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Book Reviews G.B.S.: Collected and Recollected Shaw: Interviews and Recollections, A. M. Gibbs, ed. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990. 560 pp. $39.95 A. M. GLBBS'S COLLECTION—more recollections than interviews until Shaw's very last years—reads less hke a composite biography than it might have because the material is organized by theme. Even at that, Gibbs begins with a "Growing Up" section and concludes with "Old Age and Death," and the subject categories are arranged to reflect Shaw's interests in roughly chronological form. Despite, then, some backtracking, Shaw: Interviews and Recollections may be the best one-volume life of G.B.S. we have. Because Gibbs has dug deep into obscure publications by obscure contemporaries of Shaw, some of his selections will be new, even to veteran Shavian scholars. Unfortunately, he has not probed as deeply into Shavian scholarship, and his annotations often leave a lot to be desired. He quotes, for example, without comment, veteran Socialist Henry Mayers Hundman as recalling "how it was that Shaw never wrote for the St. James's [Gazette]." A quick glance at the Shaw Bibliography would have shown that Shaw published in the St. James's four times between 1890 and 1904. On another occasion Gibbs estimates that a particular Shaw appearance at the Belsize Square home of economist and stockbroker Henry R. Beeton was "in April 1885 or shortly afterwards" when a glance at Shaw's Diaries 1885-1897 would have fixed the date as 24 November 1885. And some notes appear ancient. The unfinished Shaw Passion Play, referred to only by manuscript number in the British Library as if unpublished, has been in print since 1971. While one greets the colorful, lively personal touches often missing from the major biographies, revealing the private man as well as the public one, the effect is diminished by the reahzation that the average 197 ELT: Volume 34:2,1991 reader will not know fact from fiction, right from wrong, when the editor remains unhelpful. A reference by Shaw's Star editor to a comment by his music critic in an alleged review is entirely imaginative, as no such remark appeared in a "Corno di Bassetto" column. The date of Winston Churchill's first meeting with Shaw, when he was taken to lunch with G.B.S. by Jennie Churchill, is given as 23 January 1912, despite Churchill's own quoted statement that it was "four or five years" after 1897. Gibbs had read a 1912 invitation from Shaw to Lillah McCarthy asking her to lunch with Churchill and "Winston's mother." By then the available record shows the two men as having been on close terms for years, making nonsense of the attribution. Yet, since it appears here in print, the unsophisticated user of the book will accept the dating as definitive. Further, obvious misquotes of Shaw requiring editorial omission or explanation receive neither. For example, W. R. Titterton quotes Shaw as saying that he has "never taken part in any form of athletics"—this, ostensibly, from a one-time amateur boxer and indefatigable bicyclist, motorcychst, swimmer and marathon walker. When notes do appear, they are sometimes—as with Churchill—untrustworthy. George Sylvester Viereck, German publicist and propagandist in two wars, is given the profession of his poet son, Peter Viereck, and Henry A. Wallace is "Vice President of America," a curious reference likely to be bridled at by Canadians, among others. Although editorial slips suggest a heavy price to pay for Gibbs's selections, many of them are plums for which our gratitude is required. Fenner Brockway recalls Shaw in 1922 brushing his false teeth while declaring, "Young man, you are witnessing an historic act. When man made teeth better than God, the barrier between barbarism and civilisation was pierced." And music critic and cricket columnist Neville Cardus remembers, at a talk by Shaw, being "electrified by the tempo, charmed by the accent and twinkle, astounded that anybody could say so much without a manuscript, an hour of it and not a fumble, not the omission of a semi-colon. . . ." And, Cardus recalls, following Shaw's tongue-in-cheek suggestions to his audience "to burn...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 197-200
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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