George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 37
Europe Discovers Shaw

JUST ONE YEAR BEFORE THE EXPRESSION OF POPULAR INTEREST IN Shaw'S PLAYS made itself strongly felt in the United States, began the Shavian invasion of Europe. In November, 1900, the thirty-year-old journalist, Siegfried Trebitsch, visited London to write letters to Vienna regarding the English stage. At the National Liberal Club, where they met by appointment, William Archer pointed out to Trebitsch the brilliant and original works of Shaw, as comparing favorably with the best dramatic work of the Continent. After reading Shaw's published plays, Trebitsch felt that he had discovered a genius.1

With unbreakable resolution, Trebitsch called at 10 Adelphi Terrace, and finally succeeded in inducing Shaw to accept him as translator. "I did what I could," says Shaw, "to dissuade him from what seemed a desperate undertaking; but his faith in my destiny was invincible." At this time, Shaw unblushingly confesses, "I was rated in the theatrical world of London as an absurd pamphleteer, who had been allowed to display his ignorance of the rudiments of stage technique, and his hopeless incapacity for representing human nature dramatically or otherwise, in a few performances at coterie theatres quite outside recognized theatrical commerce."2

It was at the very close of 1902 that Shaw first came to European notice through Trebitsch's translation of three plays.3 Immediately before the publication of Trebitsch's translations, the great Danish critic, Georg Brandes, urged that these plays be produced in Denmark. And in his foreword, speaking of Shaw, Trebitsch writes:

____________________
1
Consult "Letters of George Bernard Shaw to Siegfried Trebitsch," Plain Talk ( New York), February and March, 1930.
2
Translator's Note to Jitta's Atonement, in Translations and Tomfooleries ( New York, 1926). Mr. Shaw is in error as to Central Europe in the statement: "In the last decade of the nineteenth century I was deriving a substantial income as a playwright from America and Central Europe. Not until the middle of the first decade of the twentieth could I have lived by my theatrical earnings in London." Shaw derived no income as a playwright from Central Europe until 1903 and subsequently.
3
Drei Dramen von Bernard Shaw: Candida-Ein Teufelskerl-Helden ( Cotta, Stuttgart und Berlin, 1903). Georg Brandes' article, in which he discusses only these three plays, appeared in the Copenhagen Politikken for December 29, 1902; and in Zukunft, XI Jahrgang, s. 33.

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