Friday, 1 May 2009


The recent emergence of Cashel Byron's Profession by George Bernard Shaw reminded me of a lovely rural spot very close to my home.  Shaw's Corner, a National Trust property, was home to GBS for over forty years, features the famous revolving writing hut and an attractive garden and plays host to a number of  wonderful events, including al fresco performances of the great man's plays.   The house is embedded in the undersung, undulating Hertfordshire landscape, which is well worth a visit in itself and with which myself and my bicycle are thoroughly and happily familiar.

Cycling was a well-documented Shavian passion, and I came across a lovely quote today - from Michael Holroyd's biography - in the Daily Telegraph blog:

For someone physically timid, Shaw's experiments by bicycle were extraordinary. He would raise his feet to the handlebars and simply toboggan down the steep places. Many of his falls, from which he would prance away crying 'I am not hurt', with black eyes, violet lips and a red face, acted as trials for his optimism. The surgery afterwards was an education in itself. Each toss he took was a point scored for one or more of his fads. After one appalling smash (hills, clouds and farmhouses tumbling around drunkenly), he wrote: 'Still I am not thoroughly convinced yet that I was not killed. Anybody but a vegetarian would have been. Nobody but a teetotaller would have faced a bicycle again for six months.' After four years of intrepid pedalling, he could claim: 'If I had taken to the ring I should, on the whole, have suffered less than I have, physically.'

This brings us nicely back to Cashel Byron, a novel about - among other things - prize-fighting, and about which GBS expounds at some length and with his renowned self-deprecatory wit in the preface.


Anent. About, concerning, derived from the Old English for 'alongside' and used in Norman Douglas' brilliant novel, South Wind, which we published last month.

Happy bank holiday reading, in between creosoting outbuildings and mowing lawns.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this anecdote about Shaw's bicycling - especially the witty vegetarian comment. Bicyclists are insanely determined to get back on their bikes after a fall. I had no idea Shaw had written a novel. (He obviously didn't have a helmet.)