George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

APPENDIX IV
A Brief Memoir of Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend by Her Nearest Kinswoman

I am indebted to the late Mrs. G. B. Shaw's closest living relative for this brief memoir of her aunt. The original is in typescript, unsigned; and was written for this work.

Charlotte Frances, daughter of Horace and Mary Susannah Townsend, was born at Derry, Co. Cork, Ireland, the 20th January, 1857, and baptized at Ross Carbery Cathedral on February 22nd the same year.

Her parents Horace and Susannah Townsend and their two daughters assumed the surname of Payne (in addition to and before that of Townsend) by Royal License on November 18th, 1863 and in the year 1874 they altered the spelling of their final surname from Townsend to Townshend.

Charlotte was married to George Bernard Shaw on June 1st, 1898 at the Strand Registry Office, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London. Most of Charlotte's childhood was spent at Derry in the south of Ireland with her parents and only sister Mary Stewart to whom she was very devoted. The latter married Hugh Cecil Cholmondeley, Captain in the Rifle Brigade in 1885.

Charlotte and her father were very good friends. She never got on with her mother who was a managing domineering woman intensely practical, while her father was a quiet, retiring, shy man, devoted to reading and deeply interested in finance. (He was reputed to have doubled his fortune twice on the Stock Exchange.) From her father Charlotte no doubt acquired her knowledge of finance and all her life she most successfully managed her own money affairs. No one was allowed to invest her money for her with the result that in spite of wars and all the troubled times through which she lived her fortune when she died was much the same as when she married. After her sister's marriage and her father's death in 1885, Charlotte lived with her mother mostly at their house in London, 21 Queens Gate, until the latter's death in 1891.

During the years which followed she seems to have been restless and unhappy. She travelled a lot and spent a good many months each year in Rome. She seems to have felt she was leading a useless life and that her fortune should be used for the benefit of her poorer and less fortunate neighbours. She almost decided to take a medical training. About this time she met the Sidney Webbs

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