The first writer whose prose style I ever admired was Bernard Shaw. I was between eleven and twelve years old at the time, and did not arrive at my judgment independently. I was under the influence of my English teacher, the first intellectual I had ever met (other than a second cousin who had published a few verses in the small and evanescent English-language literary journals of Paris in the 1950s), and I and my friends admired him to the point of hero-worship. If he had told us that the greatest novelists who ever lived were Marie Corelli and E. Phillips Oppenheim, we should have defended his opinion to the death, citing his arguments, and the fact that he advanced them, as proof incontrovertible of its truth.

In fact, his attitude to Shaw was little short of ours to him, namely idolatry. He told us that Shaw was the greatest playwright in the English language since Shakespeare, which I thought a far greater accolade then than I think...


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