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قراءة كتاب Three Plays by Brieux With a Preface by Bernard Shaw

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Three Plays by Brieux
With a Preface by Bernard Shaw

Three Plays by Brieux With a Preface by Bernard Shaw

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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Three Plays by Brieux

Member of the French Academy


From a photograph by Monsieur Ghéri Rousseau, Paris

Three Plays by Brieux.

With a Preface by Bernard Shaw. The English Versions by Mrs. Bernard Shaw, St. John Hankin and John Pollock.

London: A. C. Fifield, 13 Clifford’s Inn, E.C. 1911.

[Copyright 1911 by Charlotte Frances Shaw. Entered at Stationers’ Hall and at the Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A. All rights reserved.]

Printed by G. Standring, Finsbury St., London, E.C.


Brieux: a portrait


Preface by Bernard Shaw


Maternity. Translated by Mrs. Bernard Shaw


The Three Daughters of M. Dupont. Translated by St. John Hankin


Damaged Goods. Translated by John Pollock


Maternity (new version). Translated by John Pollock


By Bernard Shaw.

From Molière to Brieux.

After the death of Ibsen, Brieux confronted Europe as the most important dramatist west of Russia. In that kind of comedy which is so true to life that we have to call it tragi-comedy, and which is not only an entertainment but a history and a criticism of contemporary morals, he is incomparably the greatest writer France has produced since Molière. The French critics who take it for granted that no contemporary of theirs could possibly be greater than Beaumarchais are really too modest. They have never read Beaumarchais, and therefore do not know how very little of him there is to read, and how, out of the two variations he wrote on his once famous theme, the second is only a petition in artistic and intellectual bankruptcy. Had the French theatre been capable of offering a field to Balzac, my proposition might have to be modified. But as it was no more able to do that than the English theatre was to enlist the genius of Dickens, I may say confidently that in that great comedy which Balzac called ‘the comedy of humanity,’ to be played for the amusement of the gods rather than for that of the French public, there is no summit in the barren plain that stretches from Mount Molière to our own times until we reach Brieux.

How the XIX century found itself out.

It is reserved for some great critic to give us a study of the psychology of the XIX century. Those of us who as adults saw it face to face in that last moiety of its days when one fierce hand after another—Marx’s, Zola’s, Ibsen’s, Strindberg’s, Turgenief’s, Tolstoy’s—stripped its masks off and revealed it as, on the whole, perhaps the most villainous page of recorded human history, can also recall the strange confidence with which it regarded itself as the very summit of civilization, and talked of the past as a cruel gloom that had been dispelled for ever by the railway and the electric telegraph. But centuries, like men, begin to find themselves out in middle age. The youthful conceit of the nineteenth had a splendid exponent in Macaulay, and, for a time, a gloriously jolly one during the nonage of Dickens. There was certainly nothing morbid in the air then: Dickens and Macaulay are as free from morbidity as Dumas père and Guizot. Even Stendhal and Prosper Merimée, though by no means burgess optimists, are quite sane. When you come to Zola and Maupassant, Flaubert and the Goncourts, to Ibsen and Strindberg, to Aubrey Beardsley and George Moore, to D’Annunzio and Echegaray, you are in a new and morbid atmosphere. French literature up to the middle of the XIX century was still all of one piece with Rabelais, Montaigne and Molière. Zola breaks that tradition completely: he is as different as Karl Marx from Turgot or Darwin from Cuvier.

In this new phase we see the bourgeoisie, after a century and a half of complacent vaunting of its own probity and modest happiness (begun by Daniel Defoe in Robinson Crusoe’s praises of ‘the middle station of life’), suddenly turning bitterly on itself with accusations of hideous sexual and commercial corruption. Thackeray’s campaign against snobbery and Dickens’s against hypocrisy were directed against the vices of respectable men; but now even the respectability was passionately denied: the bourgeois was depicted as a thief, a tyrant, a sweater, a selfish voluptuary whose marriages were simple legalizations of unbridled licentiousness. Sexual irregularities began to be attributed to the sympathetic characters in fiction not as the blackest spots in their portraits, but positively as redeeming humanities in them.

Jack the Ripper.

I am by no means going here either to revive the old outcry against this school of iconoclasts and disillusioners, or to join the new reaction against it. It told the world many truths: it brought romance back to its senses. Its very repudiation of the graces and enchantments of fine art was necessary; for the artistic morbidezza of Byron and Victor Hugo was too imaginative to allow the Victorian bourgeoisie to accept them as chroniclers of real facts and real people. The justification of Zola’s comparative coarseness is that his work could not have been done in any other way. If Zola had had a sense of humor, or a great artist’s delight in playing with his ideas, his materials, and his readers, he would have become either as unreadable to the very people he came to wake up as Anatole France is, or as incredible as Victor Hugo was. He would also have incurred the mistrust and hatred of the majority of Frenchmen, who, like the majority of men of all nations, are not merely incapable of fine art, but resent it furiously. A wit is to them a man who is laughing at them: an artist is a man of loose character who lives by telling lying stories and pandering to the voluptuous passions. What they like to read is the police intelligence, especially the murder cases and divorce cases. The invented murders and divorces of the