Shaw states that the idea of the Superman has been around for millennia, ever since the myth of. But the mature cases all illustrate the Shakespearian law. However that may be, it is certainly true that nobody who agrees with them can possibly be a dramatist, or indeed anything else that turns upon a knowledge of mankind. Hence it is that the world's books get written, its pictures painted, its statues modelled, its symphonies composed, by people who are free of the otherwise universal dominion of the tyranny of sex. But in a drama which, with all its preoccupation with sex, is really void of sexual interest, good looks are more desired than histrionic skill.
Since Shaw had been conducting a running battle against current romantic drama, Walkley playfully suggested that Shaw show how the love theme should be developed by writing a Don Juan play. I am not a man of honor: I am a man struck down by a dead hand. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. The story involves the simple premise of a man, Jack Tanner, determined not to marry his ward, Ann Whitefield, who is equally determined to land him. I grow more advanced every day.
They clear away vast masses of oppressive gravity by their sense of the ridiculous, which is at bottom a combination of sound moral judgment with lighthearted good humor. No mere pioneering journal dares meddle with them now: the stately Times itself is alone sufficiently above suspicion to act as your chaperone; and even the Times must sometimes thank its stars that new plays are not produced every day, since after each such event its gravity is compromised, its platitude turned to epigram, its portentousness to wit, its propriety to elegance, and even its decorum into naughtiness by criticisms which the traditions of the paper do not allow you to sign at the end, but which you take care to sign with the most extravagant flourishes between the lines. In no other respect, however, does he suggest the military man. If the really impressive books and other art-works of the world were produced by ordinary men, they would express more fear of women's pursuit than love of their illusory beauty. At this moment the Roman decadent phase of panem et circenses is being inaugurated under our eyes. If you two men won't carry them out I must say it is rather hard that you should put the responsibility on Ann.
Yes: that's what surprises me. Or, to put it in other words, Shakespeare should have accepted the role of preacher. At the end of the book you know Micawber, whereas you only know what has happened to David, and are not interested enough in him to wonder what his politics or religion might be if anything so stupendous as a religious or political idea, or a general idea of any sort, were to occur to him. A romantic comedy, an epic fairytale, a fiery philosophical debate, Man and Superman asks fundamental questions about how we live. Then I certainly won't call you that. Mrs Whitefield, by the way, is a little woman, whose faded flaxen hair looks like straw on an egg. You know that I am not a bigoted or prejudiced man.
My nurse was fond of remarking that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and the more I see of the efforts of our churches and universities and literary sages to raise the mass above its own level, the more convinced I am that my nurse was right. And you ought to stand by her. A parlormaid enters with a visitor's card. We can't leave Ann with no other guardian to turn to. That's like the things you say on purpose to shock people: those who know you pay no attention to them. Ramsden is a revered while Jack Tanner is a young man with progressive thoughts. I state the extreme case, of course; but what is true of the great man who incarnates the philosophic consciousness of Life and the woman who incarnates its fecundity, is true in some degree of all geniuses and all women.
Never mind him, Mr Ramsden. You cannot accuse me of this pitiable barrenness, this feeble evasion. Your suggestion that I should write a Don Juan play was virtually a challenge to me to treat this subject myself dramatically. One guesses her as one of those women who are conscious of being treated as silly and negligible, and who, without having strength enough to assert themselves effectually, at any rate never submit to their fate. That book is the disgraceful action he has been talking about.
I have only made my Don Juan a political pamphleteer, and given you his pamphlet in full by way of appendix. But what did you want? Man and Superman tells the story of two rivals: John Tanner a wealthy, politically-minded intellectual who values his freedom and Ann Whitefield a charming, scheming hypocritical young woman who wants Tanner as a husband. But I owed him a great deal. For remember: what our voters are in the pit and gallery they are also in the polling booth. Mr Ramsden: he used to say to me that he had met only one man in the world who was the soul of honor, and that was Roebuck Ramsden. To women he is half vivisector, half vampire.
Progress can do nothing but make the most of us all as we are, and that most would clearly not be enough even if those who are already raised out of the lowest abysses would allow the others a chance. They are not beautiful: they are only decorated. . He is carefully dressed, not from the vanity that cannot resist finery, but from a sense of the importance of everything he does which leads him to make as much of paying a call as other men do of getting married or laying a foundation stone. The commercial class had not then completed the first twenty-five years of its new share of political power; and it was itself selected by money qualification, and bred, if not by political marriage, at least by a pretty rigorous class marriage.