A few days ago, Richard Dietrich could not find the source for the following lines and asked for a hand:
"I exhausted rationalism when I got to the end of my second novel at the age of twenty-four, and should have come to a dead stop if I had not proceeded to purely mystical assumptions. I thus perhaps destroyed my brain, but inspiration filled up the void, and I got on better than ever."
This is an excerpt from a letter to Dame Laurentia McLachlan, dated 23rd December 1924. The letter and the process of locating it as the source of the above words made me think about a tangential aspect of Shaw studies.
I started thinking about how important redundancy is for research in the humanities, despite being a source of inconsistency in other data sets. In this particular case, the same fragment is reproduced in several different publications, which facilitated my job a great deal. Specifically, one can find references to this letter (or the whole document) in Bernard Shaw Collected Letters (Vol. 3, pages 896-8); in The Nun, the Infidel, and the Superman (pages 93-5); in Berst's "The Poetic Genesis of Shaw's God," in the first issue of the SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies (page 22); and in Leon Hugo's Bernard Shaw's The Black Girl in Search of God: The Story behind the Story (Page 96). After quadruple-checking my results, I did not continue reading the results page but, at any rate, the point is that, had I not digitized any of those books, I still would have been able to track the source indirectly. I guess this is one of the reasons why a broad and eclectic digitized library of Shaw's plays and secondary sources (biographies, criticism, programs of productions) is an invaluable asset for research on Shaw.
Until time (meaning copyright restrictions) allows me to publish my database and let others access it freely, I like to think that I can do a humble public service for Shavians. So, if you can't find a source, drop me a line (email@example.com).