Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface: Bernard ShawBefore His First Play

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pp. 1-4

Shaw was once asked when he first felt “inclined” to be a writer. “I never felt inclined to write,” he said, “any more than I ever felt inclined to breathe. I felt inclined to draw. Michael Angelo was my boyish ideal.” He also thought that he would like to be “a wicked baritone in an opera when I grew up.” Tenors were the romantic leads, but being bad was far more interesting. As a youth he wrote a longvanished...

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1 Passion Without “Passion”: Shaw’s Abortive Jesus Play

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pp. 5-18

Rediscovering his first attempt for the stage, Shaw titled the failed start A Passion Play. Fans of Jesus Christ Superstar (1971) will see remarkable but unintended parallels to the striking early fragment that librettist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber certainly never encountered. In both, Jesus is an inadvertent heartthrob and firebrand, Judas an ambitious tempter and iconoclast, and Mary...

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2 Sketches for a Self-Portrait

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pp. 19-29

When Bernard Shaw was still a young writer he observed from the safety of an anonymous book review that an autobiography was “usually begun with interest by reader and writer alike, and seldom finished by either. Few men care enough about their past to take the trouble of writing its history. Braggarts like Benvenuto Cellini, and morbidly introspective individuals like Rousseau, are the...

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3 G.B.S., Pugilist and Playwright

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pp. 30-41

To celebrate the occasion when, in early 1882, Pakenham Beatty, dilettante poet and gentleman pugilist, became a father, his friend and sparring partner, a lean, red-bearded young Irishman with literary aspirations named Bernard Shaw, composed a commemorative ode. “Hail! many named son of Paquito,” it began, mocking the fact that the infant, like royalty, had been given five Christian...

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4 Bernard Shaw, Diarist

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pp. 42-53

In his final will, signed when he was a month short of ninety-three, Bernard Shaw conveyed to the British Museum what he described as “Such letters and documents as might be worth preserving in a public collection.” He had another destination in mind for his diaries. The first home of the London School of Economics and Political Science had been in an Adelphi Terrace house made available by...

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5 The Garnetts, the Fabians, and The Paradox Club

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pp. 54-58

Aforgotten youthful novel by Edward Garnett, The Paradox Club, furnishes an unusual perspective into the early days of the Fabian Society, particularly into its most fluent member, Bernard Shaw. The young novelist was the son of Richard Garnett, author, literary historian and Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum....

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6 The Embryo Playwright inShaw’s Early Novels

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pp. 59-84

Bernard Shaw’s “lively and talkative spirit,” James Joyce once observed, “cannot stand to be subjected to the noble and bare style appropriate to modern playwriting. Indulging himself in wandering prefaces and extravagant rules of drama, he creates for himself a dramatic form which is much like a dialogue...

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7 Shaw in “Sallust’s House”

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pp. 85-90

Caius Sallustius Crispus is a mysterious and subtle signifier in Bernard Shaw’s writings. As Sallust, the Roman political philosopher appears in only one early work, Shaw’s last completed novel—and there only as the hideaway address of the hero. Shaw’s fifth novel, An Unsocial Socialist, was an apparently foreshortened effort suggesting that he had found more congenial avenues for his ideas. Originally...

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8 A.D. 3,000. The True Report of a CountyCouncil Candidate’s Dream, The PeopleHe Saw, What They Thought of Him, andHe of Them

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pp. 91-98

Unlike his contemporary, H. G. Wells, Bernard Shaw rarely took flights into prophecy. His most significant efforts in that genre would come much later in the fantasies and prophecies of Back to Methuselah (1921), The Apple Cart (1929), The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles (1934), and Farfetched Fables (1948). In some ways, all of his late plays were prophecies. In 1889, however, he was under...

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9 Ballads by Shaw: An Anonymous Star Versifier

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pp. 99-107

Shaw’s identifiable verse confirms that he was an execrable poet. His 1888–1889 attempts were no better and clearly justify his anonymity. Shaw loved to exercise his pen with indifferent poetry, although he recognized that its quality was inferior. His diaries of 1885–1897 are full of references to his compulsive attempts at verse, most of them fortunately never published....

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10 Bernard Shaw, Actor

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pp. 108-115

Charlotte Shaw complained regularly to her husband, “You’re always acting.” “G.B.S.” was Shaw’s most successful and sustained characterization (witness its long run); yet it was not the only role he performed in his long lifetime. To a small degree his acting had once been of the onstage variety....

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11 The Autobiography ofCorno di Bassetto

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pp. 116-131

Bernard Shaw wrote in the Star as the celebrated “Corno di Bassetto” that “My specialties are political hypocrisy and autobiographical musical criticism” (29 November 1889). Shaw’s first paid columns, at a callow twenty, when he was new in London, were unsigned, ghosted music reviews for the short-lived...

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12 In the Victorian Picture Galleries

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pp. 132-171

For nearly a decade Bernard Shaw conducted parallel careers as music critic and art critic, adding to them several others, including that of playwright. Ironically it was in a music review that he emphasized the negative aspects of his encounters with art. His musical notice was “disjointed,” he apologized. “The fact is, I have been at the...

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13 Bernard Shaw Besieged: EarlyProgresses to Oxbridge, 1888–1892

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pp. 172-182

On 18 February 1888, an Irish school dropout named Bernard Shaw, who had never spent a day in college, took the five o’clock train from King’s Cross, en route to Cambridge. His journalism as music and art reviewer for two London papers, plus other occasional writing, kept him just sufficiently solvent to be able to afford to lecture at no fee on socialist issues wherever in England anyone would...

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14 Shaw Becomes a Playwright: July–December 1892

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pp. 183-197

Bernard Shaw often mythologized his own history. How and why he completed his first play, Widowers’ Houses, as he described the episode, became a laid-back affair, accomplished as any genius would have done it. “I came across the manuscript of the play,” he wrote in the March 1893 preface to the first published edition, only nine months after he had rediscovered once more the abandoned two...

Notes

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pp. 198-205

Index

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pp. 206-215