Mrs. Warren's Profession
George Bernard Shaw

Part 3 out of 3

send her a little note after we're gone. She'll understand.

PRAED [grasping his hand] Good fellow, Frank! I heartily beg
your pardon. But must you never see her again?

FRANK. Never see her again! Hang it all, be reasonable. I
shall come along as often as possible, and be her brother. I can
n o t understand the absurd consequences you romantic people
expect from the most ordinary transactions. [A knock at the
door]. I wonder who this is. Would you mind opening the door?
If it's a client it will look more respectable than if I

PRAED. Certainly. [He goes to the door and opens it. Frank
sits down in Vivie's chair to scribble a note]. My dear Kitty:
come in: come in.

[Mrs Warren comes in, looking apprehensively around for Vivie.
She has done her best to make herself matronly and dignified.
The brilliant hat is replaced by a sober bonnet, and the gay
blouse covered by a costly black silk mantle. She is pitiably
anxious and ill at ease: evidently panic-stricken.]

MRS WARREN [to Frank] What! Y o u r e here, are you?

FRANK [turning in his chair from his writing, but not rising]
Here, and charmed to see you. You come like a breath of spring.

MRS WARREN. Oh, get out with your nonsense. [In a low voice]
Where's Vivie?

[Frank points expressively to the door of the inner room, but
says nothing.]

MRS WARREN [sitting down suddenly and almost beginning to cry]
Praddy: wont she see me, dont you think?

PRAED. My dear Kitty: dont distress yourself. Why should she

MRS WARREN. Oh, you never can see why not: youre too innocent.
Mr Frank: did she say anything to you?

FRANK [folding his note] She m u s t see you, if [very
expressively] you wait til she comes in.

MRS WARREN [frightened] Why shouldnt I wait?

[Frank looks quizzically at her; puts his note carefully on the
ink-bottle, so that Vivie cannot fail to find it when next she
dips her pen; then rises and devotes his attention entirely to

FRANK. My dear Mrs Warren: suppose you were a sparrow--ever so
tiny and pretty a sparrow hopping in the roadway--and you saw a
steam roller coming in your direction, would you wait for it?

MRS WARREN. Oh, dont bother me with your sparrows. What did she
run away from Haslemere like that for?

FRANK. I'm afraid she'll tell you if you rashly await her

MRS WARREN. Do you want me to go away?

FRANK. No: I always want you to stay. But I a d v i s e you to
go away.

MRS WARREN. What! And never see her again!

FRANK. Precisely.

MRS WARREN [crying again] Praddy: dont let him be cruel to me.
[She hastily checks her tears and wipes her eyes]. She'll be so
angry if she sees Ive been crying.

FRANK [with a touch of real compassion in his airy tenderness]
You know that Praddy is the soul of kindness, Mrs Warren.
Praddy: what do you say? Go or stay?

PRAED [to Mrs Warren] I really should be very sorry to cause you
unnecessary pain; but I think perhaps you had better not wait.
The fact is-- [Vivie is heard at the inner door].

FRANK. Sh! Too late. She's coming.

MRS WARREN. Dont tell her I was crying. [Vivie comes in. She
stops gravely on seeing Mrs Warren, who greets her with
hysterical cheerfulness]. Well, dearie. So here you are at

VIVIE. I am glad you have come: I want to speak to you. You
said you were going, Frank, I think.

FRANK. Yes. Will you come with me, Mrs Warren? What do you say
to a trip to Richmond, and the theatre in the evening? There is
safety in Richmond. No steam roller there.

VIVIE. Nonsense, Frank. My mother will stay here.

MRS WARREN [scared] I dont know: perhaps I'd better go. We're
disturbing you at your work.

VIVIE [with quiet decision] Mr Praed: please take Frank away.
Sit down, mother. [Mrs Warren obeys helplessly].

PRAED. Come, Frank. Goodbye, Miss Vivie.

VIVIE [shaking hands] Goodbye. A pleasant trip.

PRAED. Thank you: thank you. I hope so.

FRANK [to Mrs Warren] Goodbye: youd ever so much better have
taken my advice. [He shakes hands with her. Then airily to
Vivie] Byebye, Viv.

VIVIE. Goodbye. [He goes out gaily without shaking hands with

PRAED [sadly] Goodbye, Kitty.

MRS WARREN [snivelling] --oobye!

[Praed goes. Vivie, composed and extremely grave, sits down in
Honoria's chair, and waits for her mother to speak. Mrs Warren,
dreading a pause, loses no time in beginning.]

MRS WARREN. Well, Vivie, what did you go away like that for
without saying a word to me! How could you do such a thing! And
what have you done to poor George? I wanted him to come with me;
but he shuffled out of it. I could see that he was quite afraid
of you. Only fancy: he wanted me not to come. As if [trembling]
I should be afraid of you, dearie. [Vivie's gravity deepens].
But of course I told him it was all settled and comfortable
between us, and that we were on the best of terms. [She breaks
down]. Vivie: whats the meaning of this? [She produces a
commercial envelope, and fumbles at the enclosure with trembling
fingers]. I got it from the bank this morning.

VIVIE. It is my month's allowance. They sent it to me as usual
the other day. I simply sent it back to be placed to your
credit, and asked them to send you the lodgment receipt. In
future I shall support myself.

MRS WARREN [not daring to understand] Wasnt it enough? Why didnt
you tell me? [With a cunning gleam in her eye] I'll double it: I
was intending to double it. Only let me know how much you want.

VIVIE. You know very well that that has nothing to do with it.
From this time I go my own way in my own business and among my
own friends. And you will go yours. [She rises]. Goodbye.

MRS WARREN [rising, appalled] Goodbye?

VIVIE. Yes: goodbye. Come: dont let us make a useless scene:
you understand perfectly well. Sir George Crofts has told me the
whole business.

MRS WARREN [angrily] Silly old-- [She swallows an epithet, and
then turns white at the narrowness of her escape from uttering

VIVIE. Just so.

MRS WARREN. He ought to have his tongue cut out. But I thought
it was ended: you said you didnt mind.

VIVIE [steadfastly] Excuse me: I d o mind.

MRS WARREN. But I explained--

VIVIE. You explained how it came about. You did not tell me
that it is still going on [She sits].

[Mrs Warren, silenced for a moment, looks forlornly at Vivie, who
waits, secretly hoping that the combat is over. But the cunning
expression comes back into Mrs Warren's face; and she bends
across the table, sly and urgent, half whispering.]

MRS WARREN. Vivie: do you know how rich I am?

VIVIE. I have no doubt you are very rich.

MRS WARREN. But you dont know all that that means; youre too
young. It means a new dress every day; it means theatres and
balls every night; it means having the pick of all the gentlemen
in Europe at your feet; it means a lovely house and plenty of
servants; it means the choicest of eating and drinking; it means
everything you like, everything you want, everything you can
think of. And what are you here? A mere drudge, toiling and
moiling early and late for your bare living and two cheap dresses
a year. Think over it. [Soothingly] Youre shocked, I know. I
can enter into your feelings; and I think they do you credit; but
trust me, nobody will blame you: you may take my word for that.
I know what young girls are; and I know youll think better of it
when youve turned it over in your mind.

VIVIE. So that's how it is done, is it? You must have said all
that to many a woman, to have it so pat.

MRS WARREN [passionately] What harm am I asking you to do?
[Vivie turns away contemptuously. Mrs Warren continues
desperately] Vivie: listen to me: you dont understand: you were
taught wrong on purpose: you dont know what the world is really

VIVIE [arrested] Taught wrong on purpose! What do you mean?

MRS WARREN. I mean that youre throwing away all your chances for
nothing. You think that people are what they pretend to be: that
the way you were taught at school and college to think right and
proper is the way things really are. But it's not: it's all only
a pretence, to keep the cowardly slavish common run of people
quiet. Do you want to find that out, like other women, at forty,
when youve thrown yourself away and lost your chances; or wont
you take it in good time now from your own mother, that loves you
and swears to you that it's truth: gospel truth? [Urgently]
Vivie: the big people, the clever people, the managing people,
all know it. They do as I do, and think what I think. I know
plenty of them. I know them to speak to, to introduce you to, to
make friends of for you. I dont mean anything wrong: thats what
you dont understand: your head is full of ignorant ideas about
me. What do the people that taught you know about life or about
people like me? When did they ever meet me, or speak to me, or
let anyone tell them about me? the fools! Would they ever have
done anything for you if I hadnt paid them? Havnt I told you
that I want you to be respectable? Havnt I brought you up to be
respectable? And how can you keep it up without my money and my
influence and Lizzie's friends? Cant you see that youre cutting
your own throat as well as breaking my heart in turning your back
on me?

VIVIE. I recognize the Crofts philosophy of life, mother. I
heard it all from him that day at the Gardners'.

MRS WARREN. You think I want to force that played-out old sot on
you! I dont, Vivie: on my oath I dont.

VIVIE. It would not matter if you did: you would not succeed.
[Mrs Warren winces, deeply hurt by the implied indifference
towards her affectionate intention. Vivie, neither understanding
this nor concerning herself about it, goes on calmly] Mother: you
dont at all know the sort of person I am. I dont object to
Crofts more than to any other coarsely built man of his class.
To tell you the truth, I rather admire him for being strongminded
enough to enjoy himself in his own way and make plenty of money
instead of living the usual shooting, hunting, dining-out,
tailoring, loafing life of his set merely because all the rest do
it. And I'm perfectly aware that if I'd been in the same
circumstances as my aunt Liz, I'd have done exactly what she did.

I dont think I'm more prejudiced or straitlaced than you: I think
I'm less. I'm certain I'm less sentimental. I know very well
that fashionable morality is all a pretence, and that if I took
your money and devoted the rest of my life to spending it
fashionably, I might be as worthless and vicious as the silliest
woman could possibly be without having a word said to me about
it. But I dont want to be worthless. I shouldnt enjoy trotting
about the park to advertize my dressmaker and carriage builder,
or being bored at the opera to shew off a shopwindowful of

MRS WARREN [bewildered] But--

VIVIE. Wait a moment: Ive not done. Tell me why you continue
your business now that you are independent of it. Your sister,
you told me, has left all that behind her. Why dont you do the

MRS WARREN. Oh, it's all very easy for Liz: she likes good
society, and has the air of being a lady. Imagine m e in a
cathedral town! Why, the very rooks in the trees would find me
out even if I could stand the dulness of it. I must have work
and excitement, or I should go melancholy mad. And what else is
there for me to do? The life suits me: I'm fit for it and not
for anything else. If I didnt do it somebody else would; so I
dont do any real harm by it. And then it brings in money; and I
like making money. No: it's no use: I cant give it up--not for
anybody. But what need you know about it? I'll never mention
it. I'll keep Crofts away. I'll not trouble you much: you see I
have to be constantly running about from one place to another.
Youll be quit of me altogether when I die.

VIVIE. No: I am my mother's daughter. I am like you: I must
have work, and must make more money than I spend. But my work is
not your work, and my way is not your way. We must part. It
will not make much difference to us: instead of meeting one
another for perhaps a few months in twenty years, we shall never
meet: thats all.

MRS WARREN [her voice stifled in tears] Vivie: I meant to have
been more with you: I did indeed.

VIVIE. It's no use, mother: I am not to be changed by a few
cheap tears and entreaties any more than you are, I daresay.

MRS WARREN [wildly] Oh, you call a mother's tears cheap.

VIVIE. They cost you nothing; and you ask me to give you the
peace and quietness of my whole life in exchange for them. What
use would my company be to you if you could get it? What have we
two in common that could make either of us happy together?

MRS WARREN [lapsing recklessly into her dialect] We're mother and
daughter. I want my daughter. Ive a right to you. Who is to
care for me when I'm old? Plenty of girls have taken to me like
daughters and cried at leaving me; but I let them all go because
I had you to look forward to. I kept myself lonely for you.
Youve no right to turn on me now and refuse to do your duty as a

VIVIE [jarred and antagonized by the echo of the slums in her
mother's voice] My duty as a daughter! I thought we should come
to that presently. Now once for all, mother, you want a daughter
and Frank wants a wife. I dont want a mother; and I dont want a
husband. I have spared neither Frank nor myself in sending him
about his business. Do you think I will spare you?

MRS WARREN [violently] Oh, I know the sort you are: no mercy for
yourself or anyone else. _I_ know. My experience has done that
for me anyhow: I can tell the pious, canting, hard, selfish woman
when I meet her. Well, keep yourself to yourself: _I_ dont want
you. But listen to this. Do you know what I would do with you
if you were a baby again? aye, as sure as there's a Heaven above

VIVIE. Strangle me, perhaps.

MRS WARREN. No: I'd bring you up to be a real daughter to me,
and not what you are now, with your pride and your prejudices and
the college education you stole from me: yes, stole: deny it if
you can: what was it but stealing? I'd bring you up in my own
house, I would.

VIVIE [quietly] In one of your own houses.

MRS WARREN [screaming] Listen to her! listen to how she spits on
her mother's grey hairs! Oh, may you live to have your own
daughter tear and trample on you as you have trampled on me. And
you will: you will. No woman ever had luck with a mother's curse
on her.

VIVIE. I wish you wouldnt rant, mother. It only hardens me.
Come: I suppose I am the only young woman you ever had in your
power that you did good to. Dont spoil it all now.

MRS WARREN. Yes, Heaven forgive me, it's true; and you are the
only one that ever turned on me. Oh, the injustice of it! the
injustice! the injustice! I always wanted to be a good woman. I
tried honest work; and I was slave-driven until I cursed the day
I ever heard of honest work. I was a good mother; and because I
made my daughter a good woman she turns me out as if I were a
leper. Oh, if I only had my life to live over again! I'd talk
to that lying clergyman in the school. From this time forth, so
help me Heaven in my last hour, I'll do wrong and nothing but
wrong. And I'll prosper on it.

VIVIE. Yes: it's better to choose your line and go through with
it. If I had been you, mother, I might have done as you did; but
I should not have lived one life and believed in another. You
are a conventional woman at heart. That is why I am bidding you
goodbye now. I am right, am I not?

MRS WARREN [taken aback] Right to throw away all my money!

VIVIE. No: right to get rid of you? I should be a fool not to.
Isnt that so?

MRS WARREN [sulkily] Oh well, yes, if you come to that, I suppose
you are. But Lord help the world if everybody took to doing the
right thing! And now I'd better go than stay where I'm not
wanted. [She turns to the door].

VIVIE [kindly] Wont you shake hands?

MRS WARREN [after looking at her fiercely for a moment with a
savage impulse to strike her] No, thank you. Goodbye.

VIVIE [matter-of-factly] Goodbye. [Mrs Warren goes out, slamming
the door behind her. The strain on Vivie's face relaxes; her
grave expression breaks up into one of joyous content; her breath
goes out in a half sob, half laugh of intense relief. She goes
buoyantly to her place at the writing table; pushes the electric
lamp out of the way; pulls over a great sheaf of papers; and is
in the act of dipping her pen in the ink when she finds Frank's
note. She opens it unconcernedly and reads it quickly, giving a
little laugh at some quaint turn of expression in it]. And
goodbye, Frank. [She tears the note up and tosses the pieces
into the wastepaper basket without a second thought. Then she
goes at her work with a plunge, and soon becomes absorbed in its


Back to Full Books