"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

July 22, 2008

SHAW VS SHAW

George Bernard Shaw
Eyre Massey Shaw

TIME Magazine - Monday, Dec. 18, 1939

George Bernard Shaw has a cousin, a retired Australian bank manager named Charles M. Shaw. For years Charles's gorge rose at the silly lies told about "Bernard," while he practically choked at the slanders circulated—often by Bernard himself—about the Shaw clan. The Shaws, after all, he says, can be traced all the way back to 12th-Century Scotland, and it was perfectly outrageous for Bernard to portray them as shabby-genteel failures, and to label his own pa a hopeless and horrible drunk.

So Charles finally sat down and wrote a book showing how nice and refined the Shaws were, how they had a proper schooling, visited in high-class homes, Did Things in the world, had knights in the family. One of them was even immortalized (titteringly) in Gilbert & Sullivan's lolanthe:

Oh, Captain Shaw,
Type of true love kept under.†

On the whole, Bernard's Brethren was a not very lively job of escutcheon-polishing. Fortunately Bernard got his mitts on the MS before it was published, and characteristically proceeded to make comments in the margin, restoring family grease stains as fast as Charles rubbed them out. His marginal scrawls were incorporated into the book, are much the most amusing things in it. Samples:

> Charles called their grandmother "beautiful." Bernard: "Come! What about the Wellingtonian nose?"

> Charles mentions Bernard's "strict upbringing." Bernard: "Rubbish! I was brought up anarchically and was a Freethinker before I knew how to think."

> Charles paints a suspiciously pretty picture of two old ladies in the tribe. Bernard: "Really, Charles, you, not I, should have been the dramatist of the family."

> Charles thinks their cousin, Fanny Cashel Hoey, was an impressive Victorian novelist. Bernard: "Fanny was a first-rate literary hack."

> Charles tells a high-romantic tale about Bernard's sister Lucy. Bernard: "Charles, you are a liar."

† Sir Eyre Massey Shaw of the London Fire Brigade. Apparently an accident "deprived him of the full powers of his manhood."