|The Fascinating Foundling|
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Date premiered||1909 (amateur)|
January 1928 (professional)
|Place premiered||Arts Theatre (1928 production)|
|Subject||Foundlings demand parenting from the Lord Chancellor|
|Setting||The office of the Lord Chancellor|
The Fascinating Foundling (1909) is a short comic play by George Bernard Shaw. Shaw classified it as one of his "tomfooleries". He was so unimpressed with his own work that the published text was humorously subtitled "a Disgrace to the Author".
George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
A suffragette was a member of militant women's organisations in the early 20th century who, under the banner "Votes for Women", fought for the right to vote in public elections, known as women's suffrage. The term refers in particular to members of the British Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a women-only movement founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst, which engaged in direct action and civil disobedience. In 1906 a reporter writing in the Daily Mail coined the term suffragette for the WSPU, from suffragist, in an attempt to belittle the women advocating women's suffrage. The militants embraced the new name, even adopting it for use as the title of the newspaper published by the WSPU.
Horace Brabazon, an elegant young man, enters the office of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Cardonius Boshington. After a scuffle with Mercer, the Chancellor's faithful clerk, he is granted an interview with the great man. Horace says that he was a foundling who was made ward of the Court. As an orphan, he expects the Chancellor to behave as the father of all orphans who are such wards. He has a duty to find Horace a job and also to find him a suitable wife, someone old enough to mother him. Horace then leaves.
The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest ranking among those Great Officers of State which are appointed regularly in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking even the Prime Minister. The Lord Chancellor is outranked only by the Lord High Steward, another Great Officer of State, who is appointed only for the day of coronations. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prior to the Union there were separate Lord Chancellors for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland.
Miss Anastasia Vulliamy, another foundling, appears. A suffragette who has recently been released from prison, she demands to be given a weak-willed husband whom she can dominate. Having forgotten his walking-stick, Horace reappears. Anastasia says he looks just like the kind of man she wants. Horace is reluctant to commit to a relationship, but when he discovers that she is a foundling like himself, he embraces her.
Shaw wrote the play at his home in Ayot St. Lawrence for Elizabeth Asquith, the 12-year-old daughter of prime minister H. H. Asquith. She wanted a play to produce at a benefit event for a charity.Shaw's friend Archibald Henderson says that she directed a performance of it by child actors. 'This play, Shaw informed me, was given by a group of children under the direction of Princess Bibesco [Elizabeth Asquith's later married name], but he was unable to recall either place or date.' It was first played professionally by the Arts Theatre Club in January 1928, running for forty-four performances.
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith,, generally known as H. H. Asquith, was a British statesman and Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he played a central role in the design and passage of major liberal legislation and a reduction of the power of the House of Lords. In August 1914, Asquith took Great Britain and the British Empire into the First World War. In 1915, his government was vigorously attacked for a shortage of munitions and the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign. He formed a coalition government with other parties, but failed to satisfy critics. As a result, he was forced to resign in December 1916, and he never regained power.
Archibald Henderson was an American professor of mathematics who wrote on a variety of subjects, including drama and history. He is well known for his friendship with George Bernard Shaw.
The Arts Theatre is a theatre in Great Newport Street, in Westminster, Central London.
It was published in 1926 in the collection Translations and Tomfooleries.
Critic Homer E. Woodbridge says that the play is so bad that Shaw 'properly' subtitled it with the phrase that 'best described' it: 'a disgrace to the author'.Woodbridge adds, '"The Fascinating Foundling" and "The Music Cure", another topical skit dealing with the Marconi scandal, vie in flatness with "Passion, Poison and Petrifaction"; both are really beneath criticism.' Shaw himself seems to have taken much the same view, writing in a letter to Lillah McCarthy, 'I can't stand The Fascinating Foundling'.
The Music Cure, a Piece of Utter Nonsense (1913) is a short comedy sketch by George Bernard Shaw, satirising therapeutic fads of the era and the Marconi scandal of 1912.
Lillah Emma McCarthy was an English actress and theatrical manager.
Elizabeth Charlotte Lucy, Princess Bibesco was an English writer and socialite. She was the daughter of a British Prime Minister and the wife of a Romanian prince. Active as a writer between 1921 and 1940, she drew on her experience in British high society in her work. A final posthumous collection of her stories, poems and aphorisms was published under the title Haven in 1951, with a preface by Elizabeth Bowen.
Major Barbara is a three-act English play by George Bernard Shaw, written and premiered in 1905 and first published in 1907. The story concerns an idealistic young woman, Barbara Undershaft, who is engaged in helping the poor as a Major in the Salvation Army in London. For many years, Barbara and her siblings have been estranged from their father, Andrew Undershaft, who now reappears as a rich and successful munitions maker. Undershaft, the father, gives money to the Salvation Army, which offends Major Barbara, who does not want to be connected to his "tainted" wealth. However, the father argues that poverty is a worse problem than munitions, and claims that he is doing more to help society by giving his workers jobs and a steady income than Major Barbara is doing to help them by giving them bread and soup.
The Man of Destiny is an 1897 play by George Bernard Shaw, set in Italy during the early career of Napoleon. It was published as a part of Plays Pleasant, which also included Arms and the Man, Candida and You Never Can Tell. Shaw titled the volume Plays Pleasant in order to contrast it with his first book of plays, Plays Unpleasant.
Fanny's First Play is a 1911 play by George Bernard Shaw. It was first performed as an anonymous piece, the authorship of which was to be kept secret. However, critics soon recognised it as the work of Shaw. It opened at the Little Theatre in the Adelphi in London on 19 April 1911 and ran for 622 performances. The mystery over the authorship helped to publicise it. It had the longest run of any of Shaw's plays. A second production opened on Broadway on September 16, 1912 for 256 performances. The play toured the provinces in England in the same year.
Getting Married is a play by George Bernard Shaw. First performed in 1908, it features a cast of family members who gather together for a marriage. The play analyses and satirises the status of marriage in Shaw's day, with a particular focus on the necessity of liberalising divorce laws.
How He Lied to Her Husband is a one-act comedy play by George Bernard Shaw, who wrote it, at the request of actor Arnold Daly, over a period of four days while he was vacationing in Scotland in 1904. In its preface he described it as "a sample of what can be done with even the most hackneyed stage framework by filling it in with an observed touch of actual humanity instead of with doctrinaire romanticism." The play has often been interpreted as a kind of satirical commentary on Shaw's own highly successful earlier play Candida.
Too True to Be Good (1932) is a comedy written by playwright George Bernard Shaw at the age of 76. Subtitled "A Collection of Stage Sermons by a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature", it moves from surreal allegory to the "stage sermons" in which characters discuss political, scientific and other developments of the day. The second act of the play contains a character based on Shaw's friend T. E. Lawrence.
Village Wooing, A Comedietta for Two Voices is a play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1933 and first performed in 1934. It has only two characters, hence the subtitle "a comedietta for two voices". The first scene takes place aboard a liner, the second in a village shop. The characters are known only as "A" and "Z".
The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet: A Sermon in Crude Melodrama is a one-act play by George Bernard Shaw, first produced in 1909. Shaw describes the play as a religious tract in dramatic form.
Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction is a short play by Bernard Shaw, subtitled The Fatal Gazogene: a Brief Tragedy for Barns and Booths. It is a comic mock-melodrama, written to raise funds for charity. It has been revived occasionally, in tandem with other short works by Shaw or by other playwrights.
The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles: A Vision of Judgement is a 1934 play by George Bernard Shaw. The play is a satirical allegory about an attempt to create a utopian society on a Polynesian island that has recently emerged from the sea.
Buoyant Billions (1948) is a play by George Bernard Shaw. Written at the age of 92, it was his last full-length play. Subtitled "a comedy of no manners", the play is about a brash young man courting the daughter of an elderly billionaire, who is pondering how to dispose of his wealth after his death, a subject that was preoccupying Shaw himself at the time.
Geneva, a Fancied Page of History in Three Acts (1938) is a topical play by George Bernard Shaw. It describes a summit meeting designed to contain the increasingly dangerous behaviour of three dictators, Herr Battler, Signor Bombardone, and General Flanco.
O'Flaherty V.C., A Recruiting Pamphlet (1915) is a comic one-act play written during World War I by George Bernard Shaw. The plot is about an Irish soldier in the British army returning home after winning the Victoria Cross. The play was written at a time when the British government was attempting to promote recruitment in Ireland, while many Irish republicans expressed opposition to a war to defend the British Empire.
Overruled (1912) is a comic one-act play written by George Bernard Shaw. In Shaw's words, it is about "how polygamy occurs among quite ordinary people innocent of all unconventional views concerning it." The play concerns two couples who desire to switch partners, but are prevented from doing so by various considerations and end up negotiating an ambiguous set of relationships.
The Glimpse of Reality, A Tragedietta (1909) is a short play by George Bernard Shaw, set Italy during the 15th century. It is a parody of the verismo melodramas in vogue at the time. Shaw included it among what he called his "tomfooleries".
Press Cuttings (1909), subtitled "A Topical Sketch Compiled from the Editorial and Correspondence Columns of the Daily Papers" is a play by George Bernard Shaw. It is a farcical comedy about the suffragettes' campaign for votes for women in Britain. The play is a departure from Shaw's earlier Ibsenesque dramas on social issues. Shaw's own pro-feminist views are never articulated by characters in the play, but instead it ridicules the arguments of the anti-suffrage campaigners.
The Interlude at the Playhouse (1907) is a short comic sketch written by George Bernard Shaw to be delivered by Cyril Maude and his wife Winifred Emery as a curtain raiser at the opening of The Playhouse, a newly renovated theatre managed by Maude. The sketch was performed on Monday, 28 January, 1907.