Penn State University Press

[Some Principal Shaw Research Sources]

The University of Guelph theater archives consist of over one hundred collections, most of them of Canadian theaters and Canadian theater artists. The Guelph archives comprise easily the largest collection of Canadian theater materials anywhere. Early on, however, in the development of the archives, it was determined that there would also be a Shaw focus. This was a relatively easy decision since one of the largest theater companies in North America is the Shaw Festival, located less than a two-hour drive from Guelph. It also happened that the Shaw Festival, unlike the Stratford Festival (the largest theater company in Canada), had never taken steps to establish a formal archive, and so the invitation from Guelph to the Festival in 1983 to deposit its archives at the University was gratefully accepted.

The Shaw Festival began in the summer of 1962 with four performances of Don Juan in Hell and four performances of Candida. Under the leadership of artistic director Christopher Newton (appointed in 1979), the Festival has developed into what the Cambridge Guide to Theatre (1995) describes as “home to one of the finest acting ensembles in North America,” with a mandate (recently modified to include plays about, or set in the period of, Shaw’s lifetime) to stage the plays of Shaw and his contemporaries in annual seasons now running from early April to late November. The Shaw Festival materials occupy over 110 linear meters of shelf space in the Guelph archives, and cover every conceivable aspect of the production process. As such, they provide an invaluable and peerless resource for the study of Shaw on stage: promptbooks, set models, photographs, financial and other administrative records, souvenir and house programs, posters, reviews, technical drawings. There are archival video recordings of many productions, and through a study of bar receipts it is even possible to link the amount and type of intermission alcohol consumption with particular Shaw plays—a task that, as far as I know, no one has yet undertaken. Individual Festival artists such as designer Maurice Strike and actor Barry MacGregor have also deposited personal archives at Guelph.

Smaller collections add to the Shaw focus. There is a good collection of Shaw programs, chiefly of United Kingdom productions (especially London), but also from the United States, Canada, and a few other countries, and a separate (and complete) set of programs (photocopies) of J. T. [End Page 141] Grein’s Independent Theatre (including, of course, Shaw), 1891–94. Two quite small collections contain some unique items: the Robert Hill Collection contains eleven items of correspondence between Shaw and film director and producer Robert Hill, 1941–45, and the Shakespeare Memorial Committee Collection contains two minute-books of the Shakespeare Memorial Committee and National Theatre Association, 1909–12, signed by Shaw (and other committee members, including William Archer).

Somewhat larger is the Augustin Hamon Collection, consisting of Shaw-related theater materials owned by Shaw’s French translator Augustin Hamon and his wife Henriette. The entire Hamon archive has been microfilmed by the University of Guelph. The originals of correspondence and some other manuscript material are housed mainly at the University of Brest, but Guelph owns most of the theater materials, including a magnificent collection of posters of French productions of Shaw plays and draft manuscripts of translations of the plays.

It was not long after the deposit of the Shaw Festival archives at Guelph that the University’s association with Dan H. Laurence began. Dan Laurence’s achievements as a Shaw scholar had by then, of course, long been internationally acclaimed. It was also widely known that he had been collecting Shaw materials for many years, materials that he had generously shared with other scholars. Through his connection with the Shaw Festival (as Literary Advisor), Laurence was aware of Guelph’s acquisition of the Festival archives, and he felt it appropriate that the University be given the opportunity to acquire his personal collection, an ideal scholarly complement to the archives.

After the usual range of activities surrounding the acquisition of a major collection (including some very agreeable trips to Laurence’s home in San Antonio), the Dan H. Laurence Shaw Collection (sixty-eight linear meters) was deposited in the McLaughlin Library of the University of Guelph in the summer of 1986.

The Irish Times told its readers (3 September 1986) that “a rural Canadian ‘cow college”’ had “scored an academic coup of international significance with the acquisition of an unrivaled private collection of works by and about George Bernard Shaw,” an “amazing array of manuscripts, recordings and books—including a little-known pornographic work—amassed by footloose US scholar Dan H. Laurence.”

Shaw the pornographer was an interesting angle for the press, but the pornography is not Shaw’s; it lies, rather, in a Paris publication (c. 1899), Records of Personal Chastisement: The Unhappiest Day of my Life, which contains an unauthorized publication of Shaw’s essay “Flagellomania.” The Laurence Collection contains the only known copy of this issue of Records. The report in the Irish Times was also slightly misleading in its implication that the Laurence Collection includes a substantial manuscript component. [End Page 142] This is not in fact the case, although there are a few holograph items of significant importance, including a shorthand scenario (with transliteration) for a play headed “Plan for St. James’s Piece” (1886), and notes written at a Fabian Society meeting on a copy of Fabian Tract number 3, “To Provident Landlords and Capitalists” (1885). The Irish Times was closer to the mark in its comment on the recordings in the Laurence Collection, for all known recordings of Shaw’s voice are there, together with many versions of his works, including musical adaptations.

The international distinction and distinctiveness of the Laurence Collection rests principally, however, with printed material—not just the books mentioned by the Irish Times, but also a rich array of programs, flyers, broadsides, pamphlets, proof and rehearsal copies of the plays, photographs, and other materials, including many unique items. As a whole, the Collection touches on virtually every aspect of Shaw’s professional life, and many aspects of the more private Shaw.

In addition to Records of Personal Chastisement, unique items in the Laurence Collection include a large leaflet, Shaw Appeals to the I.R.A. (1940), containing also the I.R.A.’s rebuttal. A dozen or more other unique ephemeral publications (as classified in Section A of Laurence’s Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography) include, for example, an amendment proposed by Shaw to a motion on the Transvaal issue debated at a Fabian Society meeting in December 1899 and galleys of the original English text of a controversial essay by Shaw on Henry Irving, first published in German in the Neue Freie Presse on 20 October 1905. There are dozens of instances where the Laurence Collection holds rare and scarce items: ephemeral items such as a cyclostyled campaign letter from Shaw (dated 20 February 1904) on liquor licensing (part of the most complete set known of materials relating to Shaw’s aborted attempt to be elected to the London County Council); a 1917 circular soliciting support for the licensing of Mrs Warren’s Profession; one of only two bound volumes of The Hornet for 1877 (containing most of Shaw’s early music criticism); a very scarce bound first volume of the Fabian News (1891–1900) and all of the Fabian Tracts written or edited by Shaw, including some proof copies (the proof of Tract 48 has Shaw’s holograph revisions); both unauthorized issues (1889 and 1896) of Anarchism and State Socialism; and six of the eight states, three of them unique, of the Managerial Treaty drafted and revised by Shaw for the Dramatic Sub-Committee of the Society of Authors.

At the core of the collection are close to 2,000 items by or about Shaw. Most of Shaw’s works are represented in first editions, whatever the language of publication, as well as editions subsequent to the first that contain textual revisions, additions, or deletions. There is also strong representation in the Laurence Collection of rough-proof copies of the plays—now totaling forty, exceeded only by collections at Cornell, Texas, and North [End Page 143] Carolina. Among them are presentation copies to Edward Elgar, Sybil Thorndike, and Shaw’s Spanish translator Julio Broutá. One proof, Augustus Does His Bit, contains holograph revisions; another, Fanny’s First Play, is a marked rehearsal copy used for the premiere production; and the proof of The Apple Cart is identified in Shaw’s hand on the wrapper as his own copy. Among the more than eight hundred programs in the collection are those for most of the première productions, worldwide, of Shaw’s plays, including the program and souvenir book for the Polish world première of The Apple Cart. Materials relating to the English première of The Apple Cart at the Malvern Festival form part of a comprehensive set of souvenir books and programs from that Festival.

There is no better collection anywhere of works on Shaw, not just those published in English, but books and pamphlets in many other languages, including Arabic, Japanese, Russian, and Finnish. These works are complemented by a large international collection of Shaw Society publications, including the most complete run of the Bulletin (1943–53) of the Shaw Society of England, and copies of the sole issues of the Shaw Societies of Ireland and Canada, both 1946. (The founder of the Shaw Society in Canada was Lee Pritzker, who deposited a small collection of articles, correspondence, and programs at Guelph in 1990.) The Laurence Collection is the place to find all the bibliographical tools essential to the study of Shaw—including the original typescripts, collation sheets, galleys and page proofs of Laurence’s own Shaw bibliography, as well as his extensive correspondence relating to the work.

Other materials in the Laurence Collection include the largest collection anywhere of Shaw’s printed postcards (about 65); all the postage stamps issued with Shaw’s likeness (by the Soviet Union, Romania, Bulgaria, and two each by Czechoslovakia and Ireland), well over 200 photographs of and by Shaw, some signed by Shaw, including one by Karsh of Ottawa (also signed by Karsh); Shaw caricatures on cigarette cards; a series of Shaw-drafted “Memoranda of Agreement” contract forms for the licensing of performance or publication; and an impressive collection (1880s to World War I) of lecture handbills, platform cards, and syllabuses.

Laurence has also placed on deposit in the University of Guelph Library some two hundred sealed vertical files containing a wealth of material about Shaw, and his gifts each year since 1986 have continued to update and extend what is a truly remarkable collection—a testament to Laurence’s incomparable achievements as a Shaw scholar and a magnificent resource for further work on Shaw.

Related Articles:

Some Principal Shaw Research Sources

L. W. Conolly

L. W. Conolly is Professor of English at Trent University and Adjunct Professor of Drama at the University of Guelph, where he was instrumental in establishing the theater archives (recently named in his honor the L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives). He has authored several books on British and Canadian theater, is General Editor of Selected Correspondence of Bernard Shaw (University of Toronto Press), and is editing for that series the correspondence of Shaw and Barry Jackson.

For information: The University of Guelph Collections

Archival and Special Collections, McLaughlin Library, The University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, NlG 2W1, Canada; phone: (519) 824-4120; fax: (519) 824-6931; url: (and “click” on “TRELLIS Library Catalogue” to get into search module)

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