Bernard Shaw: a Brief Biography
G. Bernard Shaw (he hated the “George” and never used it, either personally or professionally) was born in 1856 in Dublin, in a lower-middle class family of Scottish-Protestant ancestry. His father was a failed corn-merchant, with a drinking problem his mother was a professional singer.
When Shaw was just short of his sixteenth birthday, his mother left her husband and son and moved with Vandeleur Lee to London. Shaw remained in Dublin with his father, completing his scchooling (which he hated passionately), and working as a clerk for an estate office (which he hated just as much as school).
In 1876, Shaw left Dublin and his father and moved to London, moving in with his mother’s menage. There he lived off of his mother and sister while pursuing a career in journalism and writing. The first medium he tried as a creative writer was prose, completing five before any of them were published. In 1891, Shaw wrote his first pllay, Widower’s Houses. For the next twelve years, he wrote close to a dozen plays, though he generally failed to persuade the managers of the London Theatres to produce them.
In 1898, after a serious illness, Shaw resigned as theatre critic, an
In 1904, set up Shaw in a experimental theatre specializing in new and progressive drama. Over the next three seasons, Barker produced ten plays by Shaw ,and Shaw began writing new plays with Barker’s management specifically in mind. Over the next ten years, all but one of Shaw’s plays (Pygmalion in 1914) was produced in the other experimental theater managements around England. With royalties from his plays, Shaw, who had become financially independent on marrying, now became quite wealthy. The outbreak of war in 1914 changed Shaw’s life. For Shaw, the war represented the baankruptcy of the capitalist system. The effect of his opposition to English participation in the war was so strong on the public that some critics said England was fighting Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Australia and Shaw.
After the war, Shaw found his dramatic voice again and rebuilt his reputation. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Shaw’s plays were regularly produced and revived in London. Several theatre companies in the United States began producing his plays. In the late 1920s, a
Shaw lived the rest of his life as an international celebrity, travelling the world. (He visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of Stalin) In 1950, Shaw fell off a ladder while trimming a tree and died a few days later of complications from the injury, at age 94.