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One day early in the eighteen hundred and sixties, I, being then a small boy, was with my nurse, buying something in the shop of a petty newsagent, bookseller, and stationer in Camden Street, Dublin, when there entered an elderly man, weighty and solemn, who advanced to the counter, and said pompously, 'Have you the works of the celebrated Buffoon?' My own works were at that time unwritten, or it is possible that the shop assistant might have misunderstood me so far as to produce a copy of Man and Superman. As it was, she knew quite well what he wanted; for this was before the Education Act of 1870 had produced shop assistants who know how to read and know nothing else. The celebrated Buffoon was not a humorist, but the famous naturalist Buffon. Every literate child at that time knew Buffon's Natural History as well as Esop's Fables. And no living child had heard the name that has since obliterated Buffon's in the popular consciousness: the name of Darwin.
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BERNARD SHAW was born in Dublin in 1856. Although essentially shy, he created the persona of G. B. S., the showman, satirist, controversialist, critic, pundit, wit, intellectual buffoon and dramatist. Commentators brought a new adjective into English: Shavian, a term used to embody all his brilliant qualities. After his arrival in London in 1876 he became an active Socialist and a brilliant platform speaker. He wrote on many social aspects of the day: on Common Sense about the War (1914), How to Settle the Irish Question (1917) and The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928). He undertook his own education at the British Museum and consequently became keenly interested in cultural subjects. Thus his prolific output included music, art and theatre reviews, which were collected into several volumes such as Music in London 1890-1894 (3 vols, 1931); Pen Portraits and Reviews (1931); and Our Theatres in the Nineties (3 vols, 1931). He also wrote five novels and some shorter fiction, including The Black Girl in Search of God and Some Lesser Tales and Cashel Byron's Profession, both published in Penguin's Bernard Shaw Library. He conducted a strong attack on the London theatre and was closely associated with the intellectual revival of British theatre. His plays fall into several categories: 'Plays Pleasant'; 'Plays Unpleasant'; comedies; chronicle-plays; 'metabiological Pentateuch' (Back to Methuselah, a series of plays); and 'political extravaganzas'. Bernard Shaw died in 1950.
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