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Produced by Ron Burkey









FANNY'S FIRST PLAY

BY BERNARD SHAW

1911



This text was taken from a printed volume containing the plays
"Misalliance", "The Dark Lady of the Sonnets", "Fanny's First Play", and
the essay "A Treatise on Parents and Children".

Notes on the editing: Italicized text is delimited with underlines
("_ _"). Punctuation and spelling retained as in the printed text. Shaw
intentionally spelled many words according to a non-standard system. For
example, "don't" is given as "dont" (without apostrophe), "Dr." is given
as "Dr" (without a period at the end), and "Shakespeare" is given as
"Shakespear" (no "e" at the end). Where several characters in the play
are speaking at once, I have indicated it with vertical bars ("|"). The
pound (currency) symbol has been replaced by the word "pounds".





PREFACE TO FANNY'S FIRST PLAY

Fanny's First Play, being but a potboiler, needs no preface. But its
lesson is not, I am sorry to say, unneeded. Mere morality, or the
substitution of custom for conscience was once accounted a shameful and
cynical thing: people talked of right and wrong, of honor and dishonor,
of sin and grace, of salvation and damnation, not of morality and
immorality. The word morality, if we met it in the Bible, would surprise
us as much as the word telephone or motor car. Nowadays we do not seem
to know that there is any other test of conduct except morality; and
the result is that the young had better have their souls awakened by
disgrace, capture by the police, and a month's hard labor, than drift
along from their cradles to their graves doing what other people do for
no other reason than that other people do it, and knowing nothing of
good and evil, of courage and cowardice, or indeed anything but how to
keep hunger and concupiscence and fashionable dressing within the bounds
of good taste except when their excesses can be concealed. Is it any
wonder that I am driven to offer to young people in our suburbs the
desperate advice: Do something that will get you into trouble? But
please do not suppose that I defend a state of things which makes such
advice the best that can be given under the circumstances, or that I do
not know how difficult it is to find out a way of getting into trouble
that will combine loss of respectability with integrity of self-respect
and reasonable consideration for other peoples' feelings and interests
on every point except their dread of losing their own respectability.
But when there's a will there's a way. I hate to see dead people walking
about: it is unnatural. And our respectable middle class people are all
as dead as mutton. Out of the mouth of Mrs Knox I have delivered on them
the judgment of her God.

The critics whom I have lampooned in the induction to this play under
the names of Trotter, Vaughan, and Gunn will forgive me: in fact Mr
Trotter forgave me beforehand, and assisted the make-up by which Mr
Claude King so successfully simulated his personal appearance. The
critics whom I did not introduce were somewhat hurt, as I should have
been myself under the same circumstances; but I had not room for them
all; so I can only apologize and assure them that I meant no disrespect.

The concealment of the authorship, if a _secret de Polichinelle_ can be
said to involve concealment, was a necessary part of the play. In so far
as it was effectual, it operated as a measure of relief to those critics
and playgoers who are so obsessed by my strained legendary reputation
that they approach my plays in a condition which is really one of
derangement, and are quite unable to conceive a play of mine as anything
but a trap baited with paradoxes, and designed to compass their ethical
perversion and intellectual confusion. If it were possible, I should put
forward all my plays anonymously, or hire some less disturbing person,
as Bacon is said to have hired Shakespear, to father my plays for me.

Fanny's First Play was performed for the first time at the Little
Theatre in the Adelphi, London, on the afternoon of Wednesday, April
19th 1911.




FANNY'S FIRST PLAY




INDUCTION


_The end of a saloon in an old-fashioned country house (Florence Towers,
the property of Count O'Dowda) has been curtained off to form a stage
for a private theatrical performance. A footman in grandiose Spanish
livery enters before the curtain, on its O.P. side._


FOOTMAN. [announcing] Mr Cecil Savoyard. [Cecil Savoyard comes in:
a middle-aged man in evening dress and a fur-lined overcoat. He is
surprised to find nobody to receive him. So is the Footman]. Oh, beg
pardon, sir: I thought the Count was here. He was when I took up your
name. He must have gone through the stage into the library. This way,
sir. [He moves towards the division in the middle of the curtains].

SAVOYARD. Half a mo. [The Footman stops]. When does the play begin?
Half-past eight?

FOOTMAN. Nine, sir.

SAVOYARD. Oh, good. Well, will you telephone to my wife at the George
that it's not until nine?

FOOTMAN. Right, sir. Mrs Cecil Savoyard, sir?

SAVOYARD. No: Mrs William Tinkler. Dont forget.

THE FOOTMAN. Mrs Tinkler, sir. Right, sir. [The Count comes in through
the curtains]. Here is the Count, sir. [Announcing] Mr Cecil Savoyard,
sir. [He withdraws].

COUNT O'DOWDA. [A handsome man of fifty, dressed with studied elegance
a hundred years out of date, advancing cordially to shake hands with his
visitor] Pray excuse me, Mr Savoyard. I suddenly recollected that all
the bookcases in the library were locked - in fact theyve never been
opened since we came from Venice - and as our literary guests will
probably use the library a good deal, I just ran in to unlock
everything.

SAVOYARD. Oh, you mean the dramatic critics. M'yes. I suppose theres a
smoking room?

THE COUNT. My study is available. An old-fashioned house, you
understand. Wont you sit down, Mr Savoyard?

SAVOYARD. Thanks. [They sit. Savoyard, looking at his host's obsolete
costume, continues] I had no idea you were going to appear in the piece
yourself.

THE COUNT. I am not. I wear this costume because - well, perhaps I had
better explain the position, if it interests you.

SAVOYARD. Certainly.

THE COUNT. Well, you see, Mr Savoyard, I'm rather a stranger in your
world. I am not, I hope, a modern man in any sense of the word. I'm
not really an Englishman: my family is Irish: Ive lived all my life in
Italy - in Venice mostly - my very title is a foreign one: I am a Count of
the Holy Roman Empire.

SAVOYARD. Where's that?

THE COUNT. At present, nowhere, except as a memory and an ideal.
[Savoyard inclines his head respectfully to the ideal]. But I am by
no means an idealogue. I am not content with beautiful dreams: I want
beautiful realities.

SAVOYARD. Hear, hear! I'm all with you there - when you can get them.

THE COUNT. Why not get them? The difficulty is not that there are no
beautiful realities, Mr Savoyard: the difficulty is that so few of
us know them when we see them. We have inherited from the past a vast
treasure of beauty - of imperishable masterpieces of poetry, of painting,
of sculpture, of architecture, of music, of exquisite fashions in
dress, in furniture, in domestic decoration. We can contemplate these
treasures. We can reproduce many of them. We can buy a few inimitable
originals. We can shut out the nineteenth century -

SAVOYARD. [correcting him] The twentieth.

THE COUNT. To me the century I shut out will always be the nineteenth
century, just as your national anthem will always be God Save the Queen,
no matter how many kings may succeed. I found England befouled with
industrialism: well, I did what Byron did: I simply refused to live in
it. You remember Byron's words: "I am sure my bones would not rest in an
English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of that country. I believe
the thought would drive me mad on my deathbed could I suppose that any
of my friends would be base enough to convey my carcase back to her
soil. I would not even feed her worms if I could help it."

SAVOYARD. Did Byron say that?

THE COUNT. He did, sir.

SAVOYARD. It dont sound like him. I saw a good deal of him at one time.

THE COUNT. You! But how is that possible? You are too young.

SAVOYARD. I was quite a lad, of course. But I had a job in the original
production of Our Boys.

THE COUNT. My dear sir, not that Byron. Lord Byron, the poet.

SAVOYARD. Oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you were talking of the
Byron. So you prefer living abroad?

THE COUNT. I find England ugly and Philistine. Well, I dont live in it.
I find modern houses ugly. I dont live in them: I have a palace on the
grand canal. I find modern clothes prosaic. I dont wear them, except, of
course, in the street. My ears are offended by the Cockney twang: I keep
out of hearing of it and speak and listen to Italian. I find Beethoven's
music coarse and restless, and Wagner's senseless and detestable. I do
not listen to them. I listen to Cimarosa, to Pergolesi, to Gluck and
Mozart. Nothing simpler, sir.

SAVOYARD. It's all right when you can afford it.

THE COUNT. Afford it! My dear Mr Savoyard, if you are a man with a sense
of beauty you can make an earthly paradise for yourself in Venice on
1500 pounds a year, whilst our wretched vulgar industrial millionaires
are spending twenty thousand on the amusements of billiard markers. I
assure you I am a poor man according to modern ideas. But I have never
had anything less than the very best that life has produced. It is my
good fortune to have a beautiful and lovable daughter; and that girl,
sir, has never seen an ugly sight or heard an ugly sound that I could
spare her; and she has certainly never worn an ugly dress or tasted
coarse food or bad wine in her life. She has lived in a palace; and her
perambulator was a gondola. Now you know the sort of people we are, Mr
Savoyard. You can imagine how we feel here.

SAVOYARD. Rather out of it, eh?

THE COUNT. Out of it, sir! Out of what?

SAVOYARD. Well, out of everything.

THE COUNT. Out of soot and fog and mud and east wind; out of vulgarity
and ugliness, hypocrisy and greed, superstition and stupidity. Out of
all this, and in the sunshine, in the enchanted region of which great
artists alone have had the secret, in the sacred footsteps of Byron, of
Shelley, of the Brownings, of Turner and Ruskin. Dont you envy me, Mr
Savoyard?

SAVOYARD. Some of us must live in England, you know, just to keep the
place going. Besides - though, mind you, I dont say it isnt all right
from the high art point of view and all that - three weeks of it would
drive me melancholy mad. However, I'm glad you told me, because it
explains why it is you dont seem to know your way about much in England.
I hope, by the way, that everything has given satisfaction to your
daughter.

THE COUNT. She seems quite satisfied. She tells me that the actors you
sent down are perfectly suited to their parts, and very nice people
to work with. I understand she had some difficulties at the first
rehearsals with the gentleman you call the producer, because he hadnt
read the play; but the moment he found out what it was all about
everything went smoothly.

SAVOYARD. Havnt you seen the rehearsals?

THE COUNT. Oh no. I havnt been allowed even to meet any of the company.
All I can tell you is that the hero is a Frenchman [Savoyard is rather
scandalized]: I asked her not to have an English hero. That is all I
know. [Ruefully] I havnt been consulted even about the costumes, though
there, I think, I could have been some use.

SAVOYARD. [puzzled] But there arnt any costumes.

THE COUNT. [seriously shocked] What! No costumes! Do you mean to say it
is a modern play?

SAVOYARD. I dont know: I didnt read it. I handed it to Billy
Burjoyce - the producer, you know - and left it to him to select the
company and so on. But I should have had to order the costumes if there
had been any. There wernt.

THE COUNT. [smiling as he recovers from his alarm] I understand. She
has taken the costumes into her own hands. She is an expert in beautiful
costumes. I venture to promise you, Mr Savoyard, that what you are about
to see will be like a Louis Quatorze ballet painted by Watteau. The
heroine will be an exquisite Columbine, her lover a dainty Harlequin,
her father a picturesque Pantaloon, and the valet who hoodwinks the
father and brings about the happiness of the lovers a grotesque but
perfectly tasteful Punchinello or Mascarille or Sganarelle.

SAVOYARD. I see. That makes three men; and the clown and policeman will
make five. Thats why you wanted five men in the company.

THE COUNT. My dear sir, you dont suppose I mean that vulgar, ugly,
silly, senseless, malicious and destructive thing, the harlequinade of
a nineteenth century English Christmas pantomime! What was it after
all but a stupid attempt to imitate the success made by the genius of
Grimaldi a hundred years ago? My daughter does not know of the existence
of such a thing. I refer to the graceful and charming fantasies of the
Italian and French stages of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

SAVOYARD. Oh, I beg pardon. I quite agree that harlequinades are rot.
Theyve been dropped at all smart theatres. But from what Billy Burjoyce
told me I got the idea that your daughter knew her way about here, and
had seen a lot of plays. He had no idea she'd been away in Venice all
the time.

THE COUNT. Oh, she has not been. I should have explained that two
years ago my daughter left me to complete her education at Cambridge.
Cambridge was my own University; and though of course there were no
women there in my time, I felt confident that if the atmosphere of the
eighteenth century still existed anywhere in England, it would be at
Cambridge. About three months ago she wrote to me and asked whether I
wished to give her a present on her next birthday. Of course I said
yes; and she then astonished and delighted me by telling me that she
had written a play, and that the present she wanted was a private
performance of it with real actors and real critics.

SAVOYARD. Yes: thats what staggered me. It was easy enough to engage
a company for a private performance: it's done often enough. But the
notion of having critics was new. I hardly knew how to set about it.
They dont expect private engagements; and so they have no agents.
Besides, I didnt know what to offer them. I knew that they were cheaper
than actors, because they get long engagements: forty years sometimes;
but thats no rule for a single job. Then theres such a lot of them: on
first nights they run away with all your stalls: you cant find a decent
place for your own mother. It would have cost a fortune to bring the
lot.

THE COUNT. Of course I never dreamt of having them all. Only a few
first-rate representative men.

SAVOYARD. Just so. All you want is a few sample opinions. Out of a
hundred notices you wont find more than four at the outside that say
anything different. Well, Ive got just the right four for you. And what
do you think it has cost me?

THE COUNT. [shrugging his shoulders] I cannot guess.

SAVOYARD. Ten guineas, and expenses. I had to give Flawner Bannal ten.
He wouldnt come for less; and he asked fifty. I had to give it, because
if we hadnt had him we might just as well have had nobody at all.

THE COUNT. But what about the others, if Mr Flannel -

SAVOYARD. [shocked] Flawner Bannal.

THE COUNT. - if Mr Bannal got the whole ten?

SAVOYARD. Oh, I managed that. As this is a high-class sort of thing, the
first man I went for was Trotter.

THE COUNT. Oh indeed. I am very glad you have secured Mr Trotter. I have
read his Playful Impressions.

SAVOYARD. Well, I was rather in a funk about him. Hes not exactly what
I call approachable; and he was a bit stand-off at first. But when I
explained and told him your daughter -

THE COUNT. [interrupting in alarm] You did not say that the play was by
her, I hope?

SAVOYARD. No: thats been kept a dead secret. I just said your daughter
has asked for a real play with a real author and a real critic and all
the rest of it. The moment I mentioned the daughter I had him. He has
a daughter of his own. Wouldnt hear of payment! Offered to come just to
please her! Quite human. I was surprised.

THE COUNT. Extremely kind of him.

SAVOYARD. Then I went to Vaughan, because he does music as well as the
drama: and you said you thought there would be music. I told him Trotter
would feel lonely without him; so he promised like a bird. Then I
thought youd like one of the latest sort: the chaps that go for the
newest things and swear theyre oldfashioned. So I nailed Gilbert Gunn.
The four will give you a representative team. By the way [looking at his
watch] theyll be here presently.

THE COUNT. Before they come, Mr Savoyard, could you give me any hints
about them that would help me to make a little conversation with them?
I am, as you said, rather out of it in England; and I might unwittingly
say something tactless.

SAVOYARD. Well, let me see. As you dont like English people, I dont know
that youll get on with Trotter, because hes thoroughly English: never
happy except when hes in Paris, and speaks French so unnecessarily well
that everybody there spots him as an Englishman the moment he opens
his mouth. Very witty and all that. Pretends to turn up his nose at
the theatre and says people make too much fuss about art [the Count is
extremely indignant]. But thats only his modesty, because art is his own
line, you understand. Mind you dont chaff him about Aristotle.

THE COUNT. Why should I chaff him about Aristotle?

SAVOYARD. Well, I dont know; but its one of the recognized ways of
chaffing him. However, youll get on with him all right: hes a man of
the world and a man of sense. The one youll have to be careful about is
Vaughan.

THE COUNT. In what way, may I ask?

SAVOYARD. Well, Vaughan has no sense of humor; and if you joke with
him he'll think youre insulting him on purpose. Mind: it's not that he
doesnt see a joke: he does; and it hurts him. A comedy scene makes him
sore all over: he goes away black and blue, and pitches into the play
for all hes worth.

THE COUNT. But surely that is a very serious defect in a man of his
profession?

SAVOYARD. Yes it is, and no mistake. But Vaughan is honest, and dont
care a brass farthing what he says, or whether it pleases anybody or
not; and you must have one man of that sort to say the things that
nobody else will say.

THE COUNT. It seems to me to carry the principle of division of labor
too far, this keeping of the honesty and the other qualities in separate
compartments. What is Mr Gunn's speciality, if I may ask?

SAVOYARD. Gunn is one of the intellectuals.

THE COUNT. But arnt they all intellectuals?

SAVOYARD. Lord! no: heaven forbid! You must be careful what you say
about that: I shouldnt like anyone to call me an Intellectual: I dont
think any Englishman would! They dont count really, you know; but
still it's rather the thing to have them. Gunn is one of the young
intellectuals: he writes plays himself. Hes useful because he pitches
into the older intellectuals who are standing in his way. But you may
take it from me that none of these chaps really matter. Flawner Bannal's
your man. Bannal really represents the British playgoer. When he likes
a thing, you may take your oath there are a hundred thousand people in
London thatll like it if they can only be got to know about it. Besides,
Bannal's knowledge of the theatre is an inside knowledge. We know him;
and he knows us. He knows the ropes: he knows his way about: he knows
what hes talking about.

THE COUNT. [with a little sigh] Age and experience, I suppose?

SAVOYARD. Age! I should put him at twenty at the very outside, myself.
It's not an old man's job after all, is it? Bannal may not ride the
literary high horse like Trotter and the rest; but I'd take his opinion
before any other in London. Hes the man in the street; and thats what
you want.

THE COUNT. I am almost sorry you didnt give the gentleman his full
terms. I should not have grudged the fifty guineas for a sound opinion.
He may feel shabbily treated.

SAVOYARD. Well, let him. It was a bit of side, his asking fifty. After
all, what is he? Only a pressman. Jolly good business for him to earn
ten guineas: hes done the same job often enough for half a quid, I
expect.

_Fanny O'Dowda comes precipitately through the curtains, excited and
nervous. A girl of nineteen in a dress synchronous with her father's._

FANNY. Papa, papa, the critics have come. And one of them has a cocked
hat and sword like a - [she notices Savoyard] Oh, I beg your pardon.

THE COUNT. This is Mr Savoyard, your impresario, my dear.

FANNY. [shaking hands] How do you do?

SAVOYARD. Pleased to meet you, Miss O'Dowda. The cocked hat is all
right. Trotter is a member of the new Academic Committee. He induced
them to go in for a uniform like the French Academy; and I asked him to
wear it.

THE FOOTMAN. [announcing] Mr Trotter, Mr Vaughan, Mr Gunn, Mr Flawner
Bannal. [The four critics enter. Trotter wears a diplomatic dress, with
sword and three-cornered hat. His age is about 50. Vaughan is 40. Gunn
is 30. Flawner Bannal is 20 and is quite unlike the others. They can be
classed at sight as professional men: Bannal is obviously one of those
unemployables of the business class who manage to pick up a living by a
sort of courage which gives him cheerfulness, conviviality, and
bounce, and is helped out positively by a slight turn for writing, and
negatively by a comfortable ignorance and lack of intuition which hides
from him all the dangers and disgraces that keep men of finer perception
in check. The Count approaches them hospitably].

SAVOYARD. Count O'Dowda, gentlemen. Mr Trotter.

TROTTER. [looking at the Count's costume] Have I the pleasure of meeting
a confrere?

THE COUNT. No, sir: I have no right to my costume except the right of a
lover of the arts to dress myself handsomely. You are most welcome, Mr
Trotter. [Trotter bows in the French manner].

SAVOYARD. Mr Vaughan.

THE COUNT. How do you do, Mr Vaughan?

VAUGHAN. Quite well, thanks.

SAVOYARD. Mr Gunn.

THE COUNT. Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr Gunn.

GUNN. Very pleased.

SAVOYARD. Mr Flawner Bannal.

THE COUNT. Very kind of you to come, Mr Bannal.

BANNAL. Dont mention it.

THE COUNT. Gentlemen, my daughter. [They all bow]. We are very greatly
indebted to you, gentlemen, for so kindly indulging her whim. [The
dressing bell sounds. The Count looks at his watch]. Ah! The dressing
bell, gentlemen. As our play begins at nine, I have had to put forward
the dinner hour a little. May I shew you to your rooms? [He goes out,
followed by all the men, except Trotter, who, going last, is detained by
Fanny].

FANNY. Mr Trotter: I want to say something to you about this play.

TROTTER. No: thats forbidden. You must not attempt to _souffler_ the
critic.

FANNY. Oh, I would not for the world try to influence your opinion.

TROTTER. But you do: you are influencing me very shockingly. You invite
me to this charming house, where I'm about to enjoy a charming dinner.
And just before the dinner I'm taken aside by a charming young lady to
be talked to about the play. How can you expect me to be impartial? God
forbid that I should set up to be a judge, or do more than record an
impression; but my impressions can be influenced; and in this case youre
influencing them shamelessly all the time.

FANNY. Dont make me more nervous than I am already, Mr Trotter. If you
knew how I feel!

TROTTER. Naturally: your first party: your first appearance in England
as hostess. But youre doing it beautifully. Dont be afraid. Every
_nuance_ is perfect.

FANNY. It's so kind of you to say so, Mr Trotter. But that isnt whats
the matter. The truth is, this play is going to give my father a
dreadful shock.

TROTTER. Nothing unusual in that, I'm sorry to say. Half the young
ladies in London spend their evenings making their fathers take them to
plays that are not fit for elderly people to see.

FANNY. Oh, I know all about that; but you cant understand what it means
to Papa. Youre not so innocent as he is.

TROTTER. [remonstrating] My dear young lady -

FANNY. I dont mean morally innocent: everybody who reads your articles
knows youre as innocent as a lamb.

TROTTER. What!

FANNY. Yes, Mr Trotter: Ive seen a good deal of life since I came to
England; and I assure you that to me youre a mere baby: a dear, good,
well-meaning, delightful, witty, charming baby; but still just a wee


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