SHAW 16 contains twenty-nine unpublished pieces by Shaw written between 1877 and 1950. The most significant is a ten-page draft synopsis of Man and Superman (the original manuscript draft of the play has been lost) in a contemplated five-act version, providing scholars with a hitherto unavailable ur-text. Equally important for the biographical and artistic insights they offer are the early literary efforts found in Shaw's first opus notebook, including an extended narrative-verse fragment of 1877 set in Dublin; a polemic (his first) on oakum picking and prison conditions; a criticism of organists and orchestral conductors; and an attempted evaluation of contemporary arts and letters in 1878.
We find Shaw, through the persona of a female narrator, creating in his own image a fictional memoir of the young Hector Berlioz; offering an ironic vindication of housebreakers (in anticipation of Heartbreak House); exploring the seamy side of the prizefight ring; examining "exhausted" genres of Victorian art in 1880; defining the "true signification of the term Gentleman"; lecturing on Socialism and the family and on realism as the goal of fiction; and penetratingly considering the future of marriage in a rejected book review, one of four included in the volume.
The dimensions of Shaw's political views may be examined through nearly a dozen commentaries on politics and on war and peace, ranging from the Boer War (an 1899 draft letter to the press, "Why Not Abolish the Soldier?") and 1903 municipal elections to U.S. Liberty Loans, the Italo-Abyssinian War, "how to talk intelligently" about the Second World War, and the implications of the hydrogen bomb in the nuclear age. For good measure, the volume concludes with two brief playlets, previously unrecorded.
The editors have arranged these pieces individually or grouped by theme and genre as near to chronological order as possible, and the reader is brought closer to the original manuscripts by the retention of Shaw's stylistic and spelling inconsistencies, and by transliteration of the shorthand notations he frequently inserted between lines or in the margins. Each text is supplemented by an editorial note providing its provenance and a detailed physical description of the manuscript.
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