Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Too-Clever Shaw

In Style, one of the finest books on writing available, F.L. Lucas writes about "the falsity of the too clever." He cites G.B. Shaw as perhaps the most cleverly false writer: Among "all English writers, I know no clearer example of the perils of cleverness than Bernard Shaw, who ended by selling himself to his own wit, as Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles . . . [T]his onetime reformer who had laboured generously for Fabian Socialism and fearlesly denounced British oppression in Ireland and in Egypt, became, I feel, a hoary mountebank with no passion left except for making men stare by representing every worse cause as the better, and assuming the permanent role of devil's advocate, whether for Mussolini in Ethiopia or for Stalin in the Kremlin." Collier Books, 1962.

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