Saturday, July 5, 2014

George Bernard Shaw Quits his Job to Write Fulltime (July 5, 1880)

On this date in English literary history – July 5, 1880, George Bernard Shaw quit his job at the Edison Telephone Company to write. Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856, and left school at the age of 14 to work in a land agent's office. In 1876, he quit and moved to London, where his mother, a music teacher, had settled. He worked various jobs while trying to write plays. He began publishing book reviews and art and music criticism in 1885. Meanwhile, he became a committed reformer and an active force in the newly established Fabian Society, a group of middle-class socialists.
His first play, Widowers' House, was produced in 1892. His second play, Mrs. Warren's Profession, was banned in Britain because of its controversial content. In 1905, when the play was performed in the United States, police shut it down after one performance and jailed the actors and producers. Although some private productions were held, the show wasn't legally performed in Britain until 1926. In 1895, Shaw became the theater critic for the Saturday Review, and his reviews during the next several years helped shape the development of drama. In 1898, he published Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, which contained Arms and the Man, The Man of Destiny, and other dramas. In 1904, Man and Superman was produced. In his work, Shaw supported socialism and decried the abuses of capitalism, the degradation of women, and the evil effects of poverty, violence, and war. His writing was filled with humor, wit, and sparkle, as well as reformist messages, and his play Pygmalion, produced in 1912, later became the hit musical and movie My Fair Lady. In 1925, Shaw won the Nobel Prize for literature and used the substantial prize money to start an Anglo-Swedish literary society. He lived simply and continued writing into his 90s. He produced more than 40 plays before his death in 1950.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous book that include Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. The book was a FINALIST in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for autobiography/ biography. For more information about the author visit his website

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