- Working with Dan Laurence
For a half century and more, Dan Laurence has been a magisterial figure in the world of Shaw scholarship. In his speech in response to the tribute paid to him at the Blacksburg conference on the theme "Shaw and the Last Hundred Years," recalled by Bernard Dukore below, he told the enchanting story of how he first encountered the words of Shaw as a stagestruck adolescent extra in a 1940s Long Island production of Captain Brassbound's Conversion.1 In the introduction to his invaluable two-volume Bibliography, he revealed the occasion in 1952 when he resolved to undertake the marathon task that was to require thirty years of hard labor.2 There are the four volumes of the Collected Letters with their exemplary editing and annotation as a monument to his diligence over the same period. And there are the countless other books and articles with which he enriched and enlivened our knowledge of Shaw's life and work.
Many previous tributes have been paid to Dan's magnificent scholarship, not least of which is a collection of accolades from fellow Shavians presented to him in Blacksburg in 1992. For this occasion, however, we in the International Shaw Society decided that we would focus on just one dimension of his work—the contribution that he has made to so many of us as mentor and collaborator. I was assigned the agreeable task of assembling and editing these recollections of working with Dan Laurence. Included here are veteran Shaw scholars Stanley Weintraub and Bernard Dukore, whose connections with Dan go back to the 1950s; a tribute to Dan's generous assistance from Shaw biographer Tony Gibbs; and personal vignettes from long-term associate Ann Saddlemyer, from the collector Isidor Saslav, and from co-editor James Rambeau. There is also homage from those scholars who have benefited from Dan's help more recently: Sally Peters, Michel Pharand, and Richard Dietrich, president of the International Shaw Society. Within this range of Dan's fellow workers, [End Page 255] I belong to a middle generation, but I will make use of my editor's privilege to get in first with my reminiscence.
In 1982 at the Bernard F. Burgunder Shaw Collection in the Cornell University Library, I came across a substantial cache of letters by Shaw to Lady Gregory. As someone with interests in Irish theater, I was fascinated to realize how close the friendship had been between the two and how much involvement Shaw had with the Abbey. Noting that the letters were not to be used for publication pending an edition by Dan Laurence, I wrote to him asking when it would appear. I received a letter by return inviting me to act as his co-editor. So began a working relationship that resulted eventually, in 1993, in the publication of Shaw, Lady Gregory, and the Abbey: A Correspondence and a Record. Dan supplied me with a full file of the documents: copies not only of the letters but of all sorts of other related archival materials. They were all there, already assembled, simply waiting for him to have time to work on them. My task was to supply annotation on the Irish references and prepare a consistently edited manuscript according to our agreed principles—it was doing this, in fact, that taught me how to use a computer for the first time. Dan remained loyal to his ancient typewriter, firing off his single-spaced, marginless letters and postcards from San Antonio to Dublin with detailed information, comments, and, where necessary, acerbic criticism on the several working drafts.
We did meet up when he was over in London and, memorably, when he came to Ireland and stayed on our family farm in Wicklow. Whole days were given to Shaw/Lady Gregory editorial conferences, only broken by Dan's playing with our then-young children and showering them with sweets. Nothing else could distract him from the business in hand. I vividly remember a later trip on which we made a pilgrimage...