October 11 in Literature: George Bernard Shaw Praises Stalin

The most significant events in the history of books on the 11th of October

1542: Sir Thomas Wyatt dies. He was a pioneer of sonnet-writing in English, one of the first English poets to use the form. We offer a short analysis of one of his most famous sonnets, ‘Whoso List to Hunt’, here.

1931: George Bernard Shaw broadcasts a lecture on US radio in support of Stalin. Earlier in the year, Shaw had visited the USSR and met Joseph Stalin, and now he heartily endorsed the Soviet leader, assuring American listeners than any skilled workman would find work in the USSR. It is thought that a fair few Americans heeded the advice and promptly left the US for Russia – this was the era of the Great Depression, after all.

1925: Elmore Leonard is born. His advice for writers is definitely worth reading, from its opening admonition: George Bernard Shaw‘Never open a book with weather.’ Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously thought otherwise

1962: Anne Enright, author of The Gathering, is born.

1896: Edward White Benson, father of three literary Benson children, dies. His sons included E. F. Benson, author of the Mapp and Lucia books and A. C. Benson, who wrote the lyrics for Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Edward Benson was also the one who gave Henry James the idea for his classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw (1898).

1963: Jean Cocteau dies. As well as writing the 1929 novel Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau was also an important figure in the French avant-garde poetry scene of the 1910s and 1920s. Edith Wharton said he was a man ‘to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundation of the Heavenly City.’

Image: G.B. Shaw at desk with book, 1911; Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Brilliant, as ever. This is my favourite blog on the internet, I say.

  2. Interesting post as always. I don’t know whether they heard Shaw, but certainly many Finnish immigrants who settled in Upper Michigan and Northern Minnesota left the U.S. during the Depression to go to Karelia, a former Finnish province in Russia. They had horrible experiences once they arrived there and books and documentaries have been written about it.

    Tyler Tichelaar

  3. Thanks that was very interesting. I don’t know a great deal about Shaw did he ever change his views on Stalin.