George Bernard Shaw: His Plays

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George Bernard Shaw: His Plays (1905) is H. L. Mencken's interpretation of G. Bernard Shaw's plays, in which Mencken overwhelmingly embraced the man who was, at that time, his favourite playwright.

H. L. Mencken American journalist and writer

Henry Louis Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. His satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial", also gained him attention.

George Bernard Shaw Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, influential in Western theatre

George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

According to Mencken: "Through Shaw, I found my vocation at last." It is no surprise that Mencken was enthusiastic in his praise of Shaw when he wrote His Plays, but as time passed, this love would wane, and he would eventually criticize Shaw in a later work Prejudices . Mencken began work on the book in 1904, with the goal of publishing the book under John W. Luce. The body of the book is made up of summaries of Shaw's plays, with minor analysis. The entire book was slightly over 100 pages.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is the introduction, where Mencken injects his own personality and beliefs into the work, praising Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer – all of whom he insisted influenced Shaw.

Charles Darwin British naturalist, author of "On the origin of species, by means of natural selection"

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.

Herbert Spencer English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist

Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era.

Response to the work was mixed, and Mencken made no money at all. In fact, Mencken hoped to meet with Shaw, but his letters went unanswered. Mencken assumed that this was because Shaw disliked the work, but in fact Shaw was moderately impressed – a fact Mencken only discovered years later, while writing Prejudices.

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