Monday, January 5, 2015


A few days ago, on the occasion of the Winter Solstice, our friends from ShawChicago posted the following Shaw quotation on their facebook timeline

Although, at first, I thought this was beyond Shaw's tolerance of lyrical mannerisms, I was clearly wrong. Then, again, Shaw wrote these words when he was only 27. They belong to his fifth and last novel, An Unsocial Socialist

"Nessus carrying off Dejanira was nothing to this! Whew! Well, my darling, are you glad to see me?"
"But me no buts, unless you wish me to vanish again and for ever. Wretch that I am, I have longed for you unspeakably more than once since I ran away from you. You didn't care, of course?"
"I did. I did, indeed. Why did you leave me, Sidney?"
"Lest a worse thing might befall. Come, don't let us waste in explanations the few minutes we have left. Give me a kiss." 
"Then you are going to leave me again. Oh, Sidney ---"
"Never mind to-morrow, Hetty. Be like the sun and the meadow, which are not in the least concerned about the coming winter. Why do you stare at that cursed canal, blindly dragging its load of filth from place to place until it pitches it into the sea—just as a crowded street pitches its load into the cemetery? Stare at ME, and give me a kiss."

This rapturous exchange is very unbecoming of later Shaw, and must be taken as part of that learning process that Shaw descibed as "brute practice with the pen," just as "a laborer digs or a carpenter planes." Let us rejoice in the fruit born by that practice, and excuse the path taken - with the occasional gem of truth, as usual. After all, just to borrow Churchill's insightful definition of Shaw

"Mr. Bernard Shaw is rather like a volcano; there are large clouds of highly inflammable gas. There are here and there brilliant electrical flashes; there are huge volumes of scalding water, and mud and ashes cast up in all directions. Among the mud and ashes of extravagance and nonsense there is from time to time a piece of pure gold cut up, ready smelted from the central fires of truth. I do not myself dislike this volcano. It is not a very large volcano, though in a constant state of eruption."

Johan Christian Claussen Dahl 001

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