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The reluctant winner

A socialist all his life, GBS did not accept the money given with the Nobel prize

education Updated: Mar 17, 2010 09:24 IST

George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright. He was born in Synge Street, Dublin in 1856 to George Carr Shaw (1814-85), a civil servant, and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw, née Gurly (1830-1913), a professional singer.

Life in London
When his mother left home along with her sisters and settled in London, Shaw, a young man of 16, stayed back in Dublin with his father. Working as a clerk in an estate office, he was efficent but not happy with what he was doing. Finally, in 1876, Shaw joined his mother’s London household. He started to frequent public libraries and became an ardent reader. He also started writing novels, which however were rejected by the publishers. This didn’t put him off, as he has said later, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” Shaw’s literary earnings remained negligible until 1885, when he became self-supporting as a critic of music and art.

Nobel Laureate
He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize because he was averse to public honours, but accepted it at his wife’s behest. He, however, did not accept the prize money.

The final years
He became an ardent gardener and lived a long life, dying at the age of 94, of renal failure precipitated by injuries caused by a fall while pruning a tree. His ashes, were scattered in their garden at Shaw’s Corner.