The Quintessence of Ibsenism Author:George Bernard Shaw Many people have felt that the book might better have been called The Quintessence of Shavianism. Which, surely, is not to minimize its value. The works of Shaw ran, eventually, to over thirty sizable volumes. What could be more convenient than to have the quintessence in 200 pages? And here is no mere summary written after the event. In this bo... more »ok we find the youthful Shaw still hammering out his views. That is why the writing seems, if not wittier than his later work, which would hardly be possible, at least more urgent, more highly charged?more committed, more engage, as we say nowadays.
Ibsen tells in a letter how he heard that ?one or more lectures? had been given about him in London. This was Shaw?s lecture of July 18, 1890, from which the present book grew. Ibsen comments: ?I was surprised that I, who had made it my chief life-task to depict human characters and human destinies, should, without conscious or direct intention, have arrived in several matters at the same conclusions as the social democratic moral philosophers had arrived at by scientific processes.? In fact, of course, Shaw?s ?processes? were rather less scientific than Ibsen?s, and, if we take a simplistic view of truth, we would have to conclude that what The Quintessence says is far from true?just as, on the same view of truth, what Chesterton says in his book on Shaw is far from true. But truth is complex; we see it, not whole, but in bits and pieces; half-truth makes its contribution; and certain errors are more suggestive of truth than a wilderness of truisms. -
Hence it comes about that The Quintessence, being a work of genius, a work that can change men?s minds, does finally give a good deal of help even to the student of Ibsen.« less