The Nobel Prize-Winning Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw Muses on the Prevention of Future Wars

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shawSHAW, GEORGE BERNARD. (1856-1950). Irish playwright and critic known for his works Saint Joan and Pygmalion. AMs Unsigned. ½p. 4to. [London, December 4, 1929.] [To Henry Losti Russell.] Shaw’s autograph response to a typed question inquiring: “Do you believe that the prevention of future wars is likely to be made any surer by Anglo-American cooperation and friendship? Why or why not?”

“Under existing circumstances it might just as easily produce a war as prevent it. The co-operation of Germany, Austria & Turkey produced the co-operation of Britain, France and Russia; and the two co-operations produced a war. A combination of the United States, the British Empire, France and Germany would make war very risky for the rest of the world if these Powers were really resolved not to tolerate it, especially if they ceased plotting to destroy Russia. But there is no evidence that they have any such resolution, or that they trust one another’s pacifist professions.”

Shaw began his career on April 21, 1894, when his Arms and the Man, which explores the futility of war, opened to great acclaim in London. His foremost international success, it represented “the true beginning of [his] recognition as a popular dramatist,” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Likened by some to Shakespeare, Shaw combined satire, comedy and social criticism in his more than 50 plays. His famous stage works include Saint Joan (for which he was awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in literature), Man and Superman and Pygmalion the inspiration for the popular musical My Fair Lady.

George Bernard Shaw

World War I prompted Shaw to abandon the creation of socially critical drama, and instead write criticism about the horrors of the period. During the war he published a controversial pamphlet, Common Sense about the War that suggested both Great Britain and its Allies were as responsible as the Germans for the atrocities committed, and argued for negotiation and peace. He also gave numerous anti-war speeches, and provoked much domestic criticism.

In 1928, Shaw authored The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism and by the 1930s had self-identified as a communist. He also had strong opinions on the Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of World War I. “Shaw recognized that there was a human instinct called nationalism that made people ‘dissatisfied unless they think they are governed by themselves and not by foreigners’. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles, which placed Germany in an inferior position, was an affront to that instinct, and that Hitler had been hoisted to power by the force of national resentment. Such was the outcome of an abuse of victory. He had urged the Allies to dismantle the military frontiers imposed by the Treaty, and when they failed to take this initiative he applauded Hitler for ‘the political sagacity and courage with which he has rescued Germany from the gutter and placed her once more at the head of Central Europe,’” (Bernard Shaw: The Lure of Fantasy 1918-1951, Holroyd). It was because of his many published comments on current events that Shaw’s opinions were sought.

Our commentary was penned more than a year after the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which called for peaceful settlement of disputes by its original signatories, France, the United States and Germany. Shortly thereafter, the United Kingdom, Soviet Union and other countries agreed to adhere to its principles.

With normal letter folds and in very fine condition.

The Nobel Prize-Winning Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw Muses on the Prevention of Future Wars

$650 • item #20853

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