Send for Shaw, not Shakespeare

Michael Holroyd in the Times Literary Supplement:

When I was invited to write the authorized biography of Bernard Shaw in the early 1970s, he was still accepted as a great force in the world, an influence on the young, a bearded prophet from a past age warning us provocatively, uncomfortably, of the dangers in our contemporary world. He did of course acclaim some social changes that had taken place, such as the National Health Service. But his role was mainly to challenge rather than to celebrate. His plays were quite regularly performed at the National Theatre and politicians such as Tony Benn and Robin Cook made no secret of having read him attentively and of having been influenced by his writings – nor did that legendary insurgent on his prison island, Nelson Mandela. American and Canadian academics in particular were devoting their careers to studying his work – his letters, his diaries, his music and drama criticism as well as his prefaces, political essays and plays. He was so prolific, so voluminous, so various, that there seemed plenty to keep them busy well into this century.

More here.