cover image Bernard Shaw

Bernard Shaw

Michael Holroyd. Random House (NY), $24.95 (4pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57553-7

Holroyd begins the second volume of his massive biography with Shaw's mariage blanc to Irish heiress Charlotte Payne-Townsend. These years, which saw the composition and increasing popularity of Caesar and Cleopatra , Man and Superman , Major Barbara , The Doctor's Dilemma and Pygmalion , also included the playwright's theatrical association with Harley Granville-Barker. Holroyd examines Shaw's battles with censorship; his debates with H. G. Wells; his continuing activities for the Fabian Society; jaunts abroad with Charlotte, and love affairs by correspondence with Ellen Terry and Stella Campbell. By the end of WW I, the most famous writer in Britain was also a reformer, philosopher and preacher ``to whom no one listened.'' As he did in volume one, The Search for Love , Holroyd arranges chapters by theme rather than strict chronology, focusing on the content, meaning, intent, treatment and reception of Shaw's writings and their connections with what was happening in his personal life. Holroyd quotes extensively from Shaw's friends and associates, from contemporary reviews and--best of all--from GBS himself. Contrasted to Shaw's sparkling, energetic style, Holroyd's own contribution seems disappointingly pedestrian. Photos not seen by PW . ( Sept.)