Colin Wilson

Shy, But Not Cock-Shaw

Bernard Shaw: The Search for Love, 1856–1898

By Michael Holroyd

Chatto & Windus 486pp £16 order from our bookshop

Considering that he has had more words devoted to him than any other writer of the 20th century, Shaw has been badly served by his biographers. The first of them, an American named Archibald Henderson, produced a vast work called Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet, which accomplished the remarkable feat of making Shaw sound dull. When St John Ervine’s 1956 biography achieved much the same effect, it was suddenly obvious that he and Henderson were overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information, and had been buried under it. Hesketh Pearson side-stepped the problem by telling the story largely in Shaw’s own words, which also had the advantage of making it magnificently readable. Another American, Stanley Weintraub, produced his own solution by devoting a 350 page book – Journey to Heartbreak – to a mere four years of Shaw’s life during the First World War; the result, which should have been tedious, is one of the best books on Shaw ever written.

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