George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Shaw Family

THE SHAWS IN IRELAND WERE AN EXCELLENT UPPER-MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY. They were gentry with small estates, agriculturists, lawyers, sportsmen, living pleasantly and in comparatively easy circumstances. For two centuries prior to George Bernard Shaw's birth, there emerged no conspicuously eminent figures.1

Shaw claimed to be a "genuine typical Irishman" of the (among others) "Cromwellian and (of course) Scottish invasion." On June 24, 1931, I received the following postcard from Shaw, 4 Whitehall Court, London, S.W.1:

married Oliver Cromwell
Bridget Cromwell
General Fleetwood
Frances Fleetwood
Captain Fennell of Cappoquin, Co. Kilkenny
Elizabeth Fennell
Daniel Markham
N. Markham
N. M.'s daughter
Robert Shaw
William Shaw of Sandpits

and so on: see the genealogical tree in the great biography.2 This has been sent me by Lloyd Christian (descendant of Duncan) whose grandfather married my grandmother's sister. But I go back to Shaigh, the third son of Shakspear's Macduff. Hence my talent for playwriting.

GBS

____________________
1
In my first biography of Shaw ( George Bernard Shaw. His Life and Works [ London, 1911], Appendix) there is an exhaustive genealogical chart of the Shaw and allied families: Gurly, Tench, Richards, Briscoe, Bewley, Markham, of the counties Tipperary, Kilkenny, and Dublin, together with other lineal ancestors of George Bernard Shaw. This chart was prepared by the Rev. W. Ball Wright, M. A., Osbaldwick Vicarage, York, England. To Mr. W. J. Pilsworth, Grennon Lodge, Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland, genealogist, I am indebted for additional data. The following marriage notice appeared in the Leinster Journal, April 30, 1768: "Married: Mr. William Shaw of Bessborough to Miss Esther English of Waterford." It appears that her father was not rector of Thomastown, County Kilkenny, as stated in the above-mentioned chart. Robert Shaw probably occupied Sandpits shortly before June, 1732, when he leased it from Lord Duncannon.
2
See Archibald Henderson, Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet ( New York, 1932), p. 10, where these claims are cited.

-3-

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