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

The Vault
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.

Advertisement

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.

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.