George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 28
Shaw's Letters to the Webbs: 1916-1945

Ayot St. Lawrence, Welwyn, Herts 5th October 1916

MY DEAR WEBBS

As I have got on poor Sharp's nerves, which have been in indifferent tune since the Lusitania torpedo got him, it is mere cruelty to animals remaining on the Statesman Board. I have therefore written formally to the secretary to convey my resignation to the next meeting and regard me in the future as a simple shareholder. My withdrawal will be a great relief to everybody, probably; and as everything that cannot be done without me would not be done anyhow, it will do no harm. Anyhow, I am always accessible if I am wanted.

It is possible that some of our new Sedbergh acquaintances might fill my vacant chair (not that it need be filled at all) and qualify for that honor by putting a little money into the concern. I do not think that the old argument for keeping the direction to ourselves lest the policy of the paper should be taken out of our hands holds good any longer. As far as policy and tactics go, the paper is suburban-Tory-cum-Webb-Limited. It is now clear that it will never attack any minister who is not already the lower middle class butt of Blackheath and West Kensington. Lloyd George, as a little Radical Welsh attorney, or John Burns, as an upstart, will be mercilessly handled; but no blow will be struck at the towering crests, and this not because of conscious snobbery, but from a genuine awestruck inability to escape from the social prestige of the country house and the plutocrat- professionals. Your articles will go in, just as they would go into The Daily News or into The Times (except that you will not be paid for them); but the fighting part of the paper will thank God for Asquith because he disregards you and can be trusted to do everything in his power to prevent your ever obtaining any practical influence on legislation. This is not conjecture: it is what has been actually happening. It is no doubt very prudent, very safe, very judicious; but it is also very superfluous and even mischievous in making it harder for the other sixpennies to live; and anyhow it is not what I put down my money for, and does not interest me in the least.

What I wanted, and still want, is a paper which will not only put in your articles and mine (which plenty of more widely circulated ones are only too anxious to do) but will fight for our policy; disable and discredit our opponents when it cannot convert them; use the events of every week

-376-

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