Lot 177
BEERBOHM (MAX) Autograph caricature of Bernard Shaw, [1911]; with a photograph (2)
Sold for £3,500 (US$ 5,882) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Autograph caricature of Bernard Shaw with his biographer, captioned "The Biographer at Work", showing the biographer seated at a desk piled with papers topped with a bust of GBS, with a chart of "Shaw's Pedigree" above him, a gangling Shaw in wide-brimmed hat entering stage left with a heap of papers in one hand, dragging a stuffed sack by the other; captioned by Max: "G.B.S.: 'Ah, my dear Professor, the top o' the mhornin' to ye! 'Tis just a few more photographs I've brought round, and a statuette or two, and some old diaries of my aunt's that throw new light on my childhood, and those press-cuttings about my soul-states in the 'nineties that I promised you, and some odds and ends. So if you've a spare four-and-twenty hours 'tis myself will be sitting down with you and going through them with you, biggorah, and telling you just what I want you to do with them", drawn in pencil, unsigned, numbered "1" within circle at top right-hand corner, on one sheet, originally folded in four, laid down on card and with some scattered foxing, 404 x 315mm., [1911]; with a photograph by Karsh of Ottawa, showing Shaw playing the harpsichord, with Blanche Patch standing over him


  • 'THE BIOGRAPHER AT WORK': A HITHERTO UNTRACED CARICATURE BY MAX OF BERNARD SHAW USURPING HIS OWN BIOGRAPHY. This drawing comes from the collection of Bernard Shaw's biographer, Hesketh Pearson, whose life of Shaw, Bernard Shaw: His Life and Personality appeared in 1942, and was indeed taken over by its subject in the manner depicted by this caricature. As Michael Holroyd, biographer of both Shaw and Pearson writes: 'By the end [Shaw] had given so much of what he called his "unique private history" to the book that Pearson suggested that his contribution should be shown in the text between square brackets or by indentation. Shaw was horrified at the thought of his collaboration being exposed but nevertheless "felt so pleased by Pearson's success that, having warned him never to reveal his co-authorship, he began speaking openly of his involvement" (Bernard Shaw, 1997, p.702).

    However, it is not Hesketh Pearson who is being bombarded with information in this caricature, but rather Archibald Henderson, whose George Bernard Shaw: His Life and Works had appeared in 1911, and had also been taken over by its subject in the way described (see Holroyd, pp.369-70). This identification is confirmed by Shaw's addressing the biographer as "Professor"; for Henderson was not only an ardent Shavian, but also Professor Pure Mathematics at North Carolina. A date of around 1911 is also suggested by Henderson's attire and the drawing's style. Any doubts are removed by the survival of a companion piece, numbered '2' and of the same size as ours, now at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, and captioned 'After the Publication'. Both caricatures were sent by Max to Shaw on 6 November 1911: 'I have... found these two vague skeletons for two caricatures. They were done a few months ago, and "left at that" because I couldn't remember Henderson's features well enough to make further operations worth while' (Rupert Hart-Davies, A Catalogue of the Caricatures of Max Beerbohm, 1972, no. 1496; our caricature can now be assigned the catalogue no. 1495, previously left blank).
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