An autograph letter signed by George Bernard Shaw, in reply to (and written on) a letter from Jack Beresford Fowler, an Australian theatre director

Quarto, one page, on The Art Theatre Players, Melbourne, letterhead) but from Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn, Herts, 8 May 1944.

Creased where folded for posting; left-hand margin slightly (and unevenly) trimmed; right-hand edge lightly chipped and sunned; in very good condition.

On 7 February 1944 Jack Beresford Fowler (1893-1972, a Melbourne actor, producer and director) sent an unsolicited letter to Shaw, along with a copy of a play he had collaborated in writing 'around the life of General Sir Hector MacDonald. I am wondering if you would be very magnanimous as to write me a comment about it'. The play was 'a defence of a Scottish soldier who had killed himself in 1903 after accusations of homosexuality. It received a public reading in Melbourne but was never performed on stage' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography'). Shaw's hastily written reply, in red ink on Fowler's original letter, is excruciatingly hilarious. In dot-point fashion, Shaw goes to town. '40 parts: say £300 a week for salaries', at least £1000 in production expenses, 40 costumes, the subject is 'unpleasant', with 'Historical interest none: quite obsolete'. 'Verdict on H.M. ambiguous: if he was not innocent why did he shoot himself? In view of the above objections criticism would be a waste of time. The play is economically impossible in commercial theatres, and hopelessly untopical'. At home, Beresford Fowler couldn't take a trick either: 'On stage, he seemed to have everything against him: deafness, a harsh voice which lacked any modulation, a slight speech impediment and a determination to promote plays that commercial managements would not touch (ADB). Offered with the original envelope addressed by Shaw (now with obvious signs of prior mounting), and a typed letter signed from the Lord Chamberlain's Office, Windsor Castle, 16 May 1944. The letter, mounted on a scrapbook leaf, is equally blunt: 'his Lordship is not prepared to grant a Licence, for public performance in this country, of a play which deals with sexual perversion, and further, to add his opinion that the play in question would be calculated to do more harm than good to Sir Hector MacDonald's memory'.

Provenance: Collection of The Hon Barry Jones AC.

Item #115586

Price: $1,250.00