Thursday, July 17, 2014


The official Facebook page of Shaw's Corner has recently updated its cover photo. It includes the above quotation together with the dates for the forthcoming performances of Heartbreak House on the now mythic lawn. 

The quotation, however, does not belong to that play but to John Bull's Other Island. It is part of a longer conversation between Doyle and Broadbent in which, as on several other occasions in the play, the characters discuss the Irish spirit. Specifically, Doyle tries to explain why he would never tell Nora what he feels for her, lest he ends up "spoiling the charm."

DOYLE. [...] You don't know what Irish pride is. England may have knocked a good deal of it out of me; but she's never been in England; and if I had to choose between wounding that delicacy in her and hitting her in the face, I'd hit her in the face without a moment's hesitation.
BROADBENT [who has been nursing his knee and reflecting, apparently rather agreeably]. You know, all this sounds rather interesting. There's the Irish charm about it. That's the worst of you: the Irish charm doesn't exist for you.
DOYLE. Oh yes it does. But it's the charm of a dream. Live in contact with dreams and you will get something of their charm: live in contact with facts and you will get something of their brutality. I wish I could find a country to live in where the facts were not brutal and the dreams not unreal.

John Speed, map of Ireland

This is perhaps one of the many seeming paradoxes of being Irish - Shaw being perhaps the most paradoxical of all Irish men. As Doyle once again succintly remarks a little earlier in the play, in another example of Shavian wisdom,  

BROADBENT. What! Here you are, belonging to a nation with the strongest patriotism! the most inveterate homing instinct in the world! and you pretend you'd rather go anywhere than back to Ireland. You don't suppose I believe you, do you? In your heart—
DOYLE. Never mind my heart: an Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination. [...]

Dreams, charms and imagination - on the one hand; facts, thoughts, and brutality - on the other. The Irish side of the parallelism is obvious, as Doyle's 'soliloquy' reminds us: "Oh, the dreaming! the dreaming! the torturing, heartscalding, never satisfying dreaming, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming!"

It doesn't get any more Shavian than this, don't you think? 

George Bernard Shaw signature

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