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G.B.S. – Irish and British literature’s most famous initials

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Language, Literature, Theatre on Thursday, 29 March 2012

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This edited article about George Bernard Shaw originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 679 published on 18 January 1975.

Pygmalion, picture, imge, illustration

Professor Higgins meets Eliza Dolittle in ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw. Picture by Ralph Bruce

The man who was to become the most famous British playwright of this century, was born in Dublin on July 26th, 1856. At the age of twenty, George Bernard Shaw went to London to seek his fortune. He spent four years writing five novels and each of them was sent to every publisher in London, and returned with a rejection slip.

In 1884 Shaw joined the Fabian Society, which had been set up to make the ideas of socialism better understood and more widely known. He soon won fame as a public speaker and for his pamphlets on politics and socialism.

In 1885 he started to make a living as a book critic and art critic. It was his reviews of music, however, which established his reputation. Many people believe that Shaw was the most original and amusing critic in the English language.

Meanwhile he had begun to write plays. The first was performed in 1892 and was given a mixed reception by the critics. He followed this by The Philanderer and Mrs. Warren’s Profession. In his plays, Shaw attacked many of the firmly-held moral, social and political beliefs of his time and because of this, many people were shocked and upset by his plays. Eventually, though, many of them became great successes on the stage in Europe and America as well as in Britain. They include Arms and The Man, Candida, The Devil’s Disciple, Man and Superman, The Doctor’s Dilemma, Heartbreak House, Back To Methuselah, Pygmalion and Saint Joan.

In 1925 Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He lived to the grand old age of 94 and went on writing almost to the time of his death in November, 1950.

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