George Bernard Shaw's Polite but Firm Autoreply Postcard for Unsolicited Mail

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
March 28 2013 11:00 AM

George Bernard Shaw's Polite but Firm Autoreply Postcard for Unsolicited Mail

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This standard “decline” postcard was one of many that George Bernard Shaw used over his years as a public figure. The playwright and critic, who had a long and successful career, wrote on controversial topics (socialism, education, feminism, the class structure, pacifism, vegetarianism). As a result, he received a lot of unsolicited mail. Form postcards helped him handle that load.

With this 1948 card, the 92-year-old Shaw begs the reader to realize that he is growing older, his audience is large, and “war taxation has set narrow limits to his financial resources.” (With this last, Shaw infuses even this bit of ephemera with his pacifism.) Therefore, he can’t give anyone money, advise young authors, write back to strangers who write him long letters, or accept visitors he doesn’t already know.


In his handwriting, Shaw has edited this draft so that its language is slightly less harsh (he replaces “warnings” with “intimations”), and requested 150 copies of the amended card.

Richard Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation librarian at the Harry Ransom Center, writes that Shaw’s papers at the center contain an entire folder of these postcards, in different colors, many annotated in Shaw’s handwriting. Shaw wasn’t alone in his practice. Oram writes that many authors whose papers are at the center, including Evelyn Waugh and Marianne Moore, used similar form response postcards.

Thanks to Jennifer Tisdale of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

Shaw Postcard

Copyright © The Estate ofBernardShaw. By permission of the Society of Authors, on behalf of the Estate.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.