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George Bernard Shaw:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950
Title: George Bernard Shaw Collection 1757-1963 (bulk 1875-1950)
Dates: 1757-1963
Extent: 80 boxes (33.3 linear feet), 1 oversize box, 13 galley folders, 10 oversize files, and 1 bound volume
Abstract: Holograph manuscripts and typescripts of working and finished versions of plays, essays, correspondence, and financial and legal records are all represented in this collection. Diaries, scrapbooks, materials accumulated by Shaw's wife, and drafts of articles and books written about the Nobel Prize winning Irish journalist and playwright are also present. The bulk of the materials reflect many of Shaw's most popular works, including Candida (1894), Pygmalion (1912), and Saint Joan (1923).
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases and gifts, 1958-1990 A large portion of the Ransom Center's G.B. Shaw Collection was included in the 1958 purchase of part of T.E. Hanley's collection of modern art and literature. Hanley held the largest private collection of Shaw's works and it's transfer to the University of Texas, along with other Hanley material, forms one of the cornerstones of the Ransom Center holdings. In the folder list, and indices, items that were not acquired as part of the Hanley Collection are indicated with an asterisk (*).
Processed by Sally M. Nichols & Chelsea Jones, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on July 26, 1856, George Bernard Shaw was the only son and third and youngest child of George Carr and Lucinda Elizabeth Gurly Shaw. Though descended from landed Irish gentry, Shaw's father was unable to sustain any more than a facade of gentility. Shaw's official education consisted of being tutored by an uncle and briefly attending Protestant and Catholic day schools. At fifteen Shaw began working as a bookkeeper in a land agent's office which required him to go out among the poor to collect rent, thus giving him an early familiarity with economic injustice. Outside of work, books, theater, and art captured his attention, but it was music that pervaded his home. His mother took singing lessons from a well known Dublin music teacher who eventually moved into the Shaw household. When her teacher moved to London Shaw's mother and two sisters followed. Shaw joined them the following year at the age of twenty hoping to make a living by writing.
His first years in London, 1876-1884, were filled with frustration and poverty. Depending on his mother's income as a music teacher and a pound a week sent by his father from Dublin, Shaw spent his days in the British Museum reading room writing novels and reading, and his evenings attending lectures and debates by the middle class intelligentsia. He became a vegetarian, a socialist, a skillful orator, and developed his first beginnings as a playwright. A driving force behind the Fabian Society, he threw himself into committee work, wrote socialist pamphlets, and spoke to crowds several times a week. Shaw began his journalism career as a book reviewer and art, music, and drama critic, always downgrading the artificialities and hypocrisies he found in those arts.
Shaw remained a boarder in his mother's home until 1889, leaving only when, at the age of 42, he married Irish heiress and fellow Fabian Charlotte Payne-Townshend; the marriage lasting until her death in 1943. Though Shaw experimented with drama from his early twenties he did not see a play of his produced on stage until 1892 with Widowers' Houses, a dramatized socialist tract on slumlordism. Shaw's writings were often controversial as in The Philanderer (1898), a play about the "new woman," and Mrs. Warren's Profession (1898), depicting organized commercial prostitution. His plays were often comical as well and it was not unusual to have serious themes in juxtaposition with a comedic plot. In almost everything he wrote Shaw saw his mission as that of a reformer and felt people should be able to hear important ideas discussed in the theater.
Shaw prefaced his plays with introductory essays dealing not only with the plays themselves but with the themes suggested by the plays; these essays became well known on their own. A Shaw innovation was to write stage directions and descriptions in narrative style in the texts rather than in the usual directorial form. Before a cast was selected for his plays, he would invite potential actors to come for readings and would read the play in its entirety to them acting out the parts exactly as he meant them to be performed. He also attended rehearsals where he gave helpful advice to actors having difficulty with a role.
In addition to his plays, which he continued to write into his nineties, Shaw wrote numerous essays on literary, economic, political, and social topics as well as essays, introductions, and reviews of novelists and poets, and was a prolific letter writer. He continued to be controversial when he spoke out on various issues as he was inclined to tell the truth as he saw it and could be ruthlessly honest. Shaw received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 after the success of his play Saint Joan, and the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Pygmalion in 1938, later made into the musical My Fair Lady (1956). George Bernard Shaw died on November 2, 1950.


Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 10 (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1982).
Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 57 (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1987).
Holroyd, Michael. Bernard Shaw, 4 vols. (New York: Random House, 1988).
Pearson, Hesketh. Bernard Shaw, His Life and Personality (London: Methuen & Co. 1961).

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescripts of working and finished versions of plays and essays, correspondence, financial records, and legal agreements are all represented in the George Bernard Shaw collection, 1770-1963 (bulk 1875-1950). Diaries, scrapbooks, materials accumulated by Shaw's wife, and drafts of articles and books written about Shaw are also present. The collection is arranged alphabetically by title or author and divided into five series: Series I. Works, 1878-1950 (31 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1780-1963 (25 boxes); Series III. Personal Papers, 1876-1950 (7 boxes); Series IV. Charlotte Shaw Personal Papers and Household Records, 1883-1943 (5 boxes); and Series V. Third-Party Works, Legal Documents, and Financial Records, 1757-1960 (12 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series contains material by Shaw in a variety of formats, including holograph drafts, typescripts, galley and page proofs, filmscripts, pamphlets, articles, poems, lectures, prefaces, and reviews. The Center holds a large number of Shaw's plays in versions varying from drafts and fragments to rehearsal and directors' prompt copies. Three novels are also represented in the collection.
The Correspondence Series contains letters to and from Shaw, and between people associated with Shaw. Many of the letters to Shaw are from admirers, fundraising agencies, publishers, theaters, and friends.
The Personal Papers Series contains a series of agreements with publishers and producers, notes for and translations of a number of plays, as well as diaries, scrapbooks, and incidental notes and lists created by Shaw or with his collaboration. Financial records and additional legal documents are also included here.
The Charlotte Shaw Personal Papers and Household Records Series contains a few notes and lists created by Shaw's wife and a small number of letters written by her, as well as a great deal of business correspondence sent to her by various contractors and publishers as well as a few personal letters from friends and acquaintances. Also included here are household financial records and legal documents including a draft of Charlotte's Will and two passports.
The Third-Party Works, Legal Documents, and Financial Records Series is made up of notes, drafts, and proofs of essays, interviews, biographies, and plays written about Shaw or sent to him with requests for reviews or comments. Many items have short notes written by Shaw on the manuscripts.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

Other materials associated with Shaw may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Archer, William
  • Baring, Maurice, Hon.
  • Bax, Clifford
  • Beerbohm, Max, Sir
  • Belloc, Hilaire
  • Coburn, Al/Gernsheim
  • Cockerell, Sydney Carlyle, Sir
  • Conkle, E.P./TA
  • Conrad, Joseph
  • Contempo
  • Craig, Edward Gordon
  • Croft-Cooke, R.
  • Downing, Robert/TA
  • Ervine, St. John Greer
  • Garnett, Edward
  • Garvin, J.L.
  • Gernsheim, Helmut
  • Graham, R.B.C.
  • Granville-Barker, Harley
  • Granville
  • Grassner, John
  • Greene, Graham
  • Harris, Frank
  • Jonathan Cape
  • Joyce, James
  • Knopf, Alfred A.
  • Lawrence, Frieda
  • Lawrence, Thomas Edward
  • Lehmann, John
  • Lowndes, Marie Adelaide Belloc
  • Lucas, Edward Verrall
  • Mackenzie, Compton, Sir
  • MacNamara, Brinsley
  • Marriott, Raymond B.
  • Masefield, John
  • Moeller P.
  • Morley, Christopher Darlinton
  • Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish Bentinck, Lady
  • O'Casey, Sean
  • Owen, Peter
  • Palmer, Herbert Edward
  • Patmore, Derek
  • PEN
  • Priestley, John Boynton
  • Richards, Grant
  • Roché, HP/Lake
  • Rodgers, William Robert
  • Russell, Bertrand Russell
  • Scott-James, Rolfe Arnold
  • Sitwell, Osbert, Sir
  • Smith, Ernest Bramah
  • Story Family (Stark Library)
  • Tarkington, Booth
  • Terry, Ellen, Dame
  • Tomlinson, Henry Major
  • Traubel, Horace (Stark Library)
  • Trevelyan, George Macaulay
  • Wells, Herbert George
  • Wilde, Oscar
  • Winsten, Clare--Art Collection
  • Wise, Thomas James
  • Yeats, William Butler

Separated Material

Available elsewhere in the Ransom Center is a collection of 871 photographs in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection. This collection includes portraits of Shaw as well as photographs taken by Shaw and provide an excellent overview of Shaw as both dramatist and man. The photographs are contained in 8 boxes and 4 albums.
There are 315 items located in the Art Collection including prints, sketches, paintings, etchings and sculptures of and by Shaw.
The Ransom Center also holds 285 Vertical File folders of newspaper clippings and other printed matter having to do with Shaw's life and career. Also available are a large number of Scrap Books containing a range of materials including theater programs for Shaw's various plays, newspaper clippings, reviews, journal articles about Shaw and his work, and a collection of information about the actress Ellen O'Malley.
The Center's Personal Effects Collection includes a small number of personal items which belonged to Shaw. These include a letter opener, several items of clothing, a lock of hair, a weather gauge, and a thermometer.
Sound recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recording collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.

Index Terms


Achurch, Janet.
Ashwell, Lena, 1871- .
Barnes, Kenneth Ralph, Sir, 1878-1957.
Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931.
Campbell, Patrick, Mrs., 1865-1940.
Charrington, Charles.
Cherry-Garrard, Apsley, 1886-1959.
Cockerell, Sydney Carlyle, Sir, 1867-1962.
Evans, Frederick Huston.
Farleigh, John.
Fifield, Arthur C.
Forbes-Robertson, Johnston, Sir, 1853-1937.
Granville-Barker, Harley, 1877-1946.
Hamon, Augustin Frederic, 1862-1945.
Hanley, T. Edward.
Harris, Frank, 1855-1931.
Henderson, Archibald, 1877-1963.
Jones, Henry Arthur, 1851-1929.
Limbert, Roy.
Loewenstein, Fritz Erwin, 1901- .
Mackworth, Margaret Haig Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda, 1883- .
Maxwell, William, 1873-1957.
McCarthy, Lillah, 1875- .
O'Malley, Ellen.
Patch, Blanche Eliza, 1878- .
Pearson, Hesketh, 1887-1964.
Pease, Edward Reynolds, 1857- .
Percy, Esmé, 1887-1957.
Richards, Grant, 1872-1948.
Rattray, R. J.
Rehan, Ada, 1857-1916.
Robins, Elizabeth, 1862-1952.
Salt, Henry Stephens, 1851-1939.
Shaw, Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend.
Shaw, Lucy Carr, 1853-1926.
Trebitsch, Siegfried, 1869-1956.
Tree, Viola, 1884- .
Vedrenne, John Eugene, 1867-1930.
Webb, Beatrice Potter, 1858-1943.
Webb, Sidney, 1859-1947.
Whelen, Frederick, 1867- .
Winsten, Stephen.


Fabian Society (Great Britain).
R. & R. Clark.


Authors, Irish--19th century.
Drama--History and criticism.
Dramatists, Irish--19th century.
Dramatists, Irish--20th century.
Fabianism, England.
Novelists, English--20th century.
Social classes--England.
Speech and social status.

Document types

Galley proofs.
Legal instruments.
Prompt books.

G. B. Shaw Collection--Folder List