COLLECTED LETTERS 1926-1950, Vol. IV by Bernard Shaw


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This fourth and concluding volume of the Shaw correspondence brings a monumental 27-year undertaking to a triumphant close. Superbly edited by the literary and dramatic advisor of the Bernard Shaw Estate, the work tells the story of Shaw's final years in his own words. Readers will be astonished at the vigor of these letters written between the playwright's 70th year and his death at age 94. As in the preceding installments, Laurence has provided headnotes for most of the letters that, brief as they are, enable the reader to identify the persons mentioned and the circumstances surrounding the correspondence. Though his major works--Man and Superman, Saint Joan, Candida and Pygmalian--were behind him, and many of his celebrated friends--e.g., Ellen Terry and Mrs. Patrick Campbell--were dead or dying, Shaw's range of interests continued to expand. Many of the most absorbing missives concern themselves with such matters as the rise of Mussolini and Hitler (Shaw was a supporter of both early in their careers), the origins and objectives of the WW II, and the changes that resulted from the conflict. As might be expected, many of the letters deal with taxes, death duties, and bequests. Shaw retained his business acumen to the end. Some of the liveliest passages are those in which Shaw brusquely repels efforts by sycophants to ride to fame on his coattails. The book is also studded with typically Shavian remarks, such as his description of Wagner's music as ""only gas and gaiters"" and his comment about William Randolph Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies: he would not, he said, attend a dinner for her ""if she were all the 11000 virgins of St Ursula rolled into one."" A brilliant finale to a compelling and important study.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking