Swans Commentary » swans.com April 11, 2011  



Celebrating Shaw's Chicago Century


by Isidor Saslav





[Paper delivered to the Chicago symposium of the International Shaw Society, October 22, 2010.]


(Swans - April 11, 2011)   When we think of Shaw and America we think first of New York City. There the actor Richard Mansfield presented Arms and the Man just six months after its London premiere in 1894; he later went on to present The Devil's Disciple in 1897, the royalties from which enabled Shaw to feel free to marry Charlotte Payne Townshend in 1898. In New York, Brentano's publishers pirated Shaw's novels and later became Shaw's official United States publisher in 1906 to be succeeded eventually by Dodd Mead in 1933. There in New York Elizabeth Marbury became Shaw's American literary agent. There in New York the actor Robert Loraine caused a sensation in Man and Superman, likewise presenting it in New York but a few months after its London premiere in 1905. Loraine's subsequent nationwide tour of that play was accompanied by a white railroad car emblazoned, "Man and Superman." There in New York likewise in 1905 Mrs. Warren's Profession was shut down by the police. There in New York Lawrence Langner and the Theater Guild presented world and American premieres of more Shaw plays. But right behind New York in American Shavian significance stands Chicago, or as we might rename it, "Shaw-cago," and this article will remind us of those many points of contact between Shaw and the Windy City.

Before there was Brentano's there was Shaw's first official American publisher, the firm of Herbert S. Stone in Chicago. How did this young man, Herbert Stuart Stone, still only in his twenties, manage to capture this London playwrighting lion, George Bernard Shaw, and bring him back to the young publisher's home lair, Chicago? Herbert Stone (1871-1915) came from a distinguished journalistic family. His father, M. E. Stone, had been the founder and editor of The Chicago Daily News in 1876. Stone began his publishing ventures with a partner, Hannibal Ingalls Kimball, in 1893 while they were both still undergraduates at Harvard and both working on The Crimson. Stone was 22 and Kimball was 19. Herbert Stone could be considered a 19th-century version of his fellow Harvardian of 110-years-later Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook. The pioneering brilliance of these two 22-year-old Harvard undergraduates in their own special fields could be considered comparable. Stone and Kimball's very first publication was a Popular Guide to the World's Fair and Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The two boy-publishers then both moved their operations to Chicago in 1894. But Kimball went on to New York in 1896, leaving the Chicago operation in Stone's hands and sole name, Herbert S. Stone & Co., Chicago and New York, 1896-1905.

Stone's firm was part of the Chicago Renaissance, that flowering of literary, artistic, architectural, and political activity around the turn of the 20th century. Such names as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Norris, Eugene Field, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Hamlin Garland, Anna Morgan (more about Ms Morgan later), the magazine The Dial, etc. remind us of the flourishing of artistic and intellectual activity in the Chicago of those days. In 1889 was erected Adler and Sullivan's brainchild, the spectacular Auditorium Theater. In 1898 the old Studebaker showroom, built in 1885, was converted into the Fine Arts Building at 410 South Michigan Ave., and there are many musical and arts establishments, studios, bookstores, etc. still busily active in this building today.

Before Stone was finished with Shaw he had published the first American edition of Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant in 1898, The Perfect Wagnerite in 1899, the first authorized edition of Shaw's third novel, Love Among the Artistsin 1900, and Three Plays for Puritans in 1901; and in that same year as well a further revision of Shaw's fourth and much pirated novel, Cashel Byron's Profession, along with its transmogrification into a play, The Admirable Bashville, plus some sundry new writings all included in one volume decorated by a sketch of a boxer on its cover.

Of equal Shavian significance was the founding of the literary magazine The Chap-Book in 1894 by Stone, Kimball, and the Canadian poet, Bliss Carman (1861-1929) while the latter was likewise a student at Harvard. Shortly after The Chap-Book's founding, Stone and Kimball moved the whole publishing operation to Chicago even before their graduations from Harvard. In 1896 Stone persuaded the British writer Clarence Rook to interview Shaw in London for The Chap-Book. Clarence Rook (1863-1915) was a journalist, novelist, and writer of short, witty sketches of Edwardian London and its inhabitants. (More about Rook's interviews with Shaw later.)

Shaw was among several prominent British authors the Chicago firm had been interested in publishing. Eventually Stone and Kimball, or just Stone, were to publish in America authors like, among others besides Shaw: George Santayana, Bliss Carman, W.B. Yeats, Edmund Gosse, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Grahame, Hamlin Garland, Maurice Maeterlinck, H.G. Wells, Henrik Ibsen in Archer's translations, Gabriele d'Annunzio, Henry James, Kate Chopin, and George Moore. Quite a distinguished list! In 1895 and 1897, Stone traveled to London and made the acquaintance of, among other literary personalities, Shaw's official London publisher, Grant Richards. To Richards Stone made his proposal to become Shaw's official American publisher in 1897.

The trail continues in Shaw's letters to Grant Richards of 7 and 28 August of 1897. In considering Stone & Kimball's offer in the first letter Shaw says, "Stone and Kimball's offer is good enough as such business goes." In his subsequent letter to Richards of 28 August he accepts Stone's offer. In this letter, after describing his royalty terms, Shaw declares, "A princely affluence will accrue to S. & K. on these terms; but I desire to make the fortune of one American publisher in order that I may spend the rest of my life in plundering all the others." Shaw had been indeed much pirated in America already.

In the last line of this very letter Shaw described his unusual terms for licensing the rights to his works for five years rather than selling his copyrights outright. This provision became the cause of a Shaw-initiated lawsuit when in 1906 Stone finally sold his book publishing business to Fox, Duffield and Co. in New York so as to spend his time directing his new magazine, House Beautiful, still a nationally distributed magazine today. According to Shaw, Fox, Duffield had no right to his licenses, which he had transferred to Stone only and which he had revoked in 1905. He thus demanded his copyrights back. Stone, however, had not returned Shaw's copyrights but had assigned them to Duffield. Duffield agreed and gave Shaw the copyrights back in December 1906. But Shaw alleged in his suit that by not having his own copyrights between March and December of 1906 he had suffered damages of $200 a day or a total of $58,400. The appeals court, which agreed that he might have a case, demanded a bill of particulars as to his damages. But as this bill of particulars never showed up Shaw lost this Jarndyce vs Jarndyce-type trial, reminiscent of Dickens' Bleak House, as Sidney Kramer described it in his history of Stone-Kimball Publishers in 1940. Once Shaw retransferred his returned copyrights to his new official publisher, Brentano's, that part of the case became moot. And Shaw never collected any of his so-called "damages." Herbert Stone thus gave up any further involvement with Shaw.

Stone was to meet a tragic end at age 44. Along with the Spanish composer Enrique Granados, Stone was one of the victims of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Thus both he and Clarence Rook died in that same year. As Kramer put it concerning the Stone-Kimball years, "...one must remark that it was from Chicago that Shaw conquered America." While he was still Shaw's authorized American publisher Stone's approval was necessary to acquire by anyone seeking to produce a Shaw play in America, whether in New York or anywhere else.

An important American who had escaped Stone's fate by oversleeping on the day his boat, the Lusitania, was to depart for England was the prominent Broadway composer Jerome Kern, soon to figure in matters Shavian as well. The Chap-Book had enjoyed a parallel and successful life to the book-publishing side of the business. Long after Rook's interview with Shaw had been published in 1896, Jerome Kern, along with publishing figure Christopher Morley, republished the Rook interview privately for a few friends in 1923 under the title Nine Answers. On 31 January 1924 Blanche Patch, Shaw's secretary, wrote to Morley concerning Nine Answers, "The flat piracy mentioned in your letter took Mr. Shaw aback considerably; and if it had been sold to the public he would have been obliged to take proceedings." The Chap-Book/Nine Answers interview was reprinted yet again, in revised form, in Shaw's autobiographical Sixteen Self Sketches of 1949. Many years later in 1987, Bucknell University republished Nine Answers still again, this time with the full approval of the Shaw estate. The Nine Answers version, described as copied from the holograph manuscript, differs interestingly from Rook's interview in The Chap-Book, described as a recasting.

On 30 April 1898 Rook interviewed Shaw again, this time for the British magazine The Academy. Both The Chap-Book and The Academy interviews have been reprinted in New York's Independent Shavian, in IV:1 Fall 1965 and XII:2 Winter 1973, respectively. But oddly enough Shaw himself in the Nine Answers version refers to still a third, mysterious, Rook interview, about Candida. On p40 of the Bucknell reprint of Nine Answers Shaw is describing his first six plays, which, he adds, if he hadn't already written them by age 40 he had better stop. When he gets to Candida he says, "Candida, about which you interviewed me in the P.M. Budget[.]" There is no reference to the P.M. Budget or this interview under Rook's name in either Laurence's bibliography or Wearing's bibliography of secondary Shaviana. The Chap-Book version, on the other hand, says at this point, "'Candida,' a sort of religious play with an East End clergyman and so forth." There is no reference to an interview in the P.M. Budget.

However, there is a self-drafted interview, as Laurence terms it, entitled "An Extraordinary Ordinary Play [Candida]" that was reprinted in the 1970-74 Collected Plays, Vol I:595-99 as an appendix to Candida. Laurence catalogued this interview in his bibliography under the date 4 April 1895, reported its title as "Mr. Bernard Shaw and his New Play," and declared its source of publication to be a magazine called New Budget. Probably Shaw misremembered the name of the magazine when he referred to the interview as Rook's interview. If so, then a previously so-called self-drafted interview may turn out to be an actual interview of Shaw by Clarence Rook for which he got no credit from Laurence. On the other hand, Rook got full credit from Anthony Gibbs who in his Bernard Shaw: Interviews and Recollections of 1990 described the New Budget interview as definitely by Rook. Nor did Laurence finally give Rook credit for this article in his updating of the bibliography in 2000. In reading both The Chap-Book and Budget interviews one notes that the hallmarks of Rook's breezy style are discernible in both. As mentioned, in a final revision of The Chap-Book/Nine Answers series, Shaw included a greatly abridged and revised version of this interview as Chapter 7 of Sixteen Self Sketches of 1949, pp65-69. The details discussed here concerning the Candida interview were omitted entirely from this revision.

But there is yet a fourth interview of Shaw by Rook, this one in a magazine called The Reader, 2 February 1907, thus almost a decade after the first three interviews. This interview has never been catalogued or noted by Laurence, Wearing, Gibbs, or anyone else as far as I know. Perhaps it's in the Union List of Serials or its British equivalent. But if you travel to the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina and request the second scrapbook of Shaviana of the 76 put together by Archibald Henderson and turn to page 80 there you will find it, as I did on my current research into this treasure trove of much unknown Shaw. In my description of this article as part of my projected catalog to the scrapbooks I said, "An appreciative though heavily inaccurate interview and biography." Henderson's usual identification notation is here missing, so we are not able to determine where The Reader Magazine was published. A different Wearing item from 1904 citing an article by Henderson himself locates the magazine in Indianapolis, a highly unlikely venue for a Rook interview. There must have been an English magazine with the same title.

But back to The Chap-Book and Nine Answers. When the Man of Destiny is being discussed The Chap-Book version of 1896 says that "'The Man of Destiny' has just been accepted by Sir Henry Irving." There is no mention of Sir Henry Irving in the Nine Answers version of 1923. Of course Irving never did produce that play. Though the Nine Answers version is said to be based on an original holograph manuscript, this manuscript does not show up in the census of manuscripts listed by Laurence under category J in his bibliography. Perhaps it is still privately owned by the Kern heirs and still uncatalogued. The Chap-Book was discontinued in 1898 and merged into the magazine The Dial. Selections from The Chap-Book are now available in facsimile reprint published by BiblioLife publishers.

Not the least important item of Shaw's Chicago links was the fact that it was in Chicago, at the first American performance of Shaw's You Never Can Tell, in February of 1903, that Shaw's longest-lasting and most important American biographer, Archibald Henderson, first became electrified by Shaw both as playwright and personality and thereupon determined to become Shaw's chief biographer, which indeed he soon became and remained so for about 50 years. You Never Can Tell had been put on by the Chicago Musical College School of Acting under the direction of Hart Conway, who, according to Henderson, cut the long speeches severely. Henderson actually reproduced the very program from that performance in his second biography of Shaw, Playboy and Prophet, 1932, p402-03. (But not in the 1911 version, Life and Works, nor in the 1956 version, Man of the Century.)

Still another Shavian tie to Chicago was the Chicago educator Anna Morgan (1851-1936). After a career in Chicago dedicated to performing the modern plays of Ibsen and Maeterlinck, Morgan established her own studio in Chicago's Fine Arts Building in 1900 shortly after it had been opened for such purposes. Her all-female student body was educated by further study and performances of the modern drama. According to Kramer and Henderson her students gave the very first performance of Candida in America in 1899, though with one male actor, Taylor Holmes, as Marchbanks. This was one year after the 1898 first American edition of Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant issued by Stone the same year as the Grant Richards edition in London. Remember that Richard Mansfield had turned down the opportunity to present his American premiere of that play in New York, thus giving Morgan's students and Chicago their chance.

When the Morgan ensemble repeated this performance in 1900 one of those 1900 productions was seen and favorably commented on by none other than the serendipitous visitor to Chicago, and probably Shaw's closest friend, William Archer himself. Archer proclaimed the production "the best performance of a play he had seen in America." Archer's rave letter to Shaw produced a Shavian invitation to Morgan to visit the Shaws in England. Morgan did not mention the 1899 performance in her autobiography, My Chicago, 1918, only the 1900 performances.

When Morgan visited the Shaws in Hazlemere (The Shaws had not yet moved to Ayot St. Lawrence.) Shaw read to her portions of Captain Brassbound's Conversion, which he was just in the process of writing. Morgan included a photo of Shaw reading the play to her in My Chicago, p74. Morgan does not mention the date of this visit but since Brassbound was published the following year in 1901 both in London and Chicago the visit must have been in the summer of 1900 very shortly after the Candida productions and Archer's letter. Morgan tells us that James Carew was a former pupil of hers, presumably in Chicago; and Shaw, having seen Carew perform in England with Gertrude Elliott, picked Carew to play opposite Ellen Terry in Brassbound on tour, Sir Henry Irving having died in 1905. Later Ellen Terry became Mrs. Carew. The Indiana-born Carew, with his presumably authentic American accent, would have fit very well into Brassbound.

Shaw gave Morgan permission to put on any play of his she wished. When she wrote him that she was going to put on the very first performance in America of Caesar and Cleopatra, newly published by Stone and Co. in Chicago in 1901, Morgan received the following letter from Shaw: "My Dear Miss Morgan: ---Great Heavens! Is my Julius Caesar going to be created at last by a Chicago young lady! Oh Anna, Anna, how can I show my face in Chicago after this? Yours Stupended G. BERNARD SHAW." This "orphan" letter does not appear in the Collected Letters, only in My Chicago, p74.

Caesar and Cleopatra had been given a copyright performance in England in 1899 but for its first performance in America Mander & Mitchenson, in their history of Shaw's performances, describe the presentation so: "First presented by students of the Anna Morgan studios for Art and Expression at the Fine Arts building, Chicago May 1, 1901 (a 'costume recital') repeated May 2 and 3." As mentioned, Morgan had established her new studio in the Fine Arts Building shortly after it had opened for business in 1898. As Stone and Co. was Shaw's official publisher, both Morgan and Conway had to get Stone's authorizations for their performances of Caesar and Cleopatra and You Never Can Tell, respectively.

And since Shaw described those British copyright performances as hole-in-the-wall affairs often attended by only one official ticket-buying person, I think we are justified in describing Morgan's students' performance of 1 May 1901 of Caesar and Cleopatra as that play's true world premiere. As such it falls into a unique aesthetic classification: classic works of theatrical or musical art that have been given their world premieres by all-female casts or performers. Two other such rare events were the world premieres of Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas at Josias Priest's girls' school in London in the summer of 1688; and any of a number of Antonio Vivaldi's concertos that he wrote for his female performers at the Ospedale della Pieta, a Venetian orphanage for young ladies, in the early 18th century. With Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra the series of all-female world premieres continued. Still another musical work joined the ranks when British composer and faculty member Gustav Holst had his St. Paul's Suite premiered by his girls at that eponymous school in 1922.

During those rehearsals of Caesar and Cleopatra leading up to the performances in May 1901, none other than Richard Mansfield himself was performing in Chicago; Mansfield who had done so much to introduce Shaw to America. Morgan invited him to one of the rehearsals and Mansfield wrote her the following letter reproduced in My Chicago: "...the excellent acting of your pupils yesterday. I really was quite astonished and I am sure their remarkable proficiency is due entirely to your admirable method of teaching...praise...and best wishes...RICHARD MANSFIELD."

Down through the decades Chicago has often displayed its love affair with GBS. In 1956 longtime cultural doyenne of Chicago Lois Weisberg declared that Chicago must celebrate Shaw's 100th birthday and so a festival and a Shaw Society of Chicago were established. Weisberg had the good fortune and persuasiveness to entice none other than the aged Archibald Henderson himself from his home in Chapel Hill, NC, where for decades he had been head of the mathematics department at the University of North Carolina, to come to Chicago and help celebrate Shaw's 100th birthday in the very city in which Henderson had first discovered his explosively exciting eventual biographee. According to Weisberg, Henderson spoke 14 times and had the time of his life.

In 1994 the company ShawChicago was established as a program of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs with the support of Ms. Weisberg, who had been appointed by Mayor Walter Washington as Chicago's Commissioner of Cultural Affairs in 1989 and remains so to this day (at about 90 years of age!). Under the leadership of figures such as artistic director Bob Scogin and Tony Courier, ShawChicago has been presenting a stellar slate of Shavian offerings on a regular seasonal basis for the last 16 years. During these years about 30+ of Shaw's approximately 55 plays have been produced here, including such less often seen plays as O'Flaherty VC, The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet, On the Rocks, Trebitsch's Jitta's Atonement, (Siegfried Trebitsch was Shaw's German translator; Shaw returned the favor by translating one of Trebitsch's plays into English), Annajanska The Bolshevik Empress, Great Catherine, The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles, Back to Methuselah, In Good King Charles' Golden Days, and Geneva. I've suggested to the decision makers of ShawChicago that they consider still another of Shaw's oddities, his hilarious parody of melodrama, Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction of 1905. As Shaw puts it in that play: "If you hear the clock strike 16 during your slumbers do not rise."

And finally, just last year in 2009, Chicago once more leaped into the forefront of the Shavian world just like in the good old days around 1900. In Glencoe last summer we were given the world premiere performances of a new musicalization of Candida entitled A Minister's Wife by its producers, The Writers' Theater. I attended one of the performances and reviewed it for Swans ("Shaw in Chicago Again") and the London Shavian, Vol 11:3 Summer 2010, pp10-15. My theory is that every 50 years or so a musicalized Shaw play becomes a world-wide smash hit. In 1909 it was the Chocolate Soldier based on Arms & the Man. In the 1950s it was My Fair Lady based on Pygmalion. Will A Minister's Wife based on Candida be charmed and also sweep the world? Good omens are in place: this season A Minister's Wife will be presented at Lincoln Center in New York. If a world-wide sweep comes to pass then once more Chicago will have reason to celebrate its century-long love affair with George Bernard Shaw.


(If any reader desires a fully annotated version of this article with all sources cited contact the author at isidor1938@aol.com.)

[ed. A revised and expanded version of this article will appear in SHAW 32, The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies in 2012, whose theme will be "Shaw and Cities of the World."]
Also by Isidor Saslav on Shaw: How I found Shaw - March 23, 2009

And Swans Special Issue: A George Bernard Shaw Retrospective


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Published April 11, 2011