small portrait photo

Margaret Wheeler


Margaret wrote this letter to Shaw in 1946, when she was 38 and he was approaching his ninetieth birthday.

Letter to G.B.S.

July 17th 1946

Dear Mr. Shaw,

I have just been struck by a thought that delights me, it is this; that my fan-mail, though small, is very very select; in fact, the most select in all the world, because you write it ! I think with compassion of film-stars and other celebrities burdened with an enormous fan-mail; they must be very bored by it all, while I can sit back and enjoy mine in peace and idleness and with the very comfortable feeling of having only one letter to answer anyway.

But why may I not be addressed by my name? I don't expect you to kick off with "0 moon of my delight" or even "0 bale of effrontery", but if you are persuaded that it would be unbecomingly forward in a man of your years to address me as "Dear Margaret", why then "Dear Mrs. Wheeler" will do just as well. Don't you think that as we have never met, you might observe just this one small convention? You will always be Dear Mr. Shaw to me. I am entirely convinced that at this safe distance - with four hundred miles and fifty years between us - it is quite proper for me to be thus devoted to you.

But I should warn you that your description of yourself (with pathos) as "senile" raises no compassion in my bosom - I am as flint. Senile indeed! Come off it, Mr. Shaw! I don' t believe a word of it - besides, it is so damned unflattering to me.

Do you wish me to think that if you hadn't been in your dotage you'd never have dreamt of letting me sob about my thousand-and-one woes on your shoulder - at long distance of course, and if I have given you rheumatism in that one just wait a moment and I'll cross over to the other? And that reminds me, I have been prevented hitherto from writing you "the usual twenty pages" by a host of things - a trip to Nottingham to see the not-yet-jactitating Fred, and a subsequent (but probably unconnected) bout of chicken-pox amongst my children, coinciding with the arrival of the painters and decorators to do the house from top to bottom and also a sudden passion in myself for taking swims in the Solway and making jam and bottling fruit. And now I see from various effusions in the press that all the world except yourself is preparing to celebrate your ninetieth birthday, and as I dislike very much to be in a crush, I should like, if I may, to wait until all the celebrating is over, and the sound and the fury have died away, and then tell you what happened this time at Nottingham.

This letter is merely an accompaniment to the photograph, which I enclose with my love (and of course, the condolences).

Margaret Wheeler

copyright © Margaret Wheeler 1998
Not for re-publication, sale or distribution.

more about Madge:
[ Margaret Wheeler - short biography ] [ Dear Mr Shaw - text of Epilogue ]

selected texts by Madge:
[ Guardian reprint - Grandma (1964) ]
[ Reminiscences to Sheila (1981) ] [ Letter to G.B.S. (July 1946) ] [ Letter to G.B.S. (Aug. 1946) ]

Margaret's complete literary output throughout the whole of her life is currently being edited for publication, both digitally (in TEI-encoded format), and in conventional (i.e. printed book) form.
Serious enquiries from interested publishers should be sent via e-mail in the first instance.
Editors wishing to commission material on Margaret are welcomed, although journalists and free-lance media "researchers" after no more than free material for a story for their own financial gain will be politely turned away.

Information initially prepared and published by Sheila Bourner & Martin Wheeler
February 2000
to accompany the Channel4 TV social history documentary film series A Family Century

this site © copyright 2008 Martin Wheeler