When he died in 1950, Bernard Shaw was a Nobel laureate hailed as the second greatest playwright in the English language. At the same time, his strangely flamboyant personality, so teeming with eccentricities and contradictions, aroused unquenchable curiosity. Despite many investigations into Shaw's life and art, parts of him-parts crucial to understanding both man and artist-have remained veiled in secrecy. In this critical biography, Sally Peters explores Shaw's background and beliefs, interests and obsessions, relations with men and women, prose writings and dramatic art. In deciphering the enigma that was Shaw, she uncovers a convoluted and extravagant inner life studded with erotic secrets.
Peters examines the passions of Shaw's life-everything from vegetarianism and boxing to socialism and feminism-and pieces them together in a new configuration, offering a fresh interpretation of his life and works. Striving unceasingly to ascend, possessed of monumental energy, Shaw was in many ways a dazzling example of his idealized superman. But, says Peters, this superman was also a man haunted by phantoms, a man of gender ambivalences and romantic yearnings, and a man who championed will even while believing that his erotic inclinations were the secret mark of the "born artist." Throughout, he was braced by a resilient comic vision as he transformed his life into enduring art.