George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Novels Succeed

THE BETTER Shaw WROTE, THE WORSE HE FARED. THE WORLD WAS NOT YET ready for Ibsenic irony, Strindbergian comitragedy, and Shavian satire. "As long as I kept sending my novels to the publishers," explained Shaw, "the were as safe from publicity as they would have been in the fire, where I had better, perhaps, have put them. But when I flung them aside as failures, they almost instantly began to show signs of life." The flood of ideas and the desire for expression of these ideas in liberal and Socialist organs of opinion, which marked the Socialist revival of the eighties, were responsible for the final publication of Shaw's novels. In the crop of propagandist magazines was one called To-Day--not the present paper of that name, but one of the many "To-days which are now Yesterdays." It was printed by Henry Hyde Champion, a former artillery officer who had recently resigned in protest against British policy in Egypt and joined the ranks of Socialism. There were several joint editors, mostly of brief tenure, among whom were Belfort Bax, of some note as a philosopher, and James Leigh Joynes, a former Eton master. Although publishing his novels in this magazine, which paid nothing for contributions, "seemed a matter of no more consequence than stuffing so many window panes with them," Shaw nevertheless offered up two of them on this unstable altar of his political faith. The first installment of An Unsocial Socialist appeared in To-Day, "The Monthly Magazine of Scientific Socialism," New Series, Volume I ( January-June, 1884), March issue, pages 205-220. The final installment appeared in New Series, Volume II of the same magazine ( July-December, 1884), December issue, pages 543-579. The novel appeared under Shaw's name, and is marked at the close on page 579, "The End," and dated beneath, "London, 1883," the date of composition. There was one note- worthy result of the serial publication of An Unsocial Socialist: the acquaintance formed by Shaw with William Morris. This acquaintance was later to ripen into a reciprocally appreciative friendship. To Shaw's surprise, as he tells us, William Morris had been reading the monthly installments with a certain relish--a proof to Shaw's mind "how much easier it is to please a great man than a little one, especially when you share his politics."

Shaw developed a "fierce self-sufficiency" and a "superhuman insensitiveness" to praise or blame as the result of his extraordinary initial lack of suc

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