George Bernard Shaw denies Shaw-Churchill ticket anecdote (1949) [was Exhibit at Morgan Library in NY etc]

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 13 05:00:41 UTC 2012

George Bernard Shaw was contacted by an individual named Derek Tatham
who wished to publish a version of the tickets anecdote. Shaw wrote a
reply to Tatham directly on Tatham's inquiry letter calling the
anecdote "a flat lie". This letter is discussed in the fourth volume
of Shaw's collected letters published in 1988. The date of Shaw's
reply was September 16, 1949.

Cite: 1988, Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters: 1926-1950, Edited by Dan
H. Laurence, Volume 4, [Letter To Derek Tatham; Date: September 16,
1949] Page 856, Viking, New York. (Verified on paper)

[Begin excerpt]

"I intend to use the following story," wrote Derek Tatham (a
journalist ?) to Shaw; "have you any objections? It is said that when
Bernard Shaw's new play . . . was being rehearsed at Malvern, the
author sent Winston Churchill two complimentary tickets suggesting
that the latter may like to use one and give the second to a friend -
if he had one. Mr. Churchill, it is rumoured, thanked the famous
playwright for the tickets and said he would attend the opening
performance. The other ticket he would give to a friend for the second
performance - if there was one." Shaw's reply was written on Tatham's
letter of 15th September.]

The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel which may
possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril, whether in assertion or
contradiction. G. Bernard Shaw

[End excerpt]


On Thu, Aug 9, 2012 at 7:46 AM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Exhibit at Morgan Library in New York reportedly contains
>               important information about Winston Churchill anecdote/quotation
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Update: Richard M. Langworth who edited "Churchill by Himself: The
> Definitive Collection of Quotations" has a blog post on the topic of
> the ticket anecdote. Langworth discusses the letters that repudiate
> the anecdote. He provides short excerpts.
> Based on the excerpt of the Shaw letter it looks like the text is
> available in "Collected Letters: 1926-1950", Volume 4, by Bernard
> Shaw, editor Dan H. Laurence, Viking 1988. I will try to check this
> soon.
> Title: "Bring a Friend - If You Have One" - Untrue
> Date: June 23, 2011
> Website:
> [Begin excerpt]
> .. . Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, has
> just come across an correspondence in a remote corner of the Churchill
> Papers (CHUR 2/165/66,68) in which both Shaw and Churchill deny the
> exchange:
> 鄭 Mr. Tatham writes to George Bernard Shaw on 15 September 1949
> asking to publish the famous exchange with WSC over theatre tickets.
> "Shaw replies: 'The above is not only a flat lie but a political libel
> which may possibly damage me. Publish it at your peril, whether in
> assertion or contradiction.'
> 典atham also writes to Churchill, whose secretary, Elizabeth Gilliatt,
> replies on 16 September 1949 as follows: 蘇e [Churchill] considers Mr.
> Bernard Shaw is quite right in calling the incident to which you refer
> 'a flat lie.'"
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:26 AM, Garson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
>> The Morgan Library and Museum in New York currently is presenting an
>> exhibition called "Churchill: The Power of Words". It runs from June 8
>> through September 23, 2012. An email correspondent told me that the
>> exhibit includes a letter that discusses the famous anecdote involving
>> George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill. Here is one version of the
>> celebrated dialog:
>> Shaw: I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play;
>> bring a friend - if you have one.
>> Churchill: Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second - if
>> there is one.
>> The recent visitor to the exhibit emailed me and stated that: "The
>> Churchill exhibit contains correspondence indicating that this
>> exchange did not occur." He also stated that: "One of the letters is
>> from the late 1940's from a playwright (Coward or Shaw??). Can't
>> recall."
>> Has any list member seen this exhibit? Is anyone planning to see this exhibit?
>> The library has been directly contacted, and I will try to follow this
>> avenue to gain information. But it would be great if someone could
>> visit the exhibit and take a cell-phone picture(s) of the letter(s)
>> and companion description(s) (if the museum allows photographs).
>> Thanks for any help you can provide,
>> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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