Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chesterton and Shaw

George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton

Alan Jacobs refers to the famous debates between G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw:
... Occasionally in the Shaw/Chesterton debates the proceedings would have to stop for a few moments because GKC couldn’t get control of himself: he was laughing too hard at a joke Shaw had just made at his expense. We can wish for a public sphere where the arguments are rougher and the sarcasm more outrageous, but we won’t benefit from it unless we can see, and feel, the point of sarcasm directed at us. ....
One of those debates, "Do We Agree?" [1928], has been largely preserved and placed online. Shaw was a socialist and Chesterton was not. The debate is genuinely fun to read. Shaw and Chesterton agreed about very little but obviously enjoyed each other. In this instance Hilaire Belloc moderated and introduced the debate:
MR. BELLOC: I do not know what Mr. Chesterton is going to say. I do not know what Mr. Shaw is going to say. If I did I would not say it for them. I vaguely gather from what I have heard that they are going to try to discover a principle: whether men should be free to possess private means, as is Mr. Shaw, as is Mr. Chesterton; or should be, like myself, an embarrassed person, a publishers' hack. I could tell them; but my mouth is shut. I am not allowed to say what I think. At any rate, they are going to debate this sort of thing. I know not what more to say. They are about to debate. You are about to listen. I am about to sneer. ....
This is fairly representative of the back-and-forth:
MR. CHESTERTON: Among the bewildering welter of fallacies which Mr. Shaw has just given us, I prefer to deal first with the simplest. When Mr. Shaw refrains from hitting me over the head with his umbrella, the real reason—apart from his real kindness of heart, which makes him tolerant of the humblest of the creatures of God—is not because he does not own his umbrella, but because he does not own my head. As I am still in possession of that imperfect organ, I will proceed to use it to the confutation of some of his other fallacies. .... [the debate]
On The Rules of Public Discourse | The American Conservative [the picture also comes from Jacobs' post], DO WE AGREE?: A DEBATE BETWEEN G. K. CHESTERTON and BERNARD SHAW

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