A Realistic Comedy by Bernard Shaw
TO LIVE LONGER THAN Sophocles, to write more plays than Shakespeare, to be as much of a comic in life as Molière was on the stage, to live in the light of Ibsen's new ideas--such it was to be George Bernard Shaw. He died at ninety-four having been an active personality throughout the entire period of modern drama. He wrote more than forty plays. He was the most impudent cut-up and publicized wit of his age. He championed, in his own often perverse way, most of the liberal causes of three generations. Something of this amazing personality can be seen in his Candida, his most popular, if not his greatest, comedy.
Bernard Shaw--like most of the writers of English comedy--was an Irishman. He was born in 1856 in Dublin, as was Oscar Wilde. Shaw's father was a poor relation of landed Protestant gentry, unsuccessful in business, an alcoholic with a genial turn for humor. His mother, a singer, was a remarkable woman. Genteel snobbery, coupled with poverty, made his schooling miserable. At fourteen he went to work in a land agent's office, which he disliked. He remained as a junior clerk, but soon with senior responsibilities. Young Shaw, as a Shelleyan, liked to shock his office mates with his professed atheism. By the time he was twenty his mother, leaving her husband in Dublin, had already gone to London to earn her way as a musician. Her son soon joined her there, with some vague notion that he would amount to something. It was ten years before he was earning a living. Meanwhile he was supported by his mother and by small remittances from his father. During his twenties he did odd-jobs in journalism, wrote five unsuccessful novels, developed himself as a public speaker, became interested in the economics of Henry George and the socialism of Karl Marx, the dramas of Ibsen and the music of Wagner. He joined the newly founded Fabian Society, which advocated social evolution rather than Marxian violence, and paved the way for the present Labour