TLS Instructing his U.S. Attorney to Claim Royalties from his New York Publisher

Signed by George Bernard Shaw

$650
Item: 21429
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SHAW, GEORGE BERNARD. (1856-1950). Nobel Prize-winning Irish playwright and critic; well known for his many plays including The Devil’s Disciple and Pygmalion. TLS. (“G. Bernard Shaw”). 1p. 4to. Ayot St. Lawrence, December 16, 1946. On his London stationery to his American attorney BENJAMIN H. STERN.

“A New York firm called Crown Publishers published in 1943 a Thesaurus of Epigrams compiled by Edmund Fuller and printed by the American Book-Stratford Press of New York. It consisted of 6917 quotations of which 47 (say 1½%) were written by me and within my copyright. There was no question of comment or criticism: it was a straight steal and sale of my work without consulting me.

As a member of the Society of Authors here (Authors’ League of America is no use) I am bound not to let this infringement pass. I shall be satisfied with a royalty of 1½% per cent on the retail price of the copies sold.

Will you try the effect of a letter to them? [In holograph:] By British law both publisher and printer are liable. If this fails I shall hand the case over to the Society…”

Born in Dublin, Shaw made a name for himself in London as a music and theater critic during the 1880s and 1890s, writing for The Pall Mall Gazette, The Saturday Review and other publications. While writing fiction and plays, he also authored pamphlets for London’s Fabian Society, a group belonging to the British intelligentsia interested in socialism. Likened by some to Shakespeare, Shaw combined satire, comedy and social criticism into his more than 50 plays, which include Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Arms and the Man, Man and Superman, St. Joan, and Pygmalion.

In 1943, American author and literary critic Edmund Fuller (1914-2001) published his Thesaurus of Epigrams while editor-in-chief at Crown Publishers. Among the many epigrams of Shaw included in the volume were: “Old men are dangerous: it doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world,” “Folly is the direct pursuit of Happiness and Beauty,” “A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth,” “The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not,” and, perhaps one of his most famous utterances, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.” Like Shaw, Fuller was a longtime contributor to the Saturday Review, and published his own study on the playwright entitled George Bernard Shaw: Critic of Western Morale, in 1950.

Stern was a partner in the New York firm Stern & Reubens and represented Shaw on U.S. copyright matters.

Shaw maintained two residences: one in London’s elegant Whitehall Court and another in the country town of Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, conveniently located near London. It was from his country home that Shaw penned our letter.

Shaw has added the last line in longhand hand as well as his Ayot Saint Lawrence address in the upper margin. Folded with normal wear and in fine condition.

TLS Instructing his U.S. Attorney to Claim Royalties from his New York Publisher

Signed by George Bernard Shaw

$650 • item #21429


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