BERNARD SHAW AND ALFRED DOUGLAS: A Correspondence by Mary--Ed. Hyde


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Except for a few items, this 1931-1944 correspondence--between the vibrantly elderly George Bernard Shaw and the pathetically aging Alfred ""Bosie"" Douglas (who only met once, briefly, in 1895)--has not been previously published. And, while short on substance, it offers a good deal of amusement for Shavians, Wildeans, and other lovers of feuds, insults, and British eccentricity. The primary topic through much of the correspondence: the Oscar Wilde affair, of course--especially as written about by Shaw's late pal Frank Harris. Shaw wants to republish the Harris book to make some money for the widow. Lord Alfred (who is soon addressing Shaw as ""St. Christopher"" and yearning to be called ""Childe Alfred"" in return) wants Shaw to help him with his book, his version of the story. Shaw responds: ""What! YOU among the preface hunters! Have you no self-respect?"" And so it goes through the years--Shaw heaping hilarious abuse on the vain, babyish, self-destructive sexagenarian (""You BLASTED idiot . . . you are a squalling baby. . . . Talk about narcissism!"") . . . while Lord Alfred whines, begs for cash and other forms of charity, and proclaims himself ""the best living English poet."" There are arguments about religion, politics, and poetics too--since conservative, Catholic, near-Nazi Lord Alfred was miles apart from GBS on every issue. But the main appeal here is a sadly comic one--the dramatic contrast between the dynamic, sensible, assured Shaw (who's genuinely compassionate, notwithstanding the nonstop put-downs) and the dependent, foolish, self-deluding Douglas--and, with Hyde's sturdy commentary, it makes for a beguiling, diverting literary-footnote of a volume.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1982
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin