In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • In Memoriam:Dan H. Laurence
  • R. F. Dietrich


When news of Dan Laurence's rather disabling fall in 2001 eventually reached London in 2002, where it was thought he was near death's door, I was asked by the London Times to provide an obituary (probably because the TLS had just published a letter of mine commenting on the contretemps with Michael Holroyd). While I did not think Dan was anywhere near that door, and to prove it made a point of getting him to the Shaw Conference in Sarasota in 2004, I understood that it was reasonable for the Times to be prepared. So I wrote the non-e-mailing Dan a letter, telling him how "creeped out" I was by the prospect of writing his obit but inviting him to enjoy the occasion in Shavian fashion by contributing to it. I like to imagine the evil grin that crossed his face as he saw how fitting it was for the arch-Shavian to follow the master in writing his own biography! Then ensued a month of lengthy and intense telephone conversations between us, as Dan kept remembering details that he wanted to get in (he had suffered some memory loss in his fall). I of course couldn't get them all in, even though exceeding the wordage limitation I had been given.

The words below are entirely my own, so I'm not claiming that this is a ventriloquist act, yet it is clear that I went out of my way to understand Dan's take on things, his desire to "set the record straight," and tried hard to convey the Laurentian perspective with a certain amount of editorializing, while hopefully not losing objectivity and balance overall. Not that it mattered. After prodding the Times obituary department ten days after Dan's death (they weren't aware Dan had died, which means they don't read the New York Times obits!) and offering to update the obituary on file with new information, they thanked me for the reminder and the next day [End Page 250] asked me to work from an edited, severely cut version, which I mostly no longer recognized as mine. Yes, a number of sentences in the version published were mine but only after their logic had been removed by moving them around or by removing transitions, and such large chunks had been simply eviscerated that I decided to offer the following to this journal, just for the record. Some will recognize parts of this as echoing Leon Hugo's interview article in SHAW 15, but Dan presented it all as though revelatory, so I took the repetitions as expressing a need for emphasis.

San Antonio, Texas, has been the unlikely hub of the Shavian universe for over thirty years, thanks to the presence of Dan H. Laurence, the Pope of Shaw Studies, who died there on 5 February. Until Laurence's disabling fall in 2001, Shaw scholars were accustomed to a ready and reliable response from him in solving knotty problems of Shavian scholarship, often at incredibly generous lengths that made one wonder how he had the time for it. That he did all his work "by hand," without a computer, was symptomatic of an old-school approach that was quite rigorous in following the rules of the scholarly game as understood in, say, the 1950s, before corrosion set in. It was partly this generally scrupulous attention to the rules that sometimes caused friction between Laurence and others, breaches with publishers, for example, occurring with some frequency. Although not the purist some imagined him, he thought there were times when the rules could and should be bent, as when genuine creativity was at issue.

Laurence's indefatigable pursuit of knowledge about Shaw made a globe-trotter of him, taking him to more than a hundred libraries, most notably that of the British Museum, whose Reading Room had served the young Shaw as his unofficial "university," but also into such curious places as Fleet Street catacombs, where long days were spent in very unpleasant [End Page 251] conditions rescuing data on the brink of vanishing forever. He also visited hundreds of people, many famous...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 250-254
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.