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Samuel N. Freedman collection of Bernard Shaw

Collection MS-2002-044: Samuel N. Freedman collection of Bernard Shaw


  • Creation: 1883 - 2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1890 - 1988

Scope and Content note

The Samuel N. Freedman collection of Bernard Shaw consists of materials relating to Shaw accumulated over a period of forty years by Freedman. In addition to manuscripts and publications by and about Shaw, it contains memorabilia from events, plays, and movie productions, produced both during Shaw's lifetime and after his death, as well as materials relating to his contemporaries. Also included are materials from societies that Shaw belonged to; a limited amount of correspondence to and from Shaw; and photographs of Shaw and his friends and family.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. One audio cassette has been digitally copied; all original media was retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note: Samuel N. Freedman

Samuel Nathan Freedman was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1915 to Frank and Bessi Freedman. After attending high school in Taunton, Massachusetts, he pursued higher education at Boston University. Once out of school, Freedman founded a furniture company, Pioneer Furniture, and used the proceeds in part to pursue his interest in the arts. While his most notable collection was of material by the American novelist Samuel Langhorne Clemens (better known as Mark Twain), he also collected material by playwright Arthur Miller, artists Aubrey Beardsley and Leonard Baskin, and materials related to Napoleon Bonaparte. In the early 1950s, Freedman purchased a copy of Overruled by Bernard Shaw, starting the lifelong fascination with (and collection of) the Shaw materials that form the locus of the present collection. Eventually, Freedman began a friendship with Dan H. Laurence, a bibliographer and Shaw scholar, which helped Freedman to further aggregate Shaw materials. In 1965, Freedman helped co-found StageWest, a Springfield, Massachusetts-based residential theatre which ran until 1998. For many years, Freedman wrote an arts column for the Springfield Herald under the pseudonym J. C. Middleborough. In 1975, he closed Pioneer Furniture, and (along with his wife Margola) started selling used and rare books from their home under the name Lyman Books. Freedman died on April 18, 2008, in Northampton, Massachusetts.


"Samuel Nathan Freedman," The Republican. (Springfield, MA, 22 April 2008): B05.

Biographical note: Bernard Shaw

Bernard Shaw was born George Bernard Shaw on July 26, 1856, at number 3 Upper Synge Street (now 33 Synge Street), Dublin. He was the third and last child of George Carr Shaw, a grain merchant, and Elizabeth (Gurly) Shaw, a singer who instilled an appreciation for music in her young son. Shaw disliked the name George and never used it, although he signed his initials "G.B.S." He attended school until the age of 15, when he left to become an office clerk. He left Dublin for London in 1876 and did not return for 30 years. He began his writing career in the late 1870s with the publication of several articles in journals and political newspapers, along with a series of novels published in socialist periodicals. Most of this early fiction was not well received, and Shaw's primary reputation was as a journalist, critic, and political ideologue, especially after he joined the Fabian Society in 1884, of which he became a prominent member. He moved into playwriting in 1892 when his first play, Widowers' Houses, was performed by J. T. Grein's Independent Theatre. This ran for only one performance, and his next two plays, Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893) and The Philanderer (1893), were not performed for many years. He achieved success, however, with the plays Arms and the Man (1894) and Candida (1897), which were well-received in both London and New York.

In 1898 Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townsend, a wealthy Irish heiress and fellow Fabian, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1943. Shaw wrote prolifically around the turn of the century, producing some of his best known plays during this time, including The Devil's Disciple (1897), Caesar and Cleopatra (1898), You Never Can Tell (1899), and Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1899). During this period he also wrote John Bull's Other Island (1904), which was performed for King Edward VII in 1905, Major Barbara (1905), Man and Superman (1905), and The Doctor's Dilemma (1906). In 1913 he wrote Pygmalion, which was produced first in Vienna, then in London in 1914, and later adapted into the musical My Fair Lady in 1956.

Shaw's dramatic production slowed during the First World War as theatre costs increased and Shaw's pacifist stance grew highly unpopular. He reemerged after the war to write three of his great plays: Heartbreak House (1920), Saint Joan (1923), and The Apple Cart (1929). Saint Joan helped him win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, and for the rest of his life he was awarded many honors and titles, few of which he accepted. As he grew older he began to spend more time at his cottage at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, which he purchased in 1906 and would later become known as "Shaw's Corner." When he died on November 2, 1950, at the age of 94, he left behind a prolific bibliography that included more than fifty plays. According to his instructions he was cremated and his ashes were mingled with his wife's and spread in the garden at Shaw's Corner.


Hogan, Robert, ed. Dictionary of Irish Literature, 2 vols. Westport: Greenwood P, 1996.

Holroyd, Michael. Bernard Shaw, 4 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1988-1992.

Laurence, Dan. Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

Wearing, J.P., Elsie Adams, and Donald Haberman, eds. G.B. Shaw: an annotated bibliography of writings about him. 3 vols. DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 1986- 1987.


10.5 Linear Feet (13 containers)

1 Gigabytes (2 files with approximately .5 hours of audio)

Language of Materials



Collection of materials accumulated by Samuel Freedman relating to Irish playwright Bernard Shaw. The collection includes correspondence; ephemera; manuscripts and publications; photographs; and play programs, primarly regarding Shaw and but also including some of his contemporaries.

Arrangement note

This collection is organized into six series: I. Bedford Debating Society register; II. Correspondence; III. Ephemera; IV. Photographs; V. The Shaw Society; and VI. Works.

Series II. Correspondence is subsequently divided into two subseries, A. Shaw and B. Shaw's contemporaries. Series VI. Works is divided into two subseries, A. Shaw and B. Other authors. Subseries A. Shaw contains two sub-subseries, 1. Manuscripts and 2. Publications. Subseries B. Other authors contains three sub-subseries, 1. Manuscripts; 2. Publications; and 3. Works not about Shaw.


Purchased from Samuel N. Freedman in 2002.

Related Materials

Charlotte Frances Shaw letters, MS.2008.017, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Bernard Shaw letters to Bernard Patridge, Ms.2005.059, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Bernard Shaw questionnaire, MS.2002.039, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials note

This collection included published materials that have been transferred to the John J. Burns Library book collections.

Processing Information note

Many of the descriptions in this finding aid are based on information provided by Samuel Freedman.

Processing Information note

The form of Shaw's name in the collection title (and throughout the finding aid) was changed during reprocessing in 2017 from George Bernard Shaw to Bernard Shaw to reflect the authorized form of his name according to the Library of Congress.

Samuel N. Freedman Collection of Bernard Shaw
1883-2000 (bulk 1890-1988)
Erin Brown, Sarah Torretta Klock, Mitchell Fraas, Jeff Stevens, and Kelly J. S. McGovern in 2003, and Stephanie Hall
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States