Shaw created the part of Eliza Doolittle for the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell who in her mid 40s played the 18 year old flower girl when Pygmalion opened in London in April 1914. After the outbreak of WW1, with theatres closing in London, Patrick Campbell took the play to New York where it ran for 74 performances, closing on December 12. Two days later, the indefatigable actress set off on a sixteen month tour of the United States and Canada. Below is a letter that Shaw wrote to the actress (with whom he had a tempestuous affair) exactly 100 years ago today. It reveals Shaw’s deep anger against the First World War.
10 Adelphi Terrace
13th January 1915
…I have just received the returns for your Xmas week: ruin retrieved by four mammoth performances in two days. It is curious how steadily it averages out at £1500 a week.
Are they overworking you?
We are quite likely to have bombs dropped on us here as the year goes on; so perhaps it is as well you are many million miles away…Loraine has just been describing to me how he dropped four monster bombs on a little town, two in the market place and one at each end of the main street. They shot him (on a subsequent occasion) in the small of his back, the bullet coming out of his collar bone after going up through his lung and knocking his heart into his left elbow. The lung is still out of action; but he is fairly robust, and starts fro Rio Janeiro the day after tomorrow on a recuperative voyage.
What I said in Common Sense About the War is nothing to what I will say presently if this silly business of feeding men into the machine to be killed, absolutely without any other result, goes on and on.
And that is all Stella. Might be a scrap of newspaper, might it not? Do you never ask yourself what has become of my sonnets?