These hitherto uncollected book reviews of Shaw—his first journalistic efforts—reveal much not only about the writer but also the culture of the time in which he lived. Between 1885 and 1888, Bernard Shaw published 111 book reviews in the Pall Mall Gazette. In spite of their importance as the first regular journalism Shaw wrote and the fact that the books (fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poetry) he read during these years must have formed the nucleus of his permanent library, the reviews have never before been analyzed in connection with Shaw's work. Brian Tyson has assembled the book reviews, complete with the books' titles, authors, and a brief biography of each author, including any comments Shaw made about the review, and has placed them in historical context, elucidating any interesting, difficult, or obscure references.
Tyson's critical introduction places the reviews in the context of Shaw's work and Victorian society. The reviews are often characterized by the wit and brilliance that we associate with the later Shaw, shedding light on his development as a writer at his most formative stage.
Regardless of the merits of the material Shaw was reviewing, it is amusing and enlightening to follow him down to the wandering tributaries of Late Victorian fiction and poetry, which reveal as much about Shaw as they do about the preoccupations and prejudices of the average reader of the day.