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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 372.1

Mrs. Patrick Campbell correspondence and other papers


Letters from British actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell (official stage name of Beatrice Rose Stella Tanner Campbell) to British playwright George Bernard Shaw and miscellaneous materials relating to the publication of their correspondence, as well as letters to Campbell from others.


  • 1901-1940 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


1.5 linear feet (3 boxes)

The largest part of this collection consists of letters written by Campbell to George Bernard Shaw throughout the forty years of their relationship. Beginning in 1899 with Shaw’s first letter and carrying through to the end of Campbells’s life in 1940, the two shared an early flirtatious relationship and reciprocal inspiration that perhaps most notably gave shape to the role of Eliza in Shaw’s Pygmalion. Written for Campbell, she played the role to accolades.

The letters between Shaw and Campbell range widely, delving into the subjects of their active careers, family, health, emotions, travel, and their many significant theatrical and society acquaintances and friends. James Barrie, W.B. (William Bulter) Yeats, Dame Ellen Terry, Alfred and Edith Sophy Lyttelton, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and Sir Henry Irving are mentioned with casual frequency. Politics is a notably absent theme; Campbell was not particularly interested.

A significant portion of the correspondence involves a specific and contentious topic for these writers: the publication of their letters. This project occupied Campbells’s imagination for many years, first as a feature of her 1922 My life and some letters, in which she hoped to feature Shaw’s letters to her, a proposition he did not favor. Acting in defense of his and his wife, Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend Shaw’s, privacy, he demanded revision and redaction in advance of the publication. Their debate on the subject reigned during the years of 1921 and 1922 and concluded in a stretch of near silence lasting until 1928. In 1938, near the end of her life, Campbell again applied a concerted effort toward a published volume of their correspondence.

Publication exists not only as a theme of these letters, but as another framework through which they were actively read, both by Shaw and Campbell, as well as others such as the editor of a 1952 volume of their correspondence, Alan Dent. Manuscript annotations and corrections by these parties litter the letters and are noted where applicable.

Also included in this collection are two letters to friends Harry Lachman and Jue Quon Tai from Campbell. Additionally, letters to Campbell from her son, Alan Urquhart (“Beo”), various theatrical figures including George Arliss, Arnold Bennett, and Sir John Gielgud, and friends such as Daphne Du Maurier and Naomi Ellington Jacob are included. Typescript transcripts of Shaw’s letters and postcards to Campbell as well as several letters from publishers and lawyers relating to the publication their correspondence round out the collection.

Biographical / Historical

Beatrice Rose Stella Tanner Campbell (1865-1940) was a prominent British actress. She made her debut as Mrs. Patrick Campbell in 1888 playing in a string of minor successes until an 1893 role as Paula in The second Mrs. Tanqueray launched her career and garnered high praise in the press. Campbell is particularly remembered for her role as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, a part written for her by George Bernard Shaw, who began correspondence with her in 1899.

Though begun at the close of the previous century, the correspondence between Shaw and Campbell did not truly bloom until 1912. At that time, Shaw, the noted playwright, Fabian socialist, journalist, dramatic and literary critic, who had been married to fellow Fabian suffragist Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend Shaw since 1898, pronounced himself to be "head over ears in love" with Campbell. In 1914, when Campbell, a widow of almost 15 years, was to marry George Cornwallis-West, Shaw implored her not to marry "that George." The marriage, combined with a souring experience for the two flirtatious friends in Sandwich (1913), seemed to dull the frequency of their correspondence until the 1920s when Campbell introduced the idea of publishing their collected letters in her autobiographical work, My life and some letters.

The correspondence, though less frequent through the years, continued to the end of Campbell's life. Her will, written in 1934, stated her long-held desire that their correspondence be published in full. Shaw's will, dated the year of his death in 1950, granted long-withheld permission for the correspondence to be published to the financial benefit of Campbell's great-grandchildren. The collection, Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell: their correspondence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), edited by Alan Dent, included a significant selection, though not all, of the correspondence. Of the letters included, a number were also edited for content to prevent “pain or embarrassment.”


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. ___A. Letters from Mrs. Patrick Campbell
  3. ___B. Letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell
  4. ___C. Other correspondence
  5. II. Other material

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

82M-70. Gift of Frederick R. Koch AB 1955, 825 Fifth Avenue New York, New York 10021; received: 1983 March 8.

Related Materials

See HOLLIS for additional holdings at Houghton relating to Shaw and Campbell.

Other instances of George Bernard Shaw and Campbell’s correspondence are also present in the Bernard F. Burgunder collection of George Bernard Shaw at Cornell University Library and in the George Bernard Shaw collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.


Dent, Alan. Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell their correspondence. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.) Kilty, Jerome. Dear Liar: A comedy of letters adapted by Jerome Kilty from the correspondence of Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell. (London: Max Reinhardt, 1960.) Peters, Margot. Bernard Shaw and the actresses. (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980.)
  • Dent, Alan. Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell their correspondence. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.)
  • Kilty, Jerome. Dear Liar: A comedy of letters adapted by Jerome Kilty from the correspondence of Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Campbell. (London: Max Reinhardt, 1960.)
  • Peters, Margot. Bernard Shaw and the actresses. (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980.)

Processing Information

Originally processed by Maggie Lehrman, under the supervision of Beth Carroll-Horrocks.

Cataloging enhanced in 2011 by Emilie L. Hardman.

NOTE: When the final cataloging was completed in 2011, the items were completely resorted and assigned new item numbers. At some time in the past, penciled item numbers had been written on most letters and envelopes. The reader should note that those penciled numbers no longer are valid.

Campbell, Patrick, Mrs., 1865-1940. Mrs. Patrick Campbell correspondence and other papers, 1901-1940: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

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