- VIII. The Shaw Business Papers
[Some Principal Shaw Research Sources]
A substantial bequest to the Fabian Society gave Sidney Webb the opportunity to realize a cherished purpose: the foundation, in two back rooms in John Street in 1895, of a London School of Economics (LSE). Bernard Shaw, recruited to this cause, worked skillfully and energetically to bring round the other leading Fabians. He had to persuade them that this was no diversion of funds intended for propaganda purposes, and that there was no contradiction between the two main functions of the proposed institution: disinterested research and instrumentality in the Socialist reform of society. Until the end of the second world war the LSE continued to be regarded as a largely “red” foundation. In subsequent years, when Labor was the party of government in Britain, it became associated with what was then popularly known as “the Establishment” and remained so when Labor gave way to Tory and Tory to New Labor. Today it is no more nor less left-wing than the rest of the higher education sector in Britain.
Beatrice Webb had been cultivating the interest of Irish heiress Charlotte [End Page 164] Payne-Townshend in the project. From this source came £1,000 towards the Library, a substantial contribution (later repeated), and endowment of a scholarship reserved for women. The lady also undertook, in 1896, to share the expense of providing premises for the School at 10 Adelphi Terrace by making her home on the upper floors and paying the LSE generously for the privilege. If the Webb plans had been fully realized, she would have married Graham Wallas, who would have accepted appointment as Director of the School. Instead, Shaw secured the “green-eyed millionairess” for himself; and so it came about that it was he who spent the early years of his married life living “over the shop,” where, his diaries record, he attended lectures by Bertrand Russell in 1896. After the LSE took up occupation of its present-day site in Clare Market in May 1902, Shaw maintained the connection, in turn addressing the Students’ Union on “Life, Literature, and Political Economy” on 13 December 1905 and on “The Case for Equality” on 12 February 1913.
So it is not surprising that, in the fullness of time, Shaw left his business papers and, on less immediately obvious grounds, his old personal and engagement diaries to the LSE Library, now the British Library of Political and Economic Science (BLPES). He envisaged the use of the collection by “economic or legal historians or by biographers seeking documentary evidence as to prices and practices during the period covered by my lifetime.” This hardly suggests the wide range and miscellaneous nature of the collection, or its value both as an historical model of business management (the business being communication) and as an illumination of Shaw’s complex personality.
The bulk of the bequest is now contained in twenty-nine boxed sections, preserving the original, roughly classified arrangement. The numbering of the sections defies chronology: Box 1 includes documents relating to United Kingdom productions, professional and amateur, of Shaw’s plays, starting in 1943, with a few items relating to earlier activities. A record of American stage performances, arranged alphabetically, runs from 1897 to 1930. For a comparable ledger relating to Britain, with a full chronological record of royalty payments, it is necessary to go to sections 28 and 29. In between are to be found, in no significant order, records of the author’s dealings with publishers, printers, binders, foreign agents, newspaper editors, translators, solicitors, and tax authorities in Britain and the U.S.A. There is correspondence over film and broadcasting rights and other evidence of Shaw’s recognition of the importance of the cinema.
Section 22 consists of family legal documents: terms of Shaw’s parents’ marriage settlement, as well as the settlement between Charlotte and himself; a partnership agreement signed by his father; terms of the settlement Shaw made on his mother and other family members; and real estate documents pertaining to property in Ireland and at Ayot St. Lawrence, where [End Page 165] the Old Rectory became “Shaw’s Corner” and the householder...