A monologue from the play by George Bernard Shaw

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Doctor’s Dilemma, Getting Married, and The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet. Bernard Shaw. New York: Brentano’s, 1909.

COLLINS: No, maam; marriage didn’t come natural. My wife had to break me into it. It came natural to her: she’s what you might call a regular old hen. Always wants to have her family within sight of her. Wouldn’t go to bed unless she knew they was all safe at home and the door locked, and the lights out. Always wants her luggage in the carriage with her. Always goes and makes the engine driver promise her to be careful. She’s a born wife and mother, maam. That’s why my children all ran away from home. I very often felt inclined to run away myself, but when it came to the point I couldn’t bear to hurt her feelings. She’s a sensitive, affectionate, anxious soul; and she was never brought up to know what freedom is to some people. You see, family life is all the life she knows: she’s like a bird born in a cage, that would die if you let it loose in the woods. When I thought how little it was to a man of my easy temper to put up with her, and how deep it would hurt her to think it was because I didn’t care for her, I always put off running away till next time; and so in the end I never ran away at all. I daresay it was good for me to be took such care of; but it cut me off from all my old friends something dreadful, maam: especially the women, maam. She never gave them a chance; she didn’t indeed. She never understood that married people should take holidays from one another if they are to keep at all fresh. Not that I ever got tired of her, maam; but my! how I used to get tired of home life sometimes. I used to catch myself envying my brother George: I positively did, maam. He married a very fine figure of a woman; but she was that changeable and what you might call susceptible, you would not believe. She didn’t seem to have any control over herself when she fell in love. She would mope for a couple of days, crying about nothing; and then she would up and say–no matter who was there to hear her–“I must go to him, George!”; and away she would go from her home and her husband without with-your-leave or by-your-leave. She done it five times to my own knowledge; and then George gave up telling us about it, he got so used to it. Well, what could he do, maam? Three times out of four the men would bring her back the same evening and no harm done. Other times they’d run away from her. What could any man with a heart do but comfort her when she came back crying at the way they dodged her when she threw herself at their heads, pretending they was too noble to accept the sacrifice she was making. George told her again and again that if she’d only stay at home and hold off a bit they’d be at her feet all day long. She got sensible at last and took his advice. George always liked change of company. You may think her odious–many ladies with a domestic turn thought so and said so, maam. But I will say for Mrs. George that the variety of experience made her wonderful interesting. That’s where the flighty ones score off the steady ones, maam. Look at my old woman! She’s never known any man but me; and she can’t properly know me, because she don’t know other men to compare me with. Of course she knows her parents in–well, in the way one does know one’s parents: not knowing half their lives as you might say, or ever thinking that they was ever young; and she knew her children as children, and never thought of them as independent human beings till they ran away and nigh broke her heart for a week or two. But Mrs. George, she came to know a lot about men of all sorts and ages; for the older she got the younger she liked em; and it certainly made her interesting, and gave her a lot of sense. I have often taken her advice on things when my own poor old woman wouldn’t have been a bit of use to me. All you have to do is mesmerize her a bit; and off she goes into a trance, and says the most wonderful things! not things about herself, but as if it was the whole human race giving you a bit of its mind. Oh, wonderful, maam, I assure you. You couldn’t think of a game that Mrs. George isn’t up to!

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