George Bernard Shaw on birds in hair

Boing Boing reminded me about "Letters of Note," a website that publishes scans and transcriptions, with accompanying context, of letters by famous or historically significant people.  I scrolled through, and stopped at this one, by George Bernard Shaw, in 1905 -- in which he complained to The Times about his experience at the opera.

On Saturday night I went to the Opera. I wore the costume imposed on me by the regulations of the house. I fully recognize the advantage of those regulations. Evening dress is cheap, simple, durable, prevents rivalry and extravagance on the part of male leaders of fashion, annihilates class distinctions and gives men who are poor and doubtful of their social position (that is, the great majority of men) a sense of security and satisfaction that no clothes of their own choosing could confer, besides saving a whole sex the trouble of considering what they should wear on state occasions. [...]

[...] Now let me describe what actually happened to me at the Opera. Not only was I in evening dress by compulsion, but I voluntarily added many graces of conduct as to which the management made no stipulation whatever. I was in my seat in time for the first chord of the overture. I did not chatter during the music nor raise my voice when the Opera was too loud for normal conversation. [...] In short, my behavior was exemplary.

At 9 o'clock (the Opera began at 8) a lady came in and sat down very conspicuously in my line of sight. [... T]his lady, who had very black hair, had stuck over her right ear the pitiable corpse of a large white bird, which looked exactly if someone had killed it by stamping on the beast, and then nailed it to the lady's temple, which was presumably of sufficient solidity to bear the operation. [...] I presume that if I had presented myself at the doors with a dead snake round my neck, a collection of black beetles pinned to my shirtfront, and a grouse in my hair, I should have been refused admission. [...] I once, in Drury Lane Theatre, sat behind a matinee hat decorated with the two wings of a seagull, artificially reddened at the joints so as to produce the illusion of being freshly plucked from a live bird. But even that lady stopped short of a whole seagull. [...]

I suggest to the Covent Garden authorities that, if they feel bound to protect their subscribers against the dangers of my shocking them with a blue tie, they are at least equally bound to protect me against the danger of a woman shocking me with a dead bird.

The whole letter is excellent, and you should definitely read it if you like indignant humor.