Bernard Shaw

‘It is the sheer vital energy, the love of life in all its manifestations, which makes Shaw and Wells so attractive. They had about them what Chesterton called ‘a wild gaiety.’ And in Shaw, this gaiety is closely connected with the influence of Mozart.’


‘His very strength makes him unpopular and remote; he showed penetrating insight into this in Back to Methuselah, where he quotes Wells’s parable The Food of the Gods, in which a chemical food makes some people grow to tremendous size, and the rest of the human race develops a passionate hatred of the giants and tries to destroy them. If Shaw had revealed more of his own weakness, as Joyce and Gide did, he might have had more defenders today.’


‘A theme which runs through all Shaw’s work is this theme of the will to power, the refusal to be browbeaten, moral courage.’


‘Shaw’s Caesar is an Outsider for the very reasons which made Shaw declare that Hamlet was an Outsider; because he has evolved a stage beyond his fellow men, and is quite alone among them, alone and incomprehensible.’


‘Don Juan launches a tirade against Insiders which is more devastating than anything in Swift:

In this Palace of Lies a truth or two will not hurt you. Your friends are all the dullest dogs I know. They are not beautiful: they are only decorated. They are not clean: they are only shaved and starched. They are not dignified: they are only fashionably dressed. They are not educated: they are only college passmen. They are not religious: they are only pew renters. They are not moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only ‘frail.’ They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous: they are only rich. They are not loyal, they are only servile; not dutiful, only sheepish; not public spirited, only patriotic; not courageous, only quarrelsome; not determined, only obstinate; not masterful, only domineering; not self-controlled, only obtuse; not self-respecting, only vain; not kind, only sentimental; not social, only gregarious; not considerate, only polite; not intelligent, only opinionated; not progressive, only factious; not imaginative, only superstitious; not just, only vindictive; not generous, only propitiatory; not disciplined, only cowed; and not truthful at all: liars every one of them, to the very backbone of their souls.’


‘Shaw implies, like Toynbee, that the Outsider must create the power to revitalise his civilisation.’


‘Shaw’s diagnosis can be summarised: Human beings are fools because they have no time to be wise. They are thrown down into the world, not knowing who they are or what they are supposed to do. Some of them instinctively feel that life should have a purpose and meaning, and manage to imbue their own lives with a certain direction. These we call men of genius. But the majority take the world much as they find it, and are contented if they can keep alive and well fed, and live and die as their parents lived and died. These are the Insiders.’


‘In Man and Superman: that the artist’s task is to create more consciousness. ‘You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul.’