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Shaw: An Autobiography [2 vols.] by Bernard…

Shaw: An Autobiography [2 vols.]

by Bernard Shaw

Other authors: Stanley Weintraub (Comp.)

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An Autobiography

Selected from his writings by
Stanley Weintraub

Max Reinhardt, Hardback, 1970–71.

Large 8vo. 2 vols.

Vol. 1: 1858–1898. xvi+336 pp. Introductory essay G.B.S.: Sketches for a Self-Portrait by Stanley Weintraub [vii-xvi]. Notes, Sources and Index [pp. 297-336]. 16 pp. with black-and-white photographs.

Vol. 2: 1898–1950. ix+335 pp. Introductory essay A Patchwork Self-Portrait, 1898–1950 by Stanley Weintraub [vii-ix]. Notes, Sources and Index [pp. 263-335]. 16 pp. with black-and-white photographs.

First published, 1969–70.


Vol. 1: 1858–1898

G.B.S.: Sketches for a Self-Portrait

1. My First Biographer
2. A Boy in Dublin
3. Becoming Halfeducated
4. A Genteel Profession
5. Escape from Becoming a Successful Novelist
6. The Fabian Experience
7. Morris and Others
8. Love Affairs
9. How to Become a Musical Critic
10. ''Corno di Bassetto''
11. Saturday Reviewer in the Theatres
12. Widowers' Houses
13. Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant
Appendix: Why Cyril Maude Did Not Produce ''You Never Can Tell''


Vol. 2: 1898–1950, The Playwright Years

A Patchwork Self-Portrait, 1898–1950

Preface: Who I Am
1. Plays for Puritans
2. Cerebral Capers
3. The Court Experiment
4. The Practical Impossibilities of Censorship
5. Shavian Busts
6. Tree and a Potboiler
7. War Madness
8. Joy Riding at the Front
9. Crash of an Epoch
10. Burglars
11. A Member by Baptism
12. Back to Methuselah
13. How to Write a Play
14. Saint Joan
15. Fabian Politics
16. The Apple Cart
17. Touring in Russia
18. Burning the Candle at Both Ends
19. Ending as a Sage
Appendix I: Last Will and Testament
Appendix II: How Frank Ought to Have Done It

Biographical Index: GBS


Unlike his Bernard Shaw: A Guide to Research (1992), Mr Weintraub’s Autobiography is essential for the shelves of Shavian neophytes and fanatics alike. Enormous amount of research must have gone into its preparation. The editorial work is masterful. Mr Weintraub has selected innumerable passages, ranging from a single sentence to several thousand words, from Shaw’s voluminous non-dramatic writings and he has organised them into a fluent narrative that covers more or less all of Shaw’s stupendous life. All omissions are neatly noted with ellipses, occasionally a bridge word is added, but the rest is Shaw’s own prose. In “Sources”, the excerpts are identified by first and last words, page numbers and chapters. In his “Notes”, Mr Weintraub corrects slips of Shaw’s memory as well as deliberate attempts to distort the events. The introductory essays present a concise and lucid overview of Shaw’s attitude to autobiography and what materials for one he scattered through his writings. My only quibble is the lack of bibliographies which necessitates full citations the first time a source is used and, somewhat confusingly, only short ones afterwards.

“Autobiographical intention (rather than private confession) was the sole criterion for admissibility of material.” So writes the editor. This means no private letters or other manuscripts intended for limited audience. Otherwise a great variety of books (e.g. Everybody’s Political What’s What? and Sixteen Self Sketches), long prefaces (to London Music and Immaturity, Shaw’s first novel), essays, lectures, speeches, reviews and articles, some of them uncollected or even unpublished. Fortunately, Mr Weintraub’s disclaimer does not mean the exclusion of revealing material. The editor could not have done that even if he wanted to. Shaw was not interested in recording bare facts. Even the most humdrum events are coloured by his flamboyant personality. “The best autobiographies are confessions”, Shaw writes in “his” Preface to the first volume, “but if a man is a deep writer all his works are confessions.” This is literary true of the fabulous Irishman. For all of his wilful and sometimes outrageous exaggeration, Shaw’s autobiographical writings are very much like private confessions.

Both volumes are finely illustrated with black-and-white photos. They range from family and friends to Fabian programs and production stills. Shaw’s characteristic face and charismatic eyes are well-served by several wonderful portraits, including the famous one by Karsh when he was in his late eighties and some rare ones from his late twenties. One remarkable portrait I had never seen before is credited to Elliott and Fry before the First World War. By far the most astonishing photo, however, shows the nude Shaw striking the famous pose from Rodin’s Le Penseur.

This is an indispensable work for everybody interested in Bernard Shaw. Newcomers to his personality and prose cannot do better for their introduction. Veteran admirers, no matter how seasoned, will probably find something they didn’t know before. Stanley Weintraub, clearly a Shavian scholar with thorough grasp of his subject, has done a great service to posterity. Old copies are still available and affordable. ( )
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernard Shawprimary authorall editionscalculated
Weintraub, StanleyComp.secondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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This work refers to both volumes of Shaw's Autobiography as compiled by Stanley Weintraub and published in 1969-70. Please do not combine with separate volumes.
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