List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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OCTAVIUS. Why, it is just because she is self-sacrificing that
she will not sacrifice those she loves.

TANNER. That is the profoundest of mistakes, Tavy. It is the
self-sacrificing women that sacrifice others most recklessly.
Because they are unselfish, they are kind in little things.
Because they have a purpose which is not their own purpose, but
that of the whole universe, a man is nothing to them but an
instrument of that purpose.

OCTAVIUS. Don't be ungenerous, Jack. They take the tenderest care
of us.

TANNER. Yes, as a soldier takes care of his rifle or a musician
of his violin. But do they allow us any purpose or freedom of our
own? Will they lend us to one another? Can the strongest man
escape from them when once he is appropriated? They tremble when
we are in danger, and weep when we die; but the tears are not for
us, but for a father wasted, a son's breeding thrown away. They
accuse us of treating them as a mere means to our pleasure; but
how can so feeble and transient a folly as a man's selfish
pleasure enslave a woman as the whole purpose of Nature embodied
in a woman can enslave a man?

OCTAVIUS. What matter, if the slavery makes us happy?

TANNER. No matter at all if you have no purpose of your own, and
are, like most men, a mere breadwinner. But you, Tavy, are an
artist: that is, you have a purpose as absorbing and as
unscrupulous as a woman's purpose.

OCTAVIUS. Not unscrupulous.

TANNER. Quite unscrupulous. The true artist will let his wife
starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his
living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To
women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate
relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of
convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing
that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies,
to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and
dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it. He persuades women
that they may do this for their own purpose whilst he really
means them to do it for his. He steals the mother's milk and
blackens it to make printer's ink to scoff at her and glorify
ideal women with. He pretends to spare her the pangs of
childbearing so that he may have for himself the tenderness and
fostering that belong of right to her children. Since marriage
began, the great artist has been known as a bad husband. But he
is worse: he is a child-robber, a bloodsucker, a hypocrite and a
cheat. Perish the race and wither a thousand women if only the
sacrifice of them enable him to act Hamlet better, to paint a
finer picture, to write a deeper poem, a greater play, a
profounder philosophy! For mark you, Tavy, the artist's work is
to show us ourselves as we really are. Our minds are nothing but
this knowledge of ourselves; and he who adds a jot to such
knowledge creates new mind as surely as any woman creates new
men. In the rage of that creation he is as ruthless as the woman,
as dangerous to her as she to him, and as horribly fascinating.
Of all human struggles there is none so treacherous and
remorseless as the struggle between the artist man and the mother
woman. Which shall use up the other? that is the issue between
them. And it is all the deadlier because, in your romanticist
cant, they love one another.

OCTAVIUS. Even if it were so--and I don't admit it for a moment--
it is out of the deadliest struggles that we get the noblest

TANNER. Remember that the next time you meet a grizzly bear or a
Bengal tiger, Tavy.

OCTAVIUS. I meant where there is love, Jack.

TANNER. Oh, the tiger will love you. There is no love sincerer
than the love of food. I think Ann loves you that way: she patted
your cheek as if it were a nicely underdone chop.

OCTAVIUS. You know, Jack, I should have to run away from you if I
did not make it a fixed rule not to mind anything you say. You
come out with perfectly revolting things sometimes.

Ramsden returns, followed by Ann. They come in quickly, with
their former leisurely air of decorous grief changed to one of
genuine concern, and, on Ramsden's part, of worry. He comes
between the two men, intending to address Octavius, but pulls
himself up abruptly as he sees Tanner.

RAMSDEN. I hardly expected to find you still here, Mr Tanner.

TANNER. Am I in the way? Good morning, fellow guardian [he goes
towards the door].

ANN. Stop, Jack. Granny: he must know, sooner or later.

RAMSDEN. Octavius: I have a very serious piece of news for you.
It is of the most private and delicate nature--of the most
painful nature too, I am sorry to say. Do you wish Mr Tanner to
be present whilst I explain?

OCTAVIUS. [turning pale] I have no secrets from Jack.

RAMSDEN. Before you decide that finally, let me say that the news
concerns your sister, and that it is terrible news.

OCTAVIUS. Violet! What has happened? Is she--dead?

RAMSDEN. I am not sure that it is not even worse than that.

OCTAVIUS. Is she badly hurt? Has there been an accident?

RAMSDEN. No: nothing of that sort.

TANNER. Ann: will you have the common humanity to tell us what
the matter is?

ANN. [half whispering] I can't. Violet has done something
dreadful. We shall have to get her away somewhere. [She flutters
to the writing table and sits in Ramsden's chair, leaving the
three men to fight it out between them].

OCTAVIUS. [enlightened] Is that what you meant, Mr Ramsden?

RAMSDEN. Yes. [Octavius sinks upon a chair, crushed]. I am afraid
there is no doubt that Violet did not really go to Eastbourne
three weeks ago when we thought she was with the Parry
Whitefields. And she called on a strange doctor yesterday with a
wedding ring on her finger. Mrs. Parry Whitefield met her there
by chance; and so the whole thing came out.

OCTAVIUS. [rising with his fists clenched] Who is the scoundrel?

ANN. She won't tell us.

OCTAVIUS. [collapsing upon his chair again] What a frightful

TANNER. [with angry sarcasm] Dreadful. Appalling.  Worse than
death, as Ramsden says. [He comes to Octavius]. What would you
not give, Tavy, to turn it into a railway accident, with all her
bones broken or something equally respectable and deserving of

OCTAVIUS. Don't be brutal, Jack.

TANNER. Brutal! Good Heavens, man, what are you crying for? Here
is a woman whom we all supposed to be making bad water color
sketches, practising Grieg and Brahms, gadding about to concerts
and parties, wasting her life and her money. We suddenly learn
that she has turned from these sillinesses to the fulfilment of
her highest purpose and greatest function--to increase, multiply
and replenish the earth. And instead of admiring her courage and
rejoicing in her instinct; instead of crowning the completed
womanhood and raising the triumphal strain of "Unto us a child is
born: unto us a son is given," here you are--you who have been as
merry as Brigs in your mourning for the dead--all pulling long
faces and looking as ashamed and disgraced as if the girl had
committed the vilest of crimes.

RAMSDEN. [roaring with rage] I will not have these abominations
uttered in my house [he smites the writing table with his fist].

TANNER. Look here: if you insult me again I'll take you at your
word and leave your house. Ann: where is Violet now?

ANN. Why? Are you going to her?

TANNER. Of course I am going to her. She wants help; she wants
money; she wants respect and congratulation. She wants every
chance for her child. She does not seem likely to get it from
you: she shall from me. Where is she?

ANN. Don't be so headstrong, Jack. She's upstairs.

TANNER. What! Under Ramsden's sacred roof! Go and do your
miserable duty, Ramsden. Hunt her out into the street. Cleanse
your threshold from her contamination. Vindicate the purity of
your English home. I'll go for a cab,

ANN. [alarmed] Oh, Granny, you mustn't do that.

OCTAVIUS. [broken-heartedly, rising] I'll take her away, Mr
Ramsden. She had no right to come to your house.

RAMSDEN. [indignantly] But I am only too anxious to help her.
[turning on Tanner] How dare you, sir, impute such monstrous
intentions to me? I protest against it. I am ready to put down my
last penny to save her from being driven to run to you for

TANNER. [subsiding] It's all right, then. He's not going to act
up to his principles. It's agreed that we all stand by Violet.

OCTAVIUS. But who is the man? He can make reparation by marrying
her; and he shall, or he shall answer for it to me.

RAMSDEN. He shall, Octavius. There you speak like a man.

TANNER. Then you don't think him a scoundrel, after all?

OCTAVIUS. Not a scoundrel! He is a heartless scoundrel.

RAMSDEN. A damned scoundrel. I beg your pardon, Annie; but I can
say no less.

TANNER. So we are to marry your sister to a damned scoundrel by
way of reforming her character! On my soul, I think you are all

ANN. Don't be absurd, Jack. Of course you are quite right, Tavy;
but we don't know who he is: Violet won't tell us.

TANNER. What on earth does it matter who he is? He's done his
part; and Violet must do the rest.

RAMSDEN. [beside himself] Stuff! lunacy! There is a rascal in our
midst, a libertine, a villain worse than a murderer; and we are
not to learn who he is! In our ignorance we are to shake him by
the hand; to introduce him into our homes; to trust our daughters
with him; to--to--

ANN. [coaxingly] There, Granny, don't talk so loud. It's most
shocking: we must all admit that; but if Violet won't tell us,
what can we do? Nothing. Simply nothing.

RAMSDEN. Hmph! I'm not so sure of that. If any man has paid
Violet any special attention, we can easily find that out. If
there is any man of notoriously loose principles among us--


RAMSDEN. [raising his voice] Yes sir, I repeat, if there is any
man of notoriously loose principles among us--

TANNER. Or any man notoriously lacking in self-control.

RAMSDEN. [aghast] Do you dare to suggest that I am capable of
such an act?

TANNER. My dear Ramsden, this is an act of which every man is
capable. That is what comes of getting at cross purposes with
Nature. The suspicion you have just flung at me clings to us all.
It's a sort of mud that sticks to the judge's ermine or the
cardinal's robe as fast as to the rags of the tramp. Come, Tavy:
don't look so bewildered: it might have been me: it might have
been Ramsden; just as it might have been anybody. If it had, what
could we do but lie and protest as Ramsden is going to protest.

RAMSDEN. [choking]] I--I--I--

TANNER. Guilt itself could not stammer more confusedly, And yet
you know perfectly well he's innocent, Tavy.

RAMSDEN. [exhausted] I am glad you admit that, sir. I admit,
myself, that there is an element of truth in what you say,
grossly as you may distort it to gratify your malicious humor. I
hope, Octavius, no suspicion of me is possible in your mind.

OCTAVIUS. Of you! No, not for a moment.

TANNER. [drily] I think he suspects me just a little.

OCTAVIUS. Jack: you couldn't--you wouldn't--

TANNER. Why not?

OCTAVIUS. [appalled] Why not!

TANNER. Oh, well, I'll tell you why not. First, you would feel
bound to quarrel with me. Second, Violet doesn't like me. Third,
if I had the honor of being the father of Violet's child, I
should boast of it instead of denying it. So be easy: our
Friendship is not in danger.

OCTAVIUS. I should have put away the suspicion with horror if
only you would think and feel naturally about it. I beg your

TANNER. MY pardon! nonsense! And now let's sit down and have a
family council. [He sits down. The rest follow his example, more
or less under protest]. Violet is going to do the State a
service; consequently she must be packed abroad like a criminal
until it's over. What's happening upstairs?

ANN. Violet is in the housekeeper's room--by herself, of course.

TANNER. Why not in the drawingroom?

ANN. Don't be absurd, Jack. Miss Ramsden is in the drawingroom
with my mother, considering what to do.

TANNER. Oh! the housekeeper's room is the penitentiary, I
suppose; and the prisoner is waiting to be brought before her
judges. The old cats!

ANN. Oh, Jack!

RAMSDEN. You are at present a guest beneath the roof of one of
the old cats, sir. My sister is the mistress of this house.

TANNER. She would put me in the housekeeper's room, too, if she
dared, Ramsden. However, I withdraw cats. Cats would have more
sense. Ann: as your guardian, I order you to go to Violet at once
and be particularly kind to her.

ANN. I have seen her, Jack. And I am sorry to say I am afraid she
is going to be rather obstinate about going abroad. I think Tavy
ought to speak to her about it.

OCTAVIUS. How can I speak to her about such a thing [he breaks

ANN. Don't break down, Ricky. Try to bear it for all our sakes.

RAMSDEN. Life is not all plays and poems, Octavius. Come! face it
like a man.

TANNER. [chafing again] Poor dear brother! Poor dear friends of
the family! Poor dear Tabbies and Grimalkins. Poor dear everybody
except the woman who is going to risk her life to create another
life! Tavy: don't you be a selfish ass. Away with you and talk to
Violet; and bring her down here if she cares to come. [Octavius
rises]. Tell her we'll stand by her.

RAMSDEN. [rising] No, sir--

TANNER. [rising also and interrupting him] Oh, we understand:
it's against your conscience; but still you'll do it.

OCTAVIUS. I assure you all, on my word, I never meant to be
selfish. It's so hard to know what to do when one wishes
earnestly to do right.

TANNER. My dear Tavy, your pious English habit of regarding the
world as a moral gymnasium built expressly to strengthen your
character in, occasionally leads you to think about your own
confounded principles when you should be thinking about other
people's necessities. The need of the present hour is a happy
mother and a healthy baby. Bend your energies on that; and you
will see your way clearly enough.

Octavius, much perplexed, goes out.

RAMSDEN. [facing Tanner impressively] And Morality, sir? What is
to become of that?

TANNER. Meaning a weeping Magdalen and an innocent child branded
with her shame. Not in our circle, thank you. Morality can go to
its father the devil.

RAMSDEN. I thought so, sir. Morality sent to the devil to please
our libertines, male and female. That is to be the future of
England, is it?

TANNER. Oh, England will survive your disapproval. Meanwhile, I
understand that you agree with me as to the practical course we
are to take?

RAMSDEN. Not in your spirit sir. Not for your reasons.

TANNER. You can explain that if anybody calls you to account,
here or hereafter. [He turns away, and plants himself in front of
Mr Herbert Spencer, at whom he stares gloomily].

ANN. [rising and coming to Ramsden] Granny: hadn't you better go
up to the drawingroom and tell them what we intend to do?

RAMSDEN. [looking pointedly at Tanner] I hardly like to leave you
alone with this gentleman. Will you not come with me?

ANN. Miss Ramsden would not like to speak about it before me,

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