G.B.S. was 'Brother
Bernard' to nun THE close friendship between sir. George Bernard Shaw and a cloistered Benedictine nun was revealed in correspondence published in Washington for the first time last week.
The nun was Abbess Lauren tie McLachlan of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcestershire, who died in 1953, three years after the death of Shaw.
1 he letters between the nun and G.B.S.. edited by the Sisters at the abbey, appear in the July issue of The Atlantic, a monthly magazine. The correspondence, which was carried on over a period of 26 years, will form par; of a book, In a Great Tradition.
Shaw's letters to the Abbess, usually signed " Brother Bernard." reveal a little-known side of Shaw. 'Elle Sisters who edited the letters said Shaw showed himself "surprisingly alive to the implications of the contemplative life and to the freedom paradoxically symbolised by the double iron grille."
" When we are next touring your neighbourhood." Shaw once wrote the Abbess. " I shall again shake your bars and look longingly at the freedom on the other side of them."
Sir Sydney Cockerel!, who was a friend of Shaw's, accompanied him on one of his numerous visits to the convent. He said he saw on that occasion a G.B.S. almost unknown to the outside world.
" I never saw him so abashed by anyone but William Morris," he remarked many years later to a member of the community. " With Morris and your dear Abbess he was on his good behaviour, and seemed to admit that he was in the presence of a being superior to himself."
'OUR SECRET At the end of one long letter to Sister Laurentia. Shaw said: " I . find great solace in writing to you instead of to all the worldly people whose letters are howling to be answered."
The supposedly agnostic Shaw once sent Dame Laurentia a little stone from Bethlehem which, he said, "certainly existed when the feet of Jesus pattered about on it and the feet of Mary pursued him to keep him in order."
When the Sister, in thanking him, suggested that he write an inscription for the reliquary containing the stone, G.B.S. replied: "Why can it not be a secret between us and Oul. Lady and her little boy ? "
The nun-editors, commenting on a letter Shaw wrote to the Abbess which described in great detail his tour of the Holy Land said:
" Such a perfectly sincere letter strives after no effect, yet is notably pervaded with an extraordinary feeling for Christian tradition. The writer shows himself as sensitive to visual impressions and religious emotions• as the most orthodox could wish.
Yet the letter bears evidence of inward conflict . . . Unconsciously perhaps, the man who set such store by 'mystical assumptions' would have been glad to believe, but the fierce logician in him could not become a humble child and accept faith when he met it."
WISE NUN Dame Laurentia McLachlan, who was of Scots Highland Catholic stock, died in August. 1953. at the age of 87. She was described by Sir Ivor Atkins in the imes as "one of the greatest in line of English Abbesses" — a woman of "ripe scholarship and lovely personality."
And Sir Sydney Cockerel, a non-Catholic, wrote at the time of her death: " A very great Lady is dead. In the course of a long life I have known no woman at once so wise, so learned. so saintly and SO brimful of kindness and compassion."
Dame Laurentia left her convent only four times in nearly 70