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  • VII. The New York Public Library Collections
  • Daniel Leary (bio)

[Some Principal Shaw Research Sources]

The New York Public Library’s quirky Arents Tobacco Collection and its huge Manuscripts and Archives Division contain generous handfuls of Shavian holographic gems. The principal draw for researchers, however, is the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection with its full card-catalogue drawer—roughly 1500 cards—itemizing a treasury of Bernard Shaw holdings, [End Page 160] many still unpublished or published only in part. But first, what of the scores of other drawers? The core of the Berg Collection of first editions, original manuscripts, and autograph letters by English and American men and women of letters, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was brought together by two brothers, both distinguished New York City physicians. In 1940 Dr. Albert A. Berg presented it to the NYPL in memory of his brother and co-collector, Henry W. The collection now numbers approximately 35,000 pieces of printed material and 115,000 manuscripts or corrected typescripts. The Shavian holdings include nearly 700 of his letters; around 125 manuscripts, ranging from such trivialities as royalty receipts to such special items as the corrected typescript of You Never Can Tell; nearly two hundred first-edition books; many of his most obscure pamphlets and broadsides; some thirty photos and portraits and twenty-five self-caricatures; and an impressive gathering of rough proofs/rehearsal copies. The richest finds are among the correspondence and manuscripts.

A good deal of the correspondence is unpublished, including runs of letters to translators. The largest such holding, 560 items, is to Shaw’s German translator. While much of it appeared in Samuel A. Weiss’s Bernard Shaw’s Letters to Siegfried Trebitsch, there remain some seventy notes, wires, acknowledgments, and such that Weiss excluded. Also unpublished—and considerably more interesting—are sixty-five letters and cards to Trebitsch from Shaw’s wife, Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend, which record a growing friendship over the decades. Rewarding, too, are the thirty letters that Shaw sent to his Swedish translator, Hugo Vallentin, and Vallentin’s secretary and successor, Ebba Byström, along with another dozen to his Polish translator, Floryan Sobieniowski. These illuminate the practical problems attendant on worldwide translation and production of Shaw’s plays. (Elsewhere in the collection is a typescript with holograph corrections entitled “Caesar and Cleopatra Prologue as adapted for the Polish Stage by the translator Floryan Sobieniowski,” dated 19 September 1928.)

While browsing through the correspondence, I was captured by the thirty-five letters to Henry S. Salt (1851–1939), only six of which appear in the Shaw Collected Letters. Read together, they betray a longing in Shaw for the relatively simple life led by Salt, who was an Eton master for a time and secretary of the Humanitarian League. The Salt letters, written over a span of nearly sixty years until Salt’s death, also sound many of Shaw’s familiar political themes, as does the intense correspondence with other devotees of the socialist movement of the 1880s and 1890s—James Leigh Joynes, Edward Carpenter, H.M. Hyndman, William Morris, and the American novelist and social philosopher Hamlin Garland. Literary finds in the collection are letters to and from Yeats and Lady Gregory that relate [End Page 161] to the first production of The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet and to the aborted effort to produce John Bull’s Other Island at the Irish Literary Theatre. And one should not pass over the letters, though not many, to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Thomas Hardy, Lord Dunsany, St. John Ervine, and Cecil Lewis (who directed films of Arms and the Man and How He Lied to Her Husband and worked on the screenplay for Pygmalion).

Among the Berg’s manuscripts are reminders of sorrier moments in Shaw’s career. One is a notebook dated 10 January 1882, in Pitman shorthand and titled “The Voice: Its Artistic Production, Development, and Preservation,” obviously an abandoned sample of Shaw’s ghostwriting efforts for his mother’s voice teacher, Vandeleur Lee. (A typewritten transliteration dated 1947 accompanies it.) Also intriguing is an unpublished galley of notes, probably intended for the Hellenic Travellers’ Club...

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