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Shaw, George Bernardlocked

(1856–1950)

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Shaw, George Bernard(1856–1950), playwright, was born 26 July 1856 at 3 Upper Synge Street, later renamed and renumbered 33 Synge Street, Dublin. His grandfather, Bernard Shaw, was ‘a combination of solicitor, notary public, and stockbroker that prevailed at that time’ in Dublin, who was ruined when his partner decamped with £50,000 of his money, together with large sums belonging to their clients. The shock was too much for him, and he collapsed and died, leaving his widow almost destitute. George Bernard Shaw's father, George Carr Shaw, was the eighth of her fifteen children, and was twelve at the time. He grew up to be a genial, ineffective man with a sardonic sense of humour and a keen appreciation of anticlimax: gifts which he transmitted to his son. He had no capacity to cope with the general traffic of existence. Through the influence of his kinsman, Sir Robert Shaw, the founder of the Royal Bank of Ireland, popularly known as Shaw's Bank, he was appointed to a sinecure in the Dublin Law Courts, which he held until it was abolished in 1850. He received a pension of £60 a year, which was immediately compounded for a lump sum and invested in a corn-mill in Dublin about which he knew nothing. His partner, a cloth merchant named Clibborn, was equally ignorant, with the result that the firm, Clibborn and Shaw, never flourished; nevertheless it maintained George Carr Shaw, although not Clibborn, until his death. He was still short of thirty-eight when he met Lucinda Elizabeth Gurly, a wilful young woman of twenty-one, who had a cold unloving heart, a ferocious chin, and no sense of humour whatsoever. She was the daughter of Walter Bagnall Gurly, an impoverished and unscrupulous country gentleman with an estate in county Carlow which was deeply embogged in debt, but she had been brought up by her aunt, Ellen Whitcroft, a hunchback with a pretty face and a severely puritanical temper. She sought refuge from her in marriage. It is improbable that George Carr Shaw married her: it seems certain that, although she bore him no love, it was she who married him. He was her senior by seventeen years, a feckless and unimpressive man with a squint, and a vice of which she was unaware. He was, he protested, ‘a lifelong and bigoted teetotaller’, a statement which he believed to be true because he tippled in secret and was morbidly ashamed of his habit when he was sober....

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