By Neil Titley




+ Introduction and the FILM. + Timeline: The Life of Bernard Shaw + Bibliography (1200w)


The Reminiscences: ‘Guff and Bunk and Bugaboo’. (20,400w)


The Ideas: ‘P.P.E. and G.B.S!’ (11,600w)


Ten Talks on Music: ‘Music for Deaf Stockbrokers’. (24,700w)


GBS Quotations: ‘A Shavian Scrapbook’. (15,100w)


The Play: ‘The Intelligent Golfer’s Guide to Bernard Shaw’ (11,500w)


The Abridged Play ‘Shaw’s Corner’ (4,300w)

Shaw’s Corner



By Neil Titley


Random quotes from the work of George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw’s Corner


1) Actors are so un-businesslike, that if one of them can keep a cash book, he gets shoved into management willy-nilly. C.B. Cochrane and Barry Jackson both wanted to act, not manage.

2) They are desperate failures as the two noble savages. Every pose, every movement, proclaims the wild freedom of Regent’s Park.

3) The foresters wore faded silk tights – so indispensable to true art.

4) Ballet is the richest mine of idiotic convention that exists; it is practically dying of it.

5) I have lived to see ‘The Colleen Bawn’ with real water and perhaps I shall live to see it some day with real Irishmen in it. The spectacle of the two performers taking a curtain call, sopping wet and bowing with a miserable enjoyment of the applause, is one which I shall remember with a chuckle while life remains.

6) Henry Irving is off playing Shakespeare to curates – will nothing persuade him that Queen Anne is dead?

7) Wellington said that an army moves on its belly. So does a London theatre. Before a man acts, he must eat.

8) Our dramatic critics are not suspected of reading Goethe, and some can see little difference between the literary styles of St. Matthew and Mr. Wilson Barrett.

9) The new playhouses could be distinguished from cathedrals and museums only by the iron shelters for the queue on rainy nights, which were usually added by an engineering firm after the completion of the edifice; a practice which had already led two architects to suicide; anyone more energetic and practical, to murder.

10)  I have long since ceased celebrating my own birthday. I do not see why I should celebrate Shakespeare’s?

11) She was so trim that they compared her dance between two satyrs to two dogs fighting for a bone.

12) I have to complain of Mr. Augustus Harris taking upon himself to dictate to me what sort of coat I shall wear in a public theatre, merely because he happens to be the manager of that theatre. Next season, I shall purchase a stall for the most important evening I can select. I shall dress in white flannels. I shall then hire for the evening the most repulsive waiter I can find in the lowest oyster shop in London. I shall rub him in bacon rind, smooth his hair with fried sausages, shower stale gravy on him, season him with Worcester sauce, and give him just enough drink to make him self-assertive without making him actually drunk. With him, I shall present myself at the stalls; explain that he is my brother; and that we have arranged that I am to see the opera, unless evening dress is indispensable, in which case my brother, being in evening dress, must take my place.

13) Like all dramatists and mimes of genuine vocation, I am a natural born mountebank.

14) The world to Shakespeare was a ‘great stage of fools’, on which he was utterly bewildered. He could see no sense in living at all.

15) (When booed by B. Golding Bright on a first night): “My dear fellow, I quite agree with you, but what are we two against so many?”

16) Monsieur Lugne-Poe’s company comes to us from Paris with the reputation of having made Ibsen cry by the performance of one of his works. There is not much in that. I have seen performances by English players which would have driven him to suicide.

17) The stage was still dominated by the Garrick-ish conviction that the modern manager must adapt Shakespeare’s plays to the modern state by a process which must necessarily be one of mutilation whenever, as occasionally happens, the adapter is inferior to the author.

18) If the Prime Minister were popularly elected, the betting would be about evens on Chamberlain, Lord Roberts, and Henry Irving.

19) It was dramatic but, like many dramatic points, quite incomprehensible.

20) To the critics, all my plays are masterpieces except the one they are reviewing.

21)  Mr. Cadwallader must face the fact that the nose given to him by Nature is out of the question for any part except that of, say, Jack Shepherd; and that until he builds a new one, Phyllis’s exclamation when she catches sight of him: ‘Oh, I hope my unknown betrothed may look like him’ will make even the most considerate audience laugh.

22)  Gautier’s ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin’ is a reputedly improper book, but is in fact quite harmless as no sane human being could possibly read it through.

23) “Dear Ellen, I am so rolling in gold at present I would like to take a theatre and engage Henry Irving to play eccentric comedy.”

24) In the ‘Judgment of Solomon’, the baby howled throughout the play so much that Solomon would have been justified in having it cut in two merely to stop the noise. Like most plays with babies in them, it might just as well have been written by one.

25) I incautiously witnessed Herbert Tree’s ‘Richard II’ the night before last, and the spectacle of our friend sitting on the ground telling sad stories of the death of kings, not to mention his subsequent appearance in Westminster Hall in the character of Christ leaving the Praetorium, has been almost too much.

26) I had to choose between ten minutes of the Drainage Sub-Committee of the St. Pancras Borough Council or the Playgoers Club, and chose the former.

27) Shakespeare was a much taller man than I, but I stand on his shoulders.

28) I have just had my first experience as a translator. I translated Trebitsch’s play from German into English which, as I do not understand German, has been something of a tour de force.

29) My criticism has not, I hope, any other fault than the inevitable one of extreme unfairness.

30) The best way to end a play is to bring down the curtain.

Shaw’s Corner


 31) A diplomatist declared in 19l2 that, if I were in the Foreign Office, there would be a war within a year. As I was not in the Foreign Office, there was war within eighteen months.

32) The great advantage of being at war is that nobody takes the slightest notice of the House of Commons.

33) It would be well indeed if our papers, instead of writing about ten inch shells, would speak of £1000 shells.

34) I object to throwing stones when you live in a glass house and are allied to Powers whose whole history is a huge cucumber frame.

35) When all the world goes mad one must accept madness as sanity, since sanity is in the last analysis nothing but the madness on which the whole world happens to agree. We, who are in the position of doctor, must accept this madness like the rest for the moment. We know it will pass away and the world will presently be looking ruefully at its dead and wounded and feeling anxiously in its empty pockets, with all the delirium gone.

36) War reduces us all to a common level of savagery and vulgarity whilst it pretends to distinguish us by our respective greatness.

37) Since man’s intellectual consciousness of himself is derived from the descriptions of himself in books, a persistent misrepresentation of humanity in literature gets finally accepted and acted on. If every mirror reflected our noses twice their natural size, we should live and die in the faith that we were all Punches. Men will be slain needlessly on the field of battle because officers conceive it to be their duty to make romantic exhibitions of conspicuous gallantry. Kaisers, generals, judges and prime ministers will set the example by playing to the gallery. Ten years of cheap reading have changed the English from the most stolid nation in Europe to the most theatrical and hysterical.

38) Everybody understands war only too well, for it is a primitive blood sport that gratifies human pugnacity. Successful players of it earn fame enough to satisfy the maddest human ambition. I enjoy civil celebrity but as I have never killed anybody, I am hopelessly outshone by warriors who have thousands of deaths to their credit. Napoleon was a contemporary of Kant, Goethe, Beethoven and Mozart. Compare their tombs. We worship all the conquerors but have only one Prince of Peace who was horribly put to death and if he had lived today, would have some difficulty in getting exempted from military service as a conscientious objector.

39) Unfortunately, once the first fellow citizen is killed or the first baby bombed, no war is unpopular.

40) In 1915 near my own village, a young Belgian warrior, convalescing from his wound, described how a beautiful woman with her hands chopped off at the wrists had held up the bleeding stumps and said: ‘Avenge me, brother’. I mention his case as illustrating the boundless credulity of which he took humorous advantage.

41) War necessitates so much lying on the part of the belligerent governments to keep the people in blinkers that at last it becomes a reflex action. If anyone remarks at noon that it is twelve o’clock, some minister automatically articulates a solemn public assurance that there are no grounds for any such suspicion and gives private orders that references to the time of day are to be censored in future.

42) He was one of those generals who hadn’t the slightest chance of promotion until we were quite sure that the peace would be lasting.

43) Suddenly came the news that an Atlantic liner, the Lusitania, had been torpedoed. Immediately an amazing frenzy swept through the country. Men who up till that time had kept their heads, now lost them utterly. ‘Killing saloon passengers! What next!’ was the essence of the whole agitation, but it is far too trivial a phrase to convey the faintest notion of the rage which possessed us. To me, with my mind full of the hideous carnage of Neuve Chapelle, Ypres, and the Gallipoli landing, the fuss about the Lusitania seemed almost a heartless impertinence though I was well acquainted with three of the best known victims. I expressed my impatience very freely and was received as a monstrous and heartless paradox. The truth was that I was no more heartless than they but the big catastrophe was too big for them to grasp and the little one was just the right size.

Shaw’s Corner

44) At the beginning of World War I the shriek went up for practical businessmen. By this they meant men who had become rich by placing their personal interests before those of their country and measuring the success of every activity by the pecuniary profit it brought them. They proved not only that they were useless for public work, but that in a well ordered nation they would never have been allowed to control private enterprise.

45) If you ever go to war again, shoot all your red hot patriots first.

46)  It was in the United States of America, where nobody slept worse for the war, that the war fever went beyond all sense and reason. In European Courts, there was vindictive illegality; in American Courts, there was raving lunacy – the sentences passed on young girls and old men for expressing their opinions were beyond comment.

47) The soldiers are being sacrificed to the blunders of boobies, the cupidity of capitalists, the ambition of conquerors, the electioneering of demagogues, the lusts and lies and rancours and blood-thirsts of those who love war because it opens their prison doors and sets them on the thrones of power and popularity.

48) To the British centenarians who died in their beds in 1914, any dread of having to hide underground in London from the shells of the enemy seemed more remote than a dread of a colony of rattlesnakes in Kensington Gardens.

49) Men will fight even if they have nothing to fight with but their fists; and women will egg them on.

50) The Have and Holders always keep two sure weapons. The first is a persecution effected by the provocation, organisation and arming of that herd instinct which makes men abhor all departures from custom and by the most cruel punishments and wildest calumnies force eccentric people to behave and profess exactly as other people do. The second is by leading the herd to war which immediately and infallibly makes them forget everything, even their most cherished and hard-won public liberties and private interests, in the irresistible surge of their pugnacity and the tense preoccupation of their terror.

51) When a Pacifist meeting addressed by Mr. Ponsonby at Richmond was broken up, roughs had to be hired to do it – and as the roughs were not introduced to each other before the fun commenced, they recognised each other only as objectionable characters and pummelled each other vigorously – save one who accidentally tackled Mr. Ponsonby and, miscalculating the mettle of the true British Pacifist, had his head heartily punched for his pains.

52)  Killing is a serious business; at least the person who is to be killed is usually conceited enough to think so.

53) Honour – the stock excuse for making a corpse.

54)  At Festubert, there was an immense German who was so popular that there were loud cries of ‘Ludwig, Ludwig’ from the British trenches before the firing began. Ludwig took his call solemnly by rising from his trench, and bowing amid loud cheers. On his retirement, firing began in the usual course.

55) Once a shot is fired all questions of right and wrong vanishes. A foreigner is coming for you with a gun and if you do not shoot him, he will shoot you. It is impossible to stop a war once it has begun; it must be prevented or fought out to the bitter end.

56) Most soldiers have no experience of war and to assume that those who have are therefore qualified to legislate for it is as absurd as to announce that a man who has been run over by an omnibus is thereby qualified to draw up wise regulations for the traffic of London.

57) The English statesmen of 1914 were little puppets knocking away with Lilliputian hammers the last stays that restrained the launch of that great death ship, War.

58)  (Letter to a private at Gallipoli)  ‘A man who goes on calmly hunting autographs with all civilisation crumbling around him and the Turkish enemy not far below the horizon, really deserves to succeed. So here goes.’

59) (Letter to an actor friend) ‘Dear St. John Ervine, I did not believe that any mortal man could waken my sense of humour in communicating the news of the possible loss of your leg. But your chaplain has achieved that feat. His comment was that the leg once being off, you will: ‘Get along all right’. If you do lose your leg, an artificial one of the best sort will carry you to victory as Henry V. If you don’t and are lame, it means a lifetime of Richard III unless I write something for you. How about flying? It seems to me that when it comes to aerial combat, the more of you that is artificial the better. A dozen bullets through an artificial shin would move you to nothing but a Mephistophelian laugh’.

60) Cowardice is as universal as seasickness. In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood, and the knowledge that it is more dangerous to lose than to win.

61) The commanding officer is a famous actor. That he handled a flying squadron without effort was easy for me to understand. To a man who has produced a modern West End comedy, a military campaign is child’s play.

62) The Versailles Peace Treaty is a scrap of paper even before the ink has dried on it.

Shaw’s Corner – study


63) In 1919, the earth was still bursting with the bodies of the victors.

64) History will tell lies as usual.

65) Indemnity for war is flat nonsense. You cannot shoot a man and un-shoot him afterwards. War is a game in which the stakes are plunder and conquest. Germany lost – and the winners now proceed to take what they can get and that will not be indemnity or reparation or any such nonsense but booty pure and simple.

66) It turns out that we do not and cannot love one another – that the problem before us is how to establish peace among people who heartily dislike one another and have very good reasons for doing so. In short, that the human race does not at present consist exc1usively or even largely of likeable persons.

67) There is a sort of terror that sees security in nothing short of absolute mastery of the entire globe.

68) The objective is domination; the weapons, fire and poison, starvation and ruin, extermination by every means known to science. You have reduced one another to such a condition of terror that no atrocity makes you recoil and say that you would rather die than commit it. You call this patriotism, courage, glory. There are a thousand good things to be done in your countries. They remain undone for hundreds of years, but the fire and poison are always up to date. If this be not scoundrelism, then what is scoundrelism?

69) The objection to military coercion is not that it is not effective. It is, on the contrary, terribly effective; but that its effects are incalculable as they are as often as not precisely the opposite of those contemplated, and in all cases go far beyond the intentions of those who resort to it. The late Tsar of Russia began the war in 1914 with the object of preventing Austria from subjugating Serbia.

70) When wolves combine to kill a horse, the death of the horse only sets them fighting one another for the choicest morsels.

71) On the folly of allowing military counsels to prevail in political settlements, I may point to the frontiers established by the victors after World War I. Almost every one of these frontiers has a new war implicit in it because the soldier recognises no ethnographical, linguistic, or moral boundaries. He demands a line that he can defend. And the inevitable nationalist rebellions against these military frontiers are in full swing as I write.

72) Militarism is nothing but State Anarchism. Unless we are all prepared to fight militarism at home as well as abroad, the cessation of hostilities will last only until the belligerents have recovered from their exhaustion.

73) When the Armistice at last set me free to tell the truth about the war at the following general election, a soldier said to a candidate I was supporting: “If I had known all that in 1914, they would never have got me into khaki”. And that was precisely why it had been necessary to stuff him with a romance that any diplomatist would have laughed at.

 74) The British soldier can stand up to anything, except the British War Office.

75) For real work, the soldier is useless – the efficiency he has is the result of de-humanisation and disablement. His whole training tends to make him a weakling. He has the easiest of lives; he has no freedom and no responsibility. He is politically and socially a child, with rations instead of rights, treated like a child, punished like a child, dressed prettily and washed and combed like a child, excused for outbreaks of naughtiness like a child. He has no real work except housemaid’s work; all the rest is forced exercise in the form of endless rehearsals for a destructive and terrifying performance which may never come off and which if it does come off is not like the rehearsals. His officer does not even have housemaid’s work to keep him sane. The work of organising and commanding bodies of men only demoralises the military officer because his orders, however disastrous or offensive, must be obeyed without regard to the consequences. The officer learns to punish, but not to rule; and when an emergency like the Indian Mutiny comes, he breaks down; and the situation has to be saved by a few untypical officers with character enough to have retained their civilian qualities, in spite of the mess-room.

76) (Play lines)

“You might have the decency to treat me as a prisoner of war and shoot me like a man, rather than hanging me like a dog”.

“Have you any idea of the average marksmanship of the Army of George III?”

77) Fighting is not a full time job and in the army they pretend that it is.

78) You must not dare a staff officer; only company officers are allowed to indulge in displays of personal courage.

79) Soldiering is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong and keeping out of harm’s way when you are weak.

80) You can always tell an old soldier by the insides of his holsters. The young ones carry pistols; the old ones, grub.

81) (1939) There are now no war aims and can be none except the aim of winning the fight. The prospect is not tempting for if we lose, we shall be bled white by the victors and if we win, we shall have to bleed ourselves white. When the war is over, we shall have to settle up exactly as if there had been no war at all. If I were a gambler, I should back the neutrals for a real win – with Russia and the USA neck and neck.

Shaw’s Corner – kitchen


82) America, as far as one can ascertain, is much worse governed and has a much more disgraceful political history than England under Charles I. But the American Republic is the stabler government because it starts from a formal concession of natural rights and keeps up an illusion of safeguarding them by an elaborate machinery of democratic election.

83) My descriptions of Americans apply to every other race in the world. In taking them as a personal insult, the Americans are conceited enough to think themselves the only fools in the world.

84) (To his American biographer, Henderson) ‘If you come to England do call on me as it is not desirable that the only American now living who has not called on me should be my biographer.’

85) The American nation makes the Negro clean its boots, and then proves the moral and physical inferiority of the Negro by the fact he is a shoeblack.

86) Franklin Roosevelt won his first presidential election more by a photograph of his petting a baby than by his political programme which few understood. Indeed he only half understood it himself.



87) There are only two classes in English good society – the equestrian classes and the neurotic classes.

88) When England is frightened England is capable of anything.

89) Let not the right side of your brain know what the left side doeth. I learnt quickly that this is the secret of the Englishman’s strange power of making the best of both worlds.

90) He could not conceive of how the only practical part of the National Anthem could give any offence. Any suggestion that it was not the plain duty of the Ruler of the Universe to confound England’s enemies could only lead to widespread atheism.

91) I absolve the English on the ground of invincible ignorance. The thick air of the country does not breed theologians.

92) At these concerts in England you will find rows of weary people who are there not because they really like classical music, but because they think they ought to like it. Well, it is the same in Heaven. A number of people sit there in glory not because they are happy, but because they think they owe it to their position to be in Heaven. They are almost all English. The English really do not seem to know when they are thoroughly miserable. An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable. They will not do anything until everybody else does it – English morality in a nutshell.

94) English literature must be saved – by an Irishman as usual.

95) In our rich and consequently governing class, they pass from juvenility to senility without ever touching maturity, except in body.

96) We were not fairly beaten. No Englishman is ever fairly beaten.

97) The English are extremely particular in selecting their butlers whilst they don’t select their barons at all, taking them as the accident of birth sends them. The consequences include much ironic comedy.

Shaw’s Corner – kitchen


98) There is nothing really wrong with Dublin except its slums and the perpetual derisive gabble of its inhabitants.

99) Two years spent in Ireland will change an Englishman into a different person but a century will not rub the Irish mark off an Irishman. Therefore be careful not to be led away into this Hitleresque nonsense about race.

100) It seems to be the Irish instinct to trust anybody rather than an Irishman.

101) Daniel O’Connell was a famous Irish patriot and devout Catholic but the people of his native Kerry said of him that you could not throw a stone there without hitting one of his bastards.

102) Ireland must be a free nation but we cannot be an independent one. If the war has taught England, France, Russia, Germany, and finally even the USA that they cannot afford to stand alone, it is clearly silly for a little country to dream this arrogant and inhuman dream. We are members of one another politically as well as personally and the utmost choice any nation has is a choice of allies; independence is not open to it.

103) If the English send Roger Casement to Broadmoor, no great harm will be done. If they shoot him, he will be canonised with Emmett and Lord Edward and do mischief for years to come. It is supremely important that he should be made to look ridiculous. The Irish adore a successful or an educated man – the latter for preference – but a fiasco they never forgive.

104) “Anyhow, the Dublin Fusiliers always did shoot their officers in action”.

105) Michael Collins made Catholic Ireland nominally a Free State. Whereupon the Catholic Irish shot Michael and made as hopeless a mess of their economic slavery as Dublin Castle had ever done. For, having no instruction in citizenship, no economics, no philosophy of history, no defined aims, no mental stock in trade except romantic balderdash, they were soon groaning under higher prices and rents than ever.

106) Dublin does have a National Gallery but I believe that, apart from the attendants, I was the only Irishman of my time to have crossed the threshold.

107) In Ireland we have always suffered from a plague of clever fools always saying the wrong thing in the most skilful way.

108) The first vice regency of Earl Spencer suffered from great unpopularity in Ireland. He made great sacrifices of his personal convenience to gain the goodwill of the people – going to concerts, theatres, sports, flower shows, regattas and ceremonies of all sorts with the constancy of a martyr. But as fast as he could dig away at the mountain of odium, the Castle bureaucracy was sure to pile it on again. It was in a more than usually spasmodic attempt to propitiate Dublin that he visited the Dublin Music Exhibition and desperately knighted the manager who, much to his surprise, became Sir Edward Lee.



109) I used to speak at meetings of the Church Guild where I noticed that one of the other speakers, an old music hall star, from sheer force of habit winked at the audience every time he scored a point for Christ.

110) The English Bible, though a masterpiece of literary art in its readable parts and being the work of many highly gifted authors and translators, rich in notable poems, proverbs, precepts and entertaining if not always edifying stories, is yet a jumble of savage superstition, obsolete cosmology, and a theology which, beginning with Calibanesque idolatry and propitiatory blood sacrifice, (Genesis to Kings), recoils into sceptical disillusionment and atheistic pessimism, (Ecclesiastes), revives in a transport of revolutionary ardour as the herald of divine justice and mercy and the repudiation of all sacrifices, (Micah and the Prophets), relapses into sentimentality by conceiving God as an affectionate father, (Jesus), reverts to blood sacrifice and takes refuge from politics in Other-Worldliness and Second Adventism, (the Apostles), and finally explodes in a mystical opium dream of an impossible apocalypse, (Revelations).

111) The French State has declared that it has no specific religion. Neither has the British State, though it does not say so.

112) Very few people are really religious. Most people think that a harmonium is sacred but not quite as sacred as an organ; and the notion of blasphemy is to play ragtime on a harmonium. I love playing ragtime on harmoniums just to show them that one can do it without being struck dead, and that religion is something quite different.

113) One imagines Jesus, whose smile has been broadening down the centuries as attempt after attempt to escape from his teaching has led to deeper and deeper disaster, laughing outright.

114) Belief in hell is fast vanishing. Even in those parts of Ireland and Scotland which are still in the seventeenth century, it is tacitly reserved for the other fellow.

115) Perhaps I had better inform my Protestant readers that the famous Dogma of Papal Infallibility is by far the most modest pretension of the kind in existence. Compared with our infallible democracies, our infallible medical councils, our infallible astronomers, our infallible judges and our infallible parliaments, the Pope is on his knees confessing his ignorance before the Throne of God.

116) No public man in these islands ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means.

117) The Churchman, even if he accepts money only from sweet old ladies with independent incomes and gentle and lovely ways of life, has only to follow up the income of the sweet old ladies to its industrial source, and there he will find the prostitution and the poisonous canned meat and all the rest of it.

118) Belief is not dependent on evidence or reason.

119) The Church is dependent on rich people who would cut off its supplies at once if it began to preach that indispensable revolt against poverty which must also be a revolt against riches.

120) What man is capable of the insane self-conceit of believing that an eternity of himself would be tolerable even to himself.

Shaw’s Corner insignia

121) It is the insistence that the Bible is an infallible scientific manual that prevents so much progress by the Churches. It means that educated people will not tolerate even the chronicles of King David, which may be historical and are certainly more candid than the official biographies of our contemporary monarchs. The insistence on the literal truth of the miracles is the stumbling block. No student of science has yet been taught that specific gravity consists in the belief that Archimedes jumped out of his bath and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting ‘Eureka’.

122) It takes a truly wise man to found a religion without a church.

123) Most people do not believe that Christians were really killed in the arena at all and are shocked at the idea of their being callously called to their deaths as numbered turns in a variety entertainment by a vulgar call-boy, instead of simply being painted by Royal Academicians as being politely led up to Heaven by angels with palm branches.

124) If a child is told any story however absurd or impossible by someone whom it regards as infallible – mostly a parent – it will accept it as gospel truth and hold it thoughtlessly until it is driven to reason about it which may possibly never happen. When I was told in childhood that a Mr. Houghton, who had paid us a visit, was a Unitarian, I asked my father what a Unitarian was. He replied humorously that the Unitarians believed that Jesus was not crucified but was seen running away down the other side of the Hill of Calvary. I believed this for nearly thirty years.

125) Jesus allowed that one should never lose a chance of being happy when there is so much misery in the world.

126) I stayed in Bombay where I found my religion was called Jainism.

127) Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so insane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in Heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside.

128) It requires the most strenuous effort of conscience to refrain from saying ‘Serve him right’ when we react of the stoning of St. Stephen.

129) For all you know, Mrs. Baker Eddy a thousand years hence may be worshipped as the Divine Woman by millions of civilised people; and Joseph Smith may be to millions what Mohammed now is to Islam. You never can tell. People begin by saying: ‘Is this the carpenter’s son’ and end by saying ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.

130) No man with any faith worth respecting in any religion worth holding ever dreams that it can be shaken by a joke, least of all an obscene joke. It is Messrs. Formalist and Hypocrisy who feel that religion is crumbling when the forms are not observed. The truth is humour is one of the great purifiers of religion, even when it is itself anything but pure.

131) Nothing is less easy to recover than the faith of a worshipper who has once detected clay feet in an idol.

132) No, I shall have no time for Christian polemics. And will you just tell me why the Old Man waited till the year 1AD to reveal himself with credentials of a totally unconvincing and acutely ridiculous kind? Did the people who lived before that time not matter? Where are your wits?

133) The result of trying to make the Church of England reflect the notions of the average churchgoers has reduced it to a cipher, except for the purposes of a petulantly irreligious social and political club.

134) There is no harder scientific fact in the world than the fact that belief can be produced in practically unlimited quantity and intensity without observation or reasoning, and even in defiance of both, by the single desire to believe founded on a strong interest in believing.

135) In 1809, a French soldier named Lamarck who had beaten his musket into a microscope and turned zoologist, declared that species were an illusion produced by the shortness of our individual lives, and that they were constantly changing and melting into one another and into new forms as surely as the hand of a clock is continually moving, though it moves so slowly that it looks stationary to us.

136) In the face of pagan viciousness maybe we have to support even the churches. I do not forget Jesus’s warning that if we try to clear established religions of their weeds, we may pull up the wheat as well. We should not criticise the Bishop’s sermon because of the fact that much of the medieval building in Peterborough Cathedral was found to be flagrant jerry building.

Shaw’s Corner – kitchen


137) No man should marry until he knows what he is going to be.

138) A wife entirely preoccupied with her affection for her husband, a mother entirely preoccupied with her affection for her children, may be all very well in a certain kind of book but in actual life she is a nuisance.

139) The man who marries a prima donna expecting her to sing her high C continually, or the woman who marries a champion athlete expecting him to live at the record point of his highest jump, would not be more disillusioned than the spouses who marry saints or poets expecting them to differ from Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith for more than 99.999% of their lives.

140) When people say that love should be free, their words taken literally may be foolish – but they are only expressing inaccurately a very real need for the disentanglement of sexual relations from a mass of exorbitant and irrelevant conditions imposed on them by false pretences.

141) A man who is as intimate with his own wife as a magistrate is with his clerk or a Prime Minister is with the Leader of the Opposition, is a man in ten thousand.

142) Isadora’s face looked as if it were made of sugar and somebody had licked it.

143) A broken heart is a very pleasant complaint for a man in London if he has a comfortable income.

144) Sexual virtue is the trade unionism of the married.

145) The greatest obstacle to the emancipation of women is lust.

146) Ellen Pollock: “I had a snapshot of my son Michael with G.B.S. which I stuck onto the mirror of my dressing table at the theatre. A newspaper reporter seeing it, asked if he could reproduce it in his paper. I said that I must ask Mr. Shaw’s permission. His reply was: ‘Bless you, my child, of course I don’t mind. But if the public infer that I am the parent of the child, please don’t blame me.’ ”

147) An acquaintance painted her sitting room as a book on colour had told her each wall should be – a different colour to suit her moods. She would sit facing the wall with the appropriate colour and was thus uplifted. She happened to be a neurotic woman and the illness did not improve. It did have the effect of securing the room to herself. No sane husband could keep her company in such a room.

148) Indissoluble marriage is an academic figment advocated only by celibates and by comfortably married people who imagine that, if other couples are uncomfortable, it must be their fault; just as rich people are apt to imagine that if other people are poor, it serves them right.

149) That jealousy is independent of sex is shown by its intensity in children.

150) The proportion of happy love marriages to happy marriages of convenience has never been counted.

151) You will find many women who denounce marriage and with good cause, but you will rarely find a woman who regrets having gone through the experience of marriage, though you will find many who regret having missed it.

152) The alternatives are not morality and immorality but two sorts of immorality. The man who cannot see that starvation, overwork, dirt and disease are as anti-social as prostitution – that they are the vices and crimes of a nation and not merely its misfortunes – is absurd.

153) The most bigoted British Conservative hesitates to say that his king should be much poorer than Mr. Rockefeller, or to proclaim the moral superiority of prostitution to needlework on the grounds that it pays better.

154) Rich men without convictions are more dangerous in modern society than poor women without chastity.

Shaw’s Corner – kitchen


155) When a convict escaped from Parkhurst Prison and on being recaptured was put in chains for six months this being the prison routine, I wrote to the Daily News that the authorities were taking a savage revenge on the convict for their own carelessness. The man was sentenced to be imprisoned, not to imprison himself. The commonest instinct of decent sportsmanship, to put it no higher, insists on the right of the prisoner to escape if he can. The odds on the side of the prison authorities are overwhelming; all that public money, bolts and bars, sentinels and rifles, walls and spikes, are leagued against him. Were he the worst of criminals public opinion must applaud the feat when he wins even for a few days. The plea was successful and chains for punishment were abolished.

156) One or two criminals it would be wiser to kill without malice, for there are humans as well as animals who are too dangerous to be left unchained and unmuzzled, and it is not fair to expect to have other men’s lives wasted in the work of watching them. But society has not the courage to kill them and when it catches them simply wreaks on them some superstitious expiatory rites of torture and degradation, and then lets them loose with higher qualifications for mischief.

157) The most anxious man in a prison is the governor.

158) He is the sort of judge who thinks it natural to punish silly and negligible indecencies with a ferocity unknown in dealing with, for example, ruinous financial swindling.

159) Just as men feel that they cannot die decently without a couple of doctors, so they feel that they cannot be hanged in a Christian manner without a couple of lawyers.

160) We are fond of pointing to American cases of rich men who would have been hanged or electrocuted if they had been poor. But who knows how many poor people are in prison in England who might have been acquitted if they could have spent a few hundred pounds on their defence.

161) Crime, like disease, is not interesting – it is something to be done away with.

162) To a judge, a political right – that is, a dogma which is above our laws and conditions our laws instead of being below them – is anarchistic and abhorrent. I trust judges on upholding the integrity of the law, but I mistrust all professional judges when political rights are in danger.

163) In the law courts, there is only one way to beat the people who have unlimited money, and that is to have no money at all.

Shaw’s Corner – drawing room


164) That most dehumanising of all professions – school-mastering.

165) I was brought up to regard a doctor as a humbug, a clergyman as a hypocrite, and a lawyer as a vampire. My opinion of schoolmasters, I formed for myself. So you see, I was destined from the beginning to expose the professions as conspiracies against the laity.

165) Children do not want to be treated altogether as adults. Such treatment terrifies them and overburdens them with responsibility.

166) It is feeling that sets a man thinking and not thought that sets him feeling. The secret of the absurd failure of our universities and academic institutions in general to produce any real change in the students who are constantly passing through their doors, is that their method is invariably to attempt to lead their pupils to feeling by way of thought.

167) People who are not educated to live dangerously have only half a life.

168) He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches. Activity is the only road to knowledge.

Shaw’s Corner – drawing room


169) The press is the press of the rich and the curse of the poor.

170) The ordinary person so dislikes having his mind unsettled as he calls it that he angrily refuses to allow a paper which dissents from his views being brought into his house, with the result that his opinions are not worth listening to. Men who know their opponents and understand their case, quite commonly respect and like them, and always learn something from them.

171) If we need public opinion to support us, we can get any quantity of it manufactured in our papers by poor devils of journalists who will sell their souls for five shillings.

172) The nonsense that is talked and written every day by anti-Socialist politicians and journalists who have never given five minutes serious thought to the subject, and who trot around imaginary Bolshies, as boys trot around Guys on the Fifth of November.

173) A young man disabled for ordinary business pursuits by a congenital erroneousness which rendered him incapable of describing accurately anything he sees or reporting accurately anything he hears. The only profession in which these defects do not matter is journalism.

174) Society is so silly that though it will not allow a man to drill its teeth without ascertained qualifications for the task, it allows anyone no matter how ignorant, how untrained, how imbecile, to stuff its brains without even taking the trouble to ask his name.



175) I find that socialism is often misunderstood by its least intelligent supporters and opponents to mean simply unrestrained indulgence of our national propensity to heave bricks at respectable persons.

176) The man with toothache thinks everybody happy whose teeth are sound. The poverty-stricken make the same mistake about the rich man.

177) Multi-national capitalism – the only charity that does not begin at home.

178) In my opinion, the time has come for International Socialism to affirm that the age of the Powers has come and that the traditional association of revolutionary nationalism, Irish, Polish, Boer, etc., with Socialism must be dissolved. The business of Socialism is not to defend petty states against inclusion in the Empires – but to turn the Empires into Commonwealths.

179) As the ‘defenders of the system of Conservatism’ will know, we have for centuries made able men out of ordinary ones by allowing them to inherit exceptional power and status. The gentleman, the lord, the king, all discharging social functions of which the labourer is incapable, are products as artificial as queen bees. Their superiority is produced by giving them a superior status, just as the inferiority of the labourer is produced by giving him an inferior status.

180) Things change much faster and more dangerously when they are let alone than when they are carefully looked after.

181) You never quite know what a man is until you have given him power. Revolutionists always seem to have noble characters because they never have power but when the Revolution becomes the Government, a wholesale removal of its heroes may have to be the first step towards stable conditions. In other words, a successful revolution’s first task is to shoot all revolutionaries.

182) Nationalise banking and this will leave economic oligarchy without its sole economic excuse.

183) After World War II Britain was controlled not by a Socialist Government, but by a Trade Union Government.

184) Anarchists are either too weak to understand that men are strong and free in proportion to the complexity of the obligations they are prepared to undertake, or too strong to realise that what is freedom to them may be terror and bewilderment to others.

185) He’s a lower middle-class politician whose pose is that of the rugged individualist, the isolationist – at root, an Anarchist.

186) Labourers can reach the point of being valueless – a point proved by the unemployed, who can find no purchasers.

187) The employer is now superseded by the financiers and their go-betweens, who have become the masters of the situation. The political and social power has now passed to the financiers and bankers.

188) The difference between the grace and strength of the acrobat and the bent back of the rheumatic farm labourer is the difference produced by conditions, not by nature.

189) The sack is the sword of the capitalist, and hunger keeps it sharp for him. His shield is the law, made for the purpose by his own class.

190) They pretend there is Communism when there is only the wreck of Capitalism.

Shaw’s Corner – drawing room

191) There is nothing new in private enterprise throwing its human refuse on the cheap labour market and the workhouse.

192) Idiots are always in favour of inequality of income because it is their only chance of eminence.

193) The rich are rich because the poor are poor.

194) The average citizen is a fascist. The evils of capitalism must be blamed not on the capitalists who only do what everybody would like to do, but on the workers who through ignorance, stupidity, or cowardice, let the capitalists get away with it.

195) Whatever else, of all the public services which you pay for in taxes to the Government, it can be said that there is no direct profiteering in them. You get them for what they cost the Government; that is, for less than you would have to pay if they were private concerns. Unfortunately Government and local authorities have to buy vast quantities of goods from private profiteers who charge them more than cost price and that this overcharge is passed on to you as a ratepayer and taxpayer.

196) The Apostles were Communists so red that St. Peter actually struck a man and his wife dead for keeping back money from the common stock.

197) The rich are very charitable; they understand that they have to pay ransom for their riches.

198) Charity is the most mischievous sort of prurience.

199) Any State Railway service can be made punctual, efficient, solvent and profitable if the Ministry of Transport is determined to make it so. But if the Exchequer plunders it and wishes to make it a warning against State enterprise rather than an example, it can wreck it with the laziest ease. The people will not understand; they will only know that the railway system is rotten and blame government management for it.

200) Some say that every person should have that part of the wealth of the country which he has himself produced by his work. Others say let us all get what we deserve; so that the idle and dissolute and weak shall have nothing and perish, and the good and industrious and energetic shall have all and survive. Some believe in the good old rule that ‘they shall take who have the power and they shall keep who can’. Some say let the common people get enough to keep them alive in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call them and let the gentry take the rest. Some say let us divide ourselves into classes and let the division be equal in each class, though unequal between the classes; so that labourers shall get thirty shillings a week, skilled workers three or four pounds, bishops £2500 a year, judges £5000, archbishops £15000, and their wives what they can get out of them. Others say simply let us go on as we are. What Socialists say is that none of these plans will work well, and the only satisfactory plan is to give everybody an equal share no matter what sort of person he is, or how old, or what sort of work he does, or who or what his father was.

201) The State cannot, like a private employer, get rid of employees by simply discharging them.

202) The Greeks said: ‘First acquire an independent income – then practise virtue’. Until the community is organised in such a way that the fear of bodily want is forgotten as completely as the fear of wolves already is in civilised society, we shall never have a decent social life.

203) Every new yard of West End creates a new acre of East End.

204) So-called Democracies are nothing but disguised plutocracies.

205) Labour is held to be a disgrace – the lowest rank known is that of labourer. The object of everyone’s ambition is an unearned income.

206) The practice of entrusting the land of the nation to private persons in the hope that they will make the best of it has been discredited by the consistency with which they have made the worst of it.

207) They cited the case of a man dying in the desert of thirst and hunger. He values a glass of water and a bunch of dates over all he possesses – but for a twentieth glass and bunch he will give nothing.

208) When will I cure you of your inveterate idolatry of ambitious and successful plutocrats?

209) If you want to nationalise land or capital there is only one way of doing it without walking into a hornet’s nest of counter revolution, and that is to buy it on the open market and pay for it by taxing unearned income.

210) There are some questions on which I am, like most Socialists, a good Individualist. I believe that any society which desires to found itself on a high standard of integrity of character in its people should organise itself in such a fashion as to make it possible for all men and women to maintain themselves in reasonable comfort by their industry, without selling their affections and their convictions.

Shaw’s Corner window

211) We misuse our labourers horribly and when a man refuses to be misused, we have no right to say that he is refusing honest work.

212) Nationalism can cause wars. But Capitalism by its very nature makes all men enemies all the time, without distinction of race, colour or creed. When all the nations have freed themselves, Capitalism will make them fight more furiously than ever, if we are fools enough to let it.

213) Nothing more diabolical can be conceived than the destiny of a civilisation in which the material sources of the people’s subsistence are privately owned by a handful of persons taught from childhood that every penny they can extort from the property-less is an addition to the prosperity of their country and an enrichment of the world at large.

214) A movement grew up to steal the thunder of Socialism, and substitute State Capitalism for private Capitalism whilst private property held all its privileges intact, and buying off the proletariat with doles and higher wages. This was called Fascism or Nazism.

215) Opinion means a view of the world – and a view of the world means an income.

216) There is no more a hereditary governing class than there is a hereditary hooligan.

217) Civilisation is a disease produced by the practice of building societies with rotten materials.

218) Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny – they have only shifted it to other shoulders.

219) Private enterprise is immoral, irresponsible, full of the gambling spirit, always ready to sacrifice the public welfare to the magnitude of its dividends, honeycombed with corruption of all sorts, and insufferably boastful of the few virtues which the law has succeeded in forcing on it.

220) When will we begin to realise that ‘One Citizen, One Room’ is a far more pressing matter than ‘One Man, One Vote’.

221) I don’t care what label is placed on Socialism. There is the precedent of the Emperor Constantine who saved the society of his own day by agreeing to call his Imperialism Christianity.

222) It is a delusion to see a class war of solid proletariat versus solid proprietariat; the class war cuts right through the working classes.

223) A modern government, as the Russians soon found out, must not take money even from thieves until it is ready to employ it productively. To throw it away on doles, as our governing duffers do, is to burn the candle at both ends and precipitate the catastrophe they are trying to avert.

224) Differences in character and talent cannot be assessed in terms of money. Nobody can suppose that because Joe Louis can earn more in fifteen three minute rounds than Einstein can earn in fifteen years, his work is one hundred and eighty thousand times more valuable.

225) Patriotism, roused to boiling point by an enemy at the gate, is not only the last refuge of the scoundrel in Dr Johnson’s sense, it is far more dangerously the everyday resort of capitalism as a red herring across the scent of Communism.

226) There have been two and a half revolutions in political power, by which the employers have overthrown the landed gentry, the financiers have overthrown the employers, and the Trade Unions have half overthrown the financiers.

227) Of course Socialism cannot cure everything – but no sane person refuses to wear spectacles because they do not cure toothache.

Shaw’s Corner – drawing room


228) I will always be a foreigner in England because I am one of the few people there who think objectively.

229) I was not reproaching him for not being Shaw. The notion of two Shaws corresponding with one another is one which staggers even me.

230) I was asked if I was self-conscious. A public man is so accustomed to people staring at him that he very soon has no self to be conscious of.

231) General Kwei once visited me and proceeded to admire me feature by feature, praising my hair, forehead, eyes, complexion, and so forth. By the time he reached my teeth, I had had enough.

“So you admire my teeth, General?” The general admitted he admired them very much.

“Then perhaps you’d care to admire them at closer quarters” I said, thereupon taking them out and offering them.

232) I am a typical Irishman; my family came from Yorkshire.

233) (Comment by Frank Harris on GBS): ‘He has a heart of gold which he carefully conceals. He lent the Durham coal miners £30,000 for the construction of cheap dwelling houses. When the journalists came to ask him why, he said: “6%”.’

234) I hate people who can’t make up their minds; they remind me of myself.

235) They say that I am an exceptional man. So I am, in respect of being able to write plays and books. But as everybody is exceptional in respect of being able to do something that most other people cannot do, there is nothing in that. Where I am really a little exceptional is in respect of my having experienced both poverty and riches, servitude and self-government.

236) Why has everyone been so jolly civil to me ever since Sidney Webb made that speech about being kind to the old?

237) I am a creative evolutionist with all the confidence of John Knox and can preach just as long sermons about it.

238) I became a Socialist because I have learnt from the history of Manchester that freedom without law is impossible. I became a religious agitator because I have observed that men without religion have no courage.

239) (In 1880) “If I ever take to play-writing?  Well, you never know how low one may fall”.

240) “Mr. Shaw, you speak like two separate persons?” “Why only two?”

241) With exceptions, I find that the more intimately I know people, the better I like them.

242) When I was Borough Councillor for St. Pancras in London, I had to face the necessity of telling the truth on basic medical and sanitary problems. It is of course very important that they are faced. When people were ashamed of these things and refused to contemplate them, leaving them to solve themselves clandestinely in dirt and secrecy, the solution arrived at was the Black Death. It is better to frighten London now than to bury it next year.

243) I am not really a social man. I never go anywhere unless I have business there. I pay no calls.

244) He gave me a very elaborate and to me entirely convincing, because I did not understand it, demonstration.

245) I can shoot a little though few experienced country gentlemen would care to be next to me at a shoot.

Shaw’s Corner – front driveway


246) Herbalists wander through the fields on Sundays seeking for herbs with magic properties for curing disease, preventing childbirth and the like. Each of them believes that he is on the verge of a great discovery in which Virginia Snake Root will be the main ingredient, heaven knows why. Virginia Snake Root fascinates the imagination of the herbalist as mercury used to fascinate the alchemists. I have never been able to perceive any distinction between the science of the herbalist and that of the duly registered doctor. A relative of mine recently consulted a doctor about some of the symptoms which indicate the need for a holiday and a change. The doctor satisfied himself that the patient’s heart was a little depressed. Digitalis being a drug labelled as a heart specific by the profession, he promptly administered a stiff dose. Fortunately, the patient was a hardy old lady who was not easily killed. She recovered with no worse result than her conversion to Christian Science which owes its vogue quite as much to public despair of doctors, as to superstition.

247) The Non-Conformist conscience is bad enough but the scientific conscience is the very devil.

248) Scientists constantly put themselves out of court by mistaking hows for whys.

249) That any sane nation, having observed that you could provide for the supply of bread by giving bakers a pecuniary interest in baking for you, should go on to give a surgeon a pecuniary interest in cutting off your leg, is enough to make one despair of political humanity. I cannot knock my shins severely without forcing on some surgeon the difficult decision:

‘Could I not make better use of a pocketful of guineas, than that man is making of his leg?’

250) The newspapers cry out that if the State fights disease for us it makes us paupers, though they never says that if the State fights the Germans it makes us cowards. It is silly that an Englishman should be more afraid of a German soldier than of a British disease germ.

251) The real woes of the doctor are the shabby coat, the wolf at the door, the tyranny of ignorant patients, the workday of 24 hours, and the uselessness of honestly prescribing what most of the patients really need – that is not medicine, but money.

252) I have always had the very best private medical attendance and advice, and the fact that I hardly ever took it has not created the slightest coolness between the profession and myself.

253) You see, it’s easier to believe in bottles and inoculations than in oneself.

254) The true doctor is inspired by a hatred of ill health and a divine impatience of any waste of vital forces.

255) Optimistic lies have such therapeutic value that a doctor who cannot tell them convincingly has mistaken his profession.

256) It has been shown that cancer and madness are enormously on the increase. I am not very alarmed because a great many things are called cancer which were not called cancer before – and we are raising the standards of sanity.

Shaw’s Corner – illustration


257) The indispensable preliminary to democracy is the representation of every interest; the indispensable preliminary to justice is the elimination of every interest.

258) The unemployed are going to be given an election to amuse them.

259) Plato was quite right in taking reluctance to govern as a leading symptom of supreme fitness for it.

260) Political power is left to militarist imperialists in chronic terror of invasion and subjugation – pompous tuft-hunting fools – commercial adventurers to whom the organisation by the nation of its own industrial services would mean checkmate – financial parasites on the money market – stupid people who cling to the status quo merely because they are used to it – rich party Yes-men to whom the House of Commons is only a fashionable club – and anarchist bohemians and freebooters who want liberties without duties.

Place and power are obtainable by heredity, by simple purchase, by keeping newspapers and pretending that they are organs of political opinion, by the wiles of seductive women, and by prostituting ambitious talent to the service of the profiteers who call the tune because, having secured all the spare plunder, they alone can afford to pay the piper.

261) There never was yet a Lord Treasurer that could find a penny for anything over and above the necessary expenses of government, save for a war or a salary for his nephew.

262) The phantom of Democracy – alias Public Opinion – which acting as an artificial political conscience had restrained Gladstone and Disraeli, had gone. The later parliamentary leaders soon learnt from experience that they might with perfect impunity tell the nation one thing on Tuesday and the opposite on Friday without anyone noticing the difference.

263) He knows nothing and thinks that he knows everything. That clearly points to a political career.

264) There is no limit to what the British people would put up with. It was this very helplessness of the people that forced their rulers to pretend that they were not helpless, and that the certainty of a sturdy and unconquerable popular resistance forbade any trifling with Magna Carta or the Petition of Rights or the authority of Parliament. Now the reality behind this fiction was the divine sense that liberty is a need vital to human growth.

265) Bermondsey went to the dogs, whilst those whose business it was to govern were sitting in Bengal.

266) An election at present, considered as a means of selecting the best qualified rulers, is so absurd that if the last dozen parliaments had consisted of the candidates who were at the bottom of the poll instead of those at the top of it there is no reason to suppose that we should have been a step nearer or less advanced than we are today.

267) Both parties insist on the supreme necessity for increased production but as the plutocrats do all they can to sabotage State industry and the proletariat to sabotage private enterprise, the effect is to hinder production to the utmost and demonstrate the vanity of two party government.

268) In other countries, the introduction of reasonable laws can save a situation but in England we always let an institution strain itself until it breaks.

269) Power and culture are in separate compartments. The barbarians are not only in the saddle but on the front bench of the House of Commons, with nobody to correct their incredible ignorance of modern thought and political science but upstarts from the counting-houses who have spent their lives furnishing their pockets instead of their minds.

270) Reforms are produced only by catastrophes followed by panics in which ‘something must be done’ – it costs a Crimean War to reform the Civil Service.

271) Any sort of plain speaking is better than the nauseous sham good fellowship our democratic public men get up to for shop use. These chaps never believe anything they say themselves, and naturally they cannot believe anything anybody else says.

272) The more I see of the sort of prosperity that comes of leaving our vital industries to big businessmen, as long as they keep the constituents quiet with high wages, the more I feel as if I am sitting on a volcano.

273) No Conservative statesman in his senses ever pretends (except at election times when nobody tells the truth) that you can conserve things by letting them alone.

274) Your pious mob fills up ballot papers and imagines it is governing its masters, but the ballot paper that really governs is the paper that has a bullet wrapped up in it.

275) Public life is becoming more and more theatrical – the modern dictator, president, and prime minister is nothing if not an effective actor.

Shaw’s Corner – illustration


276) Mr. Henschel sat down carefully at the piano and murdered Schubert in cold blood.

277) The classicists who rail at dance music should never forget the cluster of associations, rich with the bloom of youth and the taste of love, which the lounger without the slightest knowledge of music, can gather from some minor waltz.

278) Fraulein Klafsky, in bounding up the mountain staircase, had a narrow escape from adding to the year’s list of Alpine casualties.

279) The critic is the policeman of the opera. Unfortunately sheep make bad policemen.

280) I stood at the back of the concert hall with a steward who staved off Bach by reading the Birmingham Daily Post, and breathed so hard when he came to the bankruptcy list that it was plain that every firm mentioned in it was heavily in his debt.

281) The book, by the way, would be better for a little overhauling. The late H. B. Farnie may have been for an age, but not for all time.

282) Asked by his hostess what he thought of the new violinist she had just launched that evening, a beaming Shaw said that he reminded him of Paderewski. The lady pointed out that Paderewski was not a violinist. Shaw agreed: “Just so, madam, just so”.

283) The first time I was taken to the opera, I was so ignorant of what the entertainment meant that I looked at the circle of resplendently attired persons in the boxes and balcony with the vague expectation that they would presently stand up and sing.

284) The conductor, Monsieur Bevegnani, batoned La Traviata into submission.

285) One of Madame Albani’s highest notes excited the representatives of that large and influential section of the public which regards a vocalist as an interesting variety of locomotive with a powerful whistle.

286) The first Crystal Palace concert was heralded by the familiar announcement that Mr. Sims Reeves would sing, followed by the no less familiar announcement that Mr Sim Reeves would not sing.

287) Two cornet performances have left an abiding memory with me. One was M. Levy’s variation on Yankee Doodle taken prestissimo with each note repeated three times by triple tonguing. This was in the open air at the inauguration of Buffalo Bill, and it was preceded by a spirited attempt on the part of Madame Nordica to sing the Star Spangled Banner to an entirely independent accompaniment by the Band of the Grenadier Guards. The other was the Pilgrim of Love played by an itinerant artist outside a public house in Clipstone St., Portland Place. The man played with great taste and pathos but to my surprise he had no knowledge of musical etiquette for when, on holding his hat to me for a donation, I explained that I was a member of the press he still seemed to expect me to pay for my entertainment – a shocking instance of popular ignorance.

288) The pianist’s occasional violence of performance knocked £25 per recital off the value of his instrument.

289) He’s an admirable singer of whom we shall hear considerably more presently, though he is as yet but a youth of sixty or thereabouts.

290) Brahms is just like Tennyson – an extraordinary musician with the brains of a third rate policeman.

291) The Bible is worshipped in England so devoutly by people who never open it that a composer has but to pick a subject or even a source from it, to ensure a half gagged criticism and the gravest attention for his work.

292) The chorus of Egyptian priests looked more like a string of sandwich board men than ever.

293) Fortunately an incident that occurred at the beginning of the fourth act restored the good humour. Ranafis, Anneris, and their escort were seen approaching the temple in a state barge. On its tall prow which rose some five feet out of the water, stood an Egyptian oarsman urging the craft along the moonlit bosom of the Nile. Now this was all very well whilst the royal party were on board to balance him but when they stepped ashore on to the stage, the barge went head over heels, the native went heels over head, and Signor Navarrini’s impressive exhortation to ‘Vieni d’Iside al tempio’ was received with shrieks of laughter.

Shaw’s Corner – garden

294) Signor Gayarre’s Raoul was simply below criticism.

295) We can’t please everybody. If we turned a Tivoli or London Pavilion audience into the Queen’s Hall and inflicted Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on them, they would remember the experience with horror all their lives.

296) On the fourth day of the 1889 Leeds Festival, the whole of the West Riding was plunged into listless gloom by an unprovoked performance of Brahm’s Requiem.

297) His voice thankfully returned and he was relieved of the arduous task of interpreting the ballad by facial expression alone.

298) The military drum was particularly objectionable. It would be cheaper and equally effectual for Sir Michael to employ a stage carpenter to bang the orchestra door at a prearranged signal.

299) Madame Goddard played fantasies on English and Scottish airs and fascinated her hearers with a strikingly unpleasant imitation of bagpipes.

300) When God Save The Queen was played, the substitution of two quavers for the triplet at the beginning of the last line so completely spoiled it that I instantly suspected the headmistress of being a Fenian.

301) Mr. Turner as ‘Glavis’, the better to convey the foppishness of the character, adopted the unaccountable expedient of moving about as though his ankles were tied together.

302) On Tuesday last week I found myself with tickets for nine concerts and a speech by Mr. Gladstone. At this, I lost my temper and declared I would not leave the house all day.

303) There are those who having found by experience that good music bores them, have rashly concluded that all music that bores them must be good. Vide Brahms.

304) Film music has the highest possibilities and at its worst is better than the academic cantatas and sham oratorios manufactured for prestige at the Three Choirs Festival.

305) The separation between the musical and the intellectual is uncommonly marked in the de Reszke family. In Edouard’s case, there is more than separation. There is divorce.

306) Since Bach’s death, the rule as to fugues has been ‘First learn to write one. Then don’t’.

307) The Red Flag sounds like the death march of a fried eel.

308) The singers regarded each other with expressions that sometimes intensified to a glare of Cain-like hatred.

309) Mr. Baste played the piano forte in B flat and received a laurel crown of the dimensions of a life buoy in acknowledgement.

310) At the end of the concert, the orchestra had a lively game of football with Wagner’s American Centennial March.

311) Music is the brandy of the damned.

Shaw’s Corner – garden


312) In an age which has nothing to say, the loudspeaker has been invented.

313) It should have been obvious to anyone in the world – except possibly a theatrical agent.

314) As long as you do not know the future, you do not know that it will not be happier than the past. That is hope.

315) There are victims of a craze for collecting first editions, copies of privately circulated pamphlets, and other real or imaginary rarities. Such maniacs will cheerfully pay five guineas for any discarded old rubbish of mine when they would not pay five shillings for a clean copy of it because everyone else can get it for the same price too.

316) The authority which must attach to all public officials and councils must rest on their ability and efficiency. In the Royal Navy every mishap to a ship involves a court martial on the responsible officer. In no other way can our hackneyed phrase ‘responsible government’ acquire any real meaning.

317) Unsuccessful, unskilful men are often much more scrupulous than successful ones.

318) Leisure is the only reality of freedom.

319) Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.

320) It is our expectation of life and not our experience of it that determines our conduct and character.

321) I congratulate you on the fact that all your friends and relations regard you as a madman. That is an indispensable beginning to a respectable, independent life.

322) When the famous doctor Abernethy was asked why he indulged himself with all the habits he warned his patients against as unhealthy, he replied that his business was that of a destination post which points out the way to a place but does not go thither itself.

323) It is far more dangerous to be a saint than a conqueror.

324) Mere character and energy, much as we admire them, are positively mischievous without intellect or knowledge.

325) To the mathematician, the eleventh means only a single unit – to the Bushman who cannot count further than his ten fingers, it is an incalculable myriad.

326) Chained dogs are the fiercest guardians of property, and those who attempt to unleash them are the first to be bitten.

327) People don’t have their virtues and vices in sets; they have them anyhow, all mixed.

328) Christmas should wither and shrink and anybody looking back on it should be turned into a pillar of greasy sausages.

329) The artist will starve his way through incredible toil and discouragement sooner than go and earn a week’s honest wages.

330) This is a world of miracles, not jigsaw puzzles.

331) Artists are always in squabbling little cliques and the worst cliques are those which consist of one man.

332) I suppose I should say ‘nayt-I-un’, but the truth is that I say ‘nay-shun’. The late Helen Taylor went so far as to say ‘Russ-I-an’ and ‘Pruss-I-an’, so I suppose I should do also. But I am prevented by vivid recollections of the difficulty with which I prevented myself from throwing things at Helen when she talked like that.

333) Artists do not prove things. They do not need to. They know them.

334) You must learn to laugh or by Heaven you will commit suicide when you realise all the infamy of the world as it is.

Shaw’s Corner – drawing room

335) I admire Dickens for his exposure of the Victorian ruling class, and I believe ‘Little Dorrit’ is a more seditious book than ‘Das Kapital’.

336) Mrs. Pat Campbell resembles a rather attractive bullfinch.

337) ‘In a Platonic sense.’ Pah! She makes you her servant and when pay day comes round, she bilks you – that’s what you mean.

338) In every autobiography which records a real experience of school or prison life we find here and there the genuine orgiastic flogging schoolmaster or the bullying warder who has sought out a potentially cruel profession for the sake of its cruelty.

339) Even Socrates for all his age and experience did not defend himself at his trial like a man who understood the long accumulated fury that burst upon him and was clamouring for his death. His accusers, if born 2000 years later, might have been picked out of any first class carriage in a suburban railway train during the rush hour, for they had really nothing to say except that they and their friends could not endure being shown up as idiots every time Socrates opened his mouth.

340) Whether Socrates got as much happiness out of life as John Wesley is an unanswerable one, but a nation of Socrateses would be much safer and happier than a nation of Wesleys.

341) They never do anything – they only discuss whether what other people do is right.

342) There’s always one way of escaping trouble, and that’s killing things. Cowards, have you noticed, are always shrieking to have troublesome people killed.

343) The unaccountable fact is that the world instead of having been improved in sixty-seven generations out of all recognition, presents on the whole a rather less dignified appearance in Ibsen’s ‘Enemy of the People’ than in Plato’s Republic.

345) Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing. If you begin by sacrificing yourself to those you love, you will end by hating those to whom you have sacrificed yourself.

346) “Self-sacrifice is the foundation of all true nobility of character.”

“It’s easy to see you’ve never tried it.”

347) He could sit through a Scotch sermon – or even a House of Commons debate.

348) The world must remain a den of dangerous animals among whom our few accidental superman – our Shakespeares, Goethes, Shelleys and their like – must live as precariously as lion tamers do, taking the humour of their situations and the dignity of their superiority as a set off to the horror of the one and the loneliness of the other.

Shaw’s Corner – hallway

349) If he could see a joke, he would not be the great popular orator that he is.

350) They’ll have to give him an honour, if only to shut him up.

351) Sidney Webb has the memory of an American filing cabinet.

352) To be gentle is to be very wise; not an easy thing, I assure you.

353) Age changes one. I had become a new person and those who knew the old person laughed at me. The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor. He took my measurements anew every time he saw me, whilst all the rest went on with their old measurement and expected them to fit me.

354) I think you might get your way if you threaten to nominate Frank Harris for the job.

355) Woe to the old if they have no impersonal interests, no tastes or hobbies or convictions.

356) Shall a man give up eating because he destroys his appetite in the act of gratifying it? Is a field idle when it is fallow?

357) He was a chap who set up to be an intellectual because his father was a publisher.

358) Modem Italy has no more connection with Giotto than Port Said has with Ptolemy.

359) All the people who have really worked warn us against work as earnestly as some people warn us against drink.

360) A king these days is only a dummy put up to draw the fire off the real rulers of society.

361) “Do you believe in violence in politics?”

“The politicians have never looked for my approval”.

362) You want me to read Kipling’s ‘Lest We Forget’? If Kipling wants to remember, let him remember!

363) We’ve known each other less them two hours but how much better do you think you will know me when we have talked for twenty years?

364) Does any man want to be hanged? Yet men let themselves be hanged without a struggle for life, though they could at least give the chaplain a black eye. We do the world’s will, not our own.

365) When you’re as old as I am, you’ll know that it matters very little how a man dies. What matters is how he lives. Every fool that runs his nose against a bullet is a hero nowadays, because he dies for his country. Why doesn’t he live for it to some purpose?

366) Regrettably I now have a white beard. I had wished to keep my red one until they developed colour photography.

367) The survival of whatever form of civilisation can produce the best rifle and the best fed riflemen is assured.

368) The expedition has been sent out without the sanction of the United Nations. We always forget to consult it when there is anything serious in hand.

Shaw’s Corner – well house pump

369) Use your health even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive yourself.

370) Life is too short for men to take it seriously.

371) Vice is waste of life. Poverty, obedience and celibacy are the canonical vices. Economy is the art of making the most of life. The love of economy is the root of all virtue.

372) There are so few openings for people who don’t want to work.

373) If every man Jack of us can blow the world to pieces, there will be an end of everything. Shakespeare’s angry ape will see to that. We are all Post-Atomists now.

374) I should prefer to die in a reasonably dry ditch under the stars.

375) What is beyond I do not know. It is enough that there is a beyond.

376) Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more than it ceases to serious when people laugh.

377) No man who is doing a very difficult thing and doing it well ever loses his self-respect.

378) I want him to look at the matter as a reasonable man but I doubt that he’s changed that much.

379) International diplomacy had been a boyishly lawless affair of family intrigues, commercial and territorial brigandage, torpors of pseudo good nature produced by laziness, and spasms of ferocious activity produced by terror.  International trade is always the really dominant factor in foreign policy.

380) A heroic renunciation of worldly and artificial things is insisted on by those who having had their fling are tired of them – a demand powerfully reinforced by the multitude who want to have their fling but cannot afford it under existing circumstances and are driven to console themselves by crying sour grapes.

381) Political Hatred – the only hatred that civilisation allows to be mortal hatred.

382) I’m like New York. It’s hell and damnation for me to be doing nothing.

383) When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.

384) It’s an instance of the mischief which great men bring upon the world when small men begin to worship them.

385) Most men’s lives consist of their making the same mistake over and over again.

386) Hollywood is an international city spreading its doctrine as no established Church has ever succeeded in doing. I am amazed by the political levity which leaves this gigantic propaganda machine and its stupendous profits in the hands of casual gangs of American speculators.

387) I do not mind travelling steerage. I am always far too seasick to care about the surroundings, and it’s a lot cheaper.

388) When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.

389) At a dinner with General Jan Smuts, I declared that every schoolgirl of sixteen should read ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Smuts, wondering what the book was, politely murmured: “Of course, of course”.

Ayot St Lawrence – ruined church

390) If the public will never take any notice of even the most dreadful evil until somebody is shot, what are people to do but shoot somebody.

391) You can’t argue with a person when his livelihood depends on his not letting you convert him.

392) Remember that the great failing of the Frenchman is his respect for the academic. Every Frenchman is a born pedant.

393) A life insurance is a pure bet made by the insurance company with the person insured.

394) The effect of deterrents depends much less on their severity than on their certainty.

395) You can lose a man like William Morris by your own death, not by his.

396) A pessimist is a man who has to live with an optimist.

397) Mr. and Mrs. Everyman never seem to doubt that if anyone disagrees with them in any matter upon which they feel strongly, they have the right to injure the dissenter to any extent within their power.

398) He who has never hoped can never despair.

399) Life is a flame that is always burning itself out – but it catches fire again each time a child is born.

400) His opinion is interesting only as an example of the state of his mind.

401) “Saying Goodnight in every inflexion known to Parliamentary candidates.”

402) The moral is that which the French murderer offered on the scaffold as the lesson of his experience: “Never confess”.

403) You can bear hardship much longer than you can bear heaven.

403) “As if people with any force in them were ever nice.”

404) He believes in the fine arts with all the earnestness of a man who does not understand them.

405) Do not do unto others as you would have that they should do unto you. Their tastes might not be the same.

406) (Advice to Lord Alfred Douglas): ‘It would be better to play the haughty aristocrat and fling the money back in their faces, even if you have to borrow it for the purpose.’

407) He is one of your penny-in-the-slot heroes, who only work when you drop a motive into them.

408) The public, as Julius Caesar remarked nearly 2000 years ago, believes on the whole just what it wants to believe.

409) In civil life, there are illusory reputations – a mere capacity for work; the power of killing a dozen secretaries under you, so to speak, as a life or death courier kills horses – enables men and women with quite ordinary ideas and superstitions to distance all competitors in the strife of political ambition.

410) The exterior of St. Marks in Venice would be ideal for a railway station.

411) H.G. Wells was laboriously trying to persuade himself and everybody else that he was as drunk as a lord.

412) Everything real in life is based on need.

413) Despotism must be tempered by assassination.

414) Nothing can be unconditional – consequently nothing can be free.

415) Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

416) The more obedient a man is to accredited authority, the more jealous he is of allowing any unauthorised person to order him about.

Shaw’s Corner – NJT at rear door

417) I have been driven to report on the Carpentier fights. I doubt if my fees for ‘Arms and the Man’ will pay me for the time I spent rehearsing it. I shall end up by becoming a publisher.

418) “People are beginning to talk.”

“Beginning?  When did they ever stop?”

419) As for vivisection – well, the right to knowledge is not the only right, and its exercise must be limited by respect for other rights.

420) There are men in whose presence it is impossible to have fun – men who are a sort of walking conscience.

421) Do not commit yourself to the invincibility of any prize fighter; they all will let you down.

422) Danger is delicious. But death isn’t. We court the danger, but the real delight is escaping, after all.

423) Intuition is only rapid unconscious thinking, just as digestion is unconscious chemistry.

424) The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.

425) The room was furnished in the approved South Kensington manner; that is, as much like a shop window as possible.

426) I believe in Michaelangelo, Velasquez and Rembrandt, in the Might of Design, the Mystery of Colour, the Redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting, and the Message of Art that has made these hands blessed. Amen, Amen.

427) Go then – the Shavian oxygen burns up your little lungs; seek some stuffiness that suits you.

428) So there is nothing more to be said – which means another half hour at least.

Shaw’s Corner – garden