Well, my dear young lady? What is the latest news? Whats going on? Have
you seen Shoddy's new play? Tell me all about it, and all about the
latest books, and all about everything.
SAVVY. You have not met Mr Haslam. Our Rector.
LUBIN [_who has quite overlooked Haslam_] Never heard of him. Is he any
FRANKLYN. I was introducing him. This is Mr Haslam.
HASLAM. How d'ye do?
LUBIN. I beg your pardon, Mr Haslam. Delighted to meet you. [_To Savvy_]
Well, now, how many books have you written?
SAVVY [_rather overwhelmed but attracted_] None. I don't write.
LUBIN. You dont say so; Well, what do you do? Music? Skirt-dancing?
SAVVY. I dont do anything.
LUBIN. Thank God! You and I were born for one another. Who is your
favorite poet, Sally?
LUBIN. Savvy! I never heard of him. Tell me all about him. Keep me up to
SAVVY. It's not a poet. _I_ am Savvy, not Sally.
LUBIN. Savvy! Thats a funny name, and very pretty. Savvy. It sounds
Chinese. What does it mean?
CONRAD. Short for Savage.
LUBIN [_patting her hand_] La belle Sauvage.
HASLAM [_rising and surrendering Savvy to Lubin by crossing to the
fireplace_] I suppose the Church is out of it as far as progressive
politics are concerned.
BURGE. Nonsense! That notion about the Church being unprogressive is one
of those shibboleths that our party must drop. The Church is all right
essentially. Get rid of the establishment; get rid of the bishops; get
rid of the candlesticks; get rid of the 39 articles; and the Church of
England is just as good as any other Church; and I don't care who hears
me say so.
LUBIN. It doesn't matter a bit who hears you say so, my dear Burge. [_To
Savvy_] Who did you say your favorite poet was?
SAVVY. I dont make pets of poets. Who's yours?
SAVVY. Horace who?
LUBIN. Quintus Horatius Flaccus: the noblest Roman of them all, my dear.
SAVVY. Oh, if he is dead, that explains it. I have a theory that all the
dead people we feel especially interested in must have been ourselves.
You must be Horace's reincarnation.
LUBIN [_delighted_] That is the very most charming and penetrating and
intelligent thing that has ever been said to me. Barnabas: will you
exchange daughters with me? I can give you your choice of two.
FRANKLYN. Man proposes. Savvy disposes.
LUBIN. What does Savvy say?
BURGE. Lubin: I came here to talk politics.
LUBIN. Yes: you have only one subject, Burge. I came here to talk to
Savvy. Take Burge into the next room, Barnabas; and let him rip.
BURGE [_half-angry, half-indulgent_] No; but really, Lubin, we are at a
LUBIN. My dear Burge, life is a disease; and the only difference between
one man and another is the stage of the disease at which he lives. You
are always at the crisis; I am always in the convalescent stage. I enjoy
convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worth while.
SAVVY [_half-rising_] Perhaps I'd better run away. I am distracting you.
LUBIN [_making her sit down again_] Not at all, my dear. You are only
distracting Burge. Jolly good thing for him to be distracted by a pretty
girl. Just what he needs.
BURGE. I sometimes envy you, Lubin. The great movement of mankind, the
giant sweep of the ages, passes you by and leaves you standing.
LUBIN. It leaves me sitting, and quite comfortable, thank you. Go on
sweeping. When you are tired of it, come back; and you will find England
where it was, and me in my accustomed place, with Miss Savvy telling me
all sorts of interesting things.
SAVVY [_who has been growing more and more restless_] Dont let him shut
you up, Mr Burge. You know, Mr Lubin, I am frightfully interested in the
Labor movement, and in Theosophy, and in reconstruction after the war,
and all sorts of things. I daresay the flappers in your smart set are
tremendously flattered when you sit beside them and are nice to them
as you are being nice to me; but I am not smart; and I am no use as
a flapper. I am dowdy and serious. I want you to be serious. If you
refuse, I shall go and sit beside Mr Burge, and ask him to hold my hand.
LUBIN. He wouldnt know how to do it, my dear. Burge has a reputation as
a profligate -
BURGE [_starting_] Lubin: this is monstrous. I -
LUBIN [_continuing_] - but he is really a model of domesticity. His name
is coupled with all the most celebrated beauties; but for him there is
only one woman; and that is not you, my dear, but his very charming
BURGE. You are destroying my character in the act of pretending to save
it. Have the goodness to confine yourself to your own character and your
own wife. Both of them need all your attention.
LUBIN. I have the privilege of my age and of my transparent innocence. I
have not to struggle with your volcanic energy.
BURGE [_with an immense sense of power_] No, by George!
FRANKLYN. I think I shall speak both for my brother and myself, and
possibly also for my daughter, if I say that since the object of your
visit and Mr Joyce Burge's is to some extent political, we should hear
with great interest something about your political aims, Mr Lubin.
LUBIN [_assenting with complete good humor, and becoming attentive,
clear, and businesslike in his tone_] By all means, Mr Barnabas. What
we have to consider first, I take it, is what prospect there is of our
finding you beside us in the House after the next election.
FRANKLYN. When I speak of politics, Mr Lubin, I am not thinking of
elections, or available seats, or party funds, or the registers, or
even, I am sorry to have to add, of parliament as it exists at present.
I had much rather you talked about bridge than about electioneering: it
is the more interesting game of the two.
BURGE. He wants to discuss principles, Lubin.
LUBIN [_very cool and clear_] I understand Mr Barnabas quite well. But
elections are unsettled things; principles are settled things.
CONRAD [_impatiently_] Great Heavens! -
LUBIN [_interrupting him with quiet authority_] One moment, Dr Barnabas.
The main principles on which modern civilized society is founded
are pretty well understood among educated people. That is what our
dangerously half-educated masses and their pet demagogues - if Burge will
excuse that expression -
BURGE. Dont mind me. Go on. I shall have something to say presently.
LUBIN. - that is what our dangerously half-educated people do not
realize. Take all this fuss about the Labor Party, with its imaginary
new principles and new politics. The Labor members will find that
the immutable laws of political economy take no more notice of their
ambitions and aspirations than the law of gravitation. I speak, if I may
say so, with knowledge; for I have made a special, study of the Labor
FRANKLYN [_with interest and some surprise_] Indeed?
LUBIN. Yes. It occurred quite at the beginning of my career. I was asked
to deliver an address to the students at the Working Men's College; and
I was strongly advised to comply, as Gladstone and Morley and others
were doing that sort of thing at the moment. It was rather a troublesome
job, because I had not gone into political economy at the time. As you
know, at the university I was a classical scholar; and my profession
was the Law. But I looked up the text-books, and got up the case most
carefully. I found that the correct view is that all this Trade Unionism
and Socialism and so forth is founded on the ignorant delusion that
wages and the production and distribution of wealth can be controlled by
legislation or by any human action whatever. They obey fixed scientific
laws, which have been ascertained and settled finally by the highest
economic authorities. Naturally I do not at this distance of time
remember the exact process of reasoning; but I can get up the case again
at any time in a couple of days; and you may rely on me absolutely,
should the occasion arise, to deal with all these ignorant and
unpractical people in a conclusive and convincing way, except, of
course, as far as it may be advisable to indulge and flatter them a
little so as to let them down without creating ill feeling in the
working-class electorate. In short, I can get that lecture up again
almost at a moment's notice.
SAVVY. But, Mr Lubin, I have had a university education too; and all
this about wages and distribution being fixed by immutable laws of
political economy is obsolete rot.
FRANKLYN [_shocked_] Oh, my dear! That is not polite.
LUBIN. No, no, no. Dont scold her. She mustnt be scolded. [_To Savvy_] I
understand. You are a disciple of Karl Marx.
SAVVY. No, no. Karl Marx's economics are all rot.
LUBIN [_at last a little taken aback_] Dear me!
SAVVY. You must excuse me, Mr Lubin; but it's like hearing a man talk
about the Garden of Eden.
CONRAD. Why shouldnt he talk about the Garden of Eden? It was a first
attempt at biology anyhow.
LUBIN [_recovering his self-possession_] I am sound on the Garden of
Eden. I have heard of Darwin.
SAVVY. But Darwin is all rot.
LUBIN. What! Already!
SAVVY. It's no good your smiling at me like a Cheshire cat, Mr Lubin;
and I am not going to sit here mumchance like an old-fashioned goody
goody wife while you men monopolize the conversation and pay out the
very ghastliest exploded drivel as the latest thing in politics. I am
not giving you my own ideas, Mr Lubin, but just the regular orthodox
science of today. Only the most awful old fossils think that Socialism
is bad economics and that Darwin invented Evolution. Ask Papa. Ask
Uncle. Ask the first person you meet in the street. [_She rises and
crosses to Haslam_]. Give me a cigaret, Bill, will you?
HASLAM. Priceless. [_He complies_].
FRANKLYN. Savvy has not lived long enough to have any manners, Mr Lubin;
but that is where you stand with the younger generation. Dont smoke,
_Savvy, with a shrug of rather mutinous resignation, throws the cigaret
into the fire. Haslam, on the point of lighting one for himself, changes
LUBIN [_shrewd and serious_] Mr Barnabas: I confess I am surprised; and
I will not pretend that I am convinced. But I am open to conviction. I
may be wrong.
BURGE [_in a burst of irony_] Oh no. Impossible! Impossible!
LUBIN. Yes, Mr Barnabas, though I do not possess Burge's genius for
being always wrong, I have been in that position once or twice. I could
not conceal from you, even if I wished to, that my time has been so
completely filled by my professional work as a lawyer, and later on
by my duties as leader of the House of Commons in the days when Prime
Ministers were also leaders -
BURGE [_stung_] Not to mention bridge and smart society.
LUBIN. - not to mention the continual and trying effort to make Burge
behave himself, that I have not been able to keep my academic reading up
to date. I have kept my classics brushed up out of sheer love for them;
but my economics and my science, such as they were, may possibly be a
little rusty. Yet I think I may say that if you and your brother will
be so good as to put me on the track of the necessary documents, I will
undertake to put the case to the House or to the country to your entire
satisfaction. You see, as long as you can shew these troublesome
half-educated people who want to turn the world upside down that they
are talking nonsense, it really does not matter very much whether you do
it in terms of what Miss Barnabas calls obsolete rot or in terms of
what her granddaughter will probably call unmitigated tosh. I have no
objection whatever to denounce Karl Marx. Anything I can say against
Darwin will please a large body of sincerely pious voters. If it will be
easier to carry on the business of the country on the understanding
that the present state of things is to be called Socialism, I have no
objection in the world to call it Socialism. There is the precedent
of the Emperor Constantine, who saved the society of his own day by
agreeing to call his Imperialism Christianity. Mind: I must not go ahead
of the electorate. You must not call a voter a Socialist until -
FRANKLYN. Until he is a Socialist. Agreed.
LUBIN. Oh, not at all. You need not wait for that. You must not call
him a Socialist until he wishes to be called a Socialist: that is all.
Surely you would not say that I must not address my constituents as
gentlemen until they are gentlemen. I address them as gentlemen because
they wish to be so addressed. [_He rises from the sofa and goes to
Franklyn, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder_]. Do not be afraid
of Socialism, Mr Barnabas. You need not tremble for your property or
your position or your dignity. England will remain what England is, no
matter what new political names may come into vogue. I do not intend to
resist the transition to Socialism. You may depend on me to guide it, to
lead it, to give suitable expression to its aspirations, and to steer it
clear of Utopian absurdities. I can honestly ask for your support on the
most advanced Socialist grounds no less than on the soundest Liberal
BURGE. In short, Lubin, youre incorrigible. You dont believe anything
is going to change. The millions are still to toil - the people - my
people - for I am a man of the people -
LUBIN [_interrupting him contemptuously_] Dont be ridiculous, Burge. You
are a country solicitor, further removed from the people, more foreign
to them, more jealous of letting them up to your level, than any duke or
BURGE [_hotly_] I deny it. You think I have never been poor. You think
I have never cleaned my own boots. You think my fingers have never come
out through the soles when I was cleaning them. You think -
LUBIN. I think you fall into the very common mistake of supposing that
it is poverty that makes the proletarian and money that makes the
gentleman. You are quite wrong. You never belonged to the people: you
belonged to the impecunious. Impecuniosity and broken boots are the lot
of the unsuccessful middle class, and the commonplaces of the early
struggles of the professional and younger son class. I defy you to find
a farm laborer in England with broken boots. Call a mechanic one of the
poor, and he'll punch your head. When you talk to your constituents
about the toiling millions, they don't consider that you are referring
to them. They are all third cousins of somebody with a title or a park.
I am a Yorkshireman, my friend. I know England; and you don't. If you
did you would know -
SURGE. What do you know that I don't know?
LUBIN. I know that we are taking up too much of Mr Barnabas's time.
[_Franklyn rises_]. May I take it, my dear Barnabas, that I may count
on your support if we succeed in forcing an election before the new
register is in full working order?
SURGE [_rising also_] May the party count on your support? I say nothing
about myself. Can the party depend on you? Is there any question of
yours that I have left unanswered?
CONRAD. We havnt asked you any, you know.
BURGE. May I take that as a mark of confidence?
CONRAD. If I were a laborer in your constituency, I should ask you a
LUBIN. No you wouldnt, my dear Doctor. Laborers never ask questions.
BURGE. Ask it now. I have never flinched from being heckled. Out with
it. Is it about the land?
SURGE. Is it about the Church?
BURGE. Is it about the House of Lords?
BURGE. Is it about Proportional Representation?
SURGE. Is it about Free Trade?
SURGE. Is it about the priest in the school?
BURGE. Is it about Ireland?
BURGE. Is it about Germany?
BURGE. Well, is it about Republicanism? Come! I wont flinch. Is it about
SURGE. Well, what the devil is it about, then?
CONRAD. You understand that I am asking the question in the character of
a laborer who earned thirteen shillings a week before the war and earns
thirty now, when he can get it?
BURGE. Yes: I understand that. I am ready for you. Out with it.
CONRAD. And whom you propose to represent n parliament?
SURGE. Yes, yes, yes. Come on.
CONRAD. The question is this. Would you allow your son to marry my
daughter, or your daughter to marry my son?
BURGE [_taken aback_] Oh, come! Thats not a political question.
CONRAD. Then, as a biologist, I don't take the slightest interest in
your politics; and I shall not walk across the street to vote for you or
anyone else at the election. Good evening.
LUBIN. Serve you right, Burge! Dr Barnabas: you have my assurance that
my daughter shall marry the man of her choice, whether he be lord or
laborer. May _I_ count on your support?
SURGE [_hurling the epithet at him_] Humbug!
SAVVY. Stop. [_They all stop short in the movement of leave-taking to
look at her_]. Daddy: are you going to let them off like this? How are
they to know anything if nobody ever tells them? If you don't, I will.
CONRAD. You cant. You didn't read my book; and you know nothing about
it. You just hold your tongue.
SAVVY. I just wont, Nunk. I shall have a vote when I am thirty; and I
ought to have it now. Why are these two ridiculous people to be allowed
to come in and walk over us as if the world existed only to play their
silly parliamentary game?
FRANKLYN [_severely_] Savvy: you really must not be uncivil to our
SAVVY. I'm sorry. But Mr Lubin didn't stand on much ceremony with me,
did he? And Mr Burge hasnt addressed a single word to me. I'm not going
to stand it. You and Nunk have a much better program than either of
them. It's the only one we are going to vote for; and they ought to be
told about it for the credit of the family and the good of their own
souls. You just tip them a chapter from the gospel of the brothers
_Lubin and Burge turn inquiringly to Franklyn, suspecting a move to form
a new party._
FRANKLYN. It is quite true, Mr Lubin, that I and my brother have a
little program of our own which -
CONRAD [_interrupting_] It's not a little program: it's an almighty big
one. It's not our own: it's the program of the whole of civilization.
BURGE. Then why split the party before you have put it to us? For God's
sake let us have no more splits. I am here to learn. I am here to gather
your opinions and represent them. I invite you to put your views before
me. I offer myself to be heckled. You have asked me only an absurd
FRANKLYN. Candidly, I fear our program will be thrown away on you. It
would not interest you.
BURGE [_with challenging audacity_] Try. Lubin can go if he likes; but I
am still open to new ideas, if only I can find them.
FRANKLYN [_to Lubin_] Are you prepared to listen, Mr Lubin; or shall I
thank you for your very kind and welcome visit, and say good evening?
LUBIN [_sitting down resignedly on the settee, but involuntarily making
a movement which looks like the stifling of a yawn_] With pleasure, Mr
Barnabas. Of course you know that before I can adopt any new plank
in the party platform, it will have to reach me through the National
Liberal Federation, which you can approach through your local Liberal
and Radical Association.
FRANKLYN. I could recall to you several instances of the addition
to your party program of measures of which no local branch of your
Federation had ever dreamt. But I understand that you are not really
interested. I will spare you, and drop the subject.
LUBIN [_waking up a little_] You quite misunderstand me. Please do not
take it in that way. I only -
BURGE [_talking him down_] Never mind the Federation: _I_ will answer
for the Federation. Go on, Barnabas: go on. Never mind Lubin [_he sits
down in the chair from which Lubin first displaced him_].
FRANKLYN. Our program is only that the term of human life shall be
extended to three hundred years.
LUBIN [_softly_] Eh?
BURGE [_explosively_] What!
SAVVY. Our election cry is 'Back to Methuselah!'
_Lubin and Surge look at one another._
CONRAD. No. We are not mad.
SAVVY. Theyre not joking either. They mean it.
LUBIN [_cautiously_] Assuming that, in some sense which I am for the
moment unable to fathom, you are in earnest, Mr Barnabas, may I ask what
this has to do with politics?
FRANKLYN. The connection is very evident. You are now, Mr Lubin, within
immediate reach of your seventieth year. Mr Joyce Surge is your junior
by about eleven years. You will go down to posterity as one of a
European group of immature statesmen and monarchs who, doing the very
best for your respective countries of which you were capable, succeeded
in all-but-wrecking the civilization of Europe, and did, in effect, wipe
out of existence many millions of its inhabitants.
BURGE. Less than a million.
FRANKLYN. That was our loss alone.
BURGE. Oh, if you count foreigners - !
HAS LAM. God counts foreigners, you know.
SAVVY [_with intense satisfaction_] Well said, Bill.
FRANKLYN. I am not blaming you. Your task was beyond human capacity.
What with our huge armaments, our terrible engines of destruction, our
systems of coercion manned by an irresistible police, you were called on
to control powers so gigantic that one shudders at the thought of their
being entrusted even to an infinitely experienced and benevolent God,
much less to mortal men whose whole life does not last a hundred years.
BURGE. We won the war: don't forget that.
FRANKLYN. No: the soldiers and sailors won it, and left you to finish
it. And you were so utterly incompetent that the multitudes of children
slain by hunger in the first years of peace made us all wish we were at
CONRAD. It's no use arguing about it. It is now absolutely certain that
the political and social problems raised by our civilization cannot be
solved by mere human mushrooms who decay and die when they are just
beginning to have a glimmer of the wisdom and knowledge needed for their
LUBIN. Quite an interesting idea, Doctor. Extravagant. Fantastic. But
quite interesting. When I was young I used to feel my human limitations
BURGE. God knows I have often felt that I could not go on if it had not
been for the sense that I was only an instrument in the hands of a Power
CONRAD. I'm glad you both agree with us, and with one another.
LUBIN. I have not gone so far as that, I think. After all, we have had
many very able political leaders even within your recollection and mine.
FRANKLYN. Have you read the recent biographies - Dilke's, for
instance - which revealed the truth about them?
LUBIN. I did not discover any new truth revealed in these books, Mr
FRANKLYN. What! Not the truth that England was governed all that time by
a little woman who knew her own mind?
SAVVY. Hear, hear!
LUBIN. That often happens. Which woman do you mean?
FRANKLYN. Queen Victoria, to whom your Prime Ministers stood in the
relation of naughty children whose heads she knocked together when their
tempers and quarrels became intolerable. Within thirteen years of her
death Europe became a hell.
SURGE. Quite true. That was because she was piously brought up, and
regarded herself as an instrument. If a statesman remembers that he is
only an instrument, and feels quite sure that he is rightly interpreting
the divine purpose, he will come out all right, you know.
FRANKLYN. The Kaiser felt like that. Did he come out all right?
SURGE. Well, let us be fair, even to the Kaiser. Let us be fair.
FRANKLYN. Were you fair to him when you won an election on the program
of hanging him?
SURGE. Stuff! I am the last man alive to hang anybody; but the people
wouldnt listen to reason. Besides, I knew the Dutch wouldnt give him up.
SAVVY. Oh, don't start arguing about poor old Bill. Stick to our point.
Let these two gentlemen settle the question for themselves. Mr Burge: do
you think Mr Lubin is fit to govern England?
SURGE. No. Frankly, I dont.
LUBIN [_remonstrant_] Really!
BURGE. Because he has no conscience: thats why.
LUBIN [_shocked and amazed_] Oh!
FRANKLYN. Mr Lubin: do you consider Joyce Burge qualified to govern
LUBIN [_with dignified emotion, wounded, but without bitterness_] Excuse
me, Mr Barnabas; but before I answer that question I want to say this.
Burge: we have had differences of opinion; and your newspaper friends
have said hard things of me. But we worked together for years; and I
hope I have done nothing to justify you in the amazing accusation you
have just brought against me. Do you realize that you said that I have