Sunday, April 24, 2016


Yesterday, as I was doing some research on how the concept of madness has evolved throughout history (hands down, my first recommended reading would be this), I found an online blog entry entitled "Vanity: a cautionary tale." The text, lo and behold, ends with "the wise words of George Bernard Shaw."

The quotation, of course, caught my eye; especially because it seemed to be connected to my previous post about the different acting skills of Duse and Bernhardt. In other words, Shaw seems to appreciate above all else what is left of one after the good looks and the make-up fade; what is true, truly ours. 

These words, as usual with Shaw, leave no reader indifferent, but I felt I really needed to find the source because they would be interpreted differently depending on who is the recipient of Shaw's adoration. 

Well, as it turns out it was Mrs. Patrick Campbell who deserved such an eloquent praise - as many of you may have guessed. The letter was sent from the Midland Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, and it was dated 23rd October, 1912. 

If you want to read the whole letter, you may turn to page 252 of My Life and Some Letters, by Mrs. Campbell herself (the letter begins on the previous page). The letter was also included in their collected correspondence, (Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell: Their Correspondence). 

Shaw wrote this letter after Stella had come down with some unspecified illness that induced high fevers and severe headaches. That must have been the reason why, a week later, in an annotation to one of Shaw's letters, she records: "He came and read me Androcles. I was really too ill to listen, and it nearly killed me..." 

And they say literature is good for you!

Mrs Patrick Campbell Hollyer

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