[Sir John Pollock and Eugène Brieux: London theatre, censorship, venereal disease.] First separate English and American printings of 'Damaged Goods', the former with Pollock's autograph emendations; copy of 'The Play Pictorial' on London production.

Sir John Pollock; Eugène Brieux; The Connecticut Society of Social Hygiene; George Bernard Shaw
Publication details: 
English edition: A. C. Fifield, London, 1914. American Edition: Brentano's, New York, for the Connecticut Society of Social Hygiene, 1912. The Play Pictorial: London, 1917.
SKU: 21996

Three items from the papers of Sir John Pollock, relating to his translation of Eugène Brieux's scandalous play 'Les Avariés'. Comprising: Pollock's copy of the first separate English printing, with Autograph emendations by him; a copy of 'The Play Pictorial' from 1917, entirely devoted to the London production of the play at the St Martin's Theatre; and Pollock's copy of the first American printing, for the Connecticut Society of Social Hygiene, 'one of several thousand copies of this play in pamphlet form, to be used for general distribution among the youth of our Connecticut colleges, especially Yale University' (Charlotte Frances Shaw, in Item One, below). Written in 1901, Brieux's play concerns the effects of a diagnosis of syphilis on a respectable family, and was met with outrage on its first appearance in Paris in the following year. In 1907 Pollock's translation appeared in England, in an edition by Charlotte Shaw of 'Three Plays by Brieux', with a preface by her husband George Bernard Shaw. After this, as the critic Beverley Baxter recalled, 'Perhaps more than any other play it was the centre of a long and bitter controversy as to whether the theatre has as much right to deal with the punishment of sin as with its attractions.' According to Jennifer Burek Pierce, in her 'What Adolescents Ought to Know: Sexual Health Texts in Early Twentieth Century America' (2011), 'authorities comprising “the most distinguished audience ever assembled in America” saw a private performance of Pollock's translation in Washington in the spring of 1913', before its public debut in the United States. Nevertheless the play was not licensed for performance in Britain for some time. As Pollock himself recalled in a letter to The Times in 1949: 'it took 15 years and the impact of a great war to obtain a licence for Damaged Goods. […] In 1914 after is private production in London, […] the censor wrote: “This play will never be licensed”; nor would it have been but for the anxiety caused to British military authorities by mounting disease in the army.' It is no coincidence that the play should have been revived in 1943, when the turbulence of the Second World War caused a surge in venereal disease among troops and civilians. The present three items are as follows. ONE: Copy of 'Damaged Goods. A Play by Brieux. Translated by John Pollock, with a Preface by Bernard Shaw and a Foreword by Mrs. Bernard Shaw.' London: A. C. Fifield, 13 Clifford's Inn, E.C., 1914. [95]pp, 12mo, comprising preliminary matter of xxiiipp; text of play of [66]pp, paginated 179-244; and six pages of advertisements at rear. Erratum slip. In mustard printed wraps. In fair condition, lightly aged, in worn wraps. Reprinted from plates of the 1911 Jonathan Cape edition of 'Three Plays by Brieux', but with new eleven-page 'Foreword' by Charlotte F. Shaw, reviewing the publication history to that point. On front cover Pollock has written 'To be returned to Sir John Pollock Bart | 26 Cranmer Court | Chelsea S.W.3', over a previous inscription giving his former Hyde Park address. With deletions in blue pencil, and a few emendations in autograph, and a couple of autograph changes to Mrs Shaw's foreword. Above the speech by 'the manager' before the play Pollock writes: 'Used in “lecture” at end of the film.' TWO: Copy of 'Damaged Goods [Les Avariés] A Play in Three Acts | By Brieux Member of the French Academy | Translated by John Pollock | With Preface by G. Bernard Shaw'. New York: Brentano's, Printed for The Connecticut Society of Social Hygiene, 1912. 80pp, 12mo. In green printed wraps. In good condition, lightly aged. (Mrs Shaw describes the background of this edition on pp.vii-viii of Item One above.) THREE: Copy of 'The Play Pictorial', edited by B. W. Findon, No. 183, Vol. XXX. No date, but from 1917 (with reference in that year of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree). 16pp, 4to, paginated 81-96, stapled in printed wraps. Apart from an opening page of editorial matter, entirely devoted to the 1917 London production of the play at the St Martin's Theatre, filled with photographs of the production and actors, and with cover in blue and gold incorporating a large photograph from the production beneath the play's title. Two-page discussion of Brieux, Shaw and Pollock by Findon (contesting Shaw's claim that in Brieux's play 'we have the “essence of Greek Tragedy”, while praising it as 'a wonder of dramatic reasoning in favour of a reform which has been forced on the attention of the public, by obvious facts that have been brought into startling notice since the beginning of the War'), followed by thirteen pages of large photographs of the production and actors, with quotations of dialogue. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn. Sir Frederick John Pollock (1872-1963), 4th Baronet of Hatton (Eton; Trinity College, Cambridge; Harvard Law School) is an unaccountably-neglected figure. His brief obituary in The Times (23 July 1963) is headed 'Playwright and Author', but the fullest account of his varied career is the one he himself contributed to Who's Who. Pollock took great interest in Russian affairs, his numerous works including 'War and Revolution in Russia' in 1918, and 'The Bolshevik Adventure' the following year. His plays include versions of Tolstoy's 'The Man who was Dead' (1912) and 'Anna Karenina' (1913), as well as an original piece titled 'For Russia!' (1915). Among his other translations is a play by Prince Vladimir Bariatinsky (1843-1914), 'The Great Young Man', produced in London in 1911. Pollock married Bariatinsky's widow Princess Bariatinsky, better-known as the celebrated actress Lydia Yavorska (née Hubbenet, 1874-1921), a year before her death. Between 1915 and 1918, under the Russian Red Cross, Pollock headed a British charity in Russia and Poland, after which he forged a journalistic career as European correspondent of a number of Fleet Street newspapers, including The Times.