Bernard Shaw: Quotations


—‘We all have skeletons in our closets; the trick is to make them dance.’
—‘My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say and then to say it with the utmost levity.’
—Q. sources

‘As to devoting myself to Ireland, I doubt whether Ireland would at all appreciate my services […] The place is too small for me.’

(Letter to Mabel Fitzgerald, 1914; in Dan. H. Lawrence, ed., Bernard Shaw, Collected Letters 1911-1925, Max Rheinhardt [1985], quoted by Bernard Share, reviewing same, in Books Ireland, Oct. 1985, p.169.)

‘Under the feeble and apologetic tyranny of Dublin Castle we Irish were forced to endure a considerable degree of compulsory freedom. The moment we got rid of that tyranny, we rushed to enslave ourselves.’

(Shaw, 1928, p.206; quoted in Eugene O’Brien, ‘Ireland in Theory: The Influence of French Theory on Irish Cultural and Societal Development’, ‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’: Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies, Bern: Peter Lang 2009, p.12.)


Texts
Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891)
“The Sanity of Art” (1895)
Mrs Warren’s Profession
(1898)

John Bull’s Other Island (1904)
Man and Superman (1905)
St Joan (1923)
“The Perfect Wagnerite” (q.d.)
Autobiographical Prefaces

Topics
Leaving the Liffey
Beleaguered Gaels
The Irish Language
The Irish Protestants
Anglo-Irish Relations
Irish Nationalism
The Irish Race
1916 Rising
Sinn Féin
Clann na nGael
The 1916 Rising
Dropping Ireland
Northern Ireland
British Empire
Religion
The Life Force
Slums & Prisons
Patriotism explained
Vivisection
William Shakespeare
Why Have Laws?
Farewell to reviewing
Irish playwrights
Aims of the playwright
His own plays
Joyce’s Ulysses
National Beauties
Birthplace (Dublin)
Sinking of the Lusitania

See “O’Flaherty, VC” in Library, “Irish Classics”, infra.

Business talk: Note that, in the following quotations, Shaw makes use of the word ‘business’ in a quaesi-metaphorical sense - which is to say, a virtually literal sense - as describing artistic and intellectual pursuits. The best-known of these, regarding the ‘business’ of getting out of Dublin and into literary London, are gathered for convenience under the heading ‘Literary business’ [infra].

The Quintessence of Ibsenism [1891], “The Technical Novelty” [chap.], rep. in Major Essays (London: Constable 1948): ‘Now an interesting play cannot in the nature of things mean anything but a play in which problems of conduct and character of personal importance to the audience are raised and suggestively discussed. People have a thrifty sense of taking away something from such plays: they not only have had something for their money, but they retain that something as a permanent possession. Consequently none of the commonplaces of the box office hold good of such plays. In vain does the experienced acting manager declare that people want to be amused and not preached at in the theatre; that they will not stand long speeches; that a play must not contain more than 18,000 words; that it must not begin before nine nor last beyond eleven; that there must be no politics and no religion in it; that breach of these golden rules will drive people to the variety theatres; that there must be a woman of bad character, played by a very attractive actress, in the piece; and so on and so forth. All these counsels are valid for plays in which there is nothing to discuss. They may be disregarded by the playwright who is a moralist and a debater as well as a dramatist. From him, within the inevitable limits set by the clock and by the physical endurance of the human frame, people will stand anything as soon as they are matured enough and cultivated enough to be susceptible to the appeal of his particular form of art. The difficulty at present is that mature and cultivated people do not go to the theatre, just as they do not read penny novelets; and when an attempt is made to cater for them they do not respond to it in time, partly because they have not the habit of playgoing, and partly because it takes too long for them to find out the athe new theate is not like all the other theatres. But when they do at last find their way there, the attraction is not the firing of blank cartridges at one antoher by actors, nor the pretence of falling downdead that ends the stage combat, nor the simulation of erotic thrills by a pair of stage lovers, nor any of the tomfooleries called action, but the exhibition and discussion of the character and conduct of stage figures who are made to apepar real by the art of the playwright and the performers. / This, then, is the extension of the old dramatic form effected by Ibsen.’ (pp.137-38.)

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The Sanity of Art [Nordau’s Book]” [1932], in Major Critical Essays (London: Constable 1948) [review of Max Nordau’s Book]’ - open letter written to Benjamin Tucker, the editor of Liberty, in response to his invitation to review and dispute Nordau’s Degeneration (1895): ‘In 1893 Doctor Max Nordau, one of those remarkable cosmopolitan Jews who go forth against modern civilisation as David went against the Philistines or Charles Maartel against the Saracens, smiting it hip and thigh without any sense of common humanity with it, trumped up an indictment of its men of genius as depraved lunatics, and pled [sic for pleaded] it (in German) before the bar of Europe under the title of Entartung. It was soon to be translated for England and America as Degeneration.’ (p.284.) Further: ‘After this long preamble, you will have no difficultiy in understanding the sort of book Nordau has written. Imagine a huge volume, stuffed with the most slashing of the criticisms which were hurled at the Impressionists, the Tone Poets, the philosophers and dramatists of the Schopenhauerian revival […] imagine a rehash not [312] only of the newspaper criticisms of this period, but of all its little parasitic paragraphs of small-talk and scandal, from the long-forgotten jibes against Oscar Wilde’s momentary attempt to bring knee-breeches into fashion years ago, to the latest scurrilities [sic] about “the New Woman”. Imagine the general staleness and occasional putrescence of this mess disguised by a dressing of the terminology invented by Krafft-Ebbing, Lombroso, and all the latest specialists in madness and crime, to describe the artistic faculties and propensities as they operate in the insane. Imagine all this done by a man who is a vigorous and capable journalist, shrewd enough to see that there is a good opening for a big reactionary book as a relief to the Wagner and Ibsen booms, bold enough to let himself to without respect to persons or reputations, lucky enough to be a stronger, clearer-headed man than ninety-nine out of a hundred of his critics, besides having a keener interest in science: a born theorist, reasoner, and busybody; therefore able, without insight, or even any very remarkable intensive industry (he is, like most Germans, extensively industrious to an appalling degree), to produce a book which has made a very considerable impression on the artistic ignorance of Europe and America. For he says a thing as if he meant it; he holds superficial ideas obstinately, and sees them clearly; and his mind works so impetuously that it is a please to watch it - for a while. All the same, he is the dupe of a thoery which would hardly impose even on the gamblers who have a system or martingale founded on a solid rock of algebra, by wihch they can infallibly break the bank at Monte Carlo. “Psychiatry” takes the place of algebra in Nordau’s martingale. / This theory of his is, at bottom , nothing but the familiar delusion of the used-up man that the world is going to the dogs.’ (Ibid., pp.312-13.) in his Preface Shaw adds a note about the effect of his review: ‘Thre was a brisk and quick sale of copies in London among the cognoscenti. And Degeneration was never heard of again. It is open to the envious to contend that this was mere coincidence - that the Degeneration boom was exhausted at that moment; but I naturally prefer to believe that Mr Tucker and I slew it.’ (Ibid., p.286.) Shaw admits to softening some of the phrase which ‘now shock me as uncivil to Dr Nordau … not offering him the insult of my attempt to spare his feelings [but] simply trying to mend my own manners.’ (p.287; dated 1907.) ‘He is so utterly mad on the subject of degeneration that he finds the symptoms of it in the loftiest geniuses as plainly as in the lowest jailbirds, the exceptions being himself, Lombroso, Krafft-Ebing, Dr Maudlsey, Goethe, Shakespear [sic], and Beethoven’ (p.325.) Shaw speaks later the Nordau’s account of Wagner as ‘incredibly foolish’ (p.329). Note: In ‘The Sanity of Art’, Shaw refers to Browning’s “Caliban Upon Setebos”, saying: ‘I cannot read Browning’s Caliban Upon Setebos (Natural Theology upon the Island) without admitting that all our religions have been made as Caliban made his and that the difference between Caliban and Prospero is not the Prospero has killed his passion in himself whilst Caliban has yielded to it but that Prospero is mastered by holier passions than Caliban’s.’

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Mrs Warren’s Profession [1898], Preface: ‘[Prostitution caused] simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to prostitution to keep body and soul together. […] No nornal woman would be a professional prostitute if she could better herself by being respectable.’ Mrs Warren tells her daughter Vivie, ‘I wanted to be a good woman’ TEXT: ‘Oh, the injustice of it! The Injustice! I always wanted to be a good woman. I tried honest work; and I was slave-driven until I cursed the day I ever heard of honest work.’ (Mrs Warren’s Profession, Complete Plays, Odlam 1950, p.92).

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John Bull’s Other Island (1904), ‘Preface for Politicians’ prefixed to the 1st Edition in 1906 (1934 Prefaces; pp.439-72): ‘John Bull’s Other Ireland was written in 1904 at the request of Mr William Butler Yeats, as a patriotic contribution to the repertory of the Irish Literary Theatre. Like most people who have asked me to write plays, Mr Yeats got rather more than he bargained for […] The play was at that time beyond the resources of the new Abbey Theatre […] / There was another reason for changing the destination of John Bull’s Other Island. It was uncongenial to the whole spirit of the neo-Gaelic movement, which is bent on creating a new Ireland after its own ideal, whereas my ply is a very uncompromising presentment of the real old Ireland. […]. Now I have a good deal more to say about the relations between the Irish and the English than will be found in my play. Writing the play for an Irish audience, I though it would be good for them to be shown very clearly that the loudest laugh they could raise at the expense of the absurdest Englishman was not really a laugh on their side, that he would succeed where they would fail; that he could inspire strong affection and loyalty in an Irishman who knew the world and was moved only to dislike, mistrust, impatience and exasperation by his own countrymen; that his power of taking himself seriously, and his insensibility to anything funny in danger and destruction, was the first condition of economy and concentration of forces, sustained purpose, and rational conduct. But the need for this [lesson] in Ireland is the measure of its demoralising superfluousness in England. English audience very naturally swallowed it eagerly and smacked their lips over it, because they felt that they were taking a caricature of themselves with the most tolerant and large-minded good-humour. They were perfectly willing to allow me to represent Tom Broadbent as infatuated in politics, hypnotised by his newspaper leaders and parliamentary orators into an utter paralysis of his common sense, without moral delicacy or social tact, provided I made him cheerful, robust, goodnatured, free from envy, and above all, a successful muddler-through in business and love.’ (p.439.) [Cont.]

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John Bull’s Other Island (1904), ‘Preface for Politicians’ (1906; 1934): - cont.: ‘Not only did no English critic allow that the success [439] in business of Messrs Broadbent and Irish Doyle might possibly have been due to some extent to Doyle, but one writer actually dwelt with much feeling on the pathos of Doyle’s failure as an engineer (a circumstance not mentioned nor suggested in my play) in contrast with Broadbent’s solid success. No doubt, when the play was performed in Ireland, the Dublin critics will regard it as self-evident that without Doyle Broadbent would have become bankrupt in six months. I should say, myself, that the combination was probably more effective than either of the partners would have been alone. I am persuaded further - without pretending to know more about it than anyone else - that Broadbent’s special contribution was simply the strength, self-satisfaction, social confidence and cheerful bumptiousness that money, comfort, and good feeding bring to all healthy people; and that Doyle’s special contribution was the freedom from illusion, the power of facing facts, the nervous industry, the sharpened wits, the sensitive pride of the imaginative man who has fought his way up through social persecution and poverty. I do not say that the confidence of the Englishman in Broadbent is not for the moment justified. The virtues of the English soil are not less real because they consist of coal and iron, not of metaphysical sources of character. The virtues of Broadbent are not less real because they are the virtues of the money that coal and iron have produced. But as the mineral virtues are being discovered and developed in other soils, their derivative virtues are appearing so rapidly in other nations that Broadbent’s relative advantage is vanishing. In truth I am afraid (this misgiving is natural to a by-this-time slightly elderly playwright) that Broadbent is out of date. The successful Englishman of today, when his is not a transplanted Scotchman or Irishman, often turns out on investigation to be, if not American, an Italian, or a Jew, at lest to be depending on the brains, the nervous system, and the freedom form romantic illusions (often called cynicism) of such foreigners for the management of his source of income. At all events I am persuaded that a modern nation that is satisfied with Broadbent is in a dream. Much as I like him, I object to be governed by him, or entangled in his political destiny. I therefore propose to give him a piece of my mind here, as an Irishman, full of the instinctive pity for those of my fellow-creatures who are only English.’ (Quoted in part in, inter alia, Frank Harris, Shaw, p.44; Louis MacNeice, Yeats, 1944; M. J. MacManus, Adventures of an Irish Bookman, 1952, p.92; Edna Longley, The Living Stream, 1994, p.135; Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, Jonathan Cape 1995, p.419, and Willy Maley, ‘Varieties of Nationalism: Post-Revisionist Irish Studies’, in Irish Studies Review, No.15, Summer 1996, pp.34-37, p.36.)

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John Bull’s Other Island (1904), Preface: ‘Blackguard, bully, drunkard, liar, foulmouth, flatterer, beggar, backbiter, venal functionary, corrupt judge, envious friend, vindictive opponent, unparalleled political traitor: all these your Irishman may easily be, just as he may be a gentleman […] but he is never quite the hysterical, nonsense-crammed, fact-proof, truth-terrified, unballasted sport of all the bogey panics and all the silly enthusiasm that now calls itself “God’s Englishman”.’ (Quoted in Aaron Kelly, Twentieth-Century Literature in Ireland: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism, London: Palgrave Macmillan 2008, p.20 - together with ‘JBOI was uncongenial to the whole spirit of neo-Gaelicism …; &c.’ [as supra.) [For longer extracts, see Irish Classic Texts, infra].

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John Bull’s Other Island (1904)

LARRY DOYLE (of Haffigan:) ‘ No Irishman ever talks like that in Ireland , or ever did, or ever will. But when a thoroughly worthless Irishman comes to England , and finds the whole place full of romantic duffers like you, who will let him loaf and drink and sponge and brag as long as he flatters your sense of moral superiority by playing the fool and degrading himself and his country, he soon learns the antics that take you in. He picks them up at the theatre or the music hall. Haffigan learnt the rudiments from his father, who came from my part of Ireland . I know his uncles, Matt and Andy Haffigan of Rosscullen.’ (p.410.)

‘Never mind my heart: an Irishman’s heart is nothing but his imagination. How many of all those millions that have left Ireland have ever come back or wanted to come back?’ (p.410.)

‘ ‘My dear Tom, you need only a touch of the Irish climate to be as big a fool as I am myself. ‘Rosscullen! oh, good Lord, Rosscullen! the dullness! the hopelessness! the ignorance! the bigotry!’ […] the climate is different. Here if life is dull, you can be dull too, and no great harm done. [Going into a passionate dream.] But your wits cant thicken in that soft moist air on those white springy roads, in those misty rushes and brown bogs, on those hillside granite rocks and magenta heather. Youve no such colours in the sky, no such lure in the distances, no such sadness in the evenings. Oh, the dreaming! the dreaming! the dreaming! [Savagely.] No debauchery that ever coarsened and brutalised an Englishman can take the worth and usefulness out of him like that dreaming. An Irishman’s imagination never leaves him alone, never convinces him, never satisfies him; but it makes him that he cant face reality nor deal with it nor handle it nor conquer it: he can only sneer at them that do [bitterly to Broadbent] be “ agreeable to strangers” , like a good-for-nothing woman on the streets. It’s all dreaming, all imagination. He can’t be religious […] he can’t be intelligently political; he dreams of what the Shan Van Vocht said in ninety-eight. If you want to interest him in Ireland you’ve got to call the unfortunate island Kathleen ni Houlihan and pretend she’s a little old woman. It saves thinking. It saves working. It saves everything except imagination; and imagination’s such a torture you cant bear it without whiskey. [With fierce shivering self-contempt.] At last you get that you cant bear nothing real at all: youd rather go shabby and dirty than set your mind to take care of your clothes and wash yourself; you nag and squabble at home because your wife isnt an angel, and she despises you because youre not a hero; and you hate the whole lot round you because theyre only poor slovenly useless devils like yourself. [Dropping his voice like a man making some shameful confidence.] And all the while there goes on a horrible, senseless, mischievous laughter. […] eternal derision, eternal envy, eternal folly, eternal fouling and staining and degrading, until, when you come at last to a country where men take a question seriously and give a serious answer to it, you deride them for having no sense of humor, and plume yourself on your own worthlessness as if it made you better than them.’ (p.411; Anthology of Irish Writing, Field Day 1991, pp.430-31.)

KEEGAN [to Broadbent]: ‘You will drive Haffigan to America very efficiently; you will find a use for Barney Doran’s foul mouth and bullying temper by employing him to slave-drive your labourers very efficiently; and [low and bitter] when at last this poor desolate countryside becomes a busy mint in which we shall all slave to make money for you, without Polytechnic to teach us how to do it efficiently, and our library to duffle the few imaginations your distilleries will spare, and our repaired Round Tower with admission sixpence, and refreshments and penny-in-the-slot mutoscopes to make it interesting, then no doubt your English and American shareholders will spend all the money we make for they very efficiently in shooting and hunting … ’ (John Bull’s Other Island, rep. in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol. 2, 1991, p.439; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, pp.55-56.);

KEEGAN (on the modern world): ‘It’s a place where children are scourged and enslaved in the name of parental duty and education; where the weak in body are poisoned and mutilated in the name of healing, and the weak in character put to the horrible torture of imprisonment … It’s a place where the hardest toil is a welcome refuge from the horror and tedium of pleasure, where charity and good works are done only for hire to ransom the souls of the spoiler and sybarite …’. (FDA2, 461; Kiberd, op. cit., 1995, p.60.) For longer extracts from preface and play. [For longer extracts, see RICORSO Library, “Classics”, infra].

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Man and Superman [1905], ‘Epistle Dedicatory’: ‘From the day I first set foot on this foreign soil I knew the value of the prosaic qualities of which Irishmen teach English men to be ashamed as well as I know the vanity of the poetic qualities of which Englishrnen teach Irishmen to be proud. For the Irishman instinctively disparages the quality which makes the Englishman dangerous to him; and the Englishman instinctively flatters the fault that makes the Irishman harmless and amusing to him.’ (Quoted in Thomas Kilroy, ‘Anglo-Irish Playwrights and Comic Tradition’, in The Crane Bag, 3, 1979, pp.19-27; rep. in The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1982, pp.439-47, p.447.)

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Saint Joan (1923): ‘You dont know: you havent seen: it is so easy to talk when you dont know. You madden yourself with words: you damn yourself because it feels grand to throw oil on the flaming hell of your own temper. But when it is brought home to you: when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then - then - [Falling on his knees.] O God, take away this sight from me!’ In quoting this John Carey disputes Stanley Fish’s view that, in the play no other value attaches to Samson’s act in bringing down the pillars and massacring the Philistines than his [Samson’s] own belief in its divine inspiration, arguing both that Milton does not represent Samson as deriving his motivation from communing with the divinity through prayer - as the Book of Kings does - and also emphasises the horror experienced by an Israelite observer. Fish holds that fanaticism may by-pass it but common humanity remains the standard by which such actions are to be judged. (Carey ‘A Work in Praise of Terrorism?: September 11 and Samson Agonistes’, in Times Literary Supplement, 6 Sept. 2002, p.15; and note that letters contesting this reading appeared in several successive issues.)

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The Perfect Wagnerite: Siegfried as Protestant” [sect.]): ‘One word of warning to those who may find themselves [222] attracted by Siegfried’s Anarchism, or, if they prefer a term with more respectable associations, his neo-Protestantism. Anarchism, as a panacea, is just as hopeless as any other panacea, and will still be so even if we breed a race of perfectly benevolent men. It is true that in the sphere of thought, Anarchism is an inevitable condition of progressive evolution. A nation without Freethinkers -that is, without intellectual Anarchists-will share the fate of China. It is also true that our criminal law, based on a conception of crime and punishment which is nothing but our vindictiveness and cruelty in a virtuous disguise, is an unmitigated and abominable nuisance, bound to be beaten out of us finally by the mere weight of our experience of its evil and uselessness. But it will not be replaced by anarchy. Applied to the industrial or political machinery of modern society, anarchy must always reduce itself speedily to absurdity. Even the modified form of anarchy on which modern civilization is based: that is, the abandonment of industry, in the name of individual liberty, to the upshot of competition for personal gain between private capitalists, is a disastrous failure, and is, by the mere necessities of the case, giving way to ordered Socialism. For the economic rationale of this, I must refer disciples of Siegfried to a tract from my hand published by the Fabian Society and entitled The Impossibilities of Anarchism, which explains why, owing to the physical constitution of our globe, society cannot effectively organise the production of its food, clothes, and housing, nor distribute them fairly and economically on any anarchic plan: nay, that without concerting our social action to a much higher degree than we do at present we can never get rid of the wasteful and iniquitous welter of a little riches and a great deal of poverty which current political humbug calls our prosperity and civilization. Liberty is an excellent thing: but it cannot begin until society has paid its daily debt to Nature by first earning its living. There is no liberty before that except the liberty to live at somebody else’s expense, a liberty much sought after nowadays, since it is the criterion of gentility, but not wholesome from the point of view of the common weal.’ (Major Critical Essays, 1948 Edn., pp.222-23.)

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Autobiographical Preface: ‘I was a downstart, the son of a downstart: I sing my own class: the shabby Genteel, the Poor Relations, the Gentlemen who are No Gentlemen […]. On the whole, they held their cherished respectability in the world in spite of their lack of opportunity. They owed something perhaps the confidence given them by their sense of family. In Irish fashion they talked of themselves as the Shaws, as who should say the Vabois, the Bourbons, the Hohenzollerns, the Hapsburgs, or the Romanoffs, and their world conceded the point to them. I had an enormous contempt for this family snobbery, as I called it, until I was completely reconciled to it by a certain Mr Alexander Macintosh Shaw, a clansman who, instead of taking his pedigree for granted in the usual Shaw manner, hunted it up, and published one hundred copies privately in 1877. Somebody sent me a copy, and my gratification was unbounded when I read the first sentence of the first chapter, which ran: “It is the general tradition, says the Rev. Lachlan Shaw [bless him!], that the Shaws are descended of McDuff, Earl of Fife.” I hastily skipped to the chapter about the Irish Shaws to make sure that they were my people; and there they were, baronet and all, duly traced to the third son of that immortalised yet unborn Thane of Fife who, invulnerable to normally accouched swordsmen, laid on ad slew Macbeth. It was as good as being descended from Shakespeare, whom I had been consciously resolved to reincarnate from my cradle.’ (Preface to Immaturity, 1879; cited in A. N. Jeffares, [essay on Goldsmith], Images of Invention, 1996, p.94.)

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Self-Portrait: ‘My father was an Irish Protestant gentleman of the downstart race of younger sons. He had no inheritance, no profession, no manual skill, no qualification of any sort for any definite social function.’ ‘When I was a child, he gave me my first dip in the sea in Killiney Bay. He prefaced it by a very serious exhortation on the importance of learning to swim, culminating in these words: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my knowledge of swimming enabled me to save your Uncle Robert’s life.” Then seeing that I was deeply impressed, he stooped, and added confidentially in my ear, “and, to tell you the truth, I never was so sorry for anything in my life afterwards.” He then plunged into the ocean, enjoyed a thoroughly refreshing swim, and chuckled all the way home.’ (Sixteen Self-Portraits, p.48.) [For influence of Marx, see Sixteen Self-Portraits, p.49.]

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Literary business (1): ‘My business in life could not be transacted in Dublin out of an experience confined to Ireland. I had to go to London just as my father had to go to the Corn Exchange. London was the literary centre for the English language, and for such artistic culture as the realm of the English language (in which I proposed to be king) could afford.’ (“Composite Autobiography”; rep. in The Field Day Anthology, 1991, Vol. 2, p.496; cited in Fergal Gaynor, ‘An Irish Potatoe Seasoned with Attic Salt’: The Reliques of Fr. Prout and Identity before The Nation’, Irish Studies Review, Dec. 1999, pp.313-24.

Literary business (2): ‘There was no Gaelic League in those days, nor any sense that Ireland had in herself the seed of culture. Every Irishman who felt that his business in life was on the higher planes of the cultural professions felt that he must have a metropolitan domicile and an international culture: that is, he felt that his first business was to get out of Ireland. I had the same feeling. For London, as London, or England as England, I cared nothing […] But as the English language was my weapon, there was nothing for it but to go to London.’ (Prefaces, London: Constable 1934, p.642; quoted in Gearóid O’Flaherty, ‘George Bernard Shaw and the Irish Literary Revival’, in New Voices in Irish Criticism, ed. P. J. Mathews, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000, pp.33-42, p.33; also quoted in Rolf & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Dublin: Four Courts 2006 [commencing ‘Every Irishman [sic] ...’, citing as source S. Haddelsey, Lever: The Last Victorian, Gerrards Cross 2000, p.23; Loebers & Loeber, op. cit., p.lx.)

Literary business (3): ‘My business in life could not be transacted in Dublin out of an experience confined to Ireland. I had to go to Lodnon just as my father had to go to the Corn Exchange. London was the literary centre for the English language, and for such artistic culture as the realm of the English language (in which I proposed to be king) could afford.’ (“Composite Autobiography”; rep. in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, Vol. 2, p.496; cited in Fergal Gaynor, ‘An Irish Potatoe Seasoned with Attic Salt’: The Reliques of Fr. Prout and Identity before The Nation’, in Irish Studies Review, Dec. 1999, pp.313-24.)

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The Anaesthetic (for a foot operation): ‘It was not until I was allowed to recover that the process became publicly interesting. For then a very strange thing happened. My character did not come back all at once. Its artistic and sentimental side came first: its morality, its positive elements, its commonsense, its incorrigible Protestant respectability, did not return for a long time after. For the first time in my life I tasted the bliss of [459] having no morals to restrain me from lying, and no sense of reality to restrain me from romancing I overflowed with what people call “heart”. I acted and lied in the most touchingly sympathetic fashion; I felt prepared to received unlimited kindness from everybody with the deepest, tenderest gratitude; and I was totally incapable of even conceiving the notion of rendering anyone a service myself. If only I could have stood up and talked distinctly as a man in perfect health and self-possession, I should have won the hearts of everybody present until they found me out later on. Even as it was, I was perfectly conscious of the value of my prostrate and half-delirious condition as a bait for sympathy; and I deliberately played for it in a manner which now makes me blush. I carefully composed effective little ravings, and repeated them, and started again and let my voice die away, without an atom of shame. I called everybody by their Christian names, except one gentleman whose Christian name I did not, and I called him “dear old So-and-so”. Artistically, I was an immense success: morally, I simply had no existence.’ (‘G.B.S[haw] vivisected’, in Dramatic Opinions and Essays, p.459-63; 459-60.)

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Beleaguered Gaels: ‘There was no Gaelic League in those days, nor any sense that Ireland had in herself the seed of culture. Every Irishman who felt that his business in life was on the higher planes of the cultural professions felt that he ust have a metropolitan domicile and an international culture: that is, he felt that his first business was to get out of Ireland. I had the same feeling. For London, as London, or England as England, I cared nothing […] But as the English language was my weapon, there was nothing for it but to go to London.’ (Prefaces, London: Constable 1934, p.642; cited in Gearóid O’Flaherty, ‘George Bernard Shaw and the Irish Literary Revival’, in P. J. Mathews, ed., New Voices in Irish Criticism, Four Courts Press 2000, pp.33-42, p.33.)

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Irish language: ‘The remark I made about the artificial language propagated by the Gaelic League has been taken as applying to the Irish [59] language as actually spoken in the West of Ireland. […] It happend that long befor the Gaelic League was thought of I learnt something about Gaelic form the late James Lecky, one of its rediscoverers. It presented itself to him as highly artificial literary exercise, comparable to fifth-century Latin, and having about as much to do with vernacular Irish as fifth-century Latin had to do with the vernacular Italian of the period, or as Trinity College Greek has to do with the Greek actually spoken today in the streets of Athens. […] it is possible that the Gaelic League may stimulate Englishmen to study Anglo-Saxon, and throw off the yoke of that foreign languagewhich managed to impose itself on Shakespear as it imposed itself on Swift, and on Pitt, and Gladstone, as on O’Connell and Parnell. And I do not doubt tht an Anglo-Saon League owuld do a [60] geat deal of good incidentally, as the Gaelic League has done. The Gaelic League has given most excellent advice to our country-men, and I believe that the remarkable increase of personal self-respect and genuine patriotism, of which I have seen unmistakeable signs almost everywhree in Ireland except in Dublin, has been largely guided by that advice. But the advice was not written in Gaelic; it was written in the language of half mankind. / Along with that increase of self-respect there has arisen a new and very foolish fashion here in Ireland. I have heard several Irishmen say, when the question of language was mooted, that if other nations were to have a lkanguage of their own, they did not see why Ireland should not have one. I quite expect before long to see the beginning of a movement to establish an Irish sun and moon, on the grounds that the present articles are English.’ (Letter to Freeman’s Journal, 17 Oct. 1910; rep. in The Matter with Ireland, ed. David Greene & Dan Laurence, Constable, 1962, p.59.)

English in language: ‘The position of a foreigner with complete command of the same languages has great advantages. I can take an objective view of England, which no Englishman can. I could not take an objective view of Ireland.’ (The Matter with Ireland, quoted in editors’ Introduction, p.xi [para 1]; cited in ‘The Anglo-Irish theatrical Imagination’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, Winter 1997/Spring 1998, pp.5-11.)

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Irish Protestants ((John Bull’s Other Island [1904]): ‘First, let me tell you that in Ireland Protestants are really Protestant. […] In Ieland all that the member of the Irish Protestant Church knows is that he is not a Roman Catholic. […] In Ireland the Church parent sends his son to a Wesleyan school (if it is convenient and socially eligible) [445] because he is indifferent to the form of Protestantism, provided it is Protestantism. There is also in Ireland a characteristically Protestant refusal to take ceremonies and even sacraments very seriously except by way of strenuous objection to them when they are conducted with candles or incense.’ (p.446.) ‘In Ireland it is not “loyalty” to drink the English king’s health and sand uncovered to the Englsh natioanl anthem: it is simply exploitation of English rule in the interests of the property, power and promotion of the irhs classes against the Irish masses. From any other point of view it is cowardice and dishonour.’ (p.448.) ‘The notion that Ireland is the only country in the world [449] not worth shedding a drop of blood for in not a Protestant one, and certainly not countenanced by English practice. It was hardly reasonable to ask Parnell to shed blood quant. suff. in Egypt to put an end to the misgovernment of the Khedive and replace him by Lord Cromer for the sake of the English bondholders, and then to expect him to become a Tolstoyan or an O’Connellite in regard to his own country.’ (p.450). ‘Let me halt a moment here to impreess on you, O English reader, that we can do nothing with an English Government unless we frighten it, any more than you can yourself.’ (Collected Prefaces, 1934, p.450; for longer extracts, see RICORSO Library, “Classics Irish Texts”, infra.)

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Protestants & Home Rule: ‘The more Protestant an Irishman is - the more English he is, if he flatters himself to have it put that way, the more intolerable he finds it to be ruled by English instead of Irish folly. A “loyal” Irishman is an abhorrent phenomenon, because it is not a natural one. […] . If there is an entire lack of gall in the feeling of the Ireish gentry towards the English, it is because the Englishman is always gaping admiringly at the Irishman as at some clever child prodigy. He overrates him with a generosity born of a traditional conviction of his own superiority in the deeper aspects of human character. […] ’ (John Bull’s Other Island [1904], Collected Prefaces, 1934, p.441.)

What Irish Protestants Think: Speeches on Home Rule”, pamphlet of speech delivered before a meeting in the Memorial Hall, London, 6 Dec. 1912; rep. as ‘Protestants in Ireland: II’, in The Matter with Ireland, p.71-73): ‘I am an Irishman; my father was an Irishman, and my mother an Irishwoman; and my father and my mother were Protestants, who would have been described by a large section of their fellow countrymen in the ruder age when I was young sanguinary Protestants. Many of the duties of my mother were shared by an Irish nurse, who was a Catholic, and she never put me to bed without sprinkling me with Holy Water. What is there to laugh at in an Irish Catholic woman sprinkling with Holy Water - and you know what Holy Water meant to her - a little Protestant infant, whose parents grossly underpaid her? [For longer extract, see infra.]

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English Govt. & Catholicism: ‘For in Ireland England is nothing but the Pope’s policeman. She imagines she is holding the Vatican cardinals at bay when she is really strangling the Voltaires, the Foxes and the Penns, the Cliffords, Campbells, Walters, and Silvester Hornes, who are to be found as plentifully among the Roman Catholic laity in England. She gets nothing out of Ireland except infinite trouble, infinte confusion and hindrance in her own legislation, a hatred that circulates the whole wolrd and poisson it against her […].’ (John Bull’s Other Island [1904], Collected Prefaces, 1934, p.453.)

English-Irish: ‘Roughly I should say that the Englishman is wholly at the mercy of his imagination, having no sense of reality to check it. The Irishman, with a far subtler and more fastidious imagination, has one eye always on things as they are.’ (John Bull’s Other Island [1904], Collected Prefaces, 1934, p.442.)

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Irish Nationalism: ‘Nationalism stands between Ireland and the light of the world […] A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation’s nationality, it will think of nothing else but having it set [again]. A healthy nation is as unconscious of its nationality as a healthy man is of his bones. […] Every election is fought on nationalist grounds; every judge is a partisan in the nationalist conflict; every speech is a dreary recapitualation of nationalist twaddle; every lecture is a corruption of history to flatter nationalism or defame it; every school is a recruiting station; every church is a barrack; and every Irishman is unspeakably tired of the whole miserable business, which nevertheless is and perforce must remain the first business until Home Rule makese an end of it, and sweeps the nationalist and the garrison hack together into the dustbin.’ (John Bull’s Other Island and Major Barbara, 1907, p.xxxiv; Prefaces by Bernard Shaw, Constable 1934, pp.439-72; pp.454-55; Dan Laurence, ed., Coll. Plays with their Prefaces, Bodley Head 1971, Vol. 2, p.842; quoted variously in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, Pluto Press 1998, p.81; Gearóid O’Flaherty, ‘George Bernard Shaw and the Irish Literary Revival’, in P. J. Mathews, ed., New Voices in Irish Criticism, ed. P. J. Mathews Four Courts Press 2000, pp.33-42, p.37.)

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Irish nationality: ‘The notion that Ireland is the only country in the world not worth shedding a drop of blood for is not a Protestant one, and certainly not countenanced by English practice.’ (Pref. to John Bull’s Other Island, Bodley Head 1971, p.831; cited in Declan Kiberd, Anglo-Irish Attitudes [Field Day Pamphlets, No. 6] (Derry: Field Day 1984, p.18; further, Shaw mocked ‘that hollowest of fictions’, the notion of an English or an Irish man’ (ibid, p.814; Kiberd, p.18-19.)

Nationalism in general: ‘Nationalism must now be added to the refuse pile of superstitions. We are now citizens of the world and the man who divides the race into elect Irishmen and reprobate foreign devils (especially Englishmen) had better live on the Blaskets where he can admire himself without much trouble … We must realise that national independence is now impossible.’ (1923; cited in R. L. McCartney, QC, MPA, Liberty and Authority in Ireland [Field day Pamphlet No. 9], Field Day 1985, p.12.)

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The Irish race: ‘There is no Irish race any more than there is an English race or a Yankee race, but there is an Irish climate which will stamp an immigrant more deeply and durably in two years, apparently than the English climate will in two hundred. It is reinforced by an artificial economic climate which does some of the work attributed to the natural geographic one; but the geographic climate is eternal and irresistible, making a mankind and a womankind that Kent, Middlesex, and East Anglia cannot produce and do not want to imitate.’ (Shaw, Preface to John Bull’s Other Island, in Prefaces, 1938, p.442; cited [in part] in Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 1993, p.13; also in Frank Tuohy, Yeats, 1976, p.19.)

The Irish nation: ‘Of all the tricks which the Irish nation [has] played on the slow-witted Saxon, the most outrageous is the palming off on him of the imaginary Irishman of romance’ (Quoted in Martin Meisal, Shaw and the Nineteenth-Century Theatre, 1963, p.269; cited in Selina Mooney, MA diss., UUC, 1999.)

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1916 Rising: ‘Until Dublin Castle is superseded by a National Parliament and Ireland voluntarily incorporated with the British Empire, as Canada, Australasia, and South Africa have beenincorporated, an Irishman resorting to arms to achieve the independence of his country is doing only what Englishmen will do if it be their misfortune to be invaded and conquered by the Germans in the course ofthe present war.’ / Further, such an Irishman is as much in order morally in accepting assistance from the Germans in his struggle with England as England in accepting assistance from Russia in her struggle with Germany. The fact that he knows that his enemies will not respect his rights if they catch him, and that he must therefore fight with a rope round his neck, increases his risk, but adds in the same measure to his glory in the eyes of his compatriots and of the disinterested admirers of patriotism thorughout the world. / It is absolutely impossible to slaughter a man in this position without making him a martyr and a hero, even though the day before the rising he may have been only a minor poet. The shot Irishmen will now take their places beside Emmet and the Manchester Martyrs in Ireland and beside the heroes of Poland and Serbia and Belgium in Europe, and nothing in heaven or on earth can prevent it.’ (’The Easter Rising Executions’ [Daily News], in The Matter with Ireland, 1962, p.112; also cited in part in Desmond Ryan, The Rising, The Complete Story of Easter Week (Dublin 1957.)

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1916 Rising (Appendix to Preface of John Bull’s Other Island [1906], 1929): ‘[T]he sequel to these events confirmed my unheeded warning with a sanguinary completely of which I had no prevision. At Easter 1916 a handful of Irishmen seized the Dublin Post Office and proclaimed an Irish Republic, with one of their number, a schoolmaster named Pearse, as President. If all Ireland had risen at this gesture it would have been a serious matter for England, then up to her neck in the war against the Central Empires. But there was no response: the gesture was a complete failure. All that was necessary was to blockade the Post Office until its microcosmic republic was starved out and made ridiculous. What actually happened would be incredible if there were not so many living witnesses of it. […] Thus by fire and bullet, murder and torture and devastation, a situation was produced in which the British Government [470] had either to capitulate at the cost of a far more complete concession of self-government to Ireland than that decreed by the repudiated Home Rule Act, or to let loose the military strength of England in a Cromwellian reconquest, massacre, and replantation which it knew that public opinion in England and America would not tolerate; for some of the most conspicuous English champions of Ulster warned the Government that they could stand no more of the Black and Tan terrorism. And so we settled the Irish Question, not as civilised and reasonable men should have settled it, but as dogs settle a dispute over a bone.’ (Complete Prefaces, London 1934, pp.470-71.)

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1916 Rising: ‘[…] The folly of asking an Irishman to remember anything when you want him to fight for England was apparent to everyone outside the Castle: FORGET AND FORGIVE would have been more to the point. Remembering Belgium and its broken treaty led Irishmen to remember Limerick and its broken treaty; and the recruiting ended in a rebellion, in suppressing which the British artillery quite unnecessarily reduced the centre of Dublin to ruins, and the British commanders killed their leading prisoners of war in cold blood morning after morning with an effect of long-drawn-out ferocity. Really it was only the usual childish petulance in which John Bull does things in a week that disgrace him for a century, though he soon recovers his good humor, and cannot understand why the survivors of his wrath do not feel as jolly with him as he does with them. On the smouldering ruins of Dublin the appeals to remember Louvain were presently supplemented by a fresh appeal. IRISHMEN, DO YOU WISH TO HAVE THE HORRORS OF WAR BROUGHT TO YOUR OWN HEARTHS AND HOMES? Dublin laughed sourly.’ (Sourced from Gutenberg Project [online].)

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Sinn Féin: ‘When people ask me what “Sinn Féin” means, I say it is the Irish for “John Bull”’; ‘in full reaction against both servility and the stage Irishman, it is a point of honour with the modern Irishman to have no sense of humour’ (The Matter with of Ireland, ed. David H. Greene and Dan H. Laurence, London 1962, p.99; cited in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, London: Jonathan Cape 1995, p.59; I could have been a poet like Yeaets and Synge … but I prided myself on thinkg clearly and therefore cold not stay … Whenever I took a problem, I always pursued it to its logical conclusion and inevitably it resolve itself into a comedy … England had conquered Ireland, so there was nothing for it but to come over and conquer England.’ (Preface, in Matter with Ireland, 1962, p.35; Kiberd, 1995, p.62; Also, ‘An Irishman resorting to arms to achieve the independence of his country is doing only what Englishmen will do if it be their misfortune to be invaded and conquered by the Germans.’ (‘The Easter Week Executions’, in The Matter with Ireland, pp.111-14; p.112; Kiberd, pp.199).

Clann na Gael: ‘The Clann-na-Gael […] suddenly struck out [with] the brilliant idea that to satirise the follies of humanity is to insult the Irish nation, because the Irish nation is, in fact, the human race, and has no follies, and stands there pure and beautiful and saintly to be eternally oppressed by England and collected for by the Clan.’ (On American riots against Synge’s Playboy; quoted in F. S. L. Lyons, Culture and Anarchy in Ireland 1890-1939, Oxford 1979, p.69; cited in Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Irish Nationalism, Routledge, 1995, p.49.)

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Dropping Ireland’: ‘There are formidable vested interests in our huge national stock of junk and bilge, glowing with the phosphoresence of romance. Heroes and heroines have risked their lives to force England to drop Ireland like a hot potato. England, after a final paroxysm of doing her worst, has dropped Ireland accordingly. But in doing so she has destroyed the whole stock-in-trade of the heroes and heroines […] We are now citizens of the world; and the may who divides the race into elect Irishmen and reprobate foreign devils (especially Englishmen) had better live on the Blaskets where he can admire himself without disturbance. Perhaps, after all, our late troubles were not so purposeless as they seemed. They were probably ordained to prove to us that we are no better than other people; and when Ireland is once forced to accep this stupendous new idea, goodby to the old patriotism.’ (‘On Throwing Out Dirty Water,’ in New Statesman, Sept. 1923; quoted in F. S. L. Lyons, Culture and Anarchy in Ireland 1890-1939 (OUP 1979, p.165; also in Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 1993, p.18.)

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Northern Ireland: ‘In my preface of 1906, and again in my 1912 preface to the six-penny edition of this play called the Home Rule edition, I exhorted the Protestants to take their chance, trust their grit, and play their part in a single parliament ruling an undivided Ireland. Probably they did not even read it being to absorbed in the History of Maria Monk, or the lattest demonstration that all the evil in the world is the world of an underground conspiracy entitled by them “the Jesuits”. It is a pity they did not begin their political education, as I began mine, by reading Karl Marx. […] The Northern Parliament will not merge into the Oireachtas; for until both of them are superseded by a completely modernised central government, they will remain more effective as regional parliaments than they would be as national ones; but they will soon have to take counsel together which will recur until they become a permanent institution. [… &c.]’ (Preface to John Bull’s Other Island, “Four Years Later” [appendix], in Collected Prefaces, 1934, pp.469-72. p.72; see full text, infra.)

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Irish Censorship: ‘[If Ireland] having broken England’s grip on her ... slips back into the Atlantic as a little grass patch in which a few million moral cowards are not allowed to call their souls their own by a handful of morbid Catholics, mad with heresyphobia, unnaturally combining with a handful of Calvinists mad with sexphobia (both being in a small and intensely disliked minority of their own co-religionists) then the world will let “these Irish” go their own way into insignificance without the slightest concern. It will no longer even tell funny stories about them.’ (‘The Censorship’, in Irish Statesman, 17 Nov. 1928, pp.206-08; quoted in Nicholas Allen, ‘Free Statement: Censorship and the Irish Statesman’, in Last Before America: Irish and American Writing, ed. Fran Brearton & Eamonn Hughes, Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2001, p.94; see also Allen’s remarks under Commentary, supra.)

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British Empire: ‘The British Empire consists of several States flying the British flag and defended by the British fleet, but otherwise differing widely in their laws and institutions. The only one which is governed without the slightest regard to the character and views of the inhabitants is England. In the others the people are more or less consulted, the opposite extreme to England being reached in Ireland, where governmental action is never based on commonsense, political science, or on anything except some empirical and mostly fantastic estimate of the Irish species / Hitherto it has been assumed without question that all units of the Empire must be geographical: that Bombay must belong to the Indian system, Dundee to the Scottish system, Belfast to the [136] Irish system, and London to the English system. This, however, is no more a necessity of the case than that Gibraltar should belong to the Spanish system. It is quite conceivable that London observing that the best-trained and most competent governing body in the Empire is the Indian Civil Service, might desire to be regarded as a part of British India; that Galway might attach itself to Canada, Dundee to Australia, and Oxford University to the Straits Settlements. This would not involve the disruption of the Empire: on the contrary, it would lead to a healthy competition among its Governments, culminating in the survival of the fittest. Probably Westminster would be left without a single constituent at an early stage; but the Empire would get on quite well without it. / The first step in this new mode of development has been provoked by the Home Rule Act. A new system being proposed for Ireland, Belfast repudiates it, and claims to be attached to England. It is hard to see what reasonable objection can be advanced to this, provided the rest of Ireland be allowed to distribute itself over the Empire in the same fashion. The entire Irish question might be disposed of in this way. Ulster would, on second thoughts, probably attach itself to Egypt or India, which are garrison States. The other provinces would join the Overseas Dominions. The Giant’s Causeway, the Blaskets, Tory, Arran [sic], and Dalkey could become Solomon Islands; and England could at last govern herself in her own way without having to think about Ireland instead of about herself. It sounds too good to be true; but there is nothing impossible or extravagant about it; and if Sir Edward Carson does not mean this, I am at a loss to understand what he does mean; for he, as a lawyer, clearly cannot mean that Belfast should be made the Holy City of the British Empire, with privileges denied to London itself.’ (“Brogue-shock”, Letter to The Nation [London], 24 March 1917; rep. in The Matter with Ireland, ed. David Greene & Dan Laurence, London: Constable, 1962, pp.136-37.) Note also: ‘There is no evidence that the British Empire is on the downgrade’ (Letter, 1917; quoted in Bernard Share, op. cit., 1985 [q.p.]).

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Slums & Prisons: When we get down to the poorest and most oppressed of our population we find the conditions of their life so wretched that it would be impossible to conduct a prison humanely without making the lot of the criminal more [eligible] than that of many free citizens. If the prison does not underbid the slum in human misery, the slum will empty and the prison will fill. This does in fact take place to a small extent at present, because slum life at its worst is so atrocious that its victims, when they are intelligent enough to study alternatives instead of taking their lot blindly, conclude that prison is the most comfortable place to spend the winter in, and qualify themselves accordingly by commiting an offence for which they will get six months.’ (’Imprisonment[or] English Local Government’; Prefaces by Bernard Shaw, 1934, p.286.)

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Pro Patria: Address to a Progressive League Demonstration (City Temple, 1909): ‘What you must say to the ordinary citizen is this: My friend, there are certain things that you ought to do for your country, and one is as important as the other. You must not submit to poverty either on your own part or anybody else’s. But you must not go about the world thinking or talking of money as if you yourself, by yourself, could make it. It must never come into your mind that any of what is produced in the world has got to belong to you because it could not have been made without your brains and your organising ability and your invention and your talent. What every man has to keep before him is this: in the first place his country’s claim on him, which is to benefit by his life’s work, which he must do for his country to the very best of his ability. You have got in the very short space of life which is yours, and which is your only chance, to give the world everything you possibly can. / Remember that there are debts to pay which are debts of honour. There is the debt you owe for your education and your nurture when you were young; and I hope the day will soon come when every person in this country will have a very large debt of that kind. You ought to pay that debt: you ought to pay for the sustenance of yourself in your prime; and you ought to provide for your own old age; and I say that the man who does not feel obliged not only to pay these debts but to put in something over, so that he dies with his country in his debt - instead of dying in his country’s debt - I say that man is not worth talking to. In return you must demand from your country a handsome, dignified, and sufficient subsistence. Every worker has a right to that, and there must be no question of the nature of the work done. If anything, the men who do the more disagreeable kinds of work should be compensated for their disadvantage. / The duty and the demand l have just put before you have always been the tradition of honourable men in all professions. It is there, waiting to be appealed to; but for a whole century past we have been appealing to the other - the commercial instinct to try and make money for yourself, which has always meant taking away from other people as much as you can. If you will only appeal from that base instinct to the straightforward and honourable instinct, you will find that hundreds of thousands of people round you who have no idea that they are Socialists or any thing of that kind have that instinct, and that all they want you to do is to show that the thing is possible. Very largely I think, it will be your business to show that it is possible. [/…/] Don’t go about with long faces sympathising with the poor and with ills. Take poverty and illness in extremely bad part, and when you meet a man whose wife is ill or who is poor, and all that sort of thing, don’t say to him that it is the will of God which is a horrible blasphemy. Tell him in solemn scriptural language that it is a damnable thing and that you have come to try and put a stop to it because you are the will of God. And then you will have put the man you are talking to on the high road to understand that his will is the will of God too.’ (Quoted in Dan H. Laurence, ed., Platforms and Pulpits, 1961, pp.81-82; cited in Wayland Young [review of same], Manchester Guardian Weekly, 1 Feb. 1962, p.10.)

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Religion: ‘When you are asked, “Where is God? Who is God?” stand up and say, “I am God, and here is God”, not as yet completed, but still advancing towards completion, just insomuch as I am working for the purpose of the Universe, working for the good of society, and the whole world, instead of merely looking after my personal ends.’ (Cited in Eric Bentley, Bernard Shaw, 1957, p.89). Further, ‘I am resolute Protestant; I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son (or Mother, Daughter) and Spirit; in the Communion of Saints, the Life to Come, the Immaculate Conception, and the everyday reality of Godhead and the kingdom of Heaven. Also I believe that salvation depends on redemption from belief in miracles; and I regard Saint Athanasius as an irreligious fool […]’ (‘On Going to Church’, cited in Bentley, op. cit., p.69.)

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Life Force: ‘Thoughtful people see that there must be design and purpose in the universe because they themselves are designers and share a mysterious purpose to make the world better and wiser, whether the change will benefit themselves or not […] What I want to do is to make people more and more conscious of their souls and of the purpose which has evolved the soul as its special organ.’ (“Modern Religion, I”, Lect. of 21 March 1912; Warren S. Smith, ed., The Religious Speeches of Bernard Shaw (Penn. State UP 1963, p.48; quoted in Ann Saddlemyer, ‘Shaw’s Playboy: Man and Superman’, in Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra, eds., Irish Studies in Brazil, Sao Paolo: Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005, p.110; note that Saddlemyer equates the soul and evolutionary purpose, so described, with the idea of the ‘Life Force’.)

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Vivisection: Helen Waddell tells of a lunch-time conversation to which she was party between Shaw and a famous scientist in which the latter said: ‘The thing is cruel […] but it is a cruel necessity’, to which: ‘If it is cruel’, replied G.B.S., ‘it is not a [10] necessity. If a thing is cruel it is wrong, and if a thing is wrong it is not necessary, it is not even expendient. Let men once make up their minds to that, and shut that door - and they will find another. For there is nothing byond the power of the human spirit.’ (Preface to W. Haughton Crowe, New Education for Old, Belfast: William Mullan & Son MCMXLIV [1954], pp.9-11; p.10-11.)

Shakespeare: ‘With the single exception of Homer there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare, when I measure my mind against his.’ (Blaming the Bard: Dramatic Opinions, cited in Bentley, Bernard Shaw, 1957, p.xvii.) Further, ‘A Doll’s House will be as flat as ditchwater when A Midsummer Night’s Dream will still be as fresh as paint; but it will have done more work in the world; and that is enough for the highest genius.’ (The Humanitarian, May 1895, ‘Symposium on Drama’.) Of Shakespear and Dickens: ‘they have no constructive ideas.’ (Papers of Alan Warner; Univ. of Ulster.)

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Why have laws?: ‘The truth is, laws, religions, creeeds, and systems of ethics, instead of making society better than its best unit, makes it worse than its average unit, because they are never up to date. You [304] will ask me: “Why have them at all?” I will tell you. They are made necessary, though we all secretly detest them, by the fict that the number of people who can think out a line of conduct for themselves even on one point is very small, and the number who can afford the time for it still smaller. Nobody can afford the time to do it on all points. The professional thinker may on occasion make his own morality and philosophy as the cobbler may make his own boots; but the ordinary man of business must buy at the shop, so to speak, and put up with what he finds on sale there, whether it exactly suits him or not, because he can neither make a morality for himself nor do without one. This typewriter with which I am writing is the best I can get; but it is by no means a perfect instrument; and I have not the smallest doubt that in fifty years’ time authors will wonder how men could have put up with so clumsy a contrivance. When a better one is invented I shall buy it: until then, not being myself an inventor, I must make the best of it, just as my Protestant and Roman Catholic and Agnostic friends make the best of their imperfect creeds and systems.’ (“The Sanity of Art”, Major Critical Essays [1932], Constable 1948, p.284.)

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Farewell to play-reviewing: ‘For just consider my position. Do I receive any spontaneous recognition for the prodigies of skill and industry I lavish on an unworthy institution and a stupid public? Not a bit of it: half my time is spent in telling people what a clever man I am. It is no use merely doing clever things in England. The english do not know what to think until the are coached, laboriously and insistently for years, in the proper and becoming opinion. For ten years past, with an unprecedented pertinacity and obstination, I have been dinning into the public head that I am an extraordinarly witty, brilliant, and clever man. That is now part of the public opinion of England; and no power in heaven or earth will ever change it. I may dodder and dote; I may potboil and platitudinise; I may become the butt and chopping-block of all the bright, original spirits of [464] the rising generation; but my reputation shall not suffer: it is built up fast and solid, like Shakespeare’s, on an impregnable basis of dogmatic reiteration. / Unfortunately, the building process has been a most painful one to me, because I am congenitally an extremely modest man. Shyness is the form that my vanity and self-consciiousness take by nature. [… &c]’ (‘Valedictory’, in Dramatic Opinions and Essays, p.464-66; 464-65.)

Irish playwrights: ‘It is natural to an Irishman to write plays; he has an inborn love of dialogue and sound about him, of a dialogue as lively, gallant and passionate as in the times of the great Elixa. In these days an Englishman’s dialogue is that of an amateur - that is to say it is never spontaneous. I mean in real life. Compare it with an Irishman’s, above all a poor Irishman’s, reckless abandonment and naturalness, or compare it with the only fragment that has come down to us of Shakespeare’s own conversation. (He is remembering I think a passage in Ben Jonson’s Underwoods.) Petty commerce and Puritanism have brought to the front the wrong type of Englishman; the lively, joyous, yet tenacious man has transferred himself to Ireland’ (Plays and Controversies; cited in papers of Alan Warner; Univ. of Ulster).

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His own plays: ‘I write plays with the deliberate object of converting the nation to my opinion in these matters’ (Preface of Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet; and see infra); [Shaw’s aim was:] ‘to force the spectators to face unpleasant facts’; and to break the English tradition of spending the evening ‘sitting in separate familes in separate houses, each person silently occupied with a bookd, a paper, or a game of halma, cut off equally from the blessings of society and solitude’ (Pref. to Plays Unpleasant); ‘It is a propaganda play - a didactic play - a play with a purpose […] it is deliberately intended to induce people to vote on the Progressive side at the next County Council election in London.’ (Pref. to Widowers’ Houses); ‘Fine art is the subtlest […] most effective instrument of moral propaganda in the world […] so effective do I find the dramatic method that I have no doubt I shall at last persuade even London to take its conscience and its brains with it when it goes to the theatre, instead of leaving them at home with its prayer-book as it does at present.’ (Pref. to Mrs Warren’s Profession); ‘We want a frankly doctrinal theatre’ (end of Quintessence of Ibsenism); ‘The play in which there is no argument and no case no longer counts as serious drama’ (ibid.); ‘there is, flatly, now no future for any drama without music, except the drama of thought’ (ibid.).

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Aims of the playwright: ‘If I make you laugh at yourself, remember that my business as a classic writer of comedies is “to chasten morals with ridicule”; and if I sometimes make you feel like a fool, remember that I have by the same action cured your folly, just as a dentist cures your toothache by pulling out your teeth. And I never do it without giving you plenty of laughing gas. (Intro., Complete Plays, Odlam Press, 1950 Edn., p.v.); ‘I am not an ordinary playwright in general practice … I write plays with the deliberate object of converting the nation to my opinion in these matters’ (Cited in A. Chapperow, Shaw: The Chucker-Outer, Allen and Unwin, 1920, p.55); ‘But for “Art’s sake alone” I would not face the toil of writing a single sentence.’ (Preface to Man and Superman; H. G. Earnshaw, ed., A Selection from Shaw’s Prefaces, Longmans 1977, p.77.)

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Joyce’s Ulysses: ‘Dear Madam: I have read several fragments of Ulysses in serial form. It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon round Dublin; round every male person in it between the age of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in that foul mouthed, foul minded derision and obscenity […] It is, however, some consolation to find that at least 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 inviation 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 know little of my countrymen. Faithfully, G. Bernard Shaw’. (Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, 1959 & Edns.; also in Stan Gébler Davies, James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist, Davis-Poynter 1975, p.237.) [See further remarks under James Joyce, Commentary, infra.]

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National Beauties: ‘Two beauties I was born to love, Ireland’s and Italy’s - how they scorched my veins.’ (Letter to Mrs Campbell; quoted in Share, op. cit. [review], 1985.) Note that Shaw called Dublin a ‘city of derision and invincible ignorance’, and said of Foxrock: ‘the air is like ether: it goes through my bones.’

Birthplace plaque: In a letter to Patrick O’Reilly,who raised subscriptions for a patriotic plaque on his Dublin birthplace, Shaw urged that his name should be surrounded by shamrocks but also wrote: ‘You inscription is a blazing lie. All my political services have been given to the British Labour movement and to international socialism.’ (Michael Holroyd, ‘GBS and Ireland, Sewanee Review, Vol. LXXXIV, No. 1, Winter 1976, p.52; Kiberd, op. cit., p.18.)

Sinking of the Lusitania (1915) - Asked by a press agency to comment on Pope Benedict XV 's statement of horror at the 'frightful crime' of the sinking he said, he believed it was not the business of the Pope to commend himself to the ethical ideas of the masses: ‘[...] and certainly the “ethical” outlook that finds romantic excitement in the thousands of young soldiers at Neuve Chapelle and Aubers by the most infernally cruel methods and then bursts into screams of horror and vindictive fury because a ship full of civilians have been surprised by an easy death seems badly in need of the sternest Papal rebuke for its callous selfishness. The Pope can hardly be expected to represent God as sharing the general American and British belief that saloon passengers have more valuable souls than common soldiers because they have heavier bank balances.’ He further wrote on hearing news of Gallipoli: ‘To me with mind full of the hideous cost of Neuve Chapelle, Ypres and the Gallipoli landing, the fuss about the Lusitania seemed almost a heartless impertinence, though I was well acquainted personally with the three best known victims and understood better than most people the misfortune of the death of Lane. I even found grim satisfaction; very intelligible to all soldiers, in the fact that the civilians who found the war such splendid British sport should get a sharp taste of what it was to be actual combatants. I expressed my impatience very freely, and found that my very straightforward and natural feeling in the matter was received as a monstrous and heartless paradox.’ (‘The Lady and the V.C.: Lady Gregory, Yeats, Shaw and the recruitment play that was too dangerous for Ireland at wartime’, in RTE Century Ireland / 1913-1923 - online; accessed 07.06.2019.)

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