These prefatory letters show Bernard Shaw going all the way from absolute disapproval to conditional co-operation in less than a year, and they are strung together with the mischievous intent of showing how great minds don't always know their own. He will go to his grave believing he never approved of my biography, but the disapproval has all the coy refusal of a Victorian lady of easy virtue. Anyway, the result is the same: conception and the birth of an idea into a book in nine months; which seems to make everything quite all right.
To Shaw all biographies are lies. Not merely that, but deliberate lies. No man is bad enough or good enough, he insists, to tell the truth about himself during his lifetime. Why not? I did. Archibald Henderson, Ph.D., D.C.L., LL.D., Shaw's official biographer, tells us that "Shaw once tried, within certain limits, the experiment of being candidly autobiographical." How can anybody be candid "within certain limits"? Anybody, that is, who isn't a prude at heart. But then Shaw can do anything: within certain limits.
On the positive side he believes, and in this most of us I think will agree with him, that any man's childhood years are the most important. Even where some may not concur in this, they certainly will agree that these younger . . .