George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Influential intellectuals have experienced cosmic despair while observing the behavior of humankind. Here are some statements I have heard attributed to Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Kurt Vonnegut, and others:
- This planet is being used as an insane asylum by other planets.
- Beings from other planets are using the Earth as a lunatic asylum.
- The earth is the lunatic asylum of the Universe.
- Earth is an insane asylum to which other planets deport their lunatics.
Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: This is a complex question; hence, QI will split the response into multiple articles, and this article will center on George Bernard Shaw.
In September 1919 a letter from Judge Henry Neil appeared in several newspapers including “The Weekly Freeman” of Dublin, Ireland, the “The Daily Herald” of London England, 1 and the “New York Tribune” of New York, New York. 2
Neil was an exponent of government supplied pensions for widows with children, and he had communicated with George Bernard Shaw who also supported these pensions. Some U.S. states had passed legislation to implement payments, but some lawmakers resisted. Shaw believed that a willingness to provide pensions to “war widows and not to peace widows” was illogical. Inconsistencies of this type led Shaw to state the following according to Neil. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 3
“The longer I live, the more I am inclined to the belief that this earth is used by other planets as a lunatic asylum.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1919 September 11, The Daily Herald, Pensions for Mothers, Quote Page 2, Column 3, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive) ↩
- 1919 September 14, New York Tribune, Section 3: Financial Real Estate News, This Lunatic World, Letter To: Editor of The Tribune, Letter From: Judge Henry Neil, Letter Date: Monday, September 1, 1919, Quote Page 2, Column 6, New York, New York. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1919 September 6, The Weekly Freeman, Shaw’s Reply to Judge Neil, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Dublin, Ireland. (British Newspaper Archive) ↩