Heartbreak House
George Bernard Shaw

Part 1 out of 4

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Where Heartbreak House Stands

Heartbreak House is not merely the name of the play which follows
this preface. It is cultured, leisured Europe before the war.
When the play was begun not a shot had been fired; and only the
professional diplomatists and the very few amateurs whose hobby
is foreign policy even knew that the guns were loaded. A Russian
playwright, Tchekov, had produced four fascinating dramatic
studies of Heartbreak House, of which three, The Cherry Orchard,
Uncle Vanya, and The Seagull, had been performed in England.
Tolstoy, in his Fruits of Enlightenment, had shown us through it
in his most ferociously contemptuous manner. Tolstoy did not
waste any sympathy on it: it was to him the house in which Europe
was stifling its soul; and he knew that our utter enervation and
futilization in that overheated drawingroom atmosphere was
delivering the world over to the control of ignorant and soulless
cunning and energy, with the frightful consequences which have
now overtaken it. Tolstoy was no pessimist: he was not disposed
to leave the house standing if he could bring it down about the
ears of its pretty and amiable voluptuaries; and he wielded the
pickaxe with a will. He treated the case of the inmates as one of
opium poisoning, to be dealt with by seizing the patients roughly
and exercising them violently until they were broad awake.
Tchekov, more of a fatalist, had no faith in these charming
people extricating themselves. They would, he thought, be sold up
and sent adrift by the bailiffs; and he therefore had no scruple
in exploiting and even flattering their charm.

The Inhabitants

Tchekov's plays, being less lucrative than swings and
roundabouts, got no further in England, where theatres are only
ordinary commercial affairs, than a couple of performances by the
Stage Society. We stared and said, "How Russian!" They did not
strike me in that way. Just as Ibsen's intensely Norwegian plays
exactly fitted every middle and professional class suburb in
Europe, these intensely Russian plays fitted all the country
houses in Europe in which the pleasures of music, art,
literature, and the theatre had supplanted hunting, shooting,
fishing, flirting, eating, and drinking. The same nice people,
the same utter futility. The nice people could read; some of them
could write; and they were the sole repositories of culture who
had social opportunities of contact with our politicians,
administrators, and newspaper proprietors, or any chance of
sharing or influencing their activities. But they shrank from
that contact. They hated politics. They did not wish to realize
Utopia for the common people: they wished to realize their
favorite fictions and poems in their own lives; and, when they
could, they lived without scruple on incomes which they did
nothing to earn. The women in their girlhood made themselves look
like variety theatre stars, and settled down later into the types
of beauty imagined by the previous generation of painters. They
took the only part of our society in which there was leisure for
high culture, and made it an economic, political and; as far as
practicable, a moral vacuum; and as Nature, abhorring the vacuum,
immediately filled it up with sex and with all sorts of refined
pleasures, it was a very delightful place at its best for moments
of relaxation. In other moments it was disastrous. For prime
ministers and their like, it was a veritable Capua.

Horseback Hall

But where were our front benchers to nest if not here? The
alternative to Heartbreak House was Horseback Hall, consisting of
a prison for horses with an annex for the ladies and gentlemen
who rode them, hunted them, talked about them, bought them and
sold them, and gave nine-tenths of their lives to them, dividing
the other tenth between charity, churchgoing (as a substitute for
religion), and conservative electioneering (as a substitute for
politics). It is true that the two establishments got mixed at
the edges. Exiles from the library, the music room, and the
picture gallery would be found languishing among the stables,
miserably discontented; and hardy horsewomen who slept at the
first chord of Schumann were born, horribly misplaced, into the
garden of Klingsor; but sometimes one came upon horsebreakers and
heartbreakers who could make the best of both worlds. As a rule,
however, the two were apart and knew little of one another; so
the prime minister folk had to choose between barbarism and
Capua. And of the two atmospheres it is hard to say which was the
more fatal to statesmanship.

Revolution on the Shelf

Heartbreak House was quite familiar with revolutionary ideas on
paper. It aimed at being advanced and freethinking, and hardly
ever went to church or kept the Sabbath except by a little extra
fun at weekends. When you spent a Friday to Tuesday in it you
found on the shelf in your bedroom not only the books of poets
and novelists, but of revolutionary biologists and even
economists. Without at least a few plays by myself and Mr
Granville Barker, and a few stories by Mr H. G. Wells, Mr Arnold
Bennett, and Mr John Galsworthy, the house would have been out of
the movement. You would find Blake among the poets, and beside
him Bergson, Butler, Scott Haldane, the poems of Meredith and
Thomas Hardy, and, generally speaking, all the literary
implements for forming the mind of the perfect modern Socialist
and Creative Evolutionist. It was a curious experience to spend
Sunday in dipping into these books, and the Monday morning to
read in the daily paper that the country had just been brought to
the verge of anarchy because a new Home Secretary or chief of
police without an idea in his head that his great-grandmother
might not have had to apologize for, had refused to "recognize"
some powerful Trade Union, just as a gondola might refuse to
recognize a 20,000-ton liner.

In short, power and culture were in separate compartments. The
barbarians were not only literally in the saddle, but on the
front bench in the House of commons, with nobody to correct their
incredible ignorance of modern thought and political science but
upstarts from the counting-house, who had spent their lives
furnishing their pockets instead of their minds. Both, however,
were practised in dealing with money and with men, as far as
acquiring the one and exploiting the other went; and although
this is as undesirable an expertness as that of the medieval
robber baron, it qualifies men to keep an estate or a business
going in its old routine without necessarily understanding it,
just as Bond Street tradesmen and domestic servants keep
fashionable society going without any instruction in sociology.

The Cherry Orchard

The Heartbreak people neither could nor would do anything of the
sort. With their heads as full of the Anticipations of Mr H. G.
Wells as the heads of our actual rulers were empty even of the
anticipations of Erasmus or Sir Thomas More, they refused the
drudgery of politics, and would have made a very poor job of it
if they had changed their minds. Not that they would have been
allowed to meddle anyhow, as only through the accident of being a
hereditary peer can anyone in these days of Votes for Everybody
get into parliament if handicapped by a serious modern cultural
equipment; but if they had, their habit of living in a vacuum
would have left them helpless end ineffective in public affairs.
Even in private life they were often helpless wasters of their
inheritance, like the people in Tchekov's Cherry Orchard. Even
those who lived within their incomes were really kept going by
their solicitors and agents, being unable to manage an estate or
run a business without continual prompting from those who have to
learn how to do such things or starve.

>From what is called Democracy no corrective to this state of
things could be hoped. It is said that every people has the
Government it deserves. It is more to the point that every
Government has the electorate it deserves; for the orators of the
front bench can edify or debauch an ignorant electorate at will.
Thus our democracy moves in a vicious circle of reciprocal
worthiness and unworthiness.

Nature's Long Credits

Nature's way of dealing with unhealthy conditions is
unfortunately not one that compels us to conduct a solvent
hygiene on a cash basis. She demoralizes us with long credits and
reckless overdrafts, and then pulls us up cruelly with
catastrophic bankruptcies. Take, for example, common domestic
sanitation. A whole city generation may neglect it utterly and
scandalously, if not with absolute impunity, yet without any evil
consequences that anyone thinks of tracing to it. In a hospital
two generations of medical students way tolerate dirt and
carelessness, and then go out into general practice to spread the
doctrine that fresh air is a fad, and sanitation an imposture set
up to make profits for plumbers. Then suddenly Nature takes her
revenge. She strikes at the city with a pestilence and at the
hospital with an epidemic of hospital gangrene, slaughtering
right and left until the innocent young have paid for the guilty
old, and the account is balanced. And then she goes to sleep
again and gives another period of credit, with the same result.

This is what has just happened in our political hygiene.
Political science has been as recklessly neglected by Governments
and electorates during my lifetime as sanitary science was in the
days of Charles the Second. In international relations diplomacy
has been a boyishly lawless affair of family intrigues,
commercial and territorial brigandage, torpors of
pseudo-goodnature produced by laziness and spasms of ferocious
activity produced by terror. But in these islands we muddled
through. Nature gave us a longer credit than she gave to France
or Germany or Russia. To British centenarians who died in their
beds in 1914, any dread of having to hide underground in London
from the shells of an enemy seemed more remote and fantastic than
a dread of the appearance of a colony of cobras and rattlesnakes
in Kensington Gardens. In the prophetic works of Charles Dickens
we were warned against many evils which have since come to pass;
but of the evil of being slaughtered by a foreign foe on our own
doorsteps there was no shadow. Nature gave us a very long credit;
and we abused it to the utmost. But when she struck at last she
struck with a vengeance. For four years she smote our firstborn
and heaped on us plagues of which Egypt never dreamed. They were
all as preventable as the great Plague of London, and came solely
because they had not been prevented. They were not undone by
winning the war. The earth is still bursting with the dead bodies
of the victors.

The Wicked Half Century

It is difficult to say whether indifference and neglect are worse
than false doctrine; but Heartbreak House and Horseback Hall
unfortunately suffered from both. For half a century before the
war civilization had been going to the devil very precipitately
under the influence of a pseudo-science as disastrous as the
blackest Calvinism. Calvinism taught that as we are
predestinately saved or damned, nothing that we can do can alter
our destiny. Still, as Calvinism gave the individual no clue as
to whether he had drawn a lucky number or an unlucky one, it left
him a fairly strong interest in encouraging his hopes of
salvation and allaying his fear of damnation by behaving as one
of the elect might be expected to behave rather than as one of
the reprobate. But in the middle of the nineteenth century
naturalists and physicists assured the world, in the name of
Science, that salvation and damnation are all nonsense, and that
predestination is the central truth of religion, inasmuch as
human beings are produced by their environment, their sins and
good deeds being only a series of chemical and mechanical
reactions over which they have no control. Such figments as mind,
choice, purpose, conscience, will, and so forth, are, they
taught, mere illusions, produced because they are useful in the
continual struggle of the human machine to maintain its
environment in a favorable condition, a process incidentally
involving the ruthless destruction or subjection of its
competitors for the supply (assumed to be limited) of subsistence
available. We taught Prussia this religion; and Prussia bettered
our instruction so effectively that we presently found ourselves
confronted with the necessity of destroying Prussia to prevent
Prussia destroying us. And that has just ended in each destroying
the other to an extent doubtfully reparable in our time.

It may be asked how so imbecile and dangerous a creed ever came
to be accepted by intelligent beings. I will answer that question
more fully in my next volume of plays, which will be entirely
devoted to the subject. For the present I will only say that
there were better reasons than the obvious one that such sham
science as this opened a scientific career to very stupid men,
and all the other careers to shameless rascals, provided they
were industrious enough. It is true that this motive operated
very powerfully; but when the new departure in scientific
doctrine which is associated with the name of the great
naturalist Charles Darwin began, it was not only a reaction
against a barbarous pseudo-evangelical teleology intolerably
obstructive to all scientific progress, but was accompanied, as
it happened, by discoveries of extraordinary interest in physics,
chemistry, and that lifeless method of evolution which its
investigators called Natural Selection. Howbeit, there was only
one result possible in the ethical sphere, and that was the
banishment of conscience from human affairs, or, as Samuel Butler
vehemently put it, "of mind from the universe."


Now Heartbreak House, with Butler and Bergson and Scott Haldane
alongside Blake and the other major poets on its shelves (to say
nothing of Wagner and the tone poets), was not so completely
blinded by the doltish materialism of the laboratories as the
uncultured world outside. But being an idle house it was a
hypochondriacal house, always running after cures. It would stop
eating meat, not on valid Shelleyan grounds, but in order to get
rid of a bogey called Uric Acid; and it would actually let you
pull all its teeth out to exorcise another demon named Pyorrhea.
It was superstitious, and addicted to table-rapping,
materialization seances, clairvoyance, palmistry, crystal-gazing
and the like to such an extent that it may be doubted whether
ever before in the history of the world did soothsayers,
astrologers, and unregistered therapeutic specialists of all
sorts flourish as they did during this half century of the drift
to the abyss. The registered doctors and surgeons were hard put
to it to compete with the unregistered. They were not clever
enough to appeal to the imagination and sociability of the
Heartbreakers by the arts of the actor, the orator, the poet, the
winning conversationalist. They had to fall back coarsely on the
terror of infection and death. They prescribed inoculations and
operations. Whatever part of a human being could be cut out
without necessarily killing him they cut out; and he often died
(unnecessarily of course) in consequence. From such trifles as
uvulas and tonsils they went on to ovaries and appendices until
at last no one's inside was safe. They explained that the human
intestine was too long, and that nothing could make a child of
Adam healthy except short circuiting the pylorus by cutting a
length out of the lower intestine and fastening it directly to
the stomach. As their mechanist theory taught them that medicine
was the business of the chemist's laboratory, and surgery of the
carpenter's shop, and also that Science (by which they meant
their practices) was so important that no consideration for the
interests of any individual creature, whether frog or
philosopher, much less the vulgar commonplaces of sentimental
ethics, could weigh for a moment against the remotest off-chance
of an addition to the body of scientific knowledge, they operated
and vivisected and inoculated and lied on a stupendous scale,
clamoring for and actually acquiring such legal powers over the
bodies of their fellow-citizens as neither king, pope, nor
parliament dare ever have claimed. The Inquisition itself was a
Liberal institution compared to the General Medical Council.

Those who do not know how to live must make a Merit of Dying

Heartbreak House was far too lazy and shallow to extricate itself
from this palace of evil enchantment. It rhapsodized about love;
but it believed in cruelty. It was afraid of the cruel people;
and it saw that cruelty was at least effective. Cruelty did
things that made money, whereas Love did nothing but prove the
soundness of Larochefoucauld's saying that very few people would
fall in love if they had never read about it. Heartbreak House,
in short, did not know how to live, at which point all that was
left to it was the boast that at least it knew how to die: a
melancholy accomplishment which the outbreak of war presently
gave it practically unlimited opportunities of displaying. Thus
were the firstborn of Heartbreak House smitten; and the young,
the innocent, the hopeful, expiated the folly and worthlessness
of their elders.

War Delirium

Only those who have lived through a first-rate war, not in the
field, but at home, and kept their heads, can possibly understand
the bitterness of Shakespeare and Swift, who both went through
this experience. The horror of Peer Gynt in the madhouse, when
the lunatics, exalted by illusions of splendid talent and visions
of a dawning millennium, crowned him as their emperor, was tame
in comparison. I do not know whether anyone really kept his head
completely except those who had to keep it because they had to
conduct the war at first hand. I should not have kept my own (as
far as I did keep it) if I had not at once understood that as a
scribe and speaker I too was under the most serious public
obligation to keep my grip on realities; but this did not save me
from a considerable degree of hyperaesthesia. There were of
course some happy people to whom the war meant nothing: all
political and general matters lying outside their little circle
of interest. But the ordinary war-conscious civilian went mad,
the main symptom being a conviction that the whole order of
nature had been reversed. All foods, he felt, must now be
adulterated. All schools must be closed. No advertisements must
be sent to the newspapers, of which new editions must appear and
be bought up every ten minutes. Travelling must be stopped, or,
that being impossible, greatly hindered. All pretences about fine
art and culture and the like must be flung off as an intolerable
affectation; and the picture galleries and museums and schools at
once occupied by war workers. The British Museum itself was saved
only by a hair's breadth. The sincerity of all this, and of much
more which would not be believed if I chronicled it, may be
established by one conclusive instance of the general craziness.
Men were seized with the illusion that they could win the war by
giving away money. And they not only subscribed millions to Funds
of all sorts with no discoverable object, and to ridiculous
voluntary organizations for doing what was plainly the business
of the civil and military authorities, but actually handed out
money to any thief in the street who had the presence of mind to
pretend that he (or she) was "collecting" it for the annihilation
of the enemy. Swindlers were emboldened to take offices; label
themselves Anti-Enemy Leagues; and simply pocket the money that
was heaped on them. Attractively dressed young women found that
they had nothing to do but parade the streets, collecting-box in
hand, and live gloriously on the profits. Many months elapsed
before, as a first sign of returning sanity, the police swept an
Anti-Enemy secretary into prison pour encourages les autres, and
the passionate penny collecting of the Flag Days was brought
under some sort of regulation.

Madness in Court

The demoralization did not spare the Law Courts. Soldiers were
acquitted, even on fully proved indictments for wilful murder,
until at last the judges and magistrates had to announce that
what was called the Unwritten Law, which meant simply that a
soldier could do what he liked with impunity in civil life, was
not the law of the land, and that a Victoria Cross did not carry
with it a perpetual plenary indulgence. Unfortunately the
insanity of the juries and magistrates did not always manifest
itself in indulgence. No person unlucky enough to be charged with
any sort of conduct, however reasonable and salutary, that did
not smack of war delirium, had the slightest chance of acquittal.
There were in the country, too, a certain number of people who
had conscientious objections to war as criminal or unchristian.
The Act of Parliament introducing Compulsory Military Service
thoughtlessly exempted these persons, merely requiring them to
prove the genuineness of their convictions. Those who did so were
very ill-advised from the point of view of their own personal
interest; for they were persecuted with savage logicality in
spite of the law; whilst those who made no pretence of having any
objection to war at all, and had not only had military training
in Officers' Training Corps, but had proclaimed on public
occasions that they were perfectly ready to engage in civil war
on behalf of their political opinions, were allowed the benefit
of the Act on the ground that they did not approve of this
particular war. For the Christians there was no mercy. In cases
where the evidence as to their being killed by ill treatment was
so unequivocal that the verdict would certainly have been one of
wilful murder had the prejudice of the coroner's jury been on the
other side, their tormentors were gratuitously declared to be
blameless. There was only one virtue, pugnacity: only one vice,
pacifism. That is an essential condition of war; but the
Government had not the courage to legislate accordingly; and its
law was set aside for Lynch law.

The climax of legal lawlessness was reached in France. The
greatest Socialist statesman in Europe, Jaures, was shot and
killed by a gentleman who resented his efforts to avert the war.
M. Clemenceau was shot by another gentleman of less popular
opinions, and happily came off no worse than having to spend a
precautionary couple of days in bed. The slayer of Jaures was
recklessly acquitted: the would-be slayer of M. Clemenceau was
carefully found guilty. There is no reason to doubt that the same
thing would have happened in England if the war had begun with a
successful attempt to assassinate Keir Hardie, and ended with an
unsuccessful one to assassinate Mr Lloyd George.

The Long Arm of War

The pestilence which is the usual accompaniment of war was called
influenza. Whether it was really a war pestilence or not was made
doubtful by the fact that it did its worst in places remote from
the battlefields, notably on the west coast of North America and
in India. But the moral pestilence, which was unquestionably a
war pestilence, reproduced this phenomenon. One would have
supposed that the war fever would have raged most furiously in
the countries actually under fire, and that the others would be
more reasonable. Belgium and Flanders, where over large districts
literally not one stone was left upon another as the opposed
armies drove each other back and forward over it after terrific
preliminary bombardments, might have been pardoned for relieving
their feelings more emphatically than by shrugging their
shoulders and saying, "C'est la guerre." England, inviolate for
so many centuries that the swoop of war on her homesteads had
long ceased to be more credible than a return of the Flood, could
hardly be expected to keep her temper sweet when she knew at last
what it was to hide in cellars and underground railway stations,
or lie quaking in bed, whilst bombs crashed, houses crumbled, and
aircraft guns distributed shrapnel on friend and foe alike until
certain shop windows in London, formerly full of fashionable
hats, were filled with steel helmets. Slain and mutilated women
and children, and burnt and wrecked dwellings, excuse a good deal
of violent language, and produce a wrath on which many suns go
down before it is appeased. Yet it was in the United States of
America where nobody slept the worse for the war, that the war
fever went beyond all sense and reason. In European Courts there
was vindictive illegality: in American Courts there was raving
lunacy. It is not for me to chronicle the extravagances of an
Ally: let some candid American do that. I can only say that to us
sitting in our gardens in England, with the guns in France making
themselves felt by a throb in the air as unmistakeable as an
audible sound, or with tightening hearts studying the phases of
the moon in London in their bearing on the chances whether our
houses would be standing or ourselves alive next morning, the
newspaper accounts of the sentences American Courts were passing
on young girls and old men alike for the expression of opinions
which were being uttered amid thundering applause before huge
audiences in England, and the more private records of the methods
by which the American War Loans were raised, were so amazing that
they put the guns and the possibilities of a raid clean out of
our heads for the moment.

The Rabid Watchdogs of Liberty

Not content with these rancorous abuses of the existing law, the
war maniacs made a frantic rush to abolish all constitutional
guarantees of liberty and well-being. The ordinary law was
superseded by Acts under which newspapers were seized and their
printing machinery destroyed by simple police raids a la Russe,
and persons arrested and shot without any pretence of trial by
jury or publicity of procedure or evidence. Though it was
urgently necessary that production should be increased by the
most scientific organization and economy of labor, and though no
fact was better established than that excessive duration and
intensity of toil reduces production heavily instead of
increasing it, the factory laws were suspended, and men and women
recklessly over-worked until the loss of their efficiency became
too glaring to be ignored. Remonstrances and warnings were met
either with an accusation of pro-Germanism or the formula,
"Remember that we are at war now." I have said that men assumed
that war had reversed the order of nature, and that all was lost
unless we did the exact opposite of everything we had found
necessary and beneficial in peace. But the truth was worse than
that. The war did not change men's minds in any such impossible
way. What really happened was that the impact of physical death
and destruction, the one reality that every fool can understand,
tore off the masks of education, art, science and religion from
our ignorance and barbarism, and left us glorying grotesquely in
the licence suddenly accorded to our vilest passions and most
abject terrors. Ever since Thucydides wrote his history, it has
been on record that when the angel of death sounds his trumpet
the pretences of civilization are blown from men's heads into the
mud like hats in a gust of wind. But when this scripture was
fulfilled among us, the shock was not the less appalling because
a few students of Greek history were not surprised by it. Indeed
these students threw themselves into the orgy as shamelessly as
the illiterate. The Christian priest, joining in the war dance
without even throwing off his cassock first, and the respectable
school governor expelling the German professor with insult and
bodily violence, and declaring that no English child should
ever again be taught the language of Luther and Goethe, were kept
in countenance by the most impudent repudiations of every decency
of civilization and every lesson of political experience on the
part of the very persons who, as university professors,
historians, philosophers, and men of science, were the accredited
custodians of culture. It was crudely natural, and perhaps
necessary for recruiting purposes, that German militarism and
German dynastic ambition should be painted by journalists and
recruiters in black and red as European dangers (as in fact they
are), leaving it to be inferred that our own militarism and our
own political constitution are millennially democratic (which
they certainly are not); but when it came to frantic
denunciations of German chemistry, German biology, German poetry,
German music, German literature, German philosophy, and even
German engineering, as malignant abominations standing towards
British and French chemistry and so forth in the relation of
heaven to hell, it was clear that the utterers of such barbarous
ravings had never really understood or cared for the arts and
sciences they professed and were profaning, and were only the
appallingly degenerate descendants of the men of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries who, recognizing no national frontiers
in the great realm of the human mind, kept the European comity of
that realm loftily and even ostentatiously above the rancors of
the battle-field. Tearing the Garter from the Kaiser's leg,
striking the German dukes from the roll of our peerage, changing
the King's illustrious and historically appropriate surname (for
the war was the old war of Guelph against Ghibelline, with the
Kaiser as Arch-Ghibelline) to that of a traditionless locality.
One felt that the figure of St. George and the Dragon on our
coinage should be replaced by that of the soldier driving his
spear through Archimedes. But by that time there was no coinage:
only paper money in which ten shillings called itself a pound as
confidently as the people who were disgracing their country
called themselves patriots.

The Sufferings of the Sane

The mental distress of living amid the obscene din of all these
carmagnoles and corobberies was not the only burden that lay on
sane people during the war. There was also the emotional strain,
complicated by the offended economic sense, produced by the
casualty lists. The stupid, the selfish, the narrow-minded, the
callous and unimaginative were spared a great deal. "Blood and
destruction shall be so in use that mothers shall but smile when
they behold their infantes quartered by the hands of war," was a
Shakespearean prophecy that very nearly came true; for when
nearly every house had a slaughtered son to mourn, we should all
have gone quite out of our senses if we had taken our own and our
friend's bereavements at their peace value. It became necessary
to give them a false value; to proclaim the young life worthily
and gloriously sacrificed to redeem the liberty of mankind,
instead of to expiate the heedlessness and folly of their
fathers, and expiate it in vain. We had even to assume that the
parents and not the children had made the sacrifice, until at
last the comic papers were driven to satirize fat old men,
sitting comfortably in club chairs, and boasting of the sons they
had "given" to their country.

No one grudged these anodynes to acute personal grief; but they
only embittered those who knew that the young men were having
their teeth set on edge because their parents had eaten sour
political grapes. Then think of the young men themselves! Many of
them had no illusions about the policy that led to the war: they
went clear-sighted to a horribly repugnant duty. Men essentially
gentle and essentially wise, with really valuable work in hand,
laid it down voluntarily and spent months forming fours in the
barrack yard, and stabbing sacks of straw in the public eye, so
that they might go out to kill and maim men as gentle as
themselves. These men, who were perhaps, as a class, our most
efficient soldiers (Frederick Keeling, for example), were not
duped for a moment by the hypocritical melodrama that consoled
and stimulated the others. They left their creative work to
drudge at destruction, exactly as they would have left it to take
their turn at the pumps in a sinking ship. They did not, like
some of the conscientious objectors, hold back because the ship
had been neglected by its officers and scuttled by its wreckers.
The ship had to be saved, even if Newton had to leave his
fluxions and Michael Angelo his marbles to save it; so they threw
away the tools of their beneficent and ennobling trades, and took
up the blood-stained bayonet and the murderous bomb, forcing
themselves to pervert their divine instinct for perfect artistic
execution to the effective handling of these diabolical things,
and their economic faculty for organization to the contriving of
ruin and slaughter. For it gave an ironic edge to their tragedy
that the very talents they were forced to prostitute made the
prostitution not only effective, but even interesting; so that
some of them were rapidly promoted, and found themselves actually
becoming artists in wax, with a growing relish for it, like
Napoleon and all the other scourges of mankind, in spite of
themselves. For many of them there was not even this consolation.
They "stuck it," and hated it, to the end.

Evil in the Throne of Good

This distress of the gentle was so acute that those who shared it
in civil life, without having to shed blood with their own hands,
or witness destruction with their own eyes, hardly care to
obtrude their own woes. Nevertheless, even when sitting at home
in safety, it was not easy for those who had to write and speak
about the war to throw away their highest conscience, and
deliberately work to a standard of inevitable evil instead of to
the ideal of life more abundant. I can answer for at least one
person who found the change from the wisdom of Jesus and St.
Francis to the morals of Richard III and the madness of Don
Quixote extremely irksome. But that change had to be made; and we
are all the worse for it, except those for whom it was not really
a change at all, but only a relief from hypocrisy.

Think, too, of those who, though they had neither to write nor to
fight, and had no children of their own to lose, yet knew the
inestimable loss to the world of four years of the life of a
generation wasted on destruction. Hardly one of the epoch-making
works of the human mind might not have been aborted or destroyed
by taking their authors away from their natural work for four
critical years. Not only were Shakespeares and Platos being
killed outright; but many of the best harvests of the survivors
had to be sown in the barren soil of the trenches. And this was
no mere British consideration. To the truly civilized man, to the
good European, the slaughter of the German youth was as
disastrous as the slaughter of the English. Fools exulted in
"German losses." They were our losses as well. Imagine exulting
in the death of Beethoven because Bill Sykes dealt him his death

Straining at the Gnat and swallowing the Camel

But most people could not comprehend these sorrows. There was a
frivolous exultation in death for its own sake, which was at
bottom an inability to realize that the deaths were real deaths
and not stage ones. Again and again, when an air raider dropped a
bomb which tore a child and its mother limb from limb, the people
who saw it, though they had been reading with great cheerfulness
of thousands of such happenings day after day in their
newspapers, suddenly burst into furious imprecations on "the
Huns" as murderers, and shrieked for savage and satisfying
vengeance. At such moments it became clear that the deaths they
had not seen meant no more to them than the mimic death of the
cinema screen. Sometimes it was not necessary that death should
be actually witnessed: it had only to take place under
circumstances of sufficient novelty and proximity to bring it
home almost as sensationally and effectively as if it had been
actually visible.

For example, in the spring of 1915 there was an appalling
slaughter of our young soldiers at Neuve Chapelle and at the
Gallipoli landing. I will not go so far as to say that our
civilians were delighted to have such exciting news to read at
breakfast. But I cannot pretend that I noticed either in the
papers, or in general intercourse, any feeling beyond the usual
one that the cinema show at the front was going splendidly, and
that our boys were the bravest of the brave. Suddenly there came
the news that an Atlantic liner, the Lusitania, had been
torpedoed, and that several well-known first-class passengers,
including a famous theatrical manager and the author of a popular
farce, had been drowned, among others. The others included Sir
Hugh Lane; but as he had only laid the country under great
obligations in the sphere of the fine arts, no great stress was
laid on that loss. Immediately an amazing frenzy swept through
the country. Men who up to that time had kept their heads now
lost them utterly. "Killing saloon passengers! What next?" was
the essence of the whole agitation; but it is far too trivial a
phrase to convey the faintest notion of the rage which possessed
us. To me, with my mind full of the hideous cost of Neuve
Chapelle, Ypres, and the Gallipoli landing, the fuss about the
Lusitania seemed almost a heartless impertinence, though I was
well acquainted personally with the three best-known victims, and
understood, better perhaps than most people, the misfortune of
the death of Lane. I even found a grim satisfaction, very
intelligible to all soldiers, in the fact that the civilians who
found the war such splendid British sport should get a sharp
taste of what it was to the actual combatants. I expressed my
impatience very freely, and found that my very straightforward
and natural feeling in the matter was received as a monstrous and
heartless paradox. When I asked those who gaped at me whether
they had anything to say about the holocaust of Festubert, they
gaped wider than before, having totally forgotten it, or rather,
having never realized it. They were not heartless anymore than I
was; but the big catastrophe was too big for them to grasp, and
the little one had been just the right size for them. I was not
surprised. Have I not seen a public body for just the same reason
pass a vote for 30,000 without a word, and then spend three
special meetings, prolonged into the night, over an item of seven
shillings for refreshments?

Little Minds and Big Battles

Nobody will be able to understand the vagaries of public feeling
during the war unless they bear constantly in mind that the war
in its entire magnitude did not exist for the average civilian.
He could not conceive even a battle, much less a campaign. To the
suburbs the war was nothing but a suburban squabble. To the miner
and navvy it was only a series of bayonet fights between German
champions and English ones. The enormity of it was quite beyond
most of us. Its episodes had to be reduced to the dimensions of a
railway accident or a shipwreck before it could produce any
effect on our minds at all. To us the ridiculous bombardments of
Scarborough and Ramsgate were colossal tragedies, and the battle
of Jutland a mere ballad. The words "after thorough artillery
preparation" in the news from the front meant nothing to us; but
when our seaside trippers learned that an elderly gentleman at
breakfast in a week-end marine hotel had been interrupted by a
bomb dropping into his egg-cup, their wrath and horror knew no
bounds. They declared that this would put a new spirit into the
army; and had no suspicion that the soldiers in the trenches
roared with laughter over it for days, and told each other that
it would do the blighters at home good to have a taste of what
the army was up against. Sometimes the smallness of view was
pathetic. A man would work at home regardless of the call "to
make the world safe for democracy." His brother would be killed
at the front. Immediately he would throw up his work and take up
the war as a family blood feud against the Germans. Sometimes it
was comic. A wounded man, entitled to his discharge, would return
to the trenches with a grim determination to find the Hun who had
wounded him and pay him out for it.

It is impossible to estimate what proportion of us, in khaki or
out of it, grasped the war and its political antecedents as a
whole in the light of any philosophy of history or knowledge of
what war is. I doubt whether it was as high as our proportion of
higher mathematicians. But there can be no doubt that it was
prodigiously outnumbered by the comparatively ignorant and
childish. Remember that these people had to be stimulated to make
the sacrifices demanded by the war, and that this could not be
done by appeals to a knowledge which they did not possess, and a
comprehension of which they were incapable. When the armistice at
last set me free to tell the truth about the war at the following
general election, a soldier said to a candidate whom I was
supporting, "If I had known all that in 1914, they would never
have got me into khaki." And that, of course, was precisely why
it had been necessary to stuff him with a romance that any
diplomatist would have laughed at. Thus the natural confusion of
ignorance was increased by a deliberately propagated confusion of
nursery bogey stories and melodramatic nonsense, which at last
overreached itself and made it impossible to stop the war before
we had not only achieved the triumph of vanquishing the German
army and thereby overthrowing its militarist monarchy, but made
the very serious mistake of ruining the centre of Europe, a thing
that no sane European State could afford to do.

The Dumb Capables and the Noisy Incapables

Confronted with this picture of insensate delusion and folly, the
critical reader will immediately counterplead that England all
this time was conducting a war which involved the organization of
several millions of fighting men and of the workers who were
supplying them with provisions, munitions, and transport, and
that this could not have been done by a mob of hysterical
ranters. This is fortunately true. To pass from the newspaper
offices and political platforms and club fenders and suburban
drawing-rooms to the Army and the munition factories was to pass
from Bedlam to the busiest and sanest of workaday worlds. It was
to rediscover England, and find solid ground for the faith of
those who still believed in her. But a necessary condition of
this efficiency was that those who were efficient should give all
their time to their business and leave the rabble raving to its
heart's content. Indeed the raving was useful to the efficient,
because, as it was always wide of the mark, it often distracted
attention very conveniently from operations that would have been
defeated or hindered by publicity. A precept which I endeavored
vainly to popularize early in the war, "If you have anything to
do go and do it: if not, for heaven's sake get out of the way,"
was only half carried out. Certainly the capable people went and
did it; but the incapables would by no means get out of the way:
they fussed and bawled and were only prevented from getting very
seriously into the way by the blessed fact that they never knew
where the way was. Thus whilst all the efficiency of England was
silent and invisible, all its imbecility was deafening the
heavens with its clamor and blotting out the sun with its dust.
It was also unfortunately intimidating the Government by its
blusterings into using the irresistible powers of the State to
intimidate the sensible people, thus enabling a despicable
minority of would-be lynchers to set up a reign of terror which
could at any time have been broken by a single stern word from a
responsible minister. But our ministers had not that sort of
courage: neither Heartbreak House nor Horseback Hall had bred it,
much less the suburbs. When matters at last came to the looting
of shops by criminals under patriotic pretexts, it was the police
force and not the Government that put its foot down. There was
even one deplorable moment, during the submarine scare, in which
the Government yielded to a childish cry for the maltreatment of
naval prisoners of war, and, to our great disgrace, was forced by
the enemy to behave itself. And yet behind all this public
blundering and misconduct and futile mischief, the effective
England was carrying on with the most formidable capacity and
activity. The ostensible England was making the empire sick with
its incontinences, its ignorances, its ferocities, its panics,
and its endless and intolerable blarings of Allied national
anthems in season and out. The esoteric England was proceeding
irresistibly to the conquest of Europe.

The Practical Business Men

>From the beginning the useless people set up a shriek for
"practical business men." By this they meant men who had become
rich by placing their personal interests before those of the
country, and measuring the success of every activity by the
pecuniary profit it brought to them and to those on whom they
depended for their supplies of capital. The pitiable failure of
some conspicuous samples from the first batch we tried of these
poor devils helped to give the whole public side of the war an
air of monstrous and hopeless farce. They proved not only that
they were useless for public work, but that in a well-ordered
nation they would never have been allowed to control private

How the Fools shouted the Wise Men down

Thus, like a fertile country flooded with mud, England showed no
sign of her greatness in the days when she was putting forth all
her strength to save herself from the worst consequences of her
littleness. Most of the men of action, occupied to the last hour
of their time with urgent practical work, had to leave to idler
people, or to professional rhetoricians, the presentation of the
war to the reason and imagination of the country and the world in
speeches, poems, manifestoes, picture posters, and newspaper
articles. I have had the privilege of hearing some of our ablest
commanders talking about their work; and I have shared the common
lot of reading the accounts of that work given to the world by
the newspapers. No two experiences could be more different. But
in the end the talkers obtained a dangerous ascendancy over the
rank and file of the men of action; for though the great men of
action are always inveterate talkers and often very clever
writers, and therefore cannot have their minds formed for them by
others, the average man of action, like the average fighter with
the bayonet, can give no account of himself in words even to
himself, and is apt to pick up and accept what he reads about
himself and other people in the papers, except when the writer is
rash enough to commit himself on technical points. It was not
uncommon during the war to hear a soldier, or a civilian engaged
on war work, describing events within his own experience that
reduced to utter absurdity the ravings and maunderings of his
daily paper, and yet echo the opinions of that paper like a
parrot. Thus, to escape from the prevailing confusion and folly,
it was not enough to seek the company of the ordinary man of
action: one had to get into contact with the master spirits. This
was a privilege which only a handful of people could enjoy. For
the unprivileged citizen there was no escape. To him the whole
country seemed mad, futile, silly, incompetent, with no hope of
victory except the hope that the enemy might be just as mad. Only
by very resolute reflection and reasoning could he reassure
himself that if there was nothing more solid beneath their
appalling appearances the war could not possibly have gone on for
a single day without a total breakdown of its organization.

The Mad Election

Happy were the fools and the thoughtless men of action in those
days. The worst of it was that the fools were very strongly
represented in parliament, as fools not only elect fools, but can
persuade men of action to elect them too. The election that
immediately followed the armistice was perhaps the maddest that
has ever taken place. Soldiers who had done voluntary and heroic
service in the field were defeated by persons who had apparently
never run a risk or spent a farthing that they could avoid, and
who even had in the course of the election to apologize publicly
for bawling Pacifist or Pro-German at their opponent. Party
leaders seek such followers, who can always be depended on to
walk tamely into the lobby at the party whip's orders, provided
the leader will make their seats safe for them by the process
which was called, in derisive reference to the war rationing
system, "giving them the coupon." Other incidents were so
grotesque that I cannot mention them without enabling the reader
to identify the parties, which would not be fair, as they were no
more to blame than thousands of others who must necessarily be
nameless. The general result was patently absurd; and the
electorate, disgusted at its own work, instantly recoiled to the
opposite extreme, and cast out all the coupon candidates at the
earliest bye-elections by equally silly majorities. But the
mischief of the general election could not be undone; and the
Government had not only to pretend to abuse its European victory
as it had promised, but actually to do it by starving the enemies
who had thrown down their arms. It had, in short, won the
election by pledging itself to be thriftlessly wicked, cruel, and
vindictive; and it did not find it as easy to escape from this
pledge as it had from nobler ones. The end, as I write, is not
yet; but it is clear that this thoughtless savagery will recoil
on the heads of the Allies so severely that we shall be forced by
the sternest necessity to take up our share of healing the Europe
we have wounded almost to death instead of attempting to complete
her destruction.

The Yahoo and the Angry Ape

Contemplating this picture of a state of mankind so recent that
no denial of its truth is possible, one understands Shakespeare
comparing Man to an angry ape, Swift describing him as a Yahoo
rebuked by the superior virtue of the horse, and Wellington
declaring that the British can behave themselves neither in
victory nor defeat. Yet none of the three had seen war as we have
seen it. Shakespeare blamed great men, saying that "Could great
men thunder as Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er be quiet; for
every pelting petty officer would use his heaven for thunder:
nothing but thunder." What would Shakespeare have said if he had
seen something far more destructive than thunder in the hand of
every village laborer, and found on the Messines Ridge the
craters of the nineteen volcanoes that were let loose there at
the touch of a finger that might have been a child's finger
without the result being a whit less ruinous? Shakespeare may
have seen a Stratford cottage struck by one of Jove's
thunderbolts, and have helped to extinguish the lighted thatch
and clear away the bits of the broken chimney. What would he have
said if he had seen Ypres as it is now, or returned to Stratford,
as French peasants are returning to their homes to-day, to find
the old familiar signpost inscribed "To Stratford, 1 mile," and
at the end of the mile nothing but some holes in the ground and a
fragment of a broken churn here and there? Would not the
spectacle of the angry ape endowed with powers of destruction
that Jove never pretended to, have beggared even his command of

And yet, what is there to say except that war puts a strain on
human nature that breaks down the better half of it, and makes
the worse half a diabolical virtue? Better, for us if it broke it
down altogether, for then the warlike way out of our difficulties
would be barred to us, and we should take greater care not to get
into them. In truth, it is, as Byron said, "not difficult to
die," and enormously difficult to live: that explains why, at
bottom, peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more
arduous. Did any hero of the war face the glorious risk of death
more bravely than the traitor Bolo faced the ignominious
certainty of it? Bolo taught us all how to die: can we say that
he taught us all how to live? Hardly a week passes now without
some soldier who braved death in the field so recklessly that he
was decorated or specially commended for it, being haled before
our magistrates for having failed to resist the paltriest
temptations of peace, with no better excuse than the old one that
"a man must live." Strange that one who, sooner than do honest
work, will sell his honor for a bottle of wine, a visit to the
theatre, and an hour with a strange woman, all obtained by
passing a worthless cheque, could yet stake his life on the most
desperate chances of the battle-field! Does it not seem as if,
after all, the glory of death were cheaper than the glory of
life? If it is not easier to attain, why do so many more men
attain it? At all events it is clear that the kingdom of the
Prince of Peace has not yet become the kingdom of this world. His
attempts at invasion have been resisted far more fiercely than
the Kaiser's. Successful as that resistance has been, it has
piled up a sort of National Debt that is not the less oppressive
because we have no figures for it and do not intend to pay it. A
blockade that cuts off "the grace of our Lord" is in the long run
less bearable than the blockades which merely cut off raw
materials; and against that blockade our Armada is impotent. In
the blockader's house, he has assured us, there are many
mansions; but I am afraid they do not include either Heartbreak
House or Horseback Hall.

Plague on Both your Houses!

Meanwhile the Bolshevist picks and petards are at work on the
foundations of both buildings; and though the Bolshevists may be
buried in the ruins, their deaths will not save the edifices.
Unfortunately they can be built again. Like Doubting Castle, they
have been demolished many times by successive Greathearts, and
rebuilt by Simple, Sloth, and Presumption, by Feeble Mind and
Much Afraid, and by all the jurymen of Vanity Fair. Another
generation of "secondary education" at our ancient public schools
and the cheaper institutions that ape them will be quite
sufficient to keep the two going until the next war. For the
instruction of that generation I leave these pages as a record of
what civilian life was during the war: a matter on which history
is usually silent. Fortunately it was a very short war. It is
true that the people who thought it could not last more than six
months were very signally refuted by the event. As Sir Douglas
Haig has pointed out, its Waterloos lasted months instead of
hours. But there would have been nothing surprising in its
lasting thirty years. If it had not been for the fact that the
blockade achieved the amazing feat of starving out Europe, which
it could not possibly have done had Europe been properly
organized for war, or even for peace, the war would have lasted
until the belligerents were so tired of it that they could no
longer be compelled to compel themselves to go on with it.
Considering its magnitude, the war of 1914-18 will certainly be
classed as the shortest in history. The end came so suddenly that
the combatant literally stumbled over it; and yet it came a full
year later than it should have come if the belligerents had not
been far too afraid of one another to face the situation
sensibly. Germany, having failed to provide for the war she
began, failed again to surrender before she was dangerously
exhausted. Her opponents, equally improvident, went as much too
close to bankruptcy as Germany to starvation. It was a bluff at
which both were bluffed. And, with the usual irony of war, it
remains doubtful whether Germany and Russia, the defeated, will
not be the gainers; for the victors are already busy fastening on
themselves the chains they have struck from the limbs of the

How the Theatre fared

Let us now contract our view rather violently from the European
theatre of war to the theatre in which the fights are sham
fights, and the slain, rising the moment the curtain has fallen,
go comfortably home to supper after washing off their rose-pink
wounds. It is nearly twenty years since I was last obliged to
introduce a play in the form of a book for lack of an opportunity
of presenting it in its proper mode by a performance in a
theatre. The war has thrown me back on this expedient. Heartbreak
House has not yet reached the stage. I have withheld it because
the war has completely upset the economic conditions which
formerly enabled serious drama to pay its way in London. The
change is not in the theatres nor in the management of them, nor
in the authors and actors, but in the audiences. For four years
the London theatres were crowded every night with thousands of
soldiers on leave from the front. These soldiers were not
seasoned London playgoers. A childish experience of my own gave
me a clue to their condition. When I was a small boy I was taken
to the opera. I did not then know what an opera was, though I
could whistle a good deal of opera music. I had seen in my
mother's album photographs of all the great opera singers, mostly
in evening dress. In the theatre I found myself before a gilded
balcony filled with persons in evening dress whom I took to be
the opera singers. I picked out one massive dark lady as Alboni,
and wondered how soon she would stand up and sing. I was puzzled
by the fact that I was made to sit with my back to the singers
instead of facing them. When the curtain went up, my astonishment
and delight were unbounded.

The Soldier at the Theatre Front

In 1915, I saw in the theatres men in khaki in just the same
predicament. To everyone who had my clue to their state of mind
it was evident that they had never been in a theatre before and
did not know what it was. At one of our great variety theatres I
sat beside a young officer, not at all a rough specimen, who,
even when the curtain rose and enlightened him as to the place
where he had to look for his entertainment, found the dramatic
part of it utterly incomprehensible. He did not know how to play
his part of the game. He could understand the people on the stage
singing and dancing and performing gymnastic feats. He not only
understood but intensely enjoyed an artist who imitated cocks
crowing and pigs squeaking. But the people who pretended that
they were somebody else, and that the painted picture behind them
was real, bewildered him. In his presence I realized how very
sophisticated the natural man has to become before the
conventions of the theatre can be easily acceptable, or the
purpose of the drama obvious to him.

Well, from the moment when the routine of leave for our soldiers
was established, such novices, accompanied by damsels (called
flappers) often as innocent as themselves, crowded the theatres
to the doors. It was hardly possible at first to find stuff crude
enough to nurse them on. The best music-hall comedians ransacked
their memories for the oldest quips and the most childish antics
to avoid carrying the military spectators out of their depth. I
believe that this was a mistake as far as the novices were
concerned. Shakespeare, or the dramatized histories of George
Barnwell, Maria Martin, or the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,
would probably have been quite popular with them. But the novices
were only a minority after all. The cultivated soldier, who in
time of peace would look at nothing theatrical except the most
advanced postIbsen plays in the most artistic settings, found
himself, to his own astonishment, thirsting for silly jokes,
dances, and brainlessly sensuous exhibitions of pretty girls. The
author of some of the most grimly serious plays of our time told
me that after enduring the trenches for months without a glimpse
of the female of his species, it gave him an entirely innocent
but delightful pleasure merely to see a flapper. The reaction
from the battle-field produced a condition of hyperaesthesia in
which all the theatrical values were altered. Trivial things
gained intensity and stale things novelty. The actor, instead of
having to coax his audiences out of the boredom which had driven
them to the theatre in an ill humor to seek some sort of
distraction, had only to exploit the bliss of smiling men who
were no longer under fire and under military discipline, but
actually clean and comfortable and in a mood to be pleased with
anything and everything that a bevy of pretty girls and a funny
man, or even a bevy of girls pretending to be pretty and a man
pretending to be funny, could do for them.

Then could be seen every night in the theatres oldfashioned
farcical comedies, in which a bedroom, with four doors on each
side and a practicable window in the middle, was understood to
resemble exactly the bedroom in the flats beneath and above, all
three inhabited by couples consumed with jealousy. When these
people came home drunk at night; mistook their neighbor's flats
for their own; and in due course got into the wrong beds, it was
not only the novices who found the resulting complications and
scandals exquisitely ingenious and amusing, nor their equally
verdant flappers who could not help squealing in a manner that
astonished the oldest performers when the gentleman who had just
come in drunk through the window pretended to undress, and
allowed glimpses of his naked person to be descried from time to

Heartbreak House

Men who had just read the news that Charles Wyndham was dying,
and were thereby sadly reminded of Pink Dominos and the torrent
of farcical comedies that followed it in his heyday until every
trick of that trade had become so stale that the laughter they
provoked turned to loathing: these veterans also, when they
returned from the field, were as much pleased by what they knew
to be stale and foolish as the novices by what they thought fresh
and clever.

Commerce in the Theatre

Wellington said that an army moves on its belly. So does a London
theatre. Before a man acts he must eat. Before he performs plays
he must pay rent. In London we have no theatres for the welfare
of the people: they are all for the sole purpose of producing the
utmost obtainable rent for the proprietor. If the twin flats and
twin beds produce a guinea more than Shakespeare, out goes
Shakespeare and in come the twin flats and the twin beds. If the
brainless bevy of pretty girls and the funny man outbid Mozart,
out goes Mozart.

Unser Shakespeare

Before the war an effort was made to remedy this by establishing
a national theatre in celebration of the tercentenary of the
death of Shakespeare. A committee was formed; and all sorts of
illustrious and influential persons lent their names to a grand
appeal to our national culture. My play, The Dark Lady of The
Sonnets, was one of the incidents of that appeal. After some
years of effort the result was a single handsome subscription
from a German gentleman. Like the celebrated swearer in the
anecdote when the cart containing all his household goods lost
its tailboard at the top of the hill and let its contents roll in
ruin to the bottom, I can only say, "I cannot do justice to this
situation," and let it pass without another word.

The Higher Drama put out of Action

The effect of the war on the London theatres may now be imagined.
The beds and the bevies drove every higher form of art out of it.
Rents went up to an unprecedented figure. At the same time prices
doubled everywhere except at the theatre pay-boxes, and raised
the expenses of management to such a degree that unless the
houses were quite full every night, profit was impossible. Even
bare solvency could not be attained without a very wide
popularity. Now what had made serious drama possible to a limited
extent before the war was that a play could pay its way even if
the theatre were only half full until Saturday and three-quarters
full then. A manager who was an enthusiast and a desperately hard
worker, with an occasional grant-in-aid from an artistically
disposed millionaire, and a due proportion of those rare and
happy accidents by which plays of the higher sort turn out to be
potboilers as well, could hold out for some years, by which time
a relay might arrive in the person of another enthusiast. Thus
and not otherwise occurred that remarkable revival of the British
drama at the beginning of the century which made my own career as
a playwright possible in England. In America I had already
established myself, not as part of the ordinary theatre system,
but in association with the exceptional genius of Richard
Mansfield. In Germany and Austria I had no difficulty: the system
of publicly aided theatres there, Court and Municipal, kept drama
of the kind I dealt in alive; so that I was indebted to the
Emperor of Austria for magnificent productions of my works at a
time when the sole official attention paid me by the British
Courts was the announcement to the English-speaking world that
certain plays of mine were unfit for public performance, a
substantial set-off against this being that the British Court, in
the course of its private playgoing, paid no regard to the bad
character given me by the chief officer of its household.

Howbeit, the fact that my plays effected a lodgment on the London
stage, and were presently followed by the plays of Granville
Barker, Gilbert Murray, John Masefield, St. John Hankin, Lawrence
Housman, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, John Drinkwater, and
others which would in the nineteenth century have stood rather
less chance of production at a London theatre than the Dialogues
of Plato, not to mention revivals of the ancient Athenian drama
and a restoration to the stage of Shakespeare's plays as he wrote
them, was made economically possible solely by a supply of
theatres which could hold nearly twice as much money as it cost
to rent and maintain them. In such theatres work appealing to a
relatively small class of cultivated persons, and therefore
attracting only from half to three-quarters as many spectators as
the more popular pastimes, could nevertheless keep going in the
hands of young adventurers who were doing it for its own sake,
and had not yet been forced by advancing age and responsibilities
to consider the commercial value of their time and energy too
closely. The war struck this foundation away in the manner I have
just described. The expenses of running the cheapest west-end
theatres rose to a sum which exceeded by twenty-five per cent the
utmost that the higher drama can, as an ascertained matter of
fact, be depended on to draw. Thus the higher drama, which has
never really been a commercially sound speculation, now became an
impossible one. Accordingly, attempts are being made to provide a
refuge for it in suburban theatres in London and repertory
theatres in the provinces. But at the moment when the army has at
last disgorged the survivors of the gallant band of dramatic
pioneers whom it swallowed, they find that the economic
conditions which formerly made their work no worse than
precarious now put it out of the question altogether, as far as
the west end of London is concerned.

Church and Theatre

I do not suppose many people care particularly. We are not
brought up to care; and a sense of the national importance of the
theatre is not born in mankind: the natural man, like so many of
the soldiers at the beginning of the war, does not know what a
theatre is. But please note that all these soldiers who did not
know what a theatre was, knew what a church was. And they had
been taught to respect churches. Nobody had ever warned them
against a church as a place where frivolous women paraded in
their best clothes; where stories of improper females like
Potiphar's wife, and erotic poetry like the Song of Songs, were
read aloud; where the sensuous and sentimental music of Schubert,
Mendelssohn, Gounod, and Brahms was more popular than severe
music by greater composers; where the prettiest sort of pretty
pictures of pretty saints assailed the imagination and senses
through stained-glass windows; and where sculpture and
architecture came to the help of painting. Nobody ever reminded
them that these things had sometimes produced such developments
of erotic idolatry that men who were not only enthusiastic
amateurs of literature, painting, and music, but famous
practitioners of them, had actually exulted when mobs and even
regular troops under express command had mutilated church
statues, smashed church windows, wrecked church organs, and torn
up the sheets from which the church music was read and sung. When
they saw broken statues in churches, they were told that this was
the work of wicked, godless rioters, instead of, as it was, the
work partly of zealots bent on driving the world, the flesh, and
the devil out of the temple, and partly of insurgent men who had
become intolerably poor because the temple had become a den of
thieves. But all the sins and perversions that were so carefully
hidden from them in the history of the Church were laid on the
shoulders of the Theatre: that stuffy, uncomfortable place of
penance in which we suffer so much inconvenience on the
slenderest chance of gaining a scrap of food for our starving
souls. When the Germans bombed the Cathedral of Rheims the world
rang with the horror of the sacrilege. When they bombed the
Little Theatre in the Adelphi, and narrowly missed bombing two
writers of plays who lived within a few yards of it, the fact was
not even mentioned in the papers. In point of appeal to the
senses no theatre ever built could touch the fane at Rheims: no
actress could rival its Virgin in beauty, nor any operatic tenor
look otherwise than a fool beside its David. Its picture glass
was glorious even to those who had seen the glass of Chartres. It
was wonderful in its very grotesques: who would look at the
Blondin Donkey after seeing its leviathans? In spite of the
Adam-Adelphian decoration on which Miss Kingston had lavished so
much taste and care, the Little Theatre was in comparison with
Rheims the gloomiest of little conventicles: indeed the cathedral
must, from the Puritan point of view, have debauched a million
voluptuaries for every one whom the Little Theatre had sent home
thoughtful to a chaste bed after Mr Chesterton's Magic or
Brieux's Les Avaries. Perhaps that is the real reason why the
Church is lauded and the Theatre reviled. Whether or no, the fact
remains that the lady to whose public spirit and sense of the
national value of the theatre I owed the first regular public
performance of a play of mine had to conceal her action as if it
had been a crime, whereas if she had given the money to the
Church she would have worn a halo for it. And I admit, as I have
always done, that this state of things may have been a very
sensible one. I have asked Londoners again and again why they pay
half a guinea to go to a theatre when they can go to St. Paul's
or Westminster Abbey for nothing. Their only possible reply is
that they want to see something new and possibly something
wicked; but the theatres mostly disappoint both hopes. If ever a
revolution makes me Dictator, I shall establish a heavy charge
for admission to our churches. But everyone who pays at the
church door shall receive a ticket entitling him or her to free
admission to one performance at any theatre he or she prefers.
Thus shall the sensuous charms of the church service be made to
subsidize the sterner virtue of the drama.

The Next Phase

The present situation will not last. Although the newspaper I
read at breakfast this morning before writing these words
contains a calculation that no less than twenty-three wars are at
present being waged to confirm the peace, England is no longer in
khaki; and a violent reaction is setting in against the crude
theatrical fare of the four terrible years. Soon the rents of
theatres will once more be fixed on the assumption that they
cannot always be full, nor even on the average half full week in
and week out. Prices will change. The higher drama will be at no
greater disadvantage than it was before the war; and it may
benefit, first, by the fact that many of us have been torn from
the fools' paradise in which the theatre formerly traded, and
thrust upon the sternest realities and necessities until we have
lost both faith in and patience with the theatrical pretences
that had no root either in reality or necessity; second, by the
startling change made by the war in the distribution of income.
It seems only the other day that a millionaire was a man with
50,000 a year. To-day, when he has paid his income tax and super
tax, and insured his life for the amount of his death duties, he
is lucky if his net income is 10,000 pounds though his nominal
property remains the same. And this is the result of a Budget
which is called "a respite for the rich." At the other end of the
scale millions of persons have had regular incomes for the first
time in their lives; and their men have been regularly clothed,
fed, lodged, and taught to make up their minds that certain
things have to be done, also for the first time in their lives.
Hundreds of thousands of women have been taken out of their
domestic cages and tasted both discipline and independence. The
thoughtless and snobbish middle classes have been pulled up short
by the very unpleasant experience of being ruined to an
unprecedented extent. We have all had a tremendous jolt; and
although the widespread notion that the shock of the war would
automatically make a new heaven and a new earth, and that the dog
would never go back to his vomit nor the sow to her wallowing in
the mire, is already seen to be a delusion, yet we are far more
conscious of our condition than we were, and far less disposed to
submit to it. Revolution, lately only a sensational chapter in
history or a demagogic claptrap, is now a possibility so imminent
that hardly by trying to suppress it in other countries by arms
and defamation, and calling the process anti-Bolshevism, can our
Government stave it off at home.

Perhaps the most tragic figure of the day is the American
President who was once a historian. In those days it became his
task to tell us how, after that great war in America which was
more clearly than any other war of our time a war for an idea,
the conquerors, confronted with a heroic task of reconstruction,
turned recreant, and spent fifteen years in abusing their victory
under cover of pretending to accomplish the task they were doing
what they could to make impossible. Alas! Hegel was right when he
said that we learn from history that men never learn anything
from history. With what anguish of mind the President sees that
we, the new conquerors, forgetting everything we professed to
fight for, are sitting down with watering mouths to a good square
meal of ten years revenge upon and humiliation of our prostrate
foe, can only be guessed by those who know, as he does, how
hopeless is remonstrance, and how happy Lincoln was in perishing
from the earth before his inspired messages became scraps of
paper. He knows well that from the Peace Conference will come, in
spite of his utmost, no edict on which he will be able, like
Lincoln, to invoke "the considerate judgment of mankind: and the
gracious favor of Almighty God." He led his people to destroy the
militarism of Zabern; and the army they rescued is busy in
Cologne imprisoning every German who does not salute a British
officer; whilst the government at home, asked whether it
approves, replies that it does not propose even to discontinue
this Zabernism when the Peace is concluded, but in effect looks
forward to making Germans salute British officers until the end
of the world. That is what war makes of men and women. It will
wear off; and the worst it threatens is already proving
impracticable; but before the humble and contrite heart ceases to
be despised, the President and I, being of the same age, will be
dotards. In the meantime there is, for him, another history to
write; for me, another comedy to stage. Perhaps, after all, that
is what wars are for, and what historians and playwrights are
for. If men will not learn until their lessons are written in
blood, why, blood they must have, their own for preference.

The Ephemeral Thrones and the Eternal Theatre

To the theatre it will not matter. Whatever Bastilles fall, the
theatre will stand. Apostolic Hapsburg has collapsed; All Highest
Hohenzollern languishes in Holland, threatened with trial on a
capital charge of fighting for his country against England;
Imperial Romanoff, said to have perished miserably by a more
summary method of murder, is perhaps alive or perhaps dead:
nobody cares more than if he had been a peasant; the lord of
Hellas is level with his lackeys in republican Switzerland; Prime
Ministers and Commanders-in-Chief have passed from a brief glory
as Solons and Caesars into failure and obscurity as closely on
one another's heels as the descendants of Banquo; but Euripides
and Aristophanes, Shakespeare and Moliere, Goethe and Ibsen
remain fixed in their everlasting seats.

How War muzzles the Dramatic Poet

As for myself, why, it may be asked, did I not write two plays
about the war instead of two pamphlets on it? The answer is
significant. You cannot make war on war and on your neighbor at
the same time. War cannot bear the terrible castigation of
comedy, the ruthless light of laughter that glares on the stage.
When men are heroically dying for their country, it is not the
time to show their lovers and wives and fathers and mothers how
they are being sacrificed to the blunders of boobies, the
cupidity of capitalists, the ambition of conquerors, the
electioneering of demagogues, the Pharisaism of patriots, the
lusts and lies and rancors and bloodthirsts that love war because
it opens their prison doors, and sets them in the thrones of
power and popularity. For unless these things are mercilessly
exposed they will hide under the mantle of the ideals on the
stage just as they do in real life.

And though there may be better things to reveal, it may not, and
indeed cannot, be militarily expedient to reveal them whilst the
issue is still in the balance. Truth telling is not compatible
with the defence of the realm. We are just now reading the
revelations of our generals and admirals, unmuzzled at last by
the armistice. During the war, General A, in his moving
despatches from the field, told how General B had covered himself
with deathless glory in such and such a battle. He now tells us
that General B came within an ace of losing us the war by
disobeying his orders on that occasion, and fighting instead of
running away as he ought to have done. An excellent subject for
comedy now that the war is over, no doubt; but if General A had
let this out at the time, what would have been the effect on
General B's soldiers? And had the stage made known what the Prime
Minister and the Secretary of State for War who overruled General
A thought of him, and what he thought of them, as now revealed in
raging controversy, what would have been the effect on the
nation? That is why comedy, though sorely tempted, had to be
loyally silent; for the art of the dramatic poet knows no
patriotism; recognizes no obligation but truth to natural
history; cares not whether Germany or England perish; is ready to
cry with Brynhild, "Lass'uns verderben, lachend zu grunde geh'n"
sooner than deceive or be deceived; and thus becomes in time of
war a greater military danger than poison, steel, or
trinitrotoluene. That is why I had to withhold Heartbreak House
from the footlights during the war; for the Germans might on any
night have turned the last act from play into earnest, and even
then might not have waited for their cues.

June, 1919.



The hilly country in the middle of the north edge of Sussex,
looking very pleasant on a fine evening at the end of September,
is seen through the windows of a room which has been built so as
to resemble the after part of an old-fashioned high-pooped ship,
with a stern gallery; for the windows are ship built with heavy
timbering, and run right across the room as continuously as the
stability of the wall allows. A row of lockers under the windows
provides an unupholstered windowseat interrupted by twin glass
doors, respectively halfway between the stern post and the sides.
Another door strains the illusion a little by being apparently in
the ship's port side, and yet leading, not to the open sea, but
to the entrance hall of the house. Between this door and the
stern gallery are bookshelves. There are electric light switches
beside the door leading to the hall and the glass doors in the
stern gallery. Against the starboard wall is a carpenter's bench.
The vice has a board in its jaws; and the floor is littered with
shavings, overflowing from a waste-paper basket. A couple of
planes and a centrebit are on the bench. In the same wall,
between the bench and the windows, is a narrow doorway with a
half door, above which a glimpse of the room beyond shows that it
is a shelved pantry with bottles and kitchen crockery.

On the starboard side, but close to the middle, is a plain oak
drawing-table with drawing-board, T-square, straightedges, set
squares, mathematical instruments, saucers of water color, a
tumbler of discolored water, Indian ink, pencils, and brushes on
it. The drawing-board is set so that the draughtsman's chair has
the window on its left hand. On the floor at the end of the
table, on its right, is a ship's fire bucket. On the port side of
the room, near the bookshelves, is a sofa with its back to the
windows. It is a sturdy mahogany article, oddly upholstered in
sailcloth, including the bolster, with a couple of blankets
hanging over the back. Between the sofa and the drawing-table is
a big wicker chair, with broad arms and a low sloping back, with
its back to the light. A small but stout table of teak, with a
round top and gate legs, stands against the port wall between the
door and the bookcase. It is the only article in the room that
suggests (not at all convincingly) a woman's hand in the
furnishing. The uncarpeted floor of narrow boards is caulked and
holystoned like a deck.

The garden to which the glass doors lead dips to the south before
the landscape rises again to the hills. Emerging from the hollow
is the cupola of an observatory. Between the observatory and the
house is a flagstaff on a little esplanade, with a hammock on the
east side and a long garden seat on the west.

A young lady, gloved and hatted, with a dust coat on, is sitting
in the window-seat with her body twisted to enable her to look
out at the view. One hand props her chin: the other hangs down
with a volume of the Temple Shakespeare in it, and her finger
stuck in the page she has been reading.

A clock strikes six.

The young lady turns and looks at her watch. She rises with an
air of one who waits, and is almost at the end of her patience.
She is a pretty girl, slender, fair, and intelligent looking,
nicely but not expensively dressed, evidently not a smart idler.

With a sigh of weary resignation she comes to the draughtsman's
chair; sits down; and begins to read Shakespeare. Presently the
book sinks to her lap; her eyes close; and she dozes into a

An elderly womanservant comes in from the hall with three
unopened bottles of rum on a tray. She passes through and
disappears in the pantry without noticing the young lady. She
places the bottles on the shelf and fills her tray with empty
bottles. As she returns with these, the young lady lets her book
drop, awakening herself, and startling the womanservant so that
she all but lets the tray fall.

THE WOMANSERVANT. God bless us! [The young lady picks up the book
and places it on the table]. Sorry to wake you, miss, I'm sure;
but you are a stranger to me. What might you be waiting here for

THE YOUNG LADY. Waiting for somebody to show some signs of
knowing that I have been invited here.

THE WOMANSERVANT. Oh, you're invited, are you? And has nobody
come? Dear! dear!

THE YOUNG LADY. A wild-looking old gentleman came and looked in
at the window; and I heard him calling out, "Nurse, there is a
young and attractive female waiting in the poop. Go and see what
she wants." Are you the nurse?

THE WOMANSERVANT. Yes, miss: I'm Nurse Guinness. That was old
Captain Shotover, Mrs Hushabye's father. I heard him roaring; but
I thought it was for something else. I suppose it was Mrs
Hushabye that invited you, ducky?

THE YOUNG LADY. I understood her to do so. But really I think I'd
better go.

NURSE GUINNESS. Oh, don't think of such a thing, miss. If Mrs
Hushabye has forgotten all about it, it will be a pleasant
surprise for her to see you, won't it?

THE YOUNG LADY. It has been a very unpleasant surprise to me to
find that nobody expects me.

NURSE GUINNESS. You'll get used to it, miss: this house is full
of surprises for them that don't know our ways.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [looking in from the hall suddenly: an ancient
but still hardy man with an immense white beard, in a reefer
jacket with a whistle hanging from his neck]. Nurse, there is a
hold-all and a handbag on the front steps for everybody to fall
over. Also a tennis racquet. Who the devil left them there?

THE YOUNG LADY. They are mine, I'm afraid.

TAE CAPTAIN [advancing to the drawing-table]. Nurse, who is this
misguided and unfortunate young lady?

NURSE GUINNESS. She says Miss Hessy invited her, sir.

THE CAPTAIN. And had she no friend, no parents, to warn her
against my daughter's invitations? This is a pretty sort of
house, by heavens! A young and attractive lady is invited here.
Her luggage is left on the steps for hours; and she herself is
deposited in the poop and abandoned, tired and starving. This is
our hospitality. These are our manners. No room ready. No hot
water. No welcoming hostess. Our visitor is to sleep in the
toolshed, and to wash in the duckpond.

NURSE GUINNESS. Now it's all right, Captain: I'll get the lady
some tea; and her room shall be ready before she has finished it.
[To the young lady]. Take off your hat, ducky; and make yourself
at home [she goes to the door leading to the hall].

THE CAPTAIN [as she passes him]. Ducky! Do you suppose, woman,
that because this young lady has been insulted and neglected, you
have the right to address her as you address my wretched
children, whom you have brought up in ignorance of the commonest
decencies of social intercourse?

NURSE GUINNESS. Never mind him, doty. [Quite unconcerned, she
goes out into the hall on her way to the kitchen].

THE CAPTAIN. Madam, will you favor me with your name? [He sits
down in the big wicker chair].

THE YOUNG LADY. My name is Ellie Dunn.

THE CAPTAIN. Dunn! I had a boatswain whose name was Dunn. He was
originally a pirate in China. He set up as a ship's chandler with
stores which I have every reason to believe he stole from me. No
doubt he became rich. Are you his daughter?

ELLIE [indignant]. No, certainly not. I am proud to be able to
say that though my father has not been a successful man, nobody
has ever had one word to say against him. I think my father is
the best man I have ever known.

THE CAPTAIN. He must be greatly changed. Has he attained the
seventh degree of concentration?

ELLIE. I don't understand.

THE CAPTAIN. But how could he, with a daughter? I, madam, have
two daughters. One of them is Hesione Hushabye, who invited you
here. I keep this house: she upsets it. I desire to attain the
seventh degree of concentration: she invites visitors and leaves
me to entertain them. [Nurse Guinness returns with the tea-tray,
which she places on the teak table]. I have a second daughter who
is, thank God, in a remote part of the Empire with her numskull
of a husband. As a child she thought the figure-head of my ship,
the Dauntless, the most beautiful thing on earth. He resembled
it. He had the same expression: wooden yet enterprising. She
married him, and will never set foot in this house again.

NURSE GUINNESS [carrying the table, with the tea-things on it, to
Ellie's side]. Indeed you never were more mistaken. She is in
England this very moment. You have been told three times this
week that she is coming home for a year for her health. And very
glad you should be to see your own daughter again after all these

THE CAPTAIN. I am not glad. The natural term of the affection of
the human animal for its offspring is six years. My daughter
Ariadne was born when I was forty-six. I am now eighty-eight. If
she comes, I am not at home. If she wants anything, let her take
it. If she asks for me, let her be informed that I am extremely
old, and have totally forgotten her.

NURSE GUINNESS. That's no talk to offer to a young lady. Here,
ducky, have some tea; and don't listen to him [she pours out a
cup of tea].

THE CAPTAIN [rising wrathfully]. Now before high heaven they have
given this innocent child Indian tea: the stuff they tan their
own leather insides with. [He seizes the cup and the tea-pot and
empties both into the leathern bucket].

ELLIE [almost in tears]. Oh, please! I am so tired. I should have
been glad of anything.

NURSE GUINNESS. Oh, what a thing to do! The poor lamb is ready to

THE CAPTAIN. You shall have some of my tea. Do not touch that
fly-blown cake: nobody eats it here except the dogs. [He
disappears into the pantry].

NURSE GUINNESS. There's a man for you! They say he sold himself
to the devil in Zanzibar before he was a captain; and the older
he grows the more I believe them.

A WOMAN'S VOICE [in the hall]. Is anyone at home? Hesione! Nurse!
Papa! Do come, somebody; and take in my luggage.

Thumping heard, as of an umbrella, on the wainscot.

NURSE GUINNESS. My gracious! It's Miss Addy, Lady Utterword, Mrs
Hushabye's sister: the one I told the captain about. [Calling].
Coming, Miss, coming.

She carries the table back to its place by the door and is
harrying out when she is intercepted by Lady Utterword, who
bursts in much flustered. Lady Utterword, a blonde, is very
handsome, very well dressed, and so precipitate in speech and
action that the first impression (erroneous) is one of comic

LADY UTTERWORD. Oh, is that you, Nurse? How are you? You don't
look a day older. Is nobody at home? Where is Hesione? Doesn't
she expect me? Where are the servants? Whose luggage is that on
the steps? Where's papa? Is everybody asleep? [Seeing Ellie]. Oh!
I beg your pardon. I suppose you are one of my nieces.
[Approaching her with outstretched arms]. Come and kiss your
aunt, darling.

ELLIE. I'm only a visitor. It is my luggage on the steps.

NURSE GUINNESS. I'll go get you some fresh tea, ducky. [She takes
up the tray].

ELLIE. But the old gentleman said he would make some himself.

NURSE GUINNESS. Bless you! he's forgotten what he went for
already. His mind wanders from one thing to another.

LADY UTTERWORD. Papa, I suppose?


LADY UTTERWORD [vehemently]. Don't be silly, Nurse. Don't call me

NURSE GUINNESS [placidly]. No, lovey [she goes out with the

LADY UTTERWORD [sitting down with a flounce on the sofa]. I know
what you must feel. Oh, this house, this house! I come back to it
after twenty-three years; and it is just the same: the luggage
lying on the steps, the servants spoilt and impossible, nobody at
home to receive anybody, no regular meals, nobody ever hungry
because they are always gnawing bread and butter or munching
apples, and, what is worse, the same disorder in ideas, in talk,
in feeling. When I was a child I was used to it: I had never
known anything better, though I was unhappy, and longed all the
time--oh, how I longed!--to be respectable, to be a lady, to live
as others did, not to have to think of everything for myself. I
married at nineteen to escape from it. My husband is Sir Hastings
Utterword, who has been governor of all the crown colonies in
succession. I have always been the mistress of Government House.
I have been so happy: I had forgotten that people could live like
this. I wanted to see my father, my sister, my nephews and nieces
(one ought to, you know), and I was looking forward to it. And
now the state of the house! the way I'm received! the casual
impudence of that woman Guinness, our old nurse! really Hesione
might at least have been here: some preparation might have been
made for me. You must excuse my going on in this way; but I am
really very much hurt and annoyed and disillusioned: and if I had
realized it was to be like this, I wouldn't have come. I have a
great mind to go away without another word [she is on the point
of weeping].

ELLIE [also very miserable]. Nobody has been here to receive me
either. I thought I ought to go away too. But how can I, Lady
Utterword? My luggage is on the steps; and the station fly has

The captain emerges from the pantry with a tray of Chinese
lacquer and a very fine tea-set on it. He rests it provisionally
on the end of the table; snatches away the drawing-board, which
he stands on the floor against table legs; and puts the tray in
the space thus cleared. Ellie pours out a cup greedily.

THE CAPTAIN. Your tea, young lady. What! another lady! I must
fetch another cup [he makes for the pantry].

LADY UTTERWORD [rising from the sofa, suffused with emotion].
Papa! Don't you know me? I'm your daughter.

THE CAPTAIN. Nonsense! my daughter's upstairs asleep. [He
vanishes through the half door].

Lady Utterword retires to the window to conceal her tears.

ELLIE [going to her with the cup]. Don't be so distressed. Have
this cup of tea. He is very old and very strange: he has been
just like that to me. I know how dreadful it must be: my own
father is all the world to me. Oh, I'm sure he didn't mean it.

The captain returns with another cup.

THE CAPTAIN. Now we are complete. [He places it on the tray].

LADY UTTERWORD [hysterically]. Papa, you can't have forgotten me.
I am Ariadne. I'm little Paddy Patkins. Won't you kiss me? [She
goes to him and throws her arms round his neck].

THE CAPTAIN [woodenly enduring her embrace]. How can you be
Ariadne? You are a middle-aged woman: well preserved, madam, but
no longer young.

LADY UTTERWORD. But think of all the years and years I have been
away, Papa. I have had to grow old, like other people.

THE CAPTAIN [disengaging himself]. You should grow out of kissing
strange men: they may be striving to attain the seventh degree of

LADY UTTERWORD. But I'm your daughter. You haven't seen me for

THE CAPTAIN. So much the worse! When our relatives are at home,
we have to think of all their good points or it would be
impossible to endure them. But when they are away, we console
ourselves for their absence by dwelling on their vices. That is
how I have come to think my absent daughter Ariadne a perfect
fiend; so do not try to ingratiate yourself here by impersonating
her [he walks firmly away to the other side of the room].

LADY UTTERWORD. Ingratiating myself indeed! [With dignity]. Very
well, papa. [She sits down at the drawing-table and pours out tea
for herself].

THE CAPTAIN. I am neglecting my social duties. You remember Dunn?
Billy Dunn?

LADY UTTERWORD. DO you mean that villainous sailor who robbed

THE CAPTAIN [introducing Ellie]. His daughter. [He sits down on
the sofa].

ELLIE [protesting]. No--

Nurse Guinness returns with fresh tea.

THE CAPTAIN. Take that hogwash away. Do you hear?

NURSE. You've actually remembered about the tea! [To Ellie]. Oh,
miss, he didn't forget you after all! You HAVE made an

THE CAPTAIN [gloomily]. Youth! beauty! novelty! They are badly
wanted in this house. I am excessively old. Hesione is only
moderately young. Her children are not youthful.

LADY UTTERWORD. How can children be expected to be youthful in
this house? Almost before we could speak we were filled with
notions that might have been all very well for pagan philosophers
of fifty, but were certainly quite unfit for respectable people
of any age.

NURSE. You were always for respectability, Miss Addy.

LADY UTTERWORD. Nurse, will you please remember that I am Lady
Utterword, and not Miss Addy, nor lovey, nor darling, nor doty?
Do you hear?

NURSE. Yes, ducky: all right. I'll tell them all they must call
you My Lady. [She takes her tray out with undisturbed placidity].

LADY UTTERWORD. What comfort? what sense is there in having
servants with no manners?

ELLIE [rising and coming to the table to put down her empty cup].
Lady Utterword, do you think Mrs Hushabye really expects me?

LADY UTTERWORD. Oh, don't ask me. You can see for yourself that
I've just arrived; her only sister, after twenty-three years'
absence! and it seems that I am not expected.

THE CAPTAIN. What does it matter whether the young lady is
expected or not? She is welcome. There are beds: there is food.
I'll find a room for her myself [he makes for the door].

ELLIE [following him to stop him]. Oh, please--[He goes out].
Lady Utterword, I don't know what to do. Your father persists in
believing that my father is some sailor who robbed him.

LADY UTTERWORD. You had better pretend not to notice it. My
father is a very clever man; but he always forgot things; and now
that he is old, of course he is worse. And I must warn you that
it is sometimes very hard to feel quite sure that he really

Mrs Hushabye bursts into the room tempestuously and embraces
Ellie. She is a couple of years older than Lady Utterword, and
even better looking. She has magnificent black hair, eyes like
the fishpools of Heshbon, and a nobly modelled neck, short at the
back and low between her shoulders in front. Unlike her sister
she is uncorseted and dressed anyhow in a rich robe of black pile
that shows off her white skin and statuesque contour.

MRS HUSHABYE. Ellie, my darling, my pettikins [kissing her], how
long have you been here? I've been at home all the time: I was
putting flowers and things in your room; and when I just sat down
for a moment to try how comfortable the armchair was I went off
to sleep. Papa woke me and told me you were here. Fancy your
finding no one, and being neglected and abandoned. [Kissing her
again]. My poor love! [She deposits Ellie on the sofa. Meanwhile
Ariadne has left the table and come over to claim her share of
attention]. Oh! you've brought someone with you. Introduce me.

LADY UTTERWORD. Hesione, is it possible that you don't know me?

MRS HUSHABYE [conventionally]. Of course I remember your face
quite well. Where have we met?

LADY UTTERWORD. Didn't Papa tell you I was here? Oh! this is
really too much. [She throws herself sulkily into the big chair].


LADY UTTERWORD. Yes, Papa. Our papa, you unfeeling wretch!
[Rising angrily]. I'll go straight to a hotel.

MRS HUSHABYE [seizing her by the shoulders]. My goodness gracious
goodness, you don't mean to say that you're Addy!

LADY UTTERWORD. I certainly am Addy; and I don't think I can be
so changed that you would not have recognized me if you had any
real affection for me. And Papa didn't think me even worth

MRS HUSHABYE. What a lark! Sit down [she pushes her back into the
chair instead of kissing her, and posts herself behind it]. You
DO look a swell. You're much handsomer than you used to be.
You've made the acquaintance of Ellie, of course. She is going to
marry a perfect hog of a millionaire for the sake of her father,
who is as poor as a church mouse; and you must help me to stop

ELLIE. Oh, please, Hesione!

MRS HUSHABYE. My pettikins, the man's coming here today with your
father to begin persecuting you; and everybody will see the state
of the case in ten minutes; so what's the use of making a secret
of it?

ELLIE. He is not a hog, Hesione. You don't know how wonderfully
good he was to my father, and how deeply grateful I am to him.

MRS HUSHABYE [to Lady Utterword]. Her father is a very remarkable
man, Addy. His name is Mazzini Dunn. Mazzini was a celebrity of
some kind who knew Ellie's grandparents. They were both poets,
like the Brownings; and when her father came into the world
Mazzini said, "Another soldier born for freedom!" So they
christened him Mazzini; and he has been fighting for freedom in
his quiet way ever since. That's why he is so poor.

ELLIE. I am proud of his poverty.

MRS HUSHABYE. Of course you are, pettikins. Why not leave him in
it, and marry someone you love?

LADY UTTERWORD [rising suddenly and explosively]. Hesione, are
you going to kiss me or are you not?

MRS HUSHABYE. What do you want to be kissed for?

LADY UTTERWORD. I DON'T want to be kissed; but I do want you to
behave properly and decently. We are sisters. We have been
separated for twenty-three years. You OUGHT to kiss me.

MRS HUSHABYE. To-morrow morning, dear, before you make up. I hate
the smell of powder.

LADY UTTERWORD. Oh! you unfeeling--[she is interrupted by the
return of the captain].

THE CAPTAIN [to Ellie]. Your room is ready. [Ellie rises]. The
sheets were damp; but I have changed them [he makes for the
garden door on the port side].

LADY UTTERWORD. Oh! What about my sheets?

THE CAPTAIN [halting at the door]. Take my advice: air them: or
take them off and sleep in blankets. You shall sleep in Ariadne's
old room.

LADY UTTERWORD. Indeed I shall do nothing of the sort. That
little hole! I am entitled to the best spare room.

THE CAPTAIN [continuing unmoved]. She married a numskull. She
told me she would marry anyone to get away from home.

LADT UTTERWORD. You are pretending not to know me on purpose. I
will leave the house.

Mazzini Dunn enters from the hall. He is a little elderly man
with bulging credulous eyes and earnest manners. He is dressed in
a blue serge jacket suit with an unbuttoned mackintosh over it,
and carries a soft black hat of clerical cut.

ELLIE. At last! Captain Shotover, here is my father.


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