Shaw: Letters: 2volume 4

Dan H. Laurence, Editor Viking Books $45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-670-82109-9
The fourth and last volume of this massive collection includes letters, postcards and telegrams Shaw wrote from the age of 70 to his death at 94. Here, addressing Elgar, Nehru, Wells, Yeats and hundreds of others, he indulges his whims, gives his impressions of art, literature, music, politics and foreign countries, continues to advise actors, directors and producers (including the Little Theatre of Akron, Ohio), tells Winston Churchill how to win the war, admonishes publishers, provides monetary, editorial and other guidance to needy individuals, confirms his admiration for dictators, fascism and communism. Typical are his refusals to contribute to causes that make no sense to him. Signing himself ""almost indignantly,'' he is against playwrights' contributing even a small percentage of theatrical proceeds to a fund for Jewish refugees; and he does not sign an appeal against the killing of civilians in wartime because he regards them as ``the enemy just as much as the soldier.'' To Virginia Woolf he declares that he has been secretly in love with her since the first time they met (and she responds in kind). When he tells Wendy Hiller that she has misconceived her role in St. Joan he does so charmingly and disarmingly. A copy of his letter of June 19, 1940 to Dodd, Mead should appear on the bulletin board of every literary agent in the land. Laurence, adviser to the Shaw estate, supplies excellent summary introductions, identifies people and institutions and concludes with an account of Shaw's death that should help put to rest the many unreliable posthumous reports and ``last words.'' In his final letter, written six days before he tripped on a garden edging and broke his hip, Shaw ended, ``I shall be burnt up myself presently; but the fumes will get no farther than Golders Green.'' Not so: they penetrate and warm every page of this relentlessly readable volume. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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