Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
22 February 1914

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW,

author (pictured), describes his mother's funeral:

"I must rewrite the burial service; for there are things in it that are deader than anyone it has ever been read over; but I had it read not only because the parson must live by his fees, but because, with all its faults, it is the most beautiful thing that can be read as yet.

At the passage `earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust', there was a little alteration of the words to suit the process. A door opened in the wall; and the violet coffin mysteriously passed out through it and vanished as it closed. I went behind the scenes at the end of the service and saw the real thing. I found there the violet coffin opposite another door, a real, unmistakable furnace door. When it lifted there was a plain little chamber of cement and firebrick. No heat. No noise. No roaring draught. No flame. No fuel. It looked cool, clean, sunny, though no sun could get there. You would have walked in or put your hand in without misgiving. Then the violet coffin moved again and went in, feet first. And behold! The feet burst miraculously into streaming ribbons of garnet- coloured lovely flame, smokeless and eager, like pentecostal tongues, and as the whole coffin passed in it sprang into flame all over; and my mother became that beautiful fire."

24 February 1842

LORD SHAFTESBURY,

philanthropist and reformer, writes in his diary:

"All [the Prime Minister, Sir Robert] Peel's affinities are towards wealth and capital. His heart is manifestly towards the mill-owners; his lips occasionally for the operatives. What has he ever done or proposed for the working classes? His speech of last night was a signal instance of his tendencies.

He suppressed all the delinquencies of the manufacturers, bepraised machinery and treated the distress as severe but temporary. Now he might have said that no small portion of the suffering was caused by the forced immigration of families in 1836, reducing the already low wages, and aggravating the misery, in the stagnation which followed. He might have said, too, that while we cannot interdict machinery, we ought not to be blind to its effects; it may cheapen goods for the consumer, but it pauperises irrevocably thousands of workpeople, who can never resume their position, whatever be the activity of the trade.

In short, the speech was a transcript of his mind: cotton is everything, man nothing!"

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