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MonkeyNotes-Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin on July 26, 1856. He was the youngest of three children, his older siblings were girls. His parents were George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw. His father came from a good family but was the youngest son of his parents, and therefore, inherited nothing except aristocratic habits. He was a drunkard and was unable to support his family adequately. His mother was a talented singer. Her music teacher was George J.V. Lee.

With a mother, too aloof, and a drunkard father, the children grew up in a lax atmosphere. They were left to themselves without any guidance and without any demand for obedience. The parents did not earn much reverence from Bernard. From his father he inherited a sense of humor and from his mother, imagination. After being tutored at home by a governess and then an uncle, Bernard Shaw went to the Dublin Wesleyan connexional school. In 1869 he was transferred to the Central Model Boys' school in Dublin. The last two years of his school life were spent at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School, which he left in 1871. Academically, he was a failure and later described the learning process as "a ceremony of disillusion". However, he gained something -- he became a voracious reader.

Before he had finished school, his mother, unable to cope with her husband, moved with her family to Lee's house in 1868. During the next four years, Shaw was surrounded by musical people, rehearsals and performances, which gave him a good background and sharpened his musical sensibility.

Later on his father became a teetotaler, yet the family broke up. Mrs. Shaw, with her daughters, moved to London to make a career in music. Shaw remained in Dublin and for four years, till he was twenty, he worked as a clerk in a firm of land agents. He also studied classical music in this period.

In 1876, he joined his mother in London. For a period he spent his time visiting Hampton Court, the National gallery and the reading room of the British museum. All this while he wrote very regularly. "I bought supplies of white paper, demy size ........folded it in quarto; and condemned myself to fill five pages of it a day, rain or shine, dull or impressed." He followed this routine diligently. Thus in five years, from 1879 to 1885, he wrote five novels which were all rejected.


In 1879 he joined the Zefetical society, a debating club. Forever after he remained a good public speaker. Another event that was to influence him radically was hearing Henry George, the

American political economist, who spoke on "Land Nationalism and the Single Tax." This happened in 1882. This experience made him read the works of Karl Marx. This interest in socialism was to influence his writing in future. His experience at the debating club had given him the confidence and he missed no opportunity to speak on socialism. However, as A.C. Ward points out : "his socialism was always secondary to his inborn individualism.......he liked to hear himself abused by communists as a Fascist and by Fascists as a Communist."

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