I decline to sit in a hot room and eat dead animals, even with you to amuse me.
George Bernard Shaw says no.
According to Vivian Elliot in her 1987 book, Dear Mr Shaw, Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw sent somewhere in the region of 250’000 letters and postcards during his lifetime, the majority in response to strangers seeking either advice, money, a photograph, an autograph, or Shaw’s presence at an event. And not all of those replies were in the form of the “decline card” seen above. No, sometimes Shaw generously took time out from his busy schedule to grumpily and with barely any tact send a personalised head shake. Here are just a few.
(See also: The art of saying no.)
My own mother has just had a stroke, Charlotte is blue and gasping for life in paroxysms of asthma and bronchitis; and I am rehearsing no less than three plays. Therefore my reply to your letter is a hollow laugh.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to William Rothenstein 18th September 1912
It would be easier and pleasanter to drown myself.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to West Edinburgh Labour Party 1922
Mr Bernard Shaw has asked me to say that it is more impossible for him to accept the invitation this year than last year, as he had a narrow escape this year from being cremated himself, and must for the present go very slowly in the matter of public speaking.
Blanche Patch (Shaw's secretary) Letter to the Hull Conference of Crematorium Authorities 1926
I am fully conscious of the honour done me by the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh in asking me to lecture; but the condition that my subject should be non-controversial makes it impossible for me to accept the invitation.
I never speak in public except on violently controversial subjects in a violently controversial way.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh 1928
A dinner! How horrible! I am to be made the pretext for killing all those wretched animals and birds and fish! Thank you for nothing. Blood sacrifices are not in my line.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to Archibald Henderson January 1930
Too old. Loathe cricket. No connection with Southwick; don’t even know where it is.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to Southwick Cricket Club December 1938
IMPOSSIBLE. I am 84½. You don’t need an ancient spectre whose artificial teeth fall out every time he tries to pronounce the letter B.
George Bernard Shaw Letter declining an invitation to speak 1940
Never! I decline to sit in a hot room and eat dead animals, even with you to amuse me.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to Miss Macnaughtan 1941
Please note, that I am in my 94th year, and stop bothering and mocking me with ridiculous invitations to dance Scottish reels, and the like. Dine and dance as much as you like, but let me alone.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to the Clan Chattan Association October 1949
A poetry Society that can find no more up-to-date President than an old fogey of 93 is no place for me, nor for you either.
George Bernard Shaw Letter to Marie Stopes 1950