Opening today in New York at the Billy Rose Theatre is “Dear Liar” – a play based on the fiercely passionate, yet unconsummated, relationship between Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and English stage actress Mrs Patricia Campbell.
Written by Jerome Kilty and starring Brian Aherne and Katharine Cornell, the play is based on Shaw and Campbell’s prolific letter writing.
Despite having already been his muse in several instances, the pair did not meet until 1897 and in 1912, while negotiations were underway for her to star as Eliza Doolittle in “Pygmalion” (a role he had written especially for her despite her age of 49 when it debuted), Shaw developed an intense infatuation which resulted in a love affair of great passion.
When she ended things in shortly before rehearsals for “Pygmalion” commenced, they remained friends however Shaw forbade an impoverished Campbell in later years from selling or publishing any of their letters, except heavily edited, for fear of upsetting his wife.
“Dear Liar” had a successful run in New York and has been revived many times.
“I want my dark lady. I want my angel. I want my tempter. I want my Freia with her apples. I want the lighter of my seven lamps of beauty, honour, laughter, music, love, life and immortality. I want my inspiration, my folly, my happiness, my divinity, my madness, my selfishness, my final sanity and sanctification, my transfiguration, my purification, my light across the sea, my palm across the desert, my garden of lovely flowers, my million nameless joys, my day’s wage, my night’s dream, my darling and my star.” – George Bernard Shaw in a letter to Campbell, publ. in “George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century” by Archibald Henderson