GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: MAN OF THE CENTURY by Archibald Henderson
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GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: MAN OF THE CENTURY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As the apex of Henderson's carcer as biographer elect of George Bernard Shaw, comes this fully completed work, the result of a life time of study, articles and other books, the most recent of which was Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet published in 1932. To readers of the former much of the material here will probably be familiar but that seems beside the point when faced with the excellence and entirety of this final summation. It quite literally begins at the beginning and ends at the end. The material on Shaw's parentage, childhood and youth is deeply ting; we are taken into the Dublin household and shown among other things the tragedy of Shaw's father whose drinking not only lowered personal esteem but placed the Shaws in an awkward social position and the causative factors that made Shaw the later portrayer of Irish irreligion. All of the impressions of a boy and youth, increasingly concerned with social and personal motives on a grand scale, become strikingly alive as Henderson accounts for the growth of a mind through his meticulous research and readably flowing prose. Spotty as his education was auspicious as was his first job as a clerk in a real estate office, Shaw went to London at twenty and there threw himself into the monumental efforts, political and literary, that brought him a fairly early recognition. At this point Henderson's connection with him strikes an almost equally interesting note. For Henderson, an American, was a convert. He knew nothing of Shaw when he went to see a performance of You Never Can Tell but immediately afterwards decided that the play's author was to provide the direction of his own life. He wrote to Shaw, who accepted him as his biographer. A friendship began that was to last over the years. The rest of the material examines Shaw's work and personality in all its aspects. Sometimes shifting forward, sometimes on a note on appropriate recall, we get Shaw the anti-romantic; Shaw the writer of letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell; Shaw the political campaigner and Shaw the man to whom the clever manipulation of words came not of itself but as a vehicle to express his ideas. Diligent poseur, diligent worker, brilliant genius. Shaw was perhaps his own best biographer, for he saw to it that Henderson was given access to every available bit of information about him. Yet Henderson has perhaps assembled the facts in a better way than any other could-at length yet cogently and critically in a book that reflects the brilliance of its subject and is possibly definitive.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1956
Publisher: Appleton-Century-Crofts