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‘To younger men’, Shaw wrote of his opinions, ‘they are already outmoded’. This sentence is the more remarkable for occurring in the letter to A. B. Walkley that Shaw used as Preface to Man and Superman, the grand dramatic exposition in which he first made explicit his religious ideas. That Shaw could recognise the transience of his ‘forms of thought’ even as he presented them suggests that what seems his dogmatism is often no more than a comic stance, further tempered by his sense that he too was a phase in evolutionary development. His opinions, he continues, ‘will grow shabbier until they cease to count at all’, and then, he adds, ‘my books will either perish, or, if the world is still poor enough to want them, will have to stand … by quite amorphous qualities of temper and energy’. But these qualities are sufficiently amorphous for Shaw himself to have trouble distinguishing them. Insisting that only didacticism can produce a true style (‘“for art’s sake” alone I would not face the toil of writing a single sentence’), he grants that nevertheless ‘all the assertions get disproved sooner or later’ and that what remains is ‘a magnificent débris of artistic fossils, with the matter-of-fact credibility gone clean out of them, but the form still splendid’.
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