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Shaw’s last words

Thursday, 7 November, 2013

Maurice Collis was born in Dublin in 1889 and went to Rugby School and then to the University of Oxford, where he studied history. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was posted to Burma, rising to the position of district magistrate in Rangoon in 1929. He returned to England in 1934 and wrote more than 20 books, including volumes of autobiography, travel writing, novels, histories, three plays and a diary. He died in 1973. This is a classic dinner party recollection:

7 November 1953: [dining with Lord and Lady Astor] She [Lady Astor] told of her famous visit to Moscow with Bernard Shaw during the war. The things she said straight out to Stalin were staggering.
‘Your regime is no different from the Czars’.
‘Why?
‘Because you dispose of your opposition without trial.’
Stalin laughed. ‘Of course.’

Shaw She also spoke of Bernard Shaw’s last illness. ‘I went to see him the day before he died. I sat by him stroking his head. He was quite clear. Suddenly he said. “That reminds me,” and told me this story. “Lord X gave a great party to all the local gentry. As they were about to eat, the butler came in and said to him, ‘Excuse me, your lordship, but Mr So & So is in bed with your wife.’ At this, Lord X, rising in his place, said to the company: ‘Go home, go home. There is a man in bed with my wife. The party is cancelled. Off you go.’ The guests, much disappointed, for there were quantities of drink, began to disperse. The butler came in again, and spoke to his lordship. He got up. ‘Don’t go, don’t go. The man has apologised.'” Those were G.B.S.’s last words.’

The story was well received. If it was not Shaw’s last words, it might well have been.” Maurice Collis

November 2013 marks the centennial of the birth of Albert Camus, who once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” Tomorrow, here, the diarist and philosopher Camus ponders the social networking aspect of lozenges.


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