Autograph Letter Signed to George Bernard Shaw, on "Tour 1894" letterhead of the Henry Irving and Ellen Terry theater company stationery, n.p., Sept. 25, 1894
by STOKER, BRAM
Friendships and rivalries in the British theater world of the 1890s show through in our letter by Stoker to fellow Irish author and playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) whom he addresses as "My Dear Shaw." "[Johnny] Toole goes to Burg for the days Thursday Friday & Sat., this week - [Henry] Irving wants me to look after him. He will be at the Derby Hotel. Here is his picture [not included] so that you know him...." He signs in full, "Bram Stoker." The stationery is soiled especially on verso and upper margin, with rust stain from clip on upper left edge. Tear above margin fold not affecting text. Stoker was the personal secretary to actor and theater producer Henry Irving at the time of this writing. The character of Count Dracula may have been based on Henry Irving. In his iconic horror story, Stoker incorporated his experience at Irving's Lyceum Theater by referencing plays which Irving put on there in the 1890's and 90's. According to "Bram Stoker and the Creation of Dracula," by Christopher Frayling, some of Irving's plays included, "a misquotation from Hamlet which introduces Harker's waking nightmare and which Irving always insisted on including in his version of the tragedy: 'My tablets! quick, my tablets! 'Tis meet that I put it down'..." In a review, George Bernard Shaw chided, "performing Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted'." Through Stoker's long relationship with Irving, Stoker became involved in London's high society, meeting many people including Hall Caine, who became one of Stoker's closest friends and to whom he dedicated "Dracula." Stoker was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre from 1878-1898, a theater which Irving owned. Also an actor, Irving appeared at the Lyceum, usually with actress Ellen Terry. When Irving took over the management of the theater in 1878, and hired Stoker, he also hired actress Ellen Terry as the company's leading lady - a partnership that lasted 25 years. Stoker and Ellen Terry were both under Henry Irving's sway and had a bond with one another. Since Terry and Shaw had a different kind of bond, it would be probable that Stoker met Shaw at various times over the course of his life. As Henry Irving's business manager, Stoker wrote many of Irving's letters including letters to Shaw which begin as ours does. George Bernard Shaw was a journalist, book reviewer, art and theatre critic who was just beginning to see success in his playwriting. His reviews of Henry Irving and the theatre productions at Irving's Lyceum theatre were quite disparaging. Shaw criticized Irving's productions almost to the point of ridicule but not Irving himself as an actor. Irving kept mostly silent about this, but then seemed to get his revenge when Shaw sent him "The Man of Destiny" to produce. Irving paid him a retainer, but never produced the play. Our research indicated that Shaw told Ellen Terry that a production by Irving would establish Shaw. Shaw was outraged when Irving refused to produce the play; hence Irving's revenge. Jealousy may have also played a part in the combative relationship between Shaw and Irving. George Bernard Shaw was enamored with Ellen Terry and jealous of Irving's connection to her which was both professional and personal. Our research shows that Shaw wanted Terry in his own plays and possibly as a love interest. The two of them did have a romance of sorts, what Shaw called a "paper courtship" which began in the 1890s. It was a long, flirtatious correspondence, but mostly likely a relationship only on paper. Other letters are known, some published, from Stoker to Shaw, with Stoker writing on behalf of Irving. This letter was written before the feud between Irving and Shaw, and Stoker's words of welcome on behalf of Irving are surprising given their future. We have not found our letter to be published. John Toole met Henry Irving when they acted together in 1857 in a summer tour in John Poole's farce "Paul Pry." They remained friends for the rest of their lives. In 1879, Toole took over the management of the Folly Theatre, renaming it in 1882 to Toole's Theatre. He retired from the stage in 1893, however, continuing to make occasional appearances. His theatre was demolished in 1895 and his theatre company in 1896. (Inventory #: 4235)
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