CASEMENT and BERNARD SHAW Autograph letter signed by George Bernard Shaw, to the Editor of the Daily News, pleading for the life of Roger Casement,  10 Adelphi Terrace, 7 July 1916
Lot 156
CASEMENT and BERNARD SHAW
Autograph letter signed by George Bernard Shaw, to the Editor of the Daily News, pleading for the life of Roger Casement, 10 Adelphi Terrace, 7 July 1916
Sold for £1,750 (US$ 2,856) inc. premium

Lot Details
Papers of A.G. Gardiner of the Daily News
CASEMENT and BERNARD SHAW
Autograph letter signed by George Bernard Shaw, to the Editor of the Daily News, submitting a letter for publication: "I regard it as of supreme importance that Casement (whom I dont know personally) should not be hanged, as the mischief he will do as a martyr is incalculable, whilst he will lie harmless as a reprieved and probably amnested man. His execution may make all the difference to the balance of power between Sinn Fein and Redmond-Dillon. In England, people as usual do not regard the matter as of any great importance. They talk about his notebooks, which contain notes, translated from the Portuguese, on the psychiatry of Putumayo, and conclude that he should be hanged for keeping an improper diary. Also, they have no idea how intelligent his project was, and likely it is to become part of the Sinn Fein program unless the objection to it is stated from a quarter not under suspicion of anti-nationalism"; asking him to return if he is not going to publish it "as I must get it published, somewhere", 2 pages, engraved address, oblong 8vo, 10 Adelphi Terrace, 7 July 1916

Footnotes

  • 'HANGED FOR KEEPING AN IMPROPER DIARY' – BERNARD SHAW PLEADS FOR THE LIFE OF ROGER CASEMENT. Shaw informs Gardiner that his accompanying letter had been offered to, and rejected by, the Times: "I have tried it on the Times, thinking that it could best bear the burden; but the editor says that 'on the whole, he prefers not to start a controversy on the subject'...". That the Liberal Daily News should be his next port of call is natural, as they had already published his famous letter of 10 May protesting at the execution of the leaders of the Easter Uprising. But it appears Gardiner rejected the present letter, which was to appear instead in the Manchester Guardian on 22 July (our letter being a good deal shorter and exhibiting rather less Shavian humour might be thought a good deal more appropriate and effective than the published version). Casement, who had been found guilty of high treason on 29 June, was hanged at Pentonville Prison on 3 August.

    Of particular, indeed remarkable, interest in our accompanying letter is Shaw's reference to the famous, or notorious, diaries – "They talk about his notebooks, which contain notes, translated from the Portuguese, on the psychiatry of Putumayo, and conclude that he should be hanged for keeping an improper diary". No reference at all to the diaries appears in Shaw's published letter. Shocked at their revelation of Casement's homosexuality, Casement's supporters have long argued that they were forgeries concocted by the British intelligence services, a view ably argued by Angus Mitchell and others; although recent investigation has established, it might be thought beyond reasonable doubt, that they are indeed genuine: a view that anyone with wide experience of working with and authenticating manuscripts would surely uphold. What is not in dispute however is that British intelligence circulated the diaries in a bid to silence Casement's supporters, so the suppression of any reference to them in Shaw's published letter is telling; and his lack of outrage at their content refreshing.
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