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    George Bernard Shaw

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    George Bernard Shaw

    Irish dramatist & socialist
    7 Favorites on Read Print

    Biography

    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was born in Dublin, where he grew up in something close to genteel poverty. "I am a typical Irishman; my family came from Yorkshire," Shaw once said. His father, George Carr Shaw, was in the wholesale grain trade. Lucinda Elisabeth (Gurly) Shaw, his mother, was the daughter of an impoverished landowner. She was 16-years younger than her husband. George Carr was a drunkard - his example prompted his son to become a teetotaller. More ...

    Books by George Bernard Shaw

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    Quotes by George Bernard Shaw

    • A day's work is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it needs a day's sustenance, a night's repose and due leisure, whether he be painter or ploughman.
    • A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic.
    • A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
    • A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
    • A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it; it would be hell on earth.
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    Biography of George Bernard Shaw

    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was born in Dublin, where he grew up in something close to genteel poverty. "I am a typical Irishman; my family came from Yorkshire," Shaw once said. His father, George Carr Shaw, was in the wholesale grain trade. Lucinda Elisabeth (Gurly) Shaw, his mother, was the daughter of an impoverished landowner. She was 16-years younger than her husband. George Carr was a drunkard - his example prompted his son to become a teetotaller. When he died in 1885, his children and wife did not attend his funeral. Young Shaw and his two sisters were brought up mostly by servants. Shaw's mother eventually left the family home to teach music, singing, in London. When she died in 1913, Shaw confessed to Mrs. Patrick Campbell: "I must write to you about it, because there is no one else who didn't hate her mother, and even who doesn't hate her children."

    In 1866 the family moved to a better neighborhood. Shaw went to the Wesleyan Connexional School, then moved to a private school near Dalkey, and from there to Dublin's Central Model School. Shaw finished his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. At the age of 15, he started to work as a junior clerk. In 1876 he went to London, joining his sister and mother. Shaw did not return to Ireland for nearly thirty years.

    Most of the next two years Shaw educated himself at the British Museum. He began his literary career by writing music and drama criticism, and novels, including the semi-autobiographical IMMATURITY, without much success. A vegetarian, who eschewed alcohol and tobacco, Shaw joined in 1884 the Fabian Society, served on its executive committee from 1885 to 1911. The middle-class socialist group attracted also H.G. Wells - the both writers send each other copies of their new books as they appeared. "You are, now that Wilde is dead, the one living playwright in my esteem," wrote Wells after receiving Shaw's THREE PLAYS FOR PURITANS (1901).

    A man of many causes, Shaw supported abolition of private property, radical change in the voting system, campaigned for the simplification of spelling, and the reform of the English alphabet. As a public speaker, Shaw gained the status of one of the most sought-after orators in England. In 1895 Shaw became a drama critic for the Saturday Review. Articles written for the paper were later collected in OUR THEATRES IN THE NINETIES (1932). Music, art, and drama criticism Shaw wrote for Dramatic Review (1885-86), Our Corner (1885-86), The Pall Mall Gazette (1885-88), The World (1886-94), and The Star (1888-90) as 'Corno bi Basetto'. His music criticism were collected in SHAW'S MUSIC (1981). After lacing a shoe too tightly, an operation was performed on his foot for necrosis; Shaw was unable to put his foot on the ground for eighteen months. During this period he wrote CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1901) and THE PERFECT WAGNERITE (1898). "...I have no reason to believe that they would have been a bit better if they had been written on two legs instead of one," he said in a letter to the playwright St John Ervine. His friend had his leg amputated during WWI after being hit by a shell splinters.

    In 1898 Shaw married the wealthy Charlotte Payne-Townshend. They settled in 1906 in the Hertfordshire village of Ayot St. Lawrence. Shaw remained with Charlotte until her death, although he was occasionally linked with other women. He carried on a passionate correspondence over the years with Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a widow and actress, who got the starring role in PYGMALION. All the other actresses refused to say the taboo word 'bloody' that the playwright had put in the mouth of Eliza. When she wanted to publish his love letters to her, Shaw answered: "I will not, dear Stella, at my time of life, play the horse to your Lady Godiva."

    The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen had a great influence on Shaw's thinking. For a summer meeting of the Fabian Society in 1890, he wrote THE QUINTESSENCE OF IBSENISM (1891), in which he considered Ibsen a pioneer, "who declares that it is right to do something hitherto regarded as infamous." Shaw's early plays, WIDOWER'S HOUSES (1892), which criticized slum landlords, as well as several subsequent ones, were not well received. His 'unpleasant plays', ideological attacks on the evils of capitalism and explorations of moral and social problems, were followed with more entertaining but as principled productions. "To a professional critic (I have been one myself) theatre-going is the curse of Adam. The play is the evil he is paid to endure in the sweat of his brow; and the sooner it is over, the better."(from 'Preface' to Saint Joan) . CANDIDA was a comedy about the wife of a clergyman, and what happens when a weak, young poet wants to rescue her from her dull family life. But it was not until JOHN BULL'S OTHER ISLAND (1904) that Shaw gained in England a wider popularity with his own plays. In the Unites States and Germany Shaw's name was already well-known. Between 1904 and 1907 The Royal Court Theatre staged several of his plays, including Candida.
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