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Shaw, George Bernard (1856 – 1950)

A highly amusing and irreverent doctored letter from St. James’s Palace to GBS

A two-page letter written from Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey, in his capacity as Comptroller and treasurer to the Prince of Wales, on St. James’s Palace headed paper, March 26th 1928. The letter, which invites Shaw to contribute to a volume of work by ‘leading authors’ designed ‘to benefit the funds of the British Legion’, has been replied to at the end by Shaw, who writes, ‘My dear Admiral, Forgive me for annotating your letter instead of answering it formally; but it is easire for me… and perhaps more amusing for you. Faithfully, G. Bernard Shaw.’ The author has then added amusing comments throughout the letter.

In the first paragraph, he underlines the phrase ‘with the approval of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales’ and adds the note, ‘Princes are never told the truth by those who make collections in royal hats.’ In response to the suggestion, in paragraph two, that the projected volume of work ‘would be unique in the history of book production and would be the outstanding work of the century’ Shaw adds the note, ‘No, no, no, NO. The twopenny baskets of the Caledonian Market are full of these superdamned things.’ In paragraph three, in response to the suggestion of a privately printed edition of one hundred signed copies, Shaw notes, ‘No, by — well, by the strongest oath in the Fleet. I have never signed an edition for sale even when the charity began at home.’ At the end of the fourth paragraph, which notes that the compilation ‘is in the hands of Captain H. Cotton Minchin, with whom I shall be glad to place you in direct communication,’ Shaw notes, ‘Court-martial him. He deserves it.’ And at the close of Halsey’s letter, which asserts that the Prince of Wales believes the book will be ‘a most valuable contribution to the art of the Country and a possession of incalculable worth to the purchasers,’ Shaw notes, ‘If he believes that, he would believe anything.’

Letter folds, otherwise in fine condition.