George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 59
Friendships

BERNARD SHAW WILL ALWAYS BE ASSOCIATED WITH ADELPHI TERRACE. HERE he lived, cramped and uncomfortable, thirty years. The house in which Shaw, the teetotaler, lived was built upon the "dark arches" of the Adelphi, whereunder--ironic contrast!--were stored for many years the wine bins of the leading hotels and restaurants of London. Beneath these arches Dickens and his boy friends played hide-and-seek after work was over at the blacking factory at Hungerford Market--happy augury!--as Shaw owes more perhaps to Dickens than to anyone. In 1768 the Adam twins purchased the estate of Durham Yard, and erected the block of buildings called Adelphi Terrace suggested to them by the great palace of Diocletian at Spalato (now Split). Garrick lived there, and later on it harbored the Celestial Bed of Dr. Graham, with Nelson's Emma Hamilton as its goddess. The doorway of No. 10, Shaw's abode, in Robert Street, was doubly notable: as one of the finest Adam doorways in London; and as bearing over the charming fanlight a sphinx and human faces, suggesting Shaw and the mimic world of his creation. In this same building, in a room then ( 1907) occupied by the New Reform Club, Shaw pointed out to me some frescoes by Angelica Kaufmann.

Access was not arduously difficult in those days--a bell before a small locked gate on the staircase would bring the maid. When last I was there, a huge fan of formidable spikes spread across the staircase and far out over the well. It was not erected by Shaw to bar out his biographer, but by Mrs. Shaw to keep out burglars--one had invaded the premises in her absence and taken all the spoons! Shaw was fond of demonstrating how anyone could open the gate from without with the greatest ease, and protesting that it only made the place look like a private madhouse.

Shaw's workroom, a cramped cubbyhole on the fourth floor, had its plain walls almost hidden by Albrecht Dürer prints in the excellent reproductions of the Dürer Society. The spacious living room, conspicuous for the little Bechstein piano in an Arts and Crafts case of plain oak, the Rodin bust of Shaw in bronze, and the interesting white enamel mantelpiece, was filled with books and pictures. Book shelves lined the walls, and pictures covered the remaining wall spaces and Jay about, passepartouted between glass, on the

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1

At the request of the director, Shaw presented a marble version of the bust to the Dublin Municipal Gallery of Modern Art.

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