George Bernard Shaw
(1856-1950.)
"Quotations."
"If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion." "One touch of Darwin makes the whole world kin."

"Nothing is worth doing unless the consequences
may be serious."

"Success covers a multitude of blunders."

"Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other
people without blushing."

"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."

"All professions are conspiracies against the laity."

"No question is so difficult to answer as that to
which the answer is obvious."

"Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can
become famous without ability."

"You see things; and say 'Why?' But I dream
things that never were and say 'Why not?'"


George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856 to Irish Protestant parents. His father, George Carr Shaw, an unsuccessful businessman, was a dreamy, diffident character, who maintained family tradition by seeking solace in alcohol. By far the strongest character in the household was G.B.S.'s mother Bessie, who devoted her energies to an active disdain of her husband, before she fell under the spell of George Lee (who also went by the names of George John Lee, George Vandeleur Lee, and, simply, Vandeleur Lee), a Svengalian music teacher and conductor. When Lee crossed the Irish Sea to conquer London, Bessie and her daughter Lucy followed him; they were followed in turn, shortly thereafter, by G.B.S. The editor of the London newspaper The Hornet offered George Lee a job as its music critic, not realising that Lee could not write well. Faced with a dilemma, Lee readily offered the task of writing the music column to the bookish Shaw. Though Lee's name would remain in the byline, Shaw accepted, using this job to cut his journalistic teeth until he was found out by the editor. Shortly after this, Shaw, who never went to university, began to visit the Reading Room of the British Museum. He went there for eight years, using it to furnish himself with the education that he felt he needed. He devoured encyclopaedias and vast amounts of literature, building a monumental general knowledge which would stand him in good stead for his future literary and journalistic careers. Initially, he had little literary success in London; his first five novels were rejected by publishers. However, in the early 1880s Shaw discovered socialism, the beliefs of which coloured all his later work, and which helped him truly to carve out a literary voice for himself. In 1884 he became one of the first members of the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation which advocated the establishment of democratic socialism by gradual legal reforms, rather than by revolution. He wrote numerous pamphlets for the Society, and soon found himself on the executive committee. His political interests also found a more conventional outlet: from 1897 to 1903 he was a local government councillor for the London Borough of St. Pancras, during which time he helped to erect the first free ladies' public lavatory in that borough. From 1888-90, building on his short stint at The Hornet, Shaw was music critic for The Star. Hiding behind a fiction as he had earlier behind George Lee's name, he styled himself "Corno di Bassetto" -- Italian for "basset horn", a high-pitched clarinet whose timbre he probably thought was reminiscent of his own strident, piping voice. From 1890-94, he was music critic for The World, and drama critic for the Saturday Review from 1895-98. It is, however, for his plays that Shaw is largely remembered. While hugely entertaining, full of exuberant and witty dialogue, they are also didactic, packed with ideas and social messages. This is not the place to list them all, but among the most famous are Mrs Warren's Profession (1898), Man and Superman (1902), Androcles and the Lion (1912), Saint Joan (1923) and Pygmalion (1913). Of them all, the latter (which was also made into the enormously successful musical and film My Fair Lady) has probably the most relevance to the Shavian alphabet in terms of its subject matter. It deals with a phonetician named Henry Higgins who, for a bet, plucks from the streets Eliza Doolittle, a poverty-stricken flower girl, and, through a rigorous programme of phonetic, grammatical and social tutoring, enables her to transform herself into a lady of social respectability. It was Shaw's opinion that language (or the social inferences made from a person's use of language) was partly to blame for keeping the lower classes in the social, professional and educational gutter. He believed that the seemingly arbitrary relationship between the Roman alphabet's letters and the English language's sounds contributed to this. "Consequently," he wrote in the preface to Pygmalion, "no man can teach himself what [the English language] should sound like from reading it; and it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him." Shaw died in 1950 at his home in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, allotting part of his estate to the creation of a new, phonetically-based alphabet, which was to become Shavian.
Oscar Wilde.