Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

George Bernard Shaw Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: 1989

Biographical History

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright and literary critic. He is the only person to have received both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938); the latter was for his work on the film adaptation of his play, Pygmalion. He was active in the British socialist organization the Fabian Society.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Bernard Shaw Collection consists of twenty items of correspondence and printed material. Many of the items in the collection center around Shaw's activities in the Fabian Society, but there are also some miscellaneous items of correspondence and writings, as well as an assortment of theatrical memorabilia associated with the first productions of some of Shaw's plays.

Correspondence, mostly outgoing, was written between 1893 and 1947, and includes five letters, two postcards and two notes. Whether consenting to assist the London Shakespeare League (15 Mar 1906: "Yes: You may put my name on the general committee; and if there is any sense in their plans I will help guarantee the fund") or declining an invitation to appear in public (23 Sep 1927: I'll see him damned first. I never do these tomfool stunts about the theatre and literature and art and so forth"), Shaw brings a characteristic wit and style to his correspondence. Writing to critic Hanen Swaffer of the Daily Mirror, Shaw admits wryly (17 Jul 1909):

I actually think the imitation of myself better than the imitation of Mr. Granville Barker. This is a considerable compliment, as I generally appreciate caricatures of others much more than caricatures of myself.

The remainder of the outgoing correspondence (to Edward Reynolds Pease, John Parker, Robertson Scott) is in connection with activities of the Fabian Society. The earliest letter in the collection refers to the reimbursement of the Society's lecturers (11 Jan 1893):

In cases where a nice sense of personal dignity leads a lecturer to treat your request for details of expenses with scorn, the proper course is to pass over the incident with imperturbable politeness, and to take particular care that the defaulter never again sees the color of the Fabian money...I imagine we shall find it a cheap way of getting rid of the sort of lecturer whom we cannot very well get rid of in any other way.

Other letters to Pease suggest an agenda of lectures on socialism for new "recruits" (5 Jun 1908) and make recommendations for delicately handling the discouragement of a prospective Labour Party candidate from running in an upcoming election. Recognizing his popular appeal and not wishing to compromise the serious business of the Fabian Society, Shaw writes (Oct 1942):

The meeting will be one of first-rate importance;but it would be a mistake to confuse it with a come-back of Shaw. There are still a lot of my old fans about, to say nothing of unpolitical and useless young Pygmalion fans, curious to see the author of the film that has broken all records (damn it!). They would crowd out the hall and want me to speak all the time; and as I have just had a complete set of new teeth I could perhaps do it. It would be a meeting of ghosts comes to be gibbered at by a dotard; and the really important speakers would be disgusted.

In addition, there is a single incoming letter (25 Feb 1920) from A. Reyding, Belgium agent for the Society of Authors, in connection with royalty payments to Shaw for a production of Pygmalion in Flemish.

Printed material includes miscellaneous writings, theatre programs, and memorabilia. Included is an issue of the Fabian Quarterly (no. 44) which contains an article by Shaw entitled "Fabian Failures and Successes," and an article which appeared in the Old Lutonian, "How to Become a Model Parent." Five theatre programs are from original productions of Shaw's plays, and there is also a page proof for a program note for Androcles and the Lion. Also among the printed material is a single item by Eddy S. Feldman about Shaw entitled "G. Bernard Shaw: Furniture Man," a reprint from National Furniture Review.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950.

Corporate Bodies

Fabian Society (Great Britain)


Dramatists, Irish -- 20th century.
Theater -- Great Britain -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Programs (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George Bernard Shaw Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of William Pearson Tolley, 1977.

Table of Contents


Printed material