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REVIEWS BERNARD SHAW AND BIBLIOGRAPHY Dan H. Laurence. Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983. 2 vols. $152.00 "ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE!" More than thirty years ago Dan Laurence, then a young graduate assistant, ignored the old warning and descended into the bibliographic abyss of G.B.S. Armed with audacity, he stepped over the bones of previous would-be bibliographers and charged through smoke and flames—only to disappear beneath a bewildering blizzard of what he sought. He was, it would seem, buried in the outpourings of a protean monster who over the course of a seventy-year career had published prolifically as a novelist, art critic, music critic, theater critic, essayist, socialist , playwright, preacher, and public figure. In this last capacity alone the monster had been so notorious and colorful that his sentiments on nearly anything and everything had been avidly sought and widely printed as "news" for the last forty-five years of his life. Adding complexity to profusion , he had often written anonymously, played with pseudonyms , ghosted for others, published privately, and scattered letters to editors hither and yon. And complicating matters further, he was a compulsive reviser, altering his texts from one edition to the next and sometimes to the next and the next. Given such daunting odds against Laurence's success, a generation of Shaw scholars has held its breath, and with the lapse of time many have despaired or expired. But now at long last this knight errant has emerged from the abyss astraddle two snorting red volumes. Alas, poor Laurence!—a man of infinite zest how changed, how hoary. Yet he still gambols and his grin is not sepulchral, it is high-spirited because—Gadzooks!—he has finally catalogued the monster. What is more, he has immortalized himself along the way by hurling forth other volumes of Shaviana—eminent editions of essays, letters, plays, and music criticism. Laurence's Shaw bibliography is a stark contrast to those of previous scholars. While theirs were fragmentary or narrowly specialized, his is boldly comprehensive. Its 1,058 pages give an initial hint of its scope. More to the point, Laurence lists sixty-nine public and private collections which he consulted, and his text reveals that he checked others as well—most, apparently, with a sharp eye. His nine pages of acknowledgments refer to over 508 individuals, publishers , libraries, and institutions, indicating not only his 189 punctiliousness but the broad casting of his bibliographic net. His bibliographic entries are larded with information from such diverse sources as Shaw's letters, shorthand diaries , accounts books, income tax returns, scrapbooks, publishers ' and printers' records, Fabian Society and Society of Authors minutes, newspaper and journal files, and auction catalogues. While thirty years is a long time to commit to any project, a bibliography of this size and complexity obviously requires extraordinary patience, persistence, organization , integrity, and self-sacrifice. Laurence had to travel extensively, delve intensively, play detective, impose on others, take reams of pedantic but canny notes, and file, file, file. In such a process time becomes the bibliographer 's ally, provided he remains reasonably diligent and avoids senility or death, because in the course of successive years information accrues, associations gel, professional contacts prove fruitful, and perceptions mature. In varying degrees all of these factors have made Laurence the most knowledgeable of Shavians, and they inform his bibliography, where monomania takes monumental shape. The masterly achievement of this work beggars complaints over details. Unfortunately, however, its most exceptional flaw begs attention in the first category of Volume I. Titled "Books and Ephemeral Publications" and filling 349 pages, this category oddly combines extremes of the very major and the very minor. The apparent rationale for the conjuction is that both the books and ephemera were published individually. Yet as the two are mixed chronologically, the publication history of major writings is obscured by a multitudinous and lightweight miscellany—fly-sheets, leaflets, pamphlets, offprints, circulars, program inserts, press statements, draft manifestos, piracies, facsimile letters, brochures, blurbs—most of which were printed as throwaways. Such incidental material is not without interest. Much of it is cited here for the first time; its content sheds new lights...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 188-192
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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