Heartbreak House:

People's Light & Theatre Company

June, 1998

Some Useful Definitions

Cary M. Mazer, University of Pennsylvania

Guest Dramaturg

BOHEMIANISM: Derived from a French word used to describe Gypsies, the word "Bohemian" came to be applied to anyone who was socially, artistically, politically, or morally unconventional. The word could be used as an insult directed at someone socially unacceptable, or could be embraced with pride by an artistic nonconformist; it might refer with precision to thinkers and artists in an organized avant-garde aesthetic movement, or could be applied more generally to art-lovers and dilettantes.

The residents of the Shotover household follow the arts, live and dress unconventionally, and dabble in aesthetic and political ideas. Shaw writes, in his Preface, "Heartbreak House was quite familiar with revolutionary ideas on paper. It aimed at being advanced and freethinking, and hardly ever went to church or kept the Sabbath except by a little extra fun at week-ends. When you spent a Friday to Tuesday in it you found on the shelf in your bedroom not only the books of poets and novelists, but of revolutionary biologists and even economists. Without at least a few plays by myself and Mr Granville Barker, and a few stories by Mr H. G. Wells, Mr Arnold Bennett, and Mr John Galsworthy, the house would have been out of the movement. You would find Blake among the poets, and beside him Bergson, Butler, Scott Haldane, the poems of Meredith and Thomas Hardy, and, generally speaking, all the literary implements for forming the mind of the perfect modern Socialist and Creative Evolutionist." But, Shaw adds, while the residents of Heartbreak House "were the only repositories of culture who had social opportunities of contact with politicians, administrators, and newspaper proprietors, or any chance of influencing their activities ... they shrank from that contact. ... In short, power and culture were in separate compartments.

FABIAN SOCIALISM: Shaw was one of the earliest members of the Fabian Society, founded in 1884, and, with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, became one of its most prominent spokesmen and policy-makers. The Fabian Society advocated socialism without revolution, calling for "a gradual transition to Social Democracy" through the creation of educational and political institutions. The Fabian Society founded the London School of Economics and the magazine The New Statesman, and participated to the creation of the Labour Party. In 1914, the Fabian Society were deeply divided in what its members felt should be the appropriate response to the World War.

SOME DEFINITIONS (From Shaw's An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism):

"... when we say Capitalism we mean the system by which the land of the country is in the hands, not of the nation, but of private persons called landlords, who can prevent anyone from living on it or using it except on their own terms. ... The main advantage claimed for this arrangement is that it makes the landholders rich enough to accumulate a fund of spare money called capital. This fund is also private property. Consequently, the entire industry of the country, which could not exist without land and capital, is private property. But as industry cannot exist without labor, the owners must for their own sakes give employment to those who are not owners (called proletarians), and must pay them enough wages to keep them alive and enable them to marry and reproduce themselves, though not enough to enable them to stop working regularly."

"In opposition to Capitalism, Socialism insists that the first duty of the Government is to maintain equality of income, and absolutely denies any private right of property whatever. It would treat every contract as one to which the nation is a party, with the nation's welfare as the predominant consideration, and would not for a moment tolerate any contract the effect of which would be that one woman should work herself to death prematurely in degrading poverty in order that another should live idly and extravagantly on her labor."

"Everybody knows now that Socialism is a proposal to divide-up the income of the country in a new way. What you perhaps have not noticed is that the income of the country is being divided-up every day and even every minute at present, and must continue to be divided-up every day as long as there are two people left on earth to divide it. The only possible difference of opinion is not as to whether it shall be divided or not, but as to how much each person should have, and on what conditions he should be allowed to have it."