The Quintessential G.B.S. : Plays


George Bernard Shaw
What A Playwright Should Do With His First Play.
Galley proof, [London: 1921]

This essay first appeared unsigned in The Author, April 1921. It was, as Shaw wrote to the editor of The Author, "the outcome of a long and trying experience. I find myself repeatedly writing the same letters to people who bother me; and I now put my reply into The Author and get the printer to send me a hundred proofs which I keep by me and enclose by way of reply and instruction to novices."

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Widowers’ Houses. A Comedy by G. Bernard Shaw.
First Acted at the Independent Theatre in London.
London: Henry and Co., 1893.

This was the first publication of Shaw’s first play. For it, Shaw drew up such a formidable contract that his publisher wrote, "we do not think such an elaborate agreement necessary, especially as we do not expect the sale to be sufficient to recoup us for our outlay, and as we are publishing your work chiefly to oblige our Mr. Grein," the editor of the Independent Theatre Series. In 1894, Shaw complained that Henry and Co. "never advertised it even once; and the sale, which was only effected by great perseverance & determination on the part of the purchasers, was 150 copies."

It is also the only one of Shaw’s plays written in this format, with French scenes and traditional stage directions.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


 

George Bernard Shaw
Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant.
London: Grant Richards, 1898.

The "unpleasant" plays are: Widowers’ Houses, The Philanderer, and Mrs. Warren’s Profession; the "pleasant" plays are: Arms and the Man, Candida, The Man of Destiny, and You Never Can Tell.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
"Bulgarian Staff Officer"
Costume designs for Arms and the Man, ca. 1894, with notations in Shaw’s handwriting.

Shaw made six pages of sketches for the costumes used in Arms and the Man and had them reproduced by cyclostyled stencils. Four of them are in the Albert Collection. The play was first published as one of the four "Pleasant" plays in Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, 1898.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
Three Plays for Puritans: The Devil’s Disciple, Cæsar and Cleopatra, & Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.
London: Grant Richards, 1901.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
Mrs. Warren’s Profession: A Play in Four Acts.
London: Grant Richards, 1902.

In 1901, Shaw authorized Grant Richards to issue his plays in separate volumes mainly for use by professional and amateur performing companies, as well as for the general public. Subsequently Constable continued this practice. This was the first separate impression of Mrs. Warren’s Profession, with a preface written for this impression, and offered for sale by the Stage Society as 'The Stage Society’s Series of Plays I'.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
The Author’s Apology from Mrs. Warren’s Profession …
With an Introduction by John Corbin, The Tyranny of Police and Press.
New York: Brentano’s, 1905.

This is the first American edition of the Preface that Shaw wrote for the 1902 English edition of Mrs. Warren’s Profession. It was unauthorized, but had Shaw’s approval and even encouragement.

The Apology begins: "Mrs. Warren's Profession has been performed at last, after a delay of only eight years; and I have once more shared with Ibsen the triumphant amusement of startling all but the strongest-headed of the London theater critics clean out of the practice of their profession."

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Man and Superman. A Comedy and a Philosophy.
Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., Ltd., 1903.

This was the first work of Shaw’s issued by Constable. Under their agreement, Shaw was his own publisher in England, and Constable was his commissioned distributor. It contains "The Revolutionist’s Handbook," written by the fictional John Tanner, and "Maxims for Revolutionists."

This copy is inscribed by the author to his long-time friend, Gilbert Murray, Regius professor of Greek at Oxford, and the model for Adolphus Cusins in Major Barbara.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
John Bull’s Other Island and Major Barbara: also How He Lied to Her Husband.
London: Archibald Constable & Co., 1907.

This copy is inscribed "to J. E. Vedrenne from G. Bernard Shaw 17th June 1907." John Eugene Vedrenne was co-manager with Harley Granville Barker of the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, London, which produced a number of Shaw’s plays between 1904 and 1907.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
"Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction; or The Fatal Gazogene"
Harry Furniss’s Christmas Annual, 1905.
London: Anthony Treherne, 1905.

This is the first appearance of this play, whose working title included the subtitle, "Machiavelli Modernized," deleted by Shaw from the final page-proof.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
Press Cuttings: a Topical Sketch compiled from the editorial and correspondence columns of the Daily Papers. A Play.
London: Archibald Constable & Co., 1909.

Of the 500 earliest copies of this work, 400 were sold during private performances at the Royal Court Theatre and have the imprint "Price One Shilling," while the remaining 100 were rubber-stamped "N.E.T." in purple ink. An example of each is in the collection. There were four additional printings of this play in 1909, all distinguished by Dan Laurence in his Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography. "Press cuttings" are known in America as newspaper clippings.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Androcles and the Lion. A Fable Play.
Rough Proof--Unpublished.
London: Constable and Company, 1913.

In 1909, Shaw began to have "Rehearsal Copies" of his not-yet-published plays printed for use in the theater or for copyright readings. The first of these was The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet. Androcles and the Lion was the seventh of Shaw’s plays to be printed in this way, and the earliest of thirteen in the Sidney Albert Collection.

Androcles and the Lion opened at the St James’s Theatre, London, on August 28, 1913. Although it received high praise from most of the drama critics, it was not a popular play and was withdrawn after 52 performances.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

[George Bernard Shaw]
Drawing for costumes of "Two Pages for the Emperor," entitled "Androcles" No 28.

Attributed to Shaw, ca. 1912.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
"Pygmalion"
Everybody’s Magazine, November, 1914.
Nash’s and Pall Mall Magazine, November, 1914.

First American (left) and first British (below) publications of Pygmalion.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts.
Rough Proof--Unpublished.
London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1914.

Shaw wrote the part of Eliza Doolittle for Mrs. Patrick Campbell who performed it in the first London production at His Majesty’s Theatre, beginning on April 11, 1914, and in the first American production in English at the Park Theatre in New York, beginning on October 12, 1914. A German translation by Siegfried Trebitsch had been mounted at the Deutsches Theatre in New York beginning on March 24, 1914.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
The Inca of Perusalem. An Almost Historical Comedietta. By a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Rough Proof--Unpublished.
London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1915.

The Lord Chamberlain’s office passed The Inca of Perusalem for performance on the condition that "the make-up of the Inca does not too closely resemble the German Emperor" and that personal mention of the Inca’s Grandmother (Queen Victoria), the Inca’s Uncle (Edward VII), and the Inca’s Cousin (George V) be omitted. Shaw complied.

When the play was performed in Dublin in 1917, Irish Nationalists hailed it as a satire on British belligerence. As a result of his unpopular stance on the war, Shaw used the phrase "By a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature" instead of his name here and elsewhere.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection


George Bernard Shaw
Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and Playlets of the War.
New York: Brentano’s, 1919.

Heartbreak House was first produced by the Theatre Guild at the Garrick Theatre in New York beginning on November 10, 1920.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Saint Joan: a Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue.
London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1924.

Saint Joan was first produced by the Theatre Guild at the Garrick Theatre, New York, beginning on December 28, 1923, with Winifred Lenihan in the title role. In a letter to Sidney Cockerell, Shaw wrote that he was the author of Saint Joan only "in the sense that Michael Angelo was the architect of St Peter’s … I have had only to pull it together and fit it in."

This copy was signed by 22 members of the cast of the English production, including Dame Sybil Thorndike, Sir Lewis Casson (her husband), Raymond Massey, and Jack Hawkins.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Saint Joan: a Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue.
London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1924.

This Edition de Luxe, with sixteen designs in color and monochrome by Charles Ricketts, was the first illustrated edition of one of Shaw’s works. Shaw did not like it. As he wrote to Archibald Henderson in 1946 in an inscribed copy of the work, it was "a handsome object; but it is too big for a book: its size makes it unreadable. The pictures were designed as theatre costumes and not as book illustrations. A reduction in size would have spoilt them … It was impossible to reconcile the two incompatibles. The result was a monster."

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
The Plays of Bernard Shaw: Pocket Edition
London: Constable and Company, Ltd., 1926.

This "Pocket Edition de Luxe," also advertised as the Globe Edition, was the first collected edition of Shaw’s plays in England.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
The Apple Cart: a Political Extravaganza.
London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1930.

This play was first performed in Warsaw in the Polish version by Floryan Sobieniowski and was produced in England by Sir Barry Jackson at the Malvern Festival on the 19th of August, 1929.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

George Bernard Shaw
[The Apple Cart. German]
Der Kaiser von America. Eine politische Komödie in drei Akten …
Deutsch von Siegfried Trebitsch.
Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1929.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Too True to be Good: A Collection of Stage Sermons by a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Rough Proof--Unpublished.
[London]: Privately Printed, 1931.

Among the characters in this play is Private Napoleon Alexander Trotsky Meek, very obviously based on T. E. Lawrence. Private Meek serves every function in the army unit run by Colonel Tallboys, and in the end effectively assumes command. Lawrence discussed the play with Shaw while it was in draft form and made several suggestions for improving Meek’s lines. These were all adopted by the playwright.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

Theatre World
Special Supplement, "Too True To Be Good"
[London]: Volume XVIII, No. 93, October, 1932.

This issue of Theatre World featured a 12-page article on Too True To Be Good under the heading, "The Play of the Moment." Also in the collection are issues of Theatre Arts Magazine and Play Pictorial, all with many photographs from specific productions of Shaw’s plays.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

George Bernard Shaw
Too True to be Good, Village Wooing & On the Rocks. Three Plays.
London: Constable and Company Limited, [1934].

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 

George Bernard Shaw
Geneva, a fancied page of history in three acts …
Second rehearsal copy, revised after Bombardone’s conversion to anti-Semitism.
[London]: Privately printed, [September], 1938.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

George Bernard Shaw
Geneva, a fancied page of history in three acts …illustrated by Feliks Topolski.
London: Constable & Co. Ltd., [1939].

This copy is inscribed "To Dr. Alfred W. Ewing from G. Bernard Shaw, Frinton 19th Sep. 1939. Events have outrun this edition. You must imagine the trial scene prolonged by Battler’s declaration of war, his prompt betrayal by Bombardone and Flanco, and the completion of his encirclement by Russia."

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Buoyant Billions; A Comedy of No Manners in Prose by Bernard Shaw and in Pictures by Clare Winsten.
London: Constable & Co., 1949, [1950].

For the binding of this limited edition of Buoyant Billions, Theodora Winsten made a drawing of Shaw for the upper cover and one of Clare Winsten for the lower cover.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

Below:
George Bernard Shaw
Musical passage in Shaw’s handwriting for Buoyant Billions.

Cancelled passage marked "This is all wrong" and instructions to revise, stamped with date, December 16, 1946.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Shakes versus Shav: A Puppet Play
Stratford-Upon-Avon: Published by Waldo S. Lanchester, [1953]

This work was written for the Waldo Lanchester Marionette Theatre and first performed at the Malvern Festival, 1949.

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


George Bernard Shaw
Why She Would Not: A Little Comedy
London Magazine, August, 1956.

This was the first publication of what was Shaw’s last play. Clare Winsten recorded that Shaw described it as follows: "I am writing a play in which there is an old man who has a housekeeper who is so houseproud that she gradually eliminates everything that is personal in the house until he feels a perfect stranger there."

Sidney P. Albert -- George Bernard Shaw Collection

 


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Last Updated: Thursday, 15-Feb-2001 12:39:05 EST