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  • Augustin Hamon for the Defense
  • Michel Pharand (bio)
Patrick Galliou, ed. Correspondance George Bernard Shaw—Augustin Hamon. III—Le Bout du chemin (1926–1950). Brest: Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique, Université de Bretagne occidentale, 2015. 797 pages. €29.

This sixth volume brings to a close the publication of the extant correspondence, covering five decades, between Shaw and Augustin Hamon (1862–1945), with its myriad insights into why France proved so resistant—until Sainte Jeanne in 1925—to accepting GBS as man, thinker, and playwright. Previous volumes, also edited by Patrick Galliou, are George Bernard Shaw et Augustin Hamon: les premiers temps d’une correspondance (1893–1913) (4 vols.) and Les années médianes (1914–1925), reviewed in SHAW 35.2 (2015). All told, this magnum opus of 3,057 pages includes some 1,700 postcards, telegrams, and letters, most of them hitherto unpublished. After [End Page 333] devoting over two decades to transcribing and editing this unique archive,1 Galliou’s subtitle announces that he has reached le bout du chemin: the end of the road.

Well, not quite. The end of the road for his editorial travails, yes; but for those of us eager to see what happens to Shaw’s French career post-Jeanne, the road beckons. In this volume, the indefatigable Hamon pours forth another stream—often a torrent—of lengthy letters in his various roles: as liaison between Shaw and French writers, actors, theater managers, and publishers (in particular Calmann-Lévy and Aubier-Montaigne, whose contractual agreements Shaw amends at almost every clause); as financial advisor in the complex matter of French tantièmes (royalties); as conduit to recent developments on the French theatrical scene; as purveyor of reviews of French productions of Shaw plays—Hamon firmly believed the French press were colluding in an anti-Shaw conspiracy2—and most of all as translator, Shaw returning Augustin’s “Hamonique” versions (as Shaw called them) riddled with corrections and the occasional imprecation. For despite his zealous esteem for Shaw’s plays as innovative and subversive—in 1926 he dubs them a “leçon de révolte” (a lesson in revolt)—Augustin Hamon could be exasperating.

During the years covered by the present volume, 1926 to 1950, Shaw and Hamon continue their cross-Channel correspondence with 529 letters and postcards. As usual, Hamon inveighs against how badly Shaw’s plays were acted or directed in France, discusses roles and actors—in 1928 he asks: Could Marchbanks be played by a transvestite?—and importunes Shaw for money to keep his knitting business (Brittany-made items sold in London) afloat. Shaw sometimes gave in. “The enclosed cheque for £450 should realize at the current rate of exchange (163 and a fraction) more than 70,000 francs. You had better lodge it in your bank at once and wipe your overdraft and the interest it carries.” (The business was eventually liquidated.)

The volume opens with a contretemps involving Emma Gramatica (1874–1965), the famous Italian stage (and later film) actress, and the French-Russian couple, actor/director Georges (1884–1939) and actress Ludmilla (1895–1951) Pitoëff,3 who had astounded Paris with Sainte Jeanne in April 1925. Now, in February 1926, Gramatica, who had recently starred in Santa Giovanna in Italy,4 was trying to prevent them from presenting Jeanne in Turin lest she be upstaged in her native land by Ludmilla. Her fears were realized: Gramatica’s sickly and defenseless Giovanna had not been well received, whereas Ludmilla’s Jeanne, if also rather mild, possessed a radiant spirituality that pleased Italian audiences and reviewers. Shaw, [End Page 334] however, was not pleased: “the Turin performances were a gross violation of Gramatica’s rights,” he told Hamon, and the controversy went on for months, with Hamon acting as intermediary between Shaw and his Italian agent, Cesare Castelli.

During the Gramatica debacle, Hamon informed Shaw that Ludmilla was again pregnant (with her sixth child). “Cette malheureuse facondité [sic] de L. gâte tout” (This unfortunate fertility of L. spoils everything), Shaw carped, and Ludmilla was indeed forced to cease acting for many months: “ça nous supprime les recettes!”—this cancels our revenues!—Hamon grumbled. Shaw advised that...


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