- Shaw Verbatim
A project born to engage the general reader, The Critical Shaw gathers primary nondramatic writings by Shaw ca. 1885 to 1950 and groups them by categories within each volume. Rather than scholarly notes or annotations, the secondary materials are mentioned parenthetically, a special benefit for nonexpert readers. The editors have worked individually and collectively to ensure sufficient overlap in tone and balance between historical framework and Shaw biography, as well as Shaw’s contributions on subjects that provoked his need to speak out on paper, on public platforms, and, of course, in the prefaces to the plays. Each volume includes acknowledgments, the general editor’s preface, the editor’s introduction, a timeline/chronology of Shaw’s life, a note on the text, and sources for further reading.
Although these books are not a collection of close reading of the plays, each volume’s editor incorporates brief discussions of specific plays directly relevant to the subject at hand. One of the high points of the books’ organization is the presence of italicized parenthetical editorial commentaries that precede, and sometimes also come within, the selections; these ensure maximal comprehension and contextualization of the wide-ranging, multidisciplinary arguments that Shaw forged, seemingly effortlessly, on all of these topics. Using many sources long out of print, [End Page 328] the editors have been able to survey Shaw’s ever-expanding worldview. These accessible eBooks offer readers a “best of” approach to the major concerns of Shaw’s long life.
Series editor Leonard Conolly’s preface melds the factors of Shaw’s life, interests, and accomplishments that made him not only a sort of living bridge from High Victorianism to the post–World War II world, but also a celebrity. Shaw’s reputation went far beyond that of playwright, largely because of the other ways Shaw had an impact on the social and moral issues of his times. In the 1920s and 1930s, Shaw was, in Conolly’s words, “relentlessly solicited by the media, pursued by paparazzi long before the word was even invented” (7). Conolly references Winston Churchill’s assertion that Shaw was the “greatest living master of letters in the English-speaking world” (10) and expands the compliment, stating that Shaw was “one of the great public intellectuals of the twentieth century.” The editors of each volume nod in agreement, as their aforementioned parenthetical commentaries reveal.
Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín (Literature) divides Shaw’s writings into the following sections: Part I—Writing/Editing/Publishing; Part II—Fiction; Part III—Poetry and Fine Arts; Part IV—Drama (as distinct from theater, e.g., craft of the playwright, cutting texts/printed plays); Part V—Nonfiction (ranging from folklore to science). The introduction begins with an intriguing opening “snapshot” of Shaw’s avocation for the printed page, as well as his broad interests in the arts—especially music—from boyhood. Each succinct paragraph complements the depth and breadth of Shaw’s interests and exhaustive output with parenthetical references to contemporary scholars and biographers as well as Shaw’s contemporaries, in particular William Archer. Rodríguez Martín and D. A. Hadfield (in her volume on Theater) focus on the professional relationship between Archer and Shaw and pay homage to Archer’s recognition of Shaw’s gifts and his paving the way for Shaw to begin his journalistic career as reviewer across the arts in the leading newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s. The connection between this exposure and Shaw’s burgeoning platform activism is of course central here, but the introduction clarifies a much more important point: Shaw’s continuing to write criticism because it was a site for his polemical writings to reach maximum audiences. The emphases chosen by the editor are clear: Shaw’s blend of “witty satire and the...