According to Mencken: "Through Shaw, I found my vocation at last." It is no surprise that Mencken was enthusiastic in his praise of Shaw when he wrote His Plays, but as time passed, this love would wane, and he would eventually criticize Shaw in a later work Prejudices. Mencken began work on the novel in 1904, with the goal of publishing the book under John W. Luce. The body of the book is summaries of Shaw's plays, with minor analysis. The entire book was slightly over 100 pages.
Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is the introduction, where Mencken injects his own personality and beliefs into the work, praising Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, and Herbert Spencer - all of whom he insisted influenced Shaw. In fact, Mencken incorrectly suggested their influence on the man.
Response to the work was mixed, and Mencken made no money at all. In fact, Mencken hoped to meet with Shaw, but his letters went unanswered. Mencken assumed that this was because Shaw disliked the work, but in fact Shaw was moderately impressed - a fact Mencken only discovered years later, while writing Prejudices.
The Correspondence of George Bernard Shaw: Late Delivery from Theatre's Man of Letters; A New Book Documents the 27-Year Correspondence between Playwright George Bernard Shaw and Sir Barry Jackson, Founder of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Terry Grimley Looks at a Theatrical Relationship Which Had an Influence Far beyond the West Midlands
Jul 09, 2002; Byline: Terry Grimley The platforms of New Street Station are not usually noted for their role in theatre history, but perhaps a...