BERNARD SHAW: Vol. I, 1856-1898: The Search for Love by Michael Holroyd
Kirkus Star

BERNARD SHAW: Vol. I, 1856-1898: The Search for Love

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

First in a three-volume authorized biography of Shaw, to be followed next year by The Pursuit of Power and in 1991 by The Lure of Fantasy. The Shaw estate made a wise choice in picking Holroyd to do the Shaw life; his tirelessness, proved by his enormous Lytton Strachey (1968), is now stretched to the limit in encompassing Shave's 94 voluble years as a polymath. Holroyd sets off with a brisk, well-pleased stride and a gleam in his style that mirrors Shaw's high spirit. His theme is that the vividly emotional private man screened his feelings behind jesting GBS and Corno di Bassetto (his pen name as music critic) and a general roar of brilliance. With a lively light, Holroyd sketches famed actors, actresses, writers, and background figures as he carries Shaw to age 42 and his marriage to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a wealthy, highborn Irishwoman, and to the publication of his first two cycles of plays, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant. Shaw was expert in at least 15 different professions, arts or sciences, and all are on show or being born here: (unsuccessful) novelist, music critic (still unrivaled), art critic, theater critic, journalist, Fabian and stump speaker, playwright, musician, historian, nutritionist, phoneticist, linguist, and much more, including applied lover of women. His idealizing of women energized a reverse realism in creating roles for London's leading actresses--in notorious plays often too censurable to be mounted. Born to ""the Shaws,"" a snobbish Protestant family in detestable Dublin, he unconsciously fashioned himself after a mesmeric Svengali and mercurial singing teacher, George J. Vandeleur Lee--who had formed a mÉnagÉ trois with GBS' well-bred mother (she took lessons from Lee) and drunken, nonentity father--and who often has been imputed to be Shaw's natural father. Shaw said this wasn't so, but his greatest success, Pygmalion, seems very much a dramatization of that threesome. A fabulous buggy-ride, springing with life and Shaw's wit.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1988
Publisher: Random House