Dan H. Laurence: George Bernard Shaw scholar

Dan H. Laurence was the bibliographer's bibliographer. In the painstaking search for the publications, in any form, of any writer, no one else was more pertinacious and skilful. Books and signed articles were easy, although he was adept at spotting unrecorded variant issues. But when it came to tracing a letter to a newspaper, an anonymous paragraph or some other ephemeral piece, with no more to go on than a vague or casual mention in an author's correspondence, he was in his element.

All these gifts, put to work on authors as diverse as Henry James and Albert Einstein, were in fact but a training for what became his life's work, the retrieval and editing of everything written by George Bernard Shaw. Anyone less determined would have looked at the great mass of writing produced over almost a century and turned elsewhere, seeing the plays and their prefaces, music criticism, and the thousands of letters and articles on peace, vegetarianism, healthy clothing and so on as just too much for any other human being to tackle. Laurence thought otherwise, and devoted the rest of his life to proving the point.

He was born Daniel Hyman Goldstein in the Bronx, New York, in 1920 and never lost the outward appearance and voice of his youth. During the Second World War he served in the Army Air Force in the Pacific and Australia, where he met and married; his wife died shortly after. On return he changed his name to Laurence, carefully avoiding (though others did not) exact similarity to D.H. Lawrence. In 1946 he graduated from Hofstra University on Long Island, taking his master's degree in 1950. He taught English at Hofstra until 1962 when he moved to New York University. He moved finally to San Antonio in 1970 to be near, but not too near, the great collection of modern manuscripts at the University of Texas.

By now, he was well launched on his bibliographical career, and had first ventured into Shavian waters. In 1957 A Bibliography of Henry James, compiled by Laurence and James's biographer, Leon Edel, appeared in the "Soho Bibliographies" series, with expanded editions in 1961 and 1982. After this came the bibliography of Einstein that appeared with the edition of his complete works in 1960. The task of retrieving Shaw's uncollected writings also began in 1960 with How to Become a Musical Critic, followed in 1962 by Platform and Pulpit and The Matter with Ireland (with David Greene).

Laurence then moved on to Shaw's correspondence, publishing the Collected Letters 1874-97 in 1965 and Collected Letters 1898-1910 in 1972, completing the series of 2,500 letters in 1988. A host of other collections and editions, including the Complete Plays with Their Prefaces (1975) and Complete Musical Criticism (1981). The capstone of his work on Shaw was Bernard Shaw: a bibliography, in two fat volumes, published in the "Soho" series in 1983. With it he proved that a definitive map of Shaw's published writings was not, as suspected, an impossible task.

What might appear an arduous and placid life of scholarship was never like that. He was quick of speech and apt to shoot from the hip, and there was a kind of joyful pugnacity about all Laurence's dealings with those who came across him. This came to the fore in the row over the writing of the biography of Shaw. Shaw left his copyrights to the Society of Authors. Laurence, whose editions and bibliographical research had done so much to put Shaw back on the map in the years after his death, felt he was the natural choice as biographer. Instead, the Society of Authors chose Michael Holroyd. Laurence, suspecting insider trading, was vituperative, and temporarily resigned office as literary adviser to the estate and editor of the correspondence. No one came well out of this very public quarrel, although Holroyd later paid generous tribute to Laurence's scholarship.

To visit Laurence at San Antonio was to see a very different Dan. He was a generous host, and, if an unstoppable talker, was never boring. He wrote an entertaining apologia in A Portrait of the Author as a Bibliography (1983). He went on working indefatigably, his last published work an edition of St Joan (2003).

Nicolas Barker



Daniel Hyman Goldstein (Dan H. Laurence), editor and bibliographer: born New York 28 March 1920; married; died San Antonio, Texas 5 February 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?