Charlotte and George Bernard Shaw collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by both George Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte with the Antarctic explorers Apsley Cherry-Garrard and Ernest Henry Shackleton on non polar matters.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Bernard Shaw was born on 26 July 1856 in Dublin. After working in an estate agency in Dublin, he moved to London in 1876, where he established his reputation as a leading art critic and became a prominent and active member of the Fabian Society, for which he composed many pamphlets. He began his literary career as a novelist, writing five novels between 1878 and 1883, all of which were initially rejected by publishers. Inspired by Henrik Ibsen, Shaw began to write plays, and his early dramas, such as Widowers Houses (1892) and Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893), attacked the social hypocrisy of the time.

From 1897 until 1903, Shaw served as a vestryman and later as a borough councillor of St. Pancras in London.

While recovering from an illness in 1898, he met Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend (1857-1943), daughter of an Irish barrister, and they married later in the same year. Shaw continued to write plays, many with political themes, including Man and Superman (1903) and Major Barbara (1905). Other important plays written by Shaw during this period were Androcles and the Lion (1912) and Pygmalion (1912).

Shaw's status as a playwright continued to grow after the First World War with plays such as Saint Joan (1923), and in 1925, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He continued to write plays and books and pamphlets on political and social issues. He died on 2 November 1950 at Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire.


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034 and Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950, Oxford University Press, London (1959) and Nobel laureates and Spartacus and Who was who, 1941-1950, Adam & Charles Black, London (1952)

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.