SHAW, George Bernard (1856-1950). Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant. London: Grant Richards, 1898.
2 volumes, 8o. Photogravure portrait frontispiece in volume I. Original green cloth, top edges gilt (fading to spines and edges). Provenance: Sydney Carlisle Cockerell (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION, fourth printing, of Shaw's first collection of plays, one of the most important dramatic publications of the early modern movement. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY SHAW TO SYNDEY COCKERELL on the half-title of each volume: "To Sydney Carlisle Cockerell from G. Bernard Shaw. 8th. Feb. 1904."
Shaw met Cockerell through William Morris, when Cockerell was Morris's secretary at the Kelmscott Press. Cockerell became one of Shaw's closest lifelong friends, and eventually his literary executor. In 1923, he gave Shaw a copy of a book on Saint Joan, which he feels might have set Shaw to writing his 1926 play.
Tipped in to the first volume is an autograph postcard signed "GBS" to Cockerell dated June 24, 1895, from Richmond S.W. (it is partially quoted in Michael Holroyd's biography, p. 371): "I was just about to accept your invitation for Wednesday with aviddity when a confounded ticket came in for the Vanderbilt for that evening. Life just now is impossible: there is some confounded performance every night in all sorts of languages. I would rather have a quiet evening than an afternoon on the river with a rush back to town & the theatre afterwards; so let us put it off for a bit until things slacken: the end now draws near."
The second volume includes a tipped in autograph letter signed "G. Bernard Shaw" to Cockerell, (then curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge) dated August 28, 1898: "Would the museum's trustees object to my having the lecture copied by a typist? I have not been able to do much with them so far; but I have got to the point of finding that the MS on which the editing is done, and which is to go to the printer, must be much cut about and scrawled over with corrections, because there is to much repetition to allow Dickens, who is a responsible person (possessing a fireproof safe, which I don't) to be copied at my expense. As this will involve the papers going out of my custody for a time, I do not like to act without the consent of the trustees. I am sorry to say that there seems to be a chance of my being fit to go with the A.W.G. to Siena, Perugia, &c. Are you going? If not, let's go together later on. Yrs sincerely, G. Bernard Shaw."
Shaw originally hoped the plays would not have to be split up into two volumes: "Shaw had wanted to fit these plays into one book, printing the Unpleasant on light brown paper with an ugly print face and the Pleasant ones on white paper in the best Kelmscott style. Such a piebald volume, he predicted, 'would make a sensation'" (Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw: The Search for Love, London, 1988, p.404). (2)