George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 48
Visions of Judgment

DURING THE DECADE 1930-1940, SHAW BECAME INTENSELY PREOCCUPIED WITH dictatorship and the rapid rise, which seemed like mushroom growth, of talented, aggressive figures who gambled their all--and some for a time, some for life, won power, place, and principality: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Ataturk, Salazar, Franco. Since his youth, he had entertained an accelerating distrust for bumbling, fumbling parliamentary process; and, to the great disgust of a number of his friends, began to exhibit the deepest interest in the Fübrerprinzip. He felt that some answer should be sought, in the economic field, too, to the question: What is to be done about the multimillionaire under democratic capitalism (or capitalist democracy) in the United States of America? In Too True to be Good, that singular counsel of despair oddly titled a "political extravaganza," he finds a solution for the millionairess in emigration to the U.S.S.R. where riches are abolished and a classless society with equality of income gives promise of realization.

Dissatisfied with this initial attempt at a solution, he tried his hand again in the year of publication of Too True to be Good. When the Shaws sailed for South Africa toward the end of December, 1931, he was working on a play, the embryo of The Millionairess, which, in its original draft, ended with the volcanically erupted shout of the ungovernable Epifania: "In Moscow I shall not be a millionairess; but I shall be in the Sovnarkom within six months and in the Politbureau before the end of the year." This merely echoed Too True to be Good, which dealt with the problem of vast individual wealth, whereas the problem of the new play was quite different: What shall we do with the bosses?

From time to time Shaw tinkered with the characters and situations; and in 1934, on the voyage home from New Zealand, sent to his secretary a "play in three acts called The Millionairess." In 1935, while voyaging in the Red Sea, he was haunted by a feeling that he had botched it up; and set to work "practically rewriting the wretched Millionairess." The play was completed in 1935; and the sensational "Preface to Bosses" was written at Malvern in August of that year. He found no satisfactory solution of his problem in this

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