Source of G.B. Shaw quote defining "style"
February 16, 2006 6:46 AM   Subscribe

"It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion." Help me find the source of this G.B. Shaw quote.

As not everyone knows, George Bernard Shaw began his journalism career in 1890s London writing witty music reviews under the name Corno di Bassetto. I think the passage quoted at length below, all I could find via Google, comes from a talk given, after Shaw achieved fame as a playwright, to a French learned society.
"It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion. If you can say a thing with one stroke unanswerably you have style; if not, you are at best a marchand de plaisir; a decorative litterateur, or a musical confectioner, or a painter of fans with cupids and cocottes. Handel has this power. When he sets the words "Fixed in his everlasting seat," the atheist is struck dumb; God is there, fixed in his everlasting seat by Handel, even if you live in an Avenue Paul Bert and despise such superstitions. You may despise what you like, but you cannot contradict Handel. All the sermons of Bossuet could not convince Grimm that God existed. The four bars in which Handel finally affirms "the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," would have struck Grimm into the gutter, as by a thunderbolt. When he tells you that when the Israelites went out of Egypt, "there was not one feeble person in all their tribes," it is utterly useless for you to plead that there must have been at least one case of influenza. Handel will not have it: "There was not one, not one feeble person in all their tribes," and the orchestra repeats it in curt, smashing chords that leave you speechless."

-- no publication source given.
posted by bmckenzie to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
This may or may not be helpful, but here is the relevant Bartleby's attribution, which is sometimes useful in establishing source. I didn't do any independent confirmation.
posted by cacophony at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2006

NYPL Research library has the IHT going back that far, you just might be able to get a librarian to go look it up for you or, depending where you are in New York, go check.
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2006

This page gives the year 1913, but no source.
posted by gubo at 7:41 AM on February 16, 2006

I think this is from Shaw's 'Causerie on Handel in England', first published in Ainslee's Magazine in May 1913, reprinted in an anthology of Shaw's musical criticism entitled How To Become a Musical Critic (1960).
posted by verstegan at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2006

This is probably the source of the IHT article that Bartleby's cites (see page 3). It's a November 15, 1981 review of Shaw's Music: The Complete Musical Criticism in Three Volumes.
posted by gubo at 7:55 AM on February 16, 2006

Second here on verstegan's cite of Causerie on Handel in England.

The book Handel(Master Musicians Series) states "Bernard Shaw summed up this aspect of his genius perceptively" and then quotes the first sentence of your longer text, giving a footnote of "Causerie on Handel in England (London 1913)".
posted by mdevore at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2006

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