The Inimitable GBS

The Inimitable GBS

The most famous European writer of the first half of the twentieth century was not Proust, Kafka, Joyce, Mann, Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Rilke, Lawrence, Brecht, Gide, or Pasternak. In fact, if one could somehow quantify literary celebrity, I suspect these dozen immortals would scarcely make up his sum. Perhaps the most surprising revelation in Michael Holroyd’s immense biography is the degree to which this period was
the Age of Shaw. His plays were performed, his books sold, his lectures attended, his opinions publicized, his correspondence engaged, and his philanthropy solicited (usually successfully) at a staggering rate. “Of his influence,” Edmund Wilson concluded in 1936, “it is not necessary to speak. The very methods we use to check him have been partly learned in his school.”

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