- Mr. Robertson and Mr. Shaw. A review of Mr. Shaw and “The Maid,” by J. M. Robertson
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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[ 781 Mr. Robertson and Mr. Shaw A review of Mr. Shaw and “The Maid,” by J. M. Robertson London: R. Cobden-Sanderson, 1925. Pp. vi + 115. The New Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 4 (Apr 1926) 389-90 It is itself a worn-out proverb, that no philosophy is ever refuted, but every philosophy becomes outworn. The fact that Mr. Bernard Shaw’s currency is steadily declining in value, as more and more of it appears in circulation, and the probability that in ten or fifteen years it will no longer be accepted at all, do not constitute sufficient evidence that it is bad money. The more intelligent among those persons who have lost interest in anything that Mr. Shaw says, ought to be glad of some proof that their feelings are justified. Mr. Robertson has provided for such people a very valuable document.1 There are still many people so devoted as to stop their ears to any criticism of Mr. Shaw whatever, and, on the other hand, a growing number who are too fatigued by him to want to think about the matter at all. But no one should be too tired of the subject to read Mr. Robertson’s small book. In St. Joan Mr. Shaw has unluckily chosen a subject in which Mr. Robertson has interest and of which he has knowledge. Mr. Shaw’s subject is also one in which Facts matter. Mr. Robertson likes Facts, and deploys his facts with a grim northern wit which operates with the effect of a steam roller. Mr. Robertson’s book is so brief, and his arguments so compact, that it would be a pity to attempt to summarise or select; everyone who is interested in the truth will read the book. Mr. Robertson is a Rationalist, with a genuine respect and admiration for Sainte Jeanne;2 but his book is of equal value to people who approach the problem from an orthodox Christian standpoint. For what issues most clearly from a reading of Mr. Robertson’s book is Mr. Shaw’s utter inability to devote himself wholeheartedly to any cause. To Mr. Shaw, truth and falsehood (we speak without prejudice) do not seem to have the same meaning as to ordinary people. Hence the danger , with his St. Joan, of his deluding the numberless crowd of sentimentally religious people who are incapable of following any argument to a conclusion. Such people will be misled until they can be made to understand that the potent ju-ju of the Life Force is a gross superstition;3 and 1926 782 ] that (in particular) Mr. Shaw’s St. Joan is one of the most superstitious of the effigies which have been erected to that remarkable woman. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. TSE told Robertson on 9 Jan 1926 that he found Mr. Shaw and “The Maid” waiting upon his return from France “and fell upon it at once with joy. I congratulate you upon it and congratulate myself on once more finding myself fighting in your ranks. I have been attacking this play myself and you will find one acid reference to it in my introductory note for The New Criterion. I shall review your book myself in the April number” (L3 7). TSE first criticized Shaw’s play in his Oct 1924 Criterion “Commentary” (539). 2. TSE follows Robertson’s statement in the Preface that he has “called The Maid sometimes Joan, in English connections, and sometimes Jeanne . . . in the hope that English people will get into the way of calling her by her French name, as they commonly do with French men” (vi). 3. ju-ju: any object superstitiously venerated by West African tribes for its supernatural or magical powers. In his idiosyncratic adaptation of evolutionary theory, Shaw postulated the existence of a mysterious “life force,” whose thrust was ultimately to realize itself in godhead through the creation of a race of supermen with godlike knowledge and power. The theory informs plays such as Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1903) and speeches such as “A New Theology” (1907). ...