London, South Kensington
16 November 2004
SHAW, George Bernard (1856-1950). Two autograph letters signed ('G. Bernard Shaw') to the Editor of the New Statesman, the first titled 'Mr Shaw on Christianity', n.d. [published 17 June 1916], the second, 'The Case against Chesterton', n.d., drafts in pencil, with cancellations and emendations, together 21½ pages, 4to (puncture holes to upper right margin of 'Chesterton', together with paper-clip stains to outer leaves, and tear to upper margin of p.10). Provenance: Halsted B. Vander Poel.
Two long and lively letters to a journal. 'Mr Shaw on Christianity' rebuts criticisms by Desmond McCarthy and Cavendish Moxon of his own views on the biblical Jesus: he points out the distractions of the multiple post-Biblical portraits of Jesus (including the teetotal conception, which insists that 'the miracle of turning water into wine is founded on a Jacobean mistranslation of a Greek word which really means ginger beer'); his letter in particular defends himself against the charge that he has redrawn Jesus in his own image ('Still, I shall not affect to regard the comparison as uncomplimentary'). 'The Case against Chesterton' responds forcibly and satirically to Chesterton's criticisms of a proposal by Shaw for an act for poor relief: he savages Chesterton's assertion that 'the right way is the poor's own way', and has particular fun in response to his opponent's idealisation of individual charity.
Shaw's long-running and generally friendly feud with G.K. Chesterton set his socialist and 'pagan' views against the latter's paternalistic and Christian outlook; the joust culminated in a series of public debates, the last at the Kingsway Hall in October 1927.
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