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George Bernard Shaw

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George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw 1936.jpg
Shaw in 1936
Born (1856-07-26)26 July 1856
Dublin, Ireland
Died 2 November 1950(1950-11-02) (aged 94)
Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Occupation Playwright, critic, political activist
Nationality Irish / British
Alma mater Wesley College, Dublin
Genre Satire, black comedy
Literary movement Ibsenism, naturalism
Notable awards

Nobel Prize in Literature

Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay
1938 Pygmalion
Spouse Charlotte Payne-Townshend (m.1898–1943, her death)


George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was a Nobel-Prize and Oscar-winning Irish playwright, critic and socialist whose influence on Western theatre, culture and politics stretched from the 1880s to his death in 1950. Originally earning his way as an influential London music and theatre critic, Shaw's greatest gift was for the modern drama. Strongly influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he successfully introduced a new realism into English-language drama. He wrote more than 60 plays, among them Man and Superman, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Major Barbara, Saint Joan, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Pygmalion. With his range from biting contemporary satire to historical allegory, Shaw became the leading comedy dramatist of his generation and one of the most important playwrights in the English language since the 17th century.

"Shaw was also the most trenchant pamphleteer since Swift, the most readable music critic in English, the best theatre critic of his generation, a prodigious lecturer and essayist on politics, economics, and sociological subjects, and one of the most prolific letter writers in literature," sums up Stanley Weintraub in the Encyclopædia Britannica.[1] He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925.

As a young man raised in poverty, Shaw embraced socialism and became an early and lifelong force in the Fabian Society, a highly influential British organisation, founded in 1884, to promote a gradual, as opposed to revolutionary, socialism, that was the foundation for the British Labour Party in 1900. He tirelessly wrote and spoke on behalf of its wide-ranging vision to transform British society, advocating a minimum wage for the working-class, universal healthcare, women's right to vote, and the abolition of hereditary privilege. Not quite a pacifist because he justified war when a necessary evil (as in fighting the Nazis in WWII), he worked for a peaceable world and supported the establishment of the League of Nations. He edited the classic text,"Fabian Essays in Socialism" (1889), and helped co-founders Sidney and Beatrice Webb create the London School of Economics and Political Science from a bequest by an early Fabian in 1895. He publicly opposed Britain's entry into both World Wars.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize (Literature, 1925) and an Academy Award (Best Adapted Screenplay, 1938), the first for his contributions to literature and the second for his film adaptation of his most popular play, Pygmalion. The story of a pedantic British linguist who turns a Cockney flower girl into a lady was immortalised after his death in the 1953 Broadway musical, My Fair Lady.[n 1]

Shaw refused all other awards and honours, including the offer of a knighthood.


Shaw's birthplace, Dublin

Early years and family[edit]

George Bernard Shaw was born in 33 Synge Street,[2] Dublin, on 26 July 1856,[3] the only son and youngest of three children of George Carr Shaw (1814–85), a civil servant, and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw (née Gurly; 1830–1913), an aspiring singer and music teacher. He had two sisters, Lucinda Frances (1853–1920), a singer of musical comedy and light opera, and Elinor Agnes (1855–76), who died young of tuberculosis. His father, like most men of that category,[clarification needed] held a civil service title with no real duties or pay and, attempting to surmount this, subsequently failed as a grain merchant. A member of the Anglo-Irish ascendency, Shaw was raised in impoverished gentility, tutored by an uncle in the clergy, and sustained by his mother's love of music, art and literature.[citation needed]


Shaw briefly attended the Wesley College, Dublin, a grammar school operated by the Methodist Church in Ireland, before moving to a private school near Dalkey and then transferring to Dublin's Central Model School. He ended his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. He harboured a lifelong animosity toward schools and teachers, saying, "Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents."[4] In the astringent prologue to Cashel Byron's Profession young Byron's educational experience is a fictionalised description of Shaw's own schooldays. Later, he painstakingly detailed the reasons for his aversion to formal education in his Treatise on Parents and Children.[5]

He considered the standardised curricula useless, deadening to the spirit and stifling to the intellect. He particularly deplored the use of corporal punishment, which was prevalent in his time.[citation needed]


Shaw was fifteen when his parents separated and his mother moved to London with her two daughters. The ideas that Mrs. Shaw and the music teacher Vandeleur Lee, who shared houses with the Shaws in Dublin, were lovers, and that Mrs. Shaw moved to London in order to join Lee, are disputed, partly because Shaw himself did not think they were.[6] Shaw remained behind in Dublin with his father, working discontentedly as a land agent in an estate office.[7] but when his sister Elinor Agnes (called Agnes by the family) succumbed to tuberculosis in 1876, Shaw joined his mother's London household, where she was now teaching music. She never lived in the same house as Vandeleur Lee, nor did she have much social contact with him in London, and there are even suggestions that the only sexual interest Lee had in the Shaw women was with Shaw's sister, Lucy, which created a rift.[citation needed]

Determined to become a writer, Shaw set up at the British Museum, reading voraciously and writing five novels one a year between 1879 and 1883[8] all summarily rejected at first by every publisher who read them. Unable to earn a living (but partly because he turned down paying jobs that did not suit his ambition to be a writer), Shaw spent his 20s in the humiliating position of living on money sent from his father in Dublin and by his mother's giving him free room and board. Even his articles were not published, except for ghost written ones for Vandeleur Lee in the satirical weekly The Hornet. .[9][10]

Not surprisingly, it was during this time that Shaw became involved with the socialist politics that would define his life, becoming a riveting orator, Influenced by his reading and his own poverty. He became a dedicated socialist and an early member of the Fabian Society,[11] which had decided to promote the spread of socialism by gradual reforms rather than the revolutionary overthrow by the working classes which Marx had envisioned;[12] the members who had attempted the latter strategy had found it futile, and decided change could best be accomplished incrementally, from the inside.

It was the Scottish theatre critic for the London World, William Archer, an early supporter of Ibsen and other modernists, who got Shaw his first paying gigs as a critic under his own byline. By the second half of the 1880s, Shaw was self-supporting and gaining respect for his music reviews. When he graduated to theatre critic at the Saturday Review, his acerbic wit and advocacy of modern standards for theatre impressed sophisticated London readers. It was in this new environment, in the dawn of a new century, that Shaw finally abandoned novels and began his first play.


What would become Shaw's first complete and produced play, Widowers' Houses, began in collaboration with the theatre critic William Archer, who had given him his first real break as a theatre critic, but who soon left the project, never to broach playwriting again.[citation needed]

Shaw didn't resume work on it until the powerful impact of Henrik Ibsen's new masterpieces arriving on the London stage in translation in 1890: first, A Doll's House, then Ghosts, It was while preparing to publish his essays on The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891) that Shaw decided to try to finish this first play on his own. He completed it in 1892, and it was produced that same year. Widowers' Houses, a scathing attack on slum landlords, was first performed at London's Royalty Theatre on 9 December 1892. The play eschewed the weary romantic cliches still dominating London theatre, ironically exposing the well-meaning hero's horror as he discovered his dependence on the exploitation of the poor for his own private income and his father-in-law's prospective fortune. Though in later years, Shaw dismissed it as "his worst play," his path was clear.[citation needed]

After writing The Philanderer, a look at love and marriage, Shaw created Mrs. Warren's Profession, his most explosive piece yet. Mrs. Warren's profession is prostitution. Though completed in 1893, it was not performed in London until privately produced in 1902 and not publicly performed until 1925, because the British theatrical censor, the Lord Chamberlain, refused it a licence. Shaw said he wrote the play "to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together."[13]

Not having made any money with his "unpleasant"—as he termed them—first three plays, Shaw turned his hand to what he called "pleasant" fare. These works include Arms and the Man (1894), a lighthearted, though prescient, attack on false patriotism in a Balkan setting, Candida (1894), whose female protagonist must choose between her stolid Christian husband and a poet who's madly in love with her, and You Never Can Tell (1897), a farcical look at modern ideas of love. By now, Shaw had mastered a tone of ironic detachment that wrapped his social exposes in mordant, entertaining wit. He still had trouble establishing himself in England as a playwright, however, and often his work saw productions in the United States and Germany before being performed in London. His first significant financial success came from Richard Mansfield's American production of The Devil's Disciple (1897), set in New Hampshire during the American revolution.[citation needed]

Shaw's plays, like those of Oscar Wilde, contained incisive humour, which was exceptional among playwrights of the Victorian era; both authors are remembered for their comedy.[14] Shaw revolutionised British drama. In the Victorian Era, the London stage had been regarded as a place for frothy, sentimental entertainment. Shaw, indebted to Henrik Ibsen's acerbic, pioneering modern realism, used the stage to probe for moral, political and economic truths. But it was his irresistible ability to make such insights palatable that made him great.[citation needed]

As Shaw's experience and popularity increased, his plays and often-lengthy prefaces (written for published versions of his plays) became more voluble about reforms he advocated, without diminishing their success as entertainments. Such works include Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), where Caesar is portrayed as a credible, moral man rather than a legend, and Man and Superman (1903), which expounds Shaw's philosophy of the "Life Force" forever pulling humanity forward. The latter play includes in its lengthy third act the "Don Juan In Hell" sequence, which is often performed separately.[citation needed]

From 1904 to 1907, several of his plays had their London premieres at the Royal Court Theatre, managed by Harley Granville-Barker and J. E. Vedrenne who had first banded together to present his Candida in 1904. His British reputation was made during a Royal Court production of what is today a lesser-known work, John Bull's Other Island (1904), when King Edward VII laughed so hard during a command performance that he broke his chair.[15]

Two other major plays written for the Royal Court Theatre were Major Barbara (1905), dealing with a moral issues relating to the munitions industry and the Salvation Army, and The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), Shaw's self-styled tragedy that satirizes the medical profession.[citation needed]

By the 1910s, Shaw was a well-established playwright. New works such as Fanny's First Play (1911) and Pygmalion (1912), had long runs in front of large London audiences. Shaw had permitted a musical adaptation of Arms and the Man (1894) called The Chocolate Soldier (1908), but he had a low opinion of German operetta. He insisted that none of his dialogue be used, and that all the character names be changed, although the operetta actually follows Shaw's plot quite closely, in particular preserving its anti-war message. The work proved very popular and would have made Shaw rich had he not waived his royalties, but he detested it and for the rest of his life forbade musicalization of his work, including a proposed Franz Lehár operetta based on Pygmalion. Several of his plays formed the basis of musicals after his death, most famously the musical My Fair Lady, which is officially adapted from the screenplay of the film version of Pygmalion rather than the original stage play, keeping the film's ending. Librettist Alan Jay Lerner kept generous chunks of Shaw's dialogue, and the characters' names, unchanged.[citation needed]

During World War I--which Shaw opposed—he wrote one of his darkest and most highly-regarded works, Heartbreak House, a less than flattering look at the cultured class in England, and indeed, Europe, before the War. It was not presented, however, until after the War. He followed it with his longest and most ambitious work, Back To Methuselah, made up of five related plays that do nothing less than attempt to tell the story of humanity from its beginning to its future. Shaw declared it his masterpiece, though most critics did not agree.[citation needed]

Next Shaw wrote what is generally conceded to be his last great work, Saint Joan (1923), inspired by her canonization in 1920. He would continue writing plays until his death in 1950, and see some commercial successes, such as his contemplation on political leadership The Apple Cart (1929), but his work from this period tends to be revived far less than his earlier pieces.[citation needed]

Shaw and the Irish Literary Revival[edit]

Shaw’s rise to success coincided with the Irish Literary Revival in Irish-based drama and literature (although usually in English), led by figures such as W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, James Joyce, and later Sean O’Casey. Indeed the play that made Shaw’s name in England, John Bull’s Other Island, was set back in Ireland, and commissioned by Yeats for his new Dublin-based Abbey Theatre, but rejected: "Yeats and Synge did not feel that Shaw belonged to the real Irish tradition. His plays would thus have no place in the Irish theatre movement. Additionally, an important part of Shaw's plays was political argument, and Yeats detested this quality in dramatic writing."[16] Like Joyce, Shaw felt rather stifled by the movement: the play had been written at the request of "Mr William Butler Yeats as a patriotic contribution to the Repertory of the Irish Literary Theatre. Like most people who have asked me to write plays Mr Yeats got rather more than he bargained for...It was uncongenial to the whole spirit of the neo-Gaelic movement, which is bent on creating a new Ireland after its own ideal, whereas my play is a very uncompromising presentment of the real old Ireland."[17]

World War One[edit]

George Bernard Shaw opposed Britain's involvement in the First World War. His provocative pamphlet, Common Sense About the War, appeared as the trenches were being dug across France, in a 14 November 1914 supplement to the New Statesman, founded just the year before by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Shaw savaged every nation's pretexts that had brought on the conflict, but particularly the British: "The general truth of the situation is, as I have spent so much of my life in trying to make the English understand, that we are cursed with a fatal intellectual laziness, an evil inheritance from the time when our monopoly of coal and iron made it possible for us to become rich and powerful without thinking or knowing how."[18] He singled out former Fabian H.G. Wells for providing a rallying war cry against Germany for the public. He argued in a far-sighted plea that "England, France, and Germany solemnly pledge themselves to maintain the internal peace of the west of Europe," something for which the E.U. won the Nobel Peace Prize a century later.[citation needed]

Shaw's impassioned prose sold more than 75,000 copies of the fledgling magazine by the end of the year. The New York Times reprinted it in full, followed by several heated rebukes of Shaw's arguments from both sides of the Atlantic, including H.G. Well's reply and Rudyard Kipling's, and concluding with Shaw's "Open Letter To President Wilson," to use his influence as a neutral and get all major powers out of Belgium and back to their own borders.[citation needed]

As a result, Shaw became a well-known international figure. "Mr. Bernard Shaw's "Common Sense About the War" is the talk of the town, and it deserves to be," wrote Arnold Bennet in the Times, "Shaw says many things no one else would have dared to say, breaking the unearthly silence... on such subjects as recruiting, treatment of soldiers and sailors' dependents, secret diplomacy, militarism, Junkerism, churches, Russia, peace terms, and disarmament. It contains the most magnificent, brilliant, and convincing common sense that could possibly be uttered".[18] But his anti-war speeches were banned from a number of newspapers. The Dramatists' Club expelled him.[citation needed]

Other writing[edit]

See List of works by George Bernard Shaw for listings of his novels and plays, with links to their electronic texts, if those exist.

The International Shaw Society provides a detailed chronological listing of Shaw's writings.[19] See also George Bernard Shaw, Unity Theatre.[20]

Shaw is known to have written more than 250,000 letters.[21] Along with Fabian Society members Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Graham Wallas, Shaw founded the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1895 with funding provided by private philanthropy, including a bequest of £20,000 from Henry Hunt Hutchinson to the Fabian Society. One of the libraries at the London School of Economics is named in Shaw's honour; it contains collections of his papers and photographs.[22] Shaw helped to found the left-wing magazine New Statesman in 1913 with the Webbs and other prominent members of the Fabian Society.[23]


Shaw around 1900 (aged 44).

Shaw became a critic of the arts when, sponsored by William Archer, he joined the reviewing staff of the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885.[24] There he wrote under the pseudonym "Corno di Bassetto" ("basset horn")—chosen because it sounded European and nobody knew what a corno di bassetto was. In a miscellany of other periodicals, including Dramatic Review (1885–86), Our Corner (1885–86), and the Pall Mall Gazette (1885–88) his byline was "GBS".[25] From 1895 to 1898, Shaw was the drama critic for his friend Frank Harris's Saturday Review, in which position he campaigned brilliantly to displace the artificialities and hypocrisies of the Victorian stage with a theatre of actuality and thought. His earnings as a critic made him self-supporting as an author and his articles for the Saturday Review made his name well-known.[citation needed]

George Bernard Shaw was highly critical of Victorian-era productions of Shakespeare, and specifically denounced the dramatic practice of editing Shakespeare's plays, whose scenes tended to be cut in order to create "acting versions". He singled out 19th-century actor Sir Henry Irving for this practice, in one of his reviews:

In a true republic of art, Sir Henry Irving would ere this have expiated his acting versions on the scaffold. He does not merely cut plays; he disembowels them. In Cymbeline he has quite surpassed himself by extirpating the antiphonal third verse of the famous dirge. A man who would do that would do anything –cut the coda out of the first movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, or shorten one of Velázquez's Philips into a kitcat to make it fit over his drawing room mantelpiece.[citation needed]

Shavian scholar John F. Matthews credits him with the disappearance of the two-hundred-year-old tradition of editing Shakespeare into "acting versions".[26]

Shaw in 1909 (aged 53).
Shaw photographed by the press in 1909 (aged 53).

He had a very high regard for both Irish stage actor Barry Sullivan's and Johnston Forbes-Robertson's Hamlets, but despised John Barrymore's. Barrymore invited him to see a performance of his celebrated Hamlet, and Shaw graciously accepted, but wrote Barrymore a withering letter in which he all but tore the performance to shreds. Even worse, Shaw had seen the play in the company of Barrymore's then wife, but did not dare voice his true feelings about the performance aloud to her.[27]

Much of Shaw's music criticism, ranging from short comments to the book-length essay The Perfect Wagnerite, extols the work of the German composer Richard Wagner.[28] Shaw considered Wagner's four-part opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen, a work of genius and reviewed its London premieres in detail. Beyond the music, he saw it as an allegory of social evolution where workers, driven by "the invisible whip of hunger", seek freedom from their wealthy masters. Wagner did have socialistic sympathies, as Shaw carefully points out, but made no such claim about his opus. In the then-raging controversy of Wagner vs. Brahms, as a dramatist Shaw favored the histrionics of Wagner's Nordic myths to the far more cerebral music of Brahms, who never wrote an opera. deriding A German Requiem by saying "it could only have come from the establishment of a first-class undertaker".[29] Although he found Brahms lacking in intellect, he praised his musicality, saying "... nobody can listen to Brahms' natural utterance of the richest absolute music, especially in his chamber compositions, without rejoicing in his natural gift". In the 1920s, he recanted, calling his earlier animosity towards Brahms "my only mistake".[28] Shaw's writings about music gained great popularity because they were understandable to the average well-read audience member of the day, thus contrasting starkly with the dourly pretentious pedantry of most critiques in that era.[30] All of his music critiques have been collected in Shaw's Music.[31] As a drama critic for the Saturday Review, a post he held from 1895 to 1898, Shaw championed Henrik Ibsen whose realistic plays scandalised the Victorian public. His influential Quintessence of Ibsenism was written in 1891.[32]


Eventually all of Shaw's five completed novels written at the start of his career (1879-1883) and turned down at first were published, although the first, Immaturity, only made it into the Constable Collected Editions in the 1930s, the other four doing well enough and at least one, Cashel Byron's Profession, being something of a hit. Regardless of what good reading they are, how prophetic they are, and innovative, they have not been considered part of Shaw's major works.[citation needed]

The first to be printed was Cashel Byron's Profession (1886),[33] which was written in 1882. Its eponymous character, Cashel, a rebellious schoolboy with an unsympathetic mother, runs away to Australia where he becomes a famed prizefighter. He returns to England for a boxing match, and falls in love with erudite and wealthy Lydia Carew. Lydia, drawn by sheer animal magnetism, eventually consents to marry despite the disparity of their social positions. This breach of propriety is nullified by the unpresaged discovery that Cashel is of noble lineage and heir to a fortune comparable to Lydia's. With those barriers to happiness removed, the couple settles down to prosaic family life with Lydia dominant; Cashel attains a seat in Parliament. In this novel Shaw first expresses his conviction that productive land and all other natural resources should belong to everyone in common, rather than being owned and exploited privately. The book was written in the year when Shaw first heard the lectures of Henry George who advocated such reforms.[citation needed]

Shaw in 1925 (aged 69), when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

Written in 1883, An Unsocial Socialist was published in 1887.[34] The tale begins with a hilarious description of student antics at a girl's school then changes focus to a seemingly uncouth laborer who, it soon develops, is really a wealthy gentleman in hiding from his overly affectionate wife. He needs the freedom gained by matrimonial truancy to promote the socialistic cause, to which he is an active convert. Once the subject of socialism emerges, it dominates the story, allowing only space enough in the final chapters to excoriate the idle upper class and allow the erstwhile schoolgirls, in their earliest maturity, to marry suitably.[citation needed]

Love Among the Artists was published in the United States in 1900 and in England in 1914,[35] but it was written in 1881. In the ambiance of chit-chat and frivolity among members of Victorian polite society a youthful Shaw describes his views on the arts, romantic love and the practicalities of matrimony. Dilettantes, he thinks, can love and settle down to marriage, but artists with real genius are too consumed by their work to fit that pattern. The dominant figure in the novel is Owen Jack, a musical genius, somewhat mad and quite bereft of social graces. From an abysmal beginning he rises to great fame and is lionized by socialites despite his unremitting crudity.[citation needed]

The Irrational Knot was written in 1880 and published in 1905.[36] Within a framework of leisure class preoccupations and frivolities Shaw, disdains hereditary status and proclaims the nobility of workers. Marriage, as the knot in question, is exemplified by the union of Marian Lind, a lady of the upper class, to Edward Conolly, always a workman but now a magnate, thanks to his invention of an electric motor that makes steam engines obsolete. The marriage soon deteriorates, primarily because Marian fails to rise above the preconceptions and limitations of her social class and is, therefore, unable to share her husband's interests. Eventually she runs away with a man who is her social peer, but he proves himself a scoundrel and abandons her in desperate circumstances. Her husband rescues her and offers to take her back, but she pridefully refuses, convinced she is unworthy and certain that she faces life as a pariah to her family and friends. The preface, written when Shaw was 49, expresses gratitude to his parents for their support during the lean years while he learned to write and includes details of his early life in London.[citation needed]

Shaw's first novel, Immaturity, was written in 1879 but was the last one to be printed in 1931.[37] It relates tepid romances, minor misfortunes and subdued successes in the developing career of Robert Smith, an energetic young Londoner and outspoken agnostic. Condemnation of alcoholic behaviour is the prime message in the book, and derives from Shaw's familial memories. This is made clear in the books's preface, which was written by the mature Shaw at the time of its belated publication. The preface is a valuable resource because it provides autobiographical details not otherwise available.[citation needed]

Short stories[edit]

Shaw writing in a notebook at the time of first production of his play Pygmalion in 1914 (aged 58).

A collection of Shaw's short stories, The Black Girl in Search of God and Some Lesser Tales, was published in 1934.[38] The Black Girl, an enthusiastic convert to Christianity, goes searching for God. In the story, written as an allegory, somewhat reminiscent of Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Shaw uses her adventures to expose flaws and fallacies in the religions of the world. At the story's happy ending, the Black Girl quits her searchings in favour of rearing a family with the aid of a red-haired Irishman who has no metaphysical inclination.

One of the Lesser Tales is The Miraculous Revenge (1885), which relates the misadventures of an alcoholic investigator while he probes the mystery of a graveyard—full of saintly corpses—that migrates across a stream to escape association with the body of a newly buried sinner.

Shaw's outlook was changed by World War I; which he uncompromisingly opposed, despite incurring outrage from the public as well as from many friends. His first full-length piece, presented after the War, written mostly during it, was Heartbreak House (1919). A new Shaw had emerged—the wit remained, but his faith in humanity had dwindled. In the preface to Heartbreak House he said:

It is said that every people has the Government it deserves. It is more to the point that every Government has the electorate it deserves; for the orators of the front bench can edify or debauch an ignorant electorate at will. Thus our democracy moves in a vicious circle of reciprocal worthiness and unworthiness.[39]

The movable hut in the garden of Shaw's Corner, where Shaw wrote most of his works after 1906, including Pygmalion.

Shaw had previously supported gradual democratic change toward socialism, but now he saw more hope in government by benign strong men. This sometimes made him oblivious to the dangers of dictatorships. Near his life's end that hope failed him too. In the first act of Buoyant Billions (1946–48), his last full-length play, his despairing protagonist asks:

Why appeal to the mob when ninetyfive per cent of them do not understand politics, and can do nothing but mischief without leaders? And what sort of leaders do they vote for? For Titus Oates and Lord George Gordon with their Popish plots, for Hitlers who call on them to exterminate Jews, for Mussolinis who rally them to nationalist dreams of glory and empire in which all foreigners are enemies to be subjugated.[40]

In 1921, Shaw completed Back to Methuselah, his "Metabiological Pentateuch". The massive, five-play work starts in the Garden of Eden and ends thousands of years in the future; it showcases Shaw's postulate that a "Life Force" directs evolution toward ultimate perfection by trial and error. Shaw proclaimed the play a masterpiece, but many critics disagreed. The theme of a benign force directing evolution reappears in Geneva (1938), wherein Shaw maintains humans must develop longer lifespans in order to acquire the wisdom needed for self-government.[citation needed]

Methuselah was followed by Saint Joan (1923), which is generally considered to be one of his greatest works. Shaw had long considered writing about Joan of Arc, and her canonisation in 1920 supplied a strong incentive. The play was an international success, and is believed to have led to his Nobel Prize in Literature.[41]

He wrote plays for the rest of his life, but very few of them were as successful—or were as often revived—as his earlier work. The Apple Cart (1929) was probably his most popular work of this era. Later full-length plays like Too True to Be Good (1931), On the Rocks (1933), The Millionairess (1935), and Geneva (1938) have been seen as marking a decline. His last significant play, In Good King Charles's Golden Days has, according to St. John Ervine,[42] passages that are equal to Shaw's major works.[citation needed]

Shaw's published plays come with lengthy prefaces. These tend to be more about Shaw's opinions on the issues addressed by the plays than about the plays themselves. Often his prefaces are longer than the plays they introduce. For example, the Penguin Books edition of his one-act The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet (1909) has a 67-page preface for the 29-page playscript.

The texts of plays by Shaw mentioned in this section, with the dates when they were written and first performed, can be found in Complete Plays and Prefaces.[43]


In a letter to Henry James dated 17 January 1909,[44] Shaw said,

I, as a Socialist, have had to preach, as much as anyone, the enormous power of the environment. We can change it; we must change it; there is absolutely no other sense in life than the task of changing it. What is the use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods.[45]

Thus he viewed writing as a way to further his humanitarian and political agenda. His works were very popular because of their comedic content, but the public tended to disregard his messages and enjoy his work as pure entertainment. He was acutely aware of that. His preface to Heartbreak House (1919) attributes its rejection to the need of post-World War I audiences for frivolities, after four long years of grim privation, more than to their inborn distaste of instruction. His crusading nature led him to adopt and tenaciously hold a variety of causes, which he furthered with fierce intensity, heedless of opposition and ridicule. For example, Common Sense about the War (1914) lays out Shaw's strong objections at the onset of World War I.[46] His stance ran counter to public sentiment and cost him dearly at the box-office, but he never compromised.[47]

Shaw joined in the public opposition to vaccination against smallpox, calling it "a peculiarly filthy piece of witchcraft",[48] despite having nearly died from the disease in 1881. In the preface to Doctor's Dilemma he made it plain he regarded conventional medical treatment as dangerous quackery that should be replaced with sound public sanitation, good personal hygiene and diets devoid of meat. Shaw became a vegetarian when he was twenty-five, after hearing a lecture by H.F. Lester.[49] In 1901, remembering the experience, he said "I was a cannibal for twenty-five years. For the rest I have been a vegetarian."[50] As a staunch vegetarian, he was a firm anti-vivisectionist and antagonistic to cruel sports for the remainder of his life. The belief in the immorality of eating animals was one of the Fabian causes near his heart and is frequently a topic in his plays and prefaces. His position, succinctly stated, was "A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses."[51]

As well as plays and prefaces, Shaw wrote long political treatises, such as Fabian Essays in Socialism (1889),[52] and The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1912),[53] a 495-page book detailing all aspects of socialistic theory as Shaw interpreted it. Excerpts of the latter were republished in 1928 as Socialism and Liberty,[54] Late in his life he wrote another guide to political issues, Everybody's Political What's What (1944).

Correspondence and friends[edit]

Shaw corresponded with an array of people, many of them well known. His letters to and from Mrs. Patrick Campbell were adapted for the stage by Jerome Kilty as Dear Liar: A Comedy of Letters,[55] as was his correspondence with the poet Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas (the intimate friend of Oscar Wilde), into the drama Bernard and Bosie: A Most Unlikely Friendship by Anthony Wynn. His letters to the prominent actress, Ellen Terry,[56] to the boxer Gene Tunney,[57] and to H.G. Wells,[58] have also been published. Eventually the volume of his correspondence became insupportable, as can be inferred from apologetic letters written by assistants.[59] Shaw campaigned against the executions of the rebel leaders of the Easter Rising, and he became a personal friend of the Cork-born IRA leader Michael Collins, whom he invited to his home for dinner while Collins was negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Lloyd George in London. After Collins's assassination in 1922, Shaw sent a personal message of condolence to one of Collins's sisters. He much admired (and was admired by) G. K. Chesterton.[60] When Chesterton died, Shaw mourned his death in a poignant letter to Chesterton's widow; he had always expected that he would predecease Chesterton, being the latter's senior by almost two decades.

Shaw also enjoyed a (somewhat stormy) friendship with T.E. Lawrence, the British Army officer renowned for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, as well as the Arab Revolt, which Lawrence memorialised in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence even used the name "Shaw" as his nom de guerre when he joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman in the 1920s.

Another friend was the composer Edward Elgar, whose work Shaw revered. Though Elgar was a Conservative, they had interests, besides music, in common. For instance, both opposed vivisection. Elgar dedicated one of his late works, The Severn Suite, to Shaw; and Shaw exerted himself (eventually with success) to persuade the BBC to commission from Elgar a third symphony: though this piece remained incomplete at Elgar's and Shaw's deaths a version has since been successfully completed and performed. Shaw's correspondence with the motion picture producer Gabriel Pascal, who was the first to bring Shaw's plays successfully to the screen and who later tried to put into motion a musical adaptation of Pygmalion, but died before he could realise it, is published in a book titled Bernard Shaw and Gabriel Pascal.[61] A stage play by Hugh Whitemore, The Best of Friends, provides a window on the friendships of Dame Laurentia McLachlan, OSB (late Abbess of Stanbrook) with Sir Sydney Cockerell and Shaw through adaptations from their letters and writings. A television adaptation of the play, aired on PBS, starred John Gielgud as Cockerell, Wendy Hiller as Laurentia, and Patrick McGoohan as Shaw. It is available on DVD.

Perhaps Shaw's most personally revealing and definitely most voluminous letter correspondence, though, was with his fellow playwright and intimate childhood friend, Mathew Edward McNulty.[62] The very small extant fragment of this correspondence is housed in the Rare Book Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


Shaw bought his first camera in 1898 and was an active amateur photographer until his death in 1950. Before 1898 Shaw had been an early supporter of photography as a serious art form. His non-fiction writing includes many reviews of photographic exhibitions such as those by his friend Alvin Langdon Coburn.

The photographs document a prolific literary and political life – Shaw's friends, travels, politics, plays, films and home life. It also records his experiments with photography over 50 years and for the photographic historian provides a record of the development of the photographic and printing techniques available to the amateur photographer between 1898 and 1950.

The collection is currently the subject of a major project, Man & Cameraman,[63] which will allow online access to thousands of photos taken by Shaw.


Shaw was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) for his contributions to literature. The citation praised his work as "... marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty".[64] Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of fellow playwright August Strindberg's works from Swedish to English.[65]

At this time Prime Minister David Lloyd George was considering recommending to the King Shaw's admission to the Order of Merit, but the place was instead given to J. M. Barrie.[41] Shaw rejected a knighthood.[41] It was not until 1946 that the government of the day arranged for an informal offer of the Order of Merit to be made: Shaw declined, replying that "merit" in authorship could only be determined by the posthumous verdict of history.[41]

In 1938, Shaw was awarded an Oscar for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name). The Academy Award was jointly shared with Ian Dalrymple, Cecil Lewis and W.P. Lipscomb, who had also worked on adapting Shaw's script.[66]

Political, social, and religious views[edit]

Shaw declined to stand as an MP, but in 1897 was elected as a local councillor to the St Pancras Vestry as a Progressive. With the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras in 1900 Shaw was elected as a borough councillor but dismissed any party label, with the statement "I have not yet discovered the party that is anxious to claim me as its representative." [67][68] To solve that problem, that same year saw the birth of the Labour Party, of which Shaw was a founding member.

He resigned from the council at the next election in 1903 as "in his view, the only perfect Council should consist of millionaires and labourers" and he was neither.[69]

Shaw asserted that each social class strove to serve its own ends, and that the upper and middle classes won in the struggle while the working class lost. He condemned the democratic system of his time, saying that workers, ruthlessly exploited by greedy employers, lived in abject poverty and were too ignorant and apathetic to vote intelligently.[70] He believed this deficiency would ultimately be corrected by the emergence of long-lived supermen with experience and intelligence enough to govern properly. He called the developmental process elective breeding but it is sometimes referred to as shavian eugenics, largely because he thought it was driven by a "Life Force" that led women — subconsciously — to select the mates most likely to give them superior children.[71] The outcome Shaw envisioned is dramatised in Back to Methuselah, a monumental play depicting human development from its beginning in the Garden of Eden until the distant future.[72]

In 1882, influenced by Henry George's view that the rent value of land belongs to all, Shaw concluded that private ownership of land and its exploitation for personal profit was a form of theft, and advocated equitable distribution of land and natural resources and their control by governments intent on promoting the commonwealth. Shaw believed that income for individuals should come solely from the sale of their own labour and that poverty could be eliminated by giving equal pay to everyone. These concepts led Shaw to apply for membership of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), led by H. M. Hyndman who introduced him to the works of Karl Marx. Shaw never joined the SDF, which favoured forcible reforms. Instead, in 1884, he joined the newly formed Fabian Society, which accorded with his belief that reform should be gradual and induced by peaceful means rather than by outright revolution.[73] Shaw was an active Fabian. He wrote many of their pamphlets,[52] lectured tirelessly on behalf of their causes and provided money to set up The New Age, an independent socialist journal. As a Fabian, he participated in the formation of the Labour Party. The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism[53] provides a clear statement of his socialistic views. As evinced in plays like Major Barbara and Pygmalion, class struggle is a motif in much of Shaw's writing.

Oscar Wilde was the sole literary signator of Shaw's petition for a pardon of the anarchists arrested (and later executed) after the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886.[74]

Shaw opposed the execution of Sir Roger Casement in 1916. He wrote a letter "as an Irishman"[75] to The Times, which they rejected, but it was subsequently printed by both the Manchester Guardian on 22 July 1916, and by the New York American on 13 August 1916.

Early Support of the USSR[edit]

After visiting the USSR in 1931 and meeting Joseph Stalin, Shaw praised his achievements there—this despite his Fabian Society's having been founded in direct opposition to the Bolshevik premise of violent overthrow as the only means of revolution. On 11 October 1931, at the height of the Great Depression, he broadcast a lecture on American national radio telling his audience that any 'skilled workman ... of suitable age and good character' would be welcomed and given work in the Soviet Union.

Shaw continued this support for Stalin's system in the preface to his play On the Rocks (1933) writing:

But the most elaborate code of this sort would still have left unspecified a hundred ways in which wreckers of Communism could have sidetracked it without ever having to face the essential questions: are you pulling your weight in the social boat? are you giving more trouble than you are worth? have you earned the privilege of living in a civilised community? That is why the Russians were forced to set up an Inquisition or Star Chamber, called at first the Cheka and now the Gay Pay Oo (Ogpu), to go into these questions and "liquidate" persons who could not answer them satisfactorily.[76]

Yet, Shaw defends "the sacredness of criticism":

Put shortly and undramatically the case is that a civilisation cannot progress without criticism, and must therefore, to save itself from stagnation and putrefaction, declare impunity for criticism. This means impunity not only for propositions which, however novel, seem interesting, statesmanlike, and respectable, but for propositions that shock the uncritical as obscene, seditious, blasphemous, heretical, and revolutionary.[77]

In an open letter to the Manchester Guardian in 1933, he dismissed reports - later proved to be true - of the man-made Ukrainian Genocide as slanderous, and equated it with the hardships then current in the West during the Great Depression:

We desire to record that we saw nowhere evidence of such economic slavery, privation, unemployment and cynical despair of betterment as are accepted as inevitable and ignored by the press as having "no news value" in our own countries."[78]

In the preface to On The Rocks he wrote:

It sounds simple; but the process requires better planning than is always forthcoming (with local famines and revolts as the penalty); for while the grass grows the steed starves; and when education means not only schools and teachers, but giant collective farms equipped with the most advanced agricultural machinery, which means also gigantic engineering works for the production of the machinery, you may easily find that you have spent too much on these forms of capitalisation and are running short of immediately consumable goods, presenting the spectacle of the nation with the highest level of general culture running short of boots and tightening its belt for lack of sufficient food.
I must not suggest that this has occurred all over Russia; for I saw no underfed people there; and the children were remarkably plump. And I cannot trust the reports; for I have no sooner read in The Times a letter from Mr Kerensky assuring me that in the Ukraine the starving people are eating one another, than M. Herriot, the eminent French statesman, goes to Russia and insists on visiting the Ukraine so that he may have ocular proof of the alleged cannibalism, but can find no trace of it. Still, between satiety and starvation mitigated by cannibalism there are many degrees of shortage; and it is no secret that the struggle of the Russian Government to provide more collective farms and more giant factories to provide agricultural machinery for them has to be carried on against a constant clamor from the workers for new boots and clothes, and more varied food and more of it: in short, less sacrifice of the present to the future.[77]

He wrote a defence of Lysenkoism in a letter to Labour Monthly, in which he asserted that an "acquired characteristic" could be heritable, writing of Lysenko: "Following up Michurin's agricultural experiments he found that it is possible to extend the area of soil cultivation by breeding strains of wheat that flourish in a sub-Arctic climate, and transmit this acquired characteristic to its seed." He added:

Lysenko is on the right side as a Vitalist; but the situation is confused by the purely verbal snag that Marx called his philosophy Dialectical Materialism. Now in Russia Marx is a Pontif; and all scientists who do not call themselves Materialists must be persecuted. Accordingly, Lysenko has to pretend that he is a Materialist when he is in fact a Vitalist; and thus muddles us ludicrously. Marxism seems to have gone as mad as Weismannism; and it is no longer surprising that Marx had to insist that he was not a Marxist.[79]

Despite Shaw's scepticism about the creation of the Irish Free State, he was supportive of Éamon de Valera's stance on the Second World War, including his policy of refusing to fall in line with the Allies' demand for neutral countries to deny asylum to Axis war criminals during the war.[80] According to Shaw "The voice of the Irish gentleman and Spanish grandee was a welcome relief from the chorus of retaliatory rancor and self-righteousness then deafening us".[81]


Shaw delivered speeches on the theory of eugenics and he became a noted figure in the movement in England.[82] Unusually, his eugenics included marriage between different races and across classes.

Shaw's play Man and Superman (1903) has been said to be "invested with eugenic doctrines" and "an ironic reworking" of Nietzsche's concept of Übermensch.[82][83] The main character in the play, John Tanner, is the author of "The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion", which Shaw published along with his play. The Revolutionist's Handbook includes chapters on "Good Breeding" and "Property and Marriage". In the "Property and Marriage" section, Tanner writes:

To cut humanity up into small cliques, and effectively limit the selection of the individual to his own clique, is to postpone the Superman for eons, if not for ever. Not only should every person be nourished and trained as a possible parent, but there should be no possibility of such an obstacle to natural selection as the objection of a countess to a navvy or of a duke to a charwoman. Equality is essential to good breeding; and equality, as all economists know, is incompatible with property.

In this Shaw was managing to synthesise eugenics with socialism, his best-loved political doctrine. This was a popular concept at the time.[84]

Shaw in 1905

When, in 1910, Shaw wrote that natural attraction rather than wealth or social class should govern selection of marriage partners, the concept of eugenics did not have the negative connotations it later acquired after having been adopted by the Nazis of Germany.[85] Shaw sometimes treated the topic in a light-hearted way, pointing out that if eugenics had been thought about some generations previously, he himself may not have been born, so depriving humanity of his great contributions.[86] He seems to have maintained his opinion throughout his life.[85]

As with many of the topics that Shaw addressed, but particularly so in his examination of the "social purity" movement, he used irony, misdirection and satire to make his point.

In a newsreel interview released on 5 March 1931, dealing with alternatives to the imprisonment of criminals, Shaw says

You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can't justify your existence, if you're not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you're not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organisations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can't be of very much use to yourself.[87][88]

Shaw often used satiric irony to mock those who took eugenics to inhumane extremes and commentators have sometimes failed to take this into account.[89][90] Some noticed that this was an example of Shaw satirically employing the reductio ad absurdum argument against the eugenicists' wilder aspirations: The Globe and The Evening News recognised it as a skit on the dreams of the eugenicists, though many others in the press took his words out of their satirical context. Dan Stone of Liverpool University writes: "Either the press believed Shaw to be serious, and vilified him, or recognised the tongue-in-cheek nature of his lecture".[90][91]


In his will, Shaw stated that his "religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative revolution."[92] He requested that no one should imply that he accepted the beliefs of any specific religious organization, and that no memorial to him should "take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice."[92]

Gary Sloan summarises Shaw's religious views as follows:

Until he was thirty or so, Shaw called himself an Atheist. He became one, he later quipped, before he could think. He adjudged the doctrines of the Church of Ireland, which he attended as a child, unintelligible or absurd. Since the first of its Thirty-nine Articles describes god as "without body, parts, or passions," he waggishly theorized that the church was atheistic. An incomprehensible god, he opined, was tantamount to no god. In 1875, he blazoned his Atheism abroad. In a letter to Public Opinion, a Dublin newspaper, he announced "with inflexible materialistic logic, and to the extreme horror of my respectable connections, that I was an atheist." In Immaturity, the first of five novels he wrote in his twenties, the young protagonist, obviously Shaw's alter ego, walks pensively in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey: "His hushed step, impressive bearing, and reflective calm, marked him as a confirmed freethinker."
In "The New Theology," he prepped his audience: "When you are asked, 'Where is God? Who is God?' stand up and say, 'I am God and here is God, not as yet completed, but still advancing towards completion, just in so much as I am working for the purpose of the universe, working for the good of the whole society and the whole world, instead of merely looking after my personal ends."' God "would provide himself with a perfectly fashioned and trustworthy instrument. And such an instrument would be nothing less than God himself."[93]


A statue of Shaw in Niagara-on-the-Lake

In his old age, Shaw was a household name in English-speaking countries, and was famed throughout the world. His ironic wit endowed English with the adjective "Shavian", used to characterise observations such as: "My way of joking is to tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world." Concerned about the vagaries of English spelling, Shaw willed a portion of his wealth (probated at £367,233 13s)[94] to fund the creation of a new phonemic alphabet for the English language.[95] However, the money available was insufficient to support the project, so it was neglected for a time. This changed when his estate began earning significant royalties from the rights to Pygmalion after My Fair Lady—the musical adapted from Pygmalion by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe—became a hit. However, the Public Trustee found the intended trust to be invalid because its intent was to serve a private interest instead of a charitable purpose, and as a non-charitable purpose trust, it could not be enforced because it failed to satisfy the beneficiary principle.[96] In the end an out-of-court settlement granted only £8600 for promoting the new alphabet, which is now called the Shavian alphabet. The National Gallery of Ireland, RADA and the British Museum all received substantial bequests.

Personal life[edit]

The front of Shaw's Corner as it stands today

Shaw had avoided matrimony until his early 40s, when he met Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Anglo-Irish heiress and free-spirited feminist who had already rejected several aristocratic suitors in her determination not to be shackled to a conventional Victorian marriage. Befriended by one of the Fabian Society's founders, Beatrice Webb, Charlotte joined the society and created a scholarship for women at LSE. Beatrice introduced them in 1897, and though immediately attracted to each other, Shaw encouraged Charlotte's independence even after she proposed in a letter that July. But he eventually acquiesced and they married in 1898; both were in their early 40's. A vibrant rebel who shared Shaw's radical politics for social change, Charlotte became indispensable to Shaw's work: she deciphered his shorthand, learned to type, took dictation and helped him prepare his plays and articles for press. In 1906, the Shaws moved into a house, now called Shaw's Corner, in Ayot St. Lawrence, a small village in Hertfordshire, England; it was to be their home for the remainder of their lives, along with a pied-à-terre at 29 Fitzroy Square in London.

Though quite possibly their marriage was technically unconsummated, it was an enduring and affectionate one, and his wife's work was essential to the rest of his career. He managed a number of discreet affairs throughout his adult life, though his most famous crush, with the leading lady of the British stage, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, was also chaste, at her insistence; the two carried on a lengthy, torrid correspondence which Shaw refused to allow her to publish, for fear of hurting his wife.

Shaw's home, now called Shaw's Corner, in the small village of Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, is a National Trust property, open to the public.

Final years[edit]

During his later years, Shaw enjoyed attending to the grounds at Shaw's Corner. At 91 he joined the Interplanetary Society for the last three years of his life.[97] He died at the age of 94,[98] of renal failure precipitated by injuries incurred by falling while pruning a tree.[99] He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 6 November. His ashes, mixed with those of his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, were scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden.[100][101][102] The Shaw Theatre, Euston Road, London, opened in 1971, was named in his honour.[103] Near its entrance, opposite the new British Library, a contemporary statue of Saint Joan commemorates Shaw as author of that play.

The Shaw Festival, an annual theatre festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, began as an eight-week run of Don Juan in Hell (as the long third act dream sequence of Man And Superman is called when staged alone) and Candida in 1962, and has grown into an annual festival with over 800 performances a year, dedicated to producing the works of Shaw and his contemporaries. The portrait of Shaw located at Niagara-on-the-Lake was commissioned by hotelier Si Wai Lai and sculpted by Dr. Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook, CM (1913–2009).[104][105]

He is also remembered as one of the pivotal founders of the London School of Economics, whose library is now called the British Library of Political and Economic Science. The Fabian Window, designed by Shaw, hangs in the Shaw Library in the main building of the LSE.



Short stories[edit]



Musical criticism[edit]

  • Music in London 1890–94. Criticism Contributed Week by Week to the World. 3 vols, 1932.
  • London Music in 1888–89 as Heard by Corno di Bassetto (later known as Bernard Shaw) with Some Further Autobiographical Particulars, 1937. Contains important, some 30 pages long, preface by Shaw.
  • Collected Music Criticism. New York: Vienna House, 1973. 4 vols. Reprints the two titles above.
  • How to Become a Musical Critic. Rupert Hart-Davis, 1960. Edited and with Introduction by Dan H. Laurence. Previously uncollected pieces on music written between 1883 and 1950.
  • Shaw's Music: The Complete Musical Criticism Of Bernard Shaw. The Bodley Head, Paperback, 1989. 3 vols. Second Revised Edition. Edited by Dan H. Laurence. Definitive edition.
    • Vol. 1: 1876–1890. Editor's Introduction and Notes, including one to the Second Edition.
    • Vol. 2: 1890–1893.
    • Vol. 3: 1893–1950. General Index to all volumes.
      • Note. First published in hardback in 1981. The Second Revised Edition was published only in paperback and it differs from the earlier one by only four short pieces [Dan H. Laurence, 'Editor's Note to the Second Edition'].
  • Shaw on Music. Applause, 2000. Edited by Eric Bentley. Fine, thematically organised selection, mostly from Shaw's professional criticism (1889–1894).
  • The Perfect Wagnerite (1898). Dover edition, 1967. Reprint of the Fourth Edition (1923). Contains the prefaces to the first three editions.


  • Shaw v. Chesterton, a debate between George Bernard Shaw and G. K. Chesterton (2000) Third Way Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-9535077-7-7. E-text
  • Do We Agree, a debate between G. B. Shaw and G. K. Chesterton with Hilaire Belloc as chairman (1928)

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Al Gore also won a Nobel Prize (but not for Literature), and starred in an Academy Award-winning documentary, but the latter was not awarded to him personally.
  1. ^ "George Bernard Shaw". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  2. ^ a b "Virtual Tour of Shaviana". The Sagittarius Literature Digitizing Program. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Chesterton, G. K. (1909). "The Progressive". George Bernard Shaw. New York: J Lane & Co. OCLC 1931298. 
  4. ^ George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Anglo-Irish playwright, critic. Letter, 7 August 1919, to Thomas Demetrius O'Bolger. Sixteen Self Sketches: Biographers' Blunders Corrected, pp. 89–90. Constable and Co., London (1949)
  5. ^ Shaw, Bernard (1914). Misalliance, the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, and Fanny's First Play. With a Treatise on Parents and Children. London: Constable and Co. p. 210. 
  6. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1988). Bernard Shaw. Vol. I. New York: Random House. pp. 49–51. ISBN 0-394-52577-9  and Gibbs, A.M. (2005). Bernard Shaw: A Life. University Press of Florida. pp. 16–17, 19–36, 463–64. ISBN 0-8130-2859-0. 
  7. ^ Mazer, Cary M. "Bernard Shaw: a Brief Biography". University of Pennsylvania's English Department. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  8. ^ Richard Farr Dietrich (1996). Bernard Shaw's Novels: Portraits of the Artist as Man and Superman. University Press of Florida. pp. 1–7. 
  9. ^ Morrow, Laurie. "The Playwright in Spite of Himself". The World & I. Retrieved 3 July 2007. [dead link]
  10. ^ Minney, R. J. (1969). The Bogus Image of Bernard Shaw. London: Leslie Frewin. p. 18. 
  11. ^ Pease, Edward R. (2004). The History of the Fabian Society. Translated by Cajander, Paavo. Project Gutenberg. ISBN 1-84702-433-5. Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  12. ^ Margaret Cole (1961). The Story of Fabian Socialism. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804700917. 
  13. ^ Powell, Kerry (2004). The Cambridge companion to Victorian and Edwardian theatre. Cambridge University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-521-79536-4.
  14. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1991). Bernard Shaw Vol. III The Lure of Fantasy. New York: Random House, Inc. pp. 190–194. ISBN 0-394-57554-7. 
  15. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1997). Bernard Shaw. The One-Volume Definitive Edition. New York: Random House, Inc. p. 311. ISBN 0-09-096280-X. 
  16. ^ Peter Kavanagh, The Story of the Abbey Theatre: From Its Origins in 1899 to the Present, Devin-Adair, New York, 1950, p.55.
  17. ^ Violet M. Broad & C. Lewis Broad, Dictionary to the Plays and Novels of Bernard Shaw, A. & C. Black, London, 1929, p.53
  18. ^ a b "The Project Gutenberg eBook of Current History, The European War Volume I, by The New York Times Company.". 
  19. ^ Pharand, Michael (2004). "Chronology of (Shaw's) Works". International Shaw Society. Retrieved 15 August 2007. 
  20. ^ "George Bernard". 
  21. ^ Laurence, Dan H. (1965). Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters, 1874–1897. London & Beccles: William Clowes & Sons, Ltd. Introduction xi. 
  22. ^ "Bernard Shaw papers at LSE Archives". London School of Economics Library. Retrieved 29 March 2008. [dead link]
  23. ^ "From the archive: 9 April 1913: Launching the New Statesman" republished in The Guardian, Wednesday 9 April 2008.
  24. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1949). Sixteen Self Sketches: Nine Years of Failure as a Novelist Ending in Success as Critic. London: Constable and Company, Ltd. pp. 39–41. 
  25. ^ Cox, Gareth. "Shaw and the Don". Limerick Philosophical Society. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  26. ^ Matthew, John F. (1969). George Bernard Shaw. USA: Columbia University Press. pp. 16–17. 
  27. ^ Bernard Shaw (2002). Edwin Wilson, ed. Shaw on Shakespeare: An Anthology of Bernard Shaw's Writings on the Plays and Production of Shakespeare. ISBN 9781557835611. 
  28. ^ a b Shaw, George Bernard (1909). The Perfect Wagnerite. New York: Brentano's. Brahms p. 143. ISBN 0-14-043261-2. 
  29. ^ Thuleen, Nancy. "Ein deutsches Requiem: Misconceptions of the Mass". Nancy Thuleen's Official Website. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  30. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1988). Bernard Shaw, Volume I (1856–1898). New York: Random House. pp. 230–246. ISBN 0-394-52577-9. 
  31. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1981). Laurence, Dan H., ed. Shaw's Music. London: Bodley Head Ltd. ISBN 0-370-30249-4. 
  32. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1891). The Quintessence of Ibsenism. New York: Brentano's. ISBN 0-14-043261-2. 
  33. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1886). Cashel Byron's Profession. London: The Modern Press. 
  34. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1887). An Unsocial Socialist. London: Swan Sonnenschein, Lowry & Co. 
  35. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1900–1914). Love Among the Artists. Chicago & London: Herbert Stone & Co. 
  36. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1905). The Irrational Knot, Being the Second Novel of His Nonage (revised). New York: Brentano's. 
  37. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1931). Immaturity. London: Constable. 
  38. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1934). The Black Girl in Search of God and Some Lesser Tales. London: Constable. 
  39. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1962). Bernard Shaw: Complete Works with Prefaces, Volume I. The Public Trustee (Executor of Shaw's Estate). New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 452. 
  40. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1962). Bernard Shaw: Complete Works with Prefaces, Volume I, Act I. The Public Trustee (Executor of Shaw's Estate). New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 757. 
  41. ^ a b c d Martin, Stanley (2007). "George Bernard Shaw". The Order of Merit: one hundred years of matchless honour. London: Taurus. p. 484. ISBN 978-1-86064-848-9. 
  42. ^ Ervine, St. John (1949). Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work and Friends. London: Constable and Company Limited. p. 383. 
  43. ^ Shaw, Bernard (1963). Complete Plays and Prefaces, Volumes I–VI. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. 
  44. ^ Shaw, Bernard (1972). Dan H. Laurence, ed. Collected Letters, 1898–1910. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 827–8. 
  45. ^ "George Bernard Shaw". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 3 June 2007. [dead link]
  46. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (29 November 1914). "Common Sense About the War" (PDF). The New York Times. 
  47. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1989). Bernard Shaw Vol. II The Pursuit of Power. New York: Random House, Inc. p. 354. ISBN 0-394-57553-9. 
  48. ^ Shaw, Bernard (1965). Collected Letters: 1874–1897. p. 448. 
  49. ^ Henderson, Archibald (1956). George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc. ISBN 0-306-71491-4. 
  50. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1949). Who I am, and What I think: Sixteen Self Sketches. Constable. 
  51. ^ Pearson, Hesketh (1963). Bernard Shaw: His Life and Personality. Atheneum Press. ISBN 0-689-70149-7. 
  52. ^ a b Shaw, George Bernard (1889). Fabian Essays in Socialism. New York: The Humboldt Publishing Co. Retrieved 12 September 2007. 
  53. ^ a b Shaw, George Bernard (1928). Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Communism. New York: Bretano's Publishers. 
  54. ^ "Socialism and Liberty". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 13 July 2007. 
  55. ^ Kilty, Jerome (1960). Dear liar; a comedy of letters adapted by Jerome Kilty from the correspondence of Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 95. 
  56. ^ St. John, Cristopher (1931). Ellen Terry and Bernard Shaw: A Correspondence. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons: Knickerbocker Press. p. 334. 
  57. ^ Green, Benny (1978). Shaw's champions : G. B. S. & prizefighting from Cashel Byron to Gene Tunney. London: Elm Tree Books. p. 210. ISBN 0-241-89735-1. 
  58. ^ Smith, J. Percy, ed. (1995). Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-8020-3001-7. 
  59. ^ "Mr. Shaw regrets". Boston College Magazine. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  60. ^ The e-text of their famed debate, Shaw V. Chesterton is available, as is a book, Shaw V. Chesterton, a debate between the two men.
  61. ^ Dukore, Bernard F., ed. (September 1996). Bernard Shaw and Gabriel Pascal: Selected Correspondence of Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3. University of Toronto Press. p. 224. ISBN 0-8020-3002-5. 
  62. ^ Shaw Interviews and Recollections, A.M. Gibbs, ed., University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, © 1990, p. 17 and Michael Holyroyd, Bernard Shaw, Random House, NY © 1988, Vol. 1, p. 37
  63. ^ Man and Cameraman – revealing the photographic legacy of George Bernard Shaw[dead link]. Archived July 25, 2014 at the Wayback Machine[dead link]
  64. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1925". Nobel Media AB. 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  65. ^ Gibbs, A. M. (2005). Bernard Shaw: A Life. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. pp. 375–376. ISBN 0-8130-2859-0. 
  66. ^ Burton, Alan; Chibnall, Steve (2013), Historical Dictionary of British Cinema, Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts, Scarecrow Press, p. xxiv, ISBN 9780810880269 
  67. ^ George Bernard Shaw (1 November 1900). "To the Editor of the Morning Post". The Morning Post. p. 3. 
  68. ^ "The Municipal Elections". The Morning Post. 3 November 1900. p. 2. 
  69. ^ "Our London Letter". Derby Daily Telegraph. 30 October 1903. 
  70. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1930). An UnsocialSocialist. New York: Wm. H. Wise & Company. p. 269. 
  71. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1969). Man and Superman. Lewis Casson (Intro.). New York: Heritage Press. 
  72. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (2007). Back to Methuselah—a Metabiological Penateuch. Hicks press. p. 388. ISBN 1-4086-3104-0. 
  73. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1949). Sixteen Self Sketches: How I Became a Public Speaker. London: Constable and Company, Ltd. p. 58. 
  74. ^ Ellmann, Richard (1988). Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books.
  75. ^ Shaw, GB. "Letter from GB Shaw". Stephen-Stratford. Retrieved 26 September 2008. 
  76. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1934). "On The Rocks". 
  77. ^ a b Shaw, George Bernard (1934). "On The Rocks". 
  78. ^ "Letters to the Editor: Social Conditions in Russia by George Bernard Shaw, published in The Manchester Guardian, 2 March 1933". Gareth Jones' Memorial Website. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  79. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (January 1949). "The Lysenko Muddle". Labour Monthly. 
  80. ^ Griffith, Gareth (1992). Socialism and Superior Brains: The Political Thought of George Bernard Shaw. London: Routledge. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-415-08281-5. 
  81. ^ Shaw, G. B. (1962). The matter with Ireland. London: Hart-Davis. p. 289. OCLC 644062672. 
  82. ^ a b Kevles, Daniel J. (1995). In the name of eugenics: genetics and the uses of human heredity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-674-44557-0. 
  83. ^ Spinks, Lee (2003). Friedrich Nietzsche. New York: Routledge. p. 155. ISBN 0-415-26359-X. 
  84. ^ Searle, Geoffrey Russell (1976). Eugenics and politics in Britain, 1900–1914. Groningen, Netherlands: Noordhoff International. pp. 58; 113. ISBN 978-90-286-0236-6. 
  85. ^ a b Baker, Stuart (2002). "Ethics, Economics, and Government". Bernard Shaw's remarkable religion: a faith that fits the facts. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. pp. 169–170. ISBN 0-8130-2432-3. That word [eugenics] has acquired some highly unpleasant baggage, so we need to explain carefully what it is that Shaw meant by the term, which is capable of producing near-hysterical reactions in otherwise levelheaded people. These people seem to believe that because eugenics was evoked to justify Nazi genocide, eugenics must necessarily be evil. The well-intentioned people who wished to rid the world of congenital defects cannot be held responsible for racists who promoted genocide, and the attempt to tar Shaw with that brush is simply stupid. His statements on eugenics were consistent throughout his life: he maintained, first, that better breeding was essential and, second, that only the Life Force could be trusted to select the pairs. 
  86. ^ Rao, Mohan (2004). From population control to reproductive health: Malthusian arithmetic. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. p. 95. ISBN 0-7619-3285-2. 
  87. ^ "George Bernard Shaw reopens capital punishment controversy". Paramount British Pictures. 5 March 1931. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  88. ^ A transcript was prepared for Fox News:Beck, Glenn (25 January 2010). "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die". Fox News. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  89. ^ Kevles, Daniel J. (1995). In the name of eugenics: genetics and the uses of human heredity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-520-05763-0. Shaw ... did not spare the eugenics movement his unpredictable mockery ... [he] acted the outrageous buffoon at times. 
  90. ^ a b Stone (2002: 127)
  91. ^ Searle (1976: 92): "This was widely felt to be a joke in the worst possible taste".
  92. ^ a b "Religion: Creative Revolutionary". Time. 4 December 1950. a paragraph from his will made it clear where the author ... stood on the question of religion 
  93. ^ Gary Sloan, "The religion of George Bernard Shaw: when is an Atheist?", published in American Atheist Magazine, Autumn 2004
  94. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1998). Bernard Shaw: A Biography. Vintage. 
  95. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1997). Bernard Shaw: The One-Volume Definitive Edition, Appendix. New York: Random House, Inc. p. 794. ISBN 0-375-50049-9. 
  96. ^ Mowbray Q.C., John. "Chapter 03: Trusts Created Expressly". Todd & Watt's Cases and Materials on Equity and Trusts. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2008. 
  97. ^ Arthur Clarke, The challenge of the Spaceship (Pocket Book edition, New York 1980, p. 13–14, note).
  98. ^ Obituary Variety, 8 November 1950, page 71.
  99. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1991). Bernard Shaw. The Lure of Fantasy: 1918–1951. Random House, New York. pp. 509–511. ISBN 0-394-57554-7. 
  100. ^ Holyroyd, p. 515.
  101. ^ Tyson, Brian (1982). The Story of Shaw's Saint Joan. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-7735-8513-3. 
  102. ^ The National Trust. "Shaw's Corner". Retrieved 9 April 2006. 
  103. ^ Off Westend Theatres, London. "Shaw's Theatre". Retrieved 9 April 2006. 
  104. ^ Holmes, Katherine, ed. (1986). Celebrating Twenty-Five Years on the Stage at the Shaw Festival. Erin Canada: Boston Mills Press. ISBN 0-919783-48-1. 
  105. ^ Chilibeck, Grace (2009). Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook. Canada: Canadian Art Publications. 
  106. ^ A Manifesto


  • Brown, G.E. "George Bernard Shaw". Evans Brothers Ltd, 1970
  • Chappelow, Alan. "Shaw the Villager and Human Being — a Biographical symposium", with a preface by Dame Sybil Thorndike (1962). "Shaw — the 'Chucker-Out", 1969. ISBN 0-404-08359-5
  • Elliot, Vivian. "Dear Mr Shaw Selections from Bernard Shaw's postbag" Bloomsbury, 1987 ISBN 0-7475-0256-0 . With an introduction by Michael Holroyd
  • Evans, T.F. "Shaw: The Critical heritage". The Critical Heritage series. Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1976
  • Gibbs, A.M (Ed.). "Shaw: Interviews and Recollections".
  • Gibbs, A.M. "Bernard Shaw, A Life". University of Florida Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8130-2859-0
  • Henderson, Archibald. "Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet". D. Appleton & Co., 1932
  • Holroyd, Michael (Etd). "The Genius of Shaw: A symposium", Hodder & Stoughton, 1979
  • Holroyd, Michael. "Bernard Shaw: The One-Volume Definitive Edition", Random House, 1998. ISBN 978-0-393-32718-2
  • Hubenka, Lloyd J. (Editor). "Bernard Shaw: Practical Politics: Twentieth-century views on politics and economics". University of Nebraska Press, 1976
  • Minney, R.J. "The Bogus Image of Bernard Shaw". London, Frewin, 1969. ISBN 0-09-096280-X
  • Ohmann, Richard M. "Shaw: The Style and the Man". Wesleyan University Press, 1962. ASIN: B000OKX9H2
  • Owen, Harold. "Common sense about the Shaw". George Allen and Unwin, 1915
  • Peters, Sally. "Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman". Yale University Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0-300-06097-3
  • Rider, Dan. "Adventures with Bernard Shaw". Morley and Mitchell Kennerley Junior.
  • Smith, J. Percy. "Unrepentant Pilgrim: A study of the development of Bernard Shaw". Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1965
  • Stone, Dan (2002). Breeding superman: Nietzsche, race and eugenics in Edwardian and interwar Britain. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-0-85323-997-0. 
  • Strauss, E. "Bernard Shaw: Art and Socialism". Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1942
  • Weintraub, Stanley. "Bernard Shaw 1914–1918: Journey to Heartbreak". Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973
  • Weintraub, Stanley. "The Unexpected Shaw: Biographical approaches to G.B.S and his work". Frederick Ungar Publishing Co, 1982 ISBN 0-8044-2974-X
  • West, Alick. "A good man fallen among Fabians: A study of George Bernard Shaw" Lawrence and Wishart, 1974 ISBN 978-0-85315-288-0
  • Watson, Barbara Bellow: "A Shavian Guide to the intelligent woman". Chatto and Windus, 1964
  • Wilson, Colin. "Bernard Shaw: A Reassessment". Athenum, 1969.
  • Winsten, Stephen. "Jesting Apostle: The Life of Bernard Shaw". Hutchinson and Co Ltd, 1956
  • Winsten, Stephen. "Salt and his circle: With a preface by Bernard Shaw". Hutchinson and Co Ltd, 1951

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Anton Lang
Cover of Time Magazine
24 December 1923
Succeeded by
Anthony Fokker