Up to Now (autobiography)

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Up to Now
Martin Shaw looking at a photo.JPG
Portrait of Martin Shaw from a series of photographs taken for the frontispiece of Up to Now
AuthorMartin Shaw
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
Media typeHardback

Up to Now is the autobiography of the British composer, conductor and theatre producer Martin Shaw (1875–1958). It was published by Oxford University Press in 1929, when Shaw was 53. His reminiscences cover the early period of his life, his family and upbringing, his early career working with Gordon Craig, Isadora Duncan and Ellen Terry, his marriage, and the development of his work in church music, especially his collaborations with Percy Dearmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams.[1][2] The book contains many anecdotes, largely about Shaw's friends and colleagues in the theatre and music world but also ones relating to other prominent figures such as the British statesman Viscount Grey.[3]

Shaw's book was the first of two autobiographies published in 1929 with the title Up to Now. The second was by the American politician and four-time Governor of New York, Al Smith.[4] As The Times Literary Supplement pointed out, the title promised more to come,[5] but although Shaw lived on for another thirty years, he never published a sequel. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Up to Now continued to be used as a source for biographical works on Gordon Craig, Isadora Duncan and Ellen Terry.[6] Eighty years after its publication, the author's grandson, theatre director Robert Shaw, adapted Up To Now as a 45 minute monologue which was performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Percy Scholes writing in The Oxford Companion To Music, called Up to Now "one of the few books of musical reminiscences possessing literary quality."[8] The Musical Times review began with: "We took up this book with misgiving, feeling somehow that Mr. Shaw was too young to be writing an autobiography. We laid it down (at an hour when we ought to have been asleep) wishing there were lots more of it."[9] The reviewer in Theatre Arts Monthly described Shaw's book as "an entertaining little autobiography, ambling and inconsequent, full of revealing anecdotes", and found the chapters on Gordon Craig and Isadora Duncan the most valuable.[1] The Times Literary Supplement pronounced it "a commendable book of gossip" and likewise praised the anecdotes as well as Shaw's affectionate account of his childhood in Hampstead.[5]


  1. ^ a b Theatre Arts Monthly, Volume 14, No. 86, January 1930, p. 89
  2. ^ Atwell, Robert. "The English Hymnal A Hundred Years On: The View from Primrose Hill" in Strengthen for Service: 100 Years of the English Hymnal 1906-2006, Alan Luff (ed.). Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2005. (reprinted with permission on smvph.org.uk)
  3. ^ Evening Post. "The Bookman: A Good Recovery". Volume CIX, Issue 39, February 15, 1930, p. 21
  4. ^ The Lewiston Daily Sun. "Two Books Same Name". November 28, 1929, p. 4.
  5. ^ a b The Times Literary Supplement. "Review: Martin Shaw, Up to Now". August 29, 1929, p. 669 (reprinted in Book Review Digest, Volume 26. H.W. Wilson Co., 1931, p. 950)
  6. ^ See for example: Irène Eynat-Confino (1987) Beyond the Mask: Gordon Craig, Movement, and the Actor, ISBN 0-8093-1372-3; Michael Burden (2004) "Purcell's operas on Craig's stage: the productions of the Purcell Operatic Society", Early Music, Vol. 32, Issue 3; Ean Wood (2006) Headlong Through Life: The Story of Isadora Duncan, ISBN 1-84624-003-4; Michael Holroyd (2008) A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and their Remarkable Families, ISBN 0-7011-7987-2
  7. ^ Black, Suzanne."Up to Now – Of Limited Appeal", The List, Issue 665, August 25, 2010.
  8. ^ Scholes, Percy. The Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford University Press, 1938, p. 952
  9. ^ The Musical Times. "Review: Up to Now by Martin Shaw". Vol. 70, No. 1040, October 1929, pp. 897-898 (subscription required)

External links[edit]