THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT

         I will write him a very taunting letter. --- "As You Like It."

IN these latter days, when (too often) a newspaper proprietor is like a
Buddhist monk, afraid to scratch his head lest he should incommode his vermin,
it is indeed a joy for a young and nameless author to be presented with a long
sword by a cordial editor, with the injunction: "There , my lad, sweep away,
never mind what you hit --- I'll stand the racket."
   Whoosh! off we go.  One, two, three --- crash!  what's that?  "Aere
perennus"?  Or a perennial ass>
   Let us see --- a very curious problem.
   A problem not to be solved by mere surface scraping.  Well then?
   A thankless and invidious task it may seem to pierce deeper than the "wolf
in Dr. Jaeger's clothing" of our wittiest woman and most alluring
"morphinomane."  That task is ours.  For last night in the visions of mine head
upon my bed I beheld, strangely interwoven with this striking picture, the
scene between Little Red Tiding Hood and her sick grandmother --- how
perverted!  For in my dream it seemed that the old lady had devoured the wolf
and that the scourge of the {346} Tories was but a bed-ridden and toothless
hag, mumbling the senile curses and jests which she could no longer
   True it is that the Word of Shaw is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-
edged sword.  Yet the habit of sword-swollowing is probably fatal to the
suicidal intentions of a Brutus, and it has certainly grown on him until he
can no longer slay either himself or another.
   A dweller in the glass houses of Fad, he has thrown stones at the fishy
god.  A Society Shimei, he has spat against the wind, and his beard is
   True, every thought of Shaw is a great thought; and so equable and far-
seeing is the artist, that its contradictory appears with it.  His births are
all Siamese twins; his god is Janus; his sign is Gemini ... but his end is (I
fear) not to rise above the equilibrium of contraries by a praeter-Hegelian
dialectic, but to sink wearily between his two stools, a lamentable loon. ...
This Nulli Secundus, inflated with fermenting Grape-Nuts!
   For in all that mass of analysis lucid and terrible I cannot recall a
single line of beauty, rarely a note of ecstasy; with one exception (John
Tanner), hardly a hero.  Even he not a little absurd.
   He has seen through the shams of romance, and marriage, and free love, and
literary pose, and medical Ju-Ju, and religious rant, and political twaddle,
and socialist Buncombe and --- every phase of falsehood. ... But he has hardly
grasped that each such falsehood is but a shadow of some sun of truth.  He
does not perceive the ineffable glory of the universe in its whole and in each
part.  He has smitten at the shadow of a shadow: it falls --- the world is
filth.  Let him {347} rather new-edge his sword for a deeper analysis, and cut
away the veil from the face of our Mother.  'Sdeath, man, is there nothing we
may love?
   He is wrong, anyway, to gibe at Scripture.  For, like Balaam, I came to
curse, and appear to be blessing him! (with scarce a monitory word).  And,
like Balaam, too, I have been reviewed by G. K. Chesterton.
   To pass from this painful subject. ...
   Let me rouse myself to a really resolute effort to denounce Shaw as a
niddering.  Aha!  I have it.  The man is a journalist after all.  We have to
thank him for semi-educating a few of our noodles, for applying the caustic Of
Ibsen (right) and Wagner (wrong --- the book's drivel) to that most indolent
of ulcers, the British Public, but for nothing more.  His own work, bar "Man
and Overman" (why the hybrid Superman?), is a glib sham.  If it proves
anything, it proves nothing.
   But are we to writhe in the ecstasies of Pyrrhonism?  For this prophet
claims to be Zoroaster.
   Can we be sure even of that?  He has educated the British goat to caper to
his discordant Pan-pipe, so that without the nuisance of crucifixion he may
scourge the money-changes from the temple.
   Yet is this true cynicism?  doth he delight, the surly Diogenes, in his
solitary gambols --- that insult both Lydia and Lalage?  Or is he doing it to
tempt them --- to coquette with them?  Is he a man deadly serious in positive
constructive aim, yet so sensitive to ridicule that he will always seek to
turn it off as a jest --- and so a stultifier of himself?  A Christ crucified,
not upon Calvary, but upon Venus berg, and so no redeemer?
   If so, "ave atque vale," George Bernard Shaw, for a redeemer {348} from the
Overmen we want, and we will have; another we will not have.  Rather than your
mock-crucified castrato-devilry, Barabbas!
   But if it be your serious livelong purpose to slay all ideas by ridicule.
... then we must claim you as an adept, one fit for the scourge and the
buffets, for the gives and the slaver of the lick-spittle English, whose only
notion of a jest is a smutty story.
   There is room for another hand at my bench.
   See! if thou be indeed Achilles, why should we be in doubt?  The gilded
arms of Pandarus --- the speech of Thersites.  Sir, these things trouble us!
   Thou seest it!  If thou art journalist, the very journalists may rise from
their slime, bubbling with foul breath,and suck thee down to their mother ooze
unspeakable; but if not, then I too (no journalist, God knows!) must praise
   Thee --- not thy work.  For the manner thereof is wholly abominable.  What
have all we done, that for Pegasus we have this spavined and hamstrung
Rosinante, for Bucephalus this hydrocephalic hydropath?
   Even as god Gilbert begat the devil-brood musical comedy, so hast thou
begotten the tedious stage-sermons to which our priest-loving, sin-conscious
slaves now flock.  Refinement of cruelty!  Thou hast replaced the Trappist
cell by the Court Theatre!
   For this, I, who prefer the study to the theatre, forgive thee; for I love
not the badger-reek of Suburbia and Bohemia in my nostrils.  But for this also
I praise thee, that lion-like thou turnest at last upon the jackal-crowd at
thy heels.  That ungainly dragon, the Chesterbelloc, hast thou ridden against,
{349} good St. George Bernard Shaw!  With a spear thou hast pierced its side,
and there floweth forth beer and water.
   Turn also, gramercy, upon the others, even unto the lowest.  As Ibsen
hawked at carrion birds with a Wild Duck, so do thou create some harpy to
torment them.  Who is this that followeth thee?  Behold this mumbler born to
butcher the English language, and educated to hack it with a saw!  This
stuttering babbler, this Harpocrates by the compulsion of a Sloane Square
Mammurra!  Who is this hanger-on to the bedraggled petticoats of thy lousy
Thalia --- this beardless, witless filcher of thy fallen crab-apples?  This
housemaid of the Court theatre, the Gittite slut whose bleary eyes weep
sexless crocodile tears over the crassness of the daughters of the
   Arise, and speak to this palsied megalomaniac, this frowsy Moll Flanders of
a degenerated Chelsea, this down-at-heel "flƒneur" on the outer boulevards of a
prostituted literature, this little mongrel dog that fawneth upon the ill-cut
trousers of thee, O St. Pancras Pulchinello --- this little red-coated ;person
that doth mouth and dance upon the kakophonous barrel-organ of New thought
fakirs and Modernity mountebanks.
   Speak to this parasite --- itself unspeakably verminous --- of the long-
haired brigade, who has "got on" for that it had neither sufficient talent to
excite envy, nor manhood enough to excite apprehension, but wit well to
comprehend the sycophancy of the self-styled court and the tittle-tattle of
the servants' hall.
   It is an Editor --- dear Lord my God! it is an Editor; but he who employs
it has an equally indefeasible title to employ the pronoun "We." {350}
   It hat never had aught to say; but, then, how affectedly it hath said it!
   Will not the late "New Quarterly" take note of this?
   O these barbers, with their prattle, and their false expedients --- and
scarce even a safety razor among them!
   For let each one who worships George Bernard Shaw, while ignorant of that
magnificent foundation of literature and philosophy --- the Cubical Stone of
the Wise, on which a greater than Auguste Rodin hath erected the indomitable
figure of Le Penseur --- take these remarks individually to himself, and ---
oh! Thinker, think again.  Let not posterity consider of this statue that its
summit is no Overman, but a gibbering ape!  Not filth, not sorrow, not
laughter of the mocker is this universe; but laughter of a young god, a holy
and beautiful god, a god of live and light.
   And thou, since thou hast the ear of the British ass at thy lips, sing to
it those starry songs.  It can but bray. ...
   But why, as hitherto, shouldst thou bray also?  Or if bray thou must, let
us have the virile and portentous bray of the Ass of Apuleius, not (as
hitherto) the plaintive bray of the proverbial ass who hesitated so long
between the two thistles that he starved to death.  I warn thee, ass!  We who
are gods have laughed with thee these many years; beware lest in the end we
laugh at thee with the laughter of a mandrake torn up, whereat thou shouldst
fall dead.
                                                  A. QUILLER, JR.