Churchill and George Bernard Shawł

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw was one of the most significant writers and playwrights of the 20th Century. Among his many contributions to the stage and to literature are  Man and Superman, Pygmalion and Saint Joan.

Shaw’s most famous work may be Arms and the Man. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Shaw was also a bit of an extremist, opposing vaccinations and organized religion. He also embraced eugenics and a strange movement called alphabet reform.

As he was an established genius, he could get away with odd eccentricities, of course. Being British he was probably expected to have a few.

There is a fun anecdote about Shaw and his ridicule of another eccentric Englishman, Winston Churchill. (Who also won a Nobel Prize for Literature)

According to the Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Shaw sent Churchill two tickets to see the opening night performance of Saint Joan.

Along with the two tickets, Shaw included a note to the British Prime Minister. It read, “One for yourself and one for a friend – if you have one.”

Quite a stunning backhanded compliment. To send prized tickets along with an insult only shows the audacity of the personality of George Bernard Shaw.

Not to be outdone for insults and retorts, however, was Winston Churchill.


Expressing his regret in a note to shaw, Churchill explained that he was unable to attend the opening night performance due to a previous commitment.

The Prime Minister asked if it would be possible to have tickets to the second night instead — “if there is one.”

In these times of fake news and politicians being unable to attend any event where they may be ridiculed or roasted, it is nice to recall a time when people had skins of thicker stuff.

Today we are beset by political leadership that makes threats to their critics, showing an inability to weather insults or criticism. Donald Trump recents referred to the media and ALL Democrats as enemies of the people – and not for the first time.

 Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems……know how to do is resist and obstruct! This is why there is such hatred and dissension in our country – but at some point, it will heal! “
— Trump on Twitter

The history of the term, enemy of the people – is to be the subject of another post. The inability of the current political leadership to accept any criticism is interesting when we consider the opportunity that criticism allows someone to reveal their true character.

Insults need not be insulting. Insults can be an opening to show your insight, intelligence and character through your creative response.

Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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