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31:2, Book Reviews SHAW DIARIES Bernard Shaw: The Diaries, 1885-1897. Ed. Stanley Weintraub. University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986. 2 vols. $75.00 each For about a dozen years, or (as the Introduction would have it) "from his twenty-ninth year, when he was still a nobody, to his forty-second, when he was one of the best-known men in England," Shaw tried to keep track of his life in a succession of shorthand diaries. His entries appear in tripartite form. The top layer lists engagements, actual and possible, for the day; the second comments on how the day was spent; the third lists expenses. To these Stanley Weintraub, the editor and chief annotator of these volumes, adds a fourth layer of identification and enriching explanation without which the others would make very thin reading. This is not to say that the diaries are without great intrinsic interest or utility. They are clearly invaluable for anyone concemed with the chronicle of Shaw's days and nights during these years, and as long ago as 1956 they provided one or two biographical bombshells. They also add something to our knowledge of what Shaw read, heard and saw, though during this period, when he was trying to make a living as a reviewer, his reading, hearing, and seeing were mostly turned into modest coin of the realm, and are traceable elsewhere. "Criticism for my living and socialism for my unpaid work" was how he summed up his "C)CCUPATION" in 1887. The diaries are also useful for reconstructing the sociology, the economics, indeed the anthropology of the intellectual fringe, literary and artistic, political and journalistic, in the last two decades of the century. With William Morris and Kelmscott on one side, H. M. Hyndman and the Social Democratic Federation on the other, the Grosvenor Gallery, St. James's Hall, the Criterion Theatre, the Pall Mall Gazette, Fabian intrigues, vegetarian restaurants , bohemian domesticity, rational dress, Ibsen and the bicycle, the diaries register the local textures of a world, and suggest an intricate ecology. The diaries however, do not themselves educe, interpret, and present a coherent account of that ecology, any more than they constitute an autobiography. The data they offer are raw. The real truth of the matter is that these are among the few writings in Shaw's unbelievably prolific author's life that were written without an audience in mind, real or imaginary. These were not journals for posterity, nor even for narcissistic self-beholding; they were account-keeping, primarily concemed with the use of time, an extension perhaps of the good economic habits Shaw formed while working for Uniacke Townshend in Dublin and Edison Telephone in London. Consequently they record actions, transactions, and even reactions, but still say precious little about the inner life of the diarist. Yet the result of this audience obliviousness, compressed notation, and absence of 215 31:2, Book Reviews personated dialectic characteristic of Shaw's other writing, is a style (in the second layer only) so different from what we are used to that it adds another facet to the man. For one thing, it is laconic, and given to ironic understatement rather than satiric hyperbole, though even such irony is occasional. It is for the most part brief, dry, direct, and surprisingly conventional. The result is that we hear an ordinary Shaw that we hardly knew existed. Yet, absent the defensive cover of exaggerated performance, the deniability in manifest coxcombery, what we hear is not permitted to reveal anything in depth. So, for example, he writes in double short-hand: "Out of sorts. Lecture dry" after a lecture at Kelmscott House. On having walked Mrs. Jenny Patterson home that same evening, he writes, "Much out of humour with her and things in general" (10 Oct. 1886). After a visit to Florence Fair Emery, he comments, "Left Wallas at Charing Cross and went on to F.E. Disillusion" (2 June 1891). The next day he notes in what is almost a burst of confidence, "Actually wrote a few verses to FE, being more deeply moved than I could have imagined." How moved remains as obscure as the cause of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 215-218
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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