The Fascinating Foundling

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The Fascinating Foundling
George Bernard Shaw 1934-12-06.jpg
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Date premiered 1909 (amateur)
January 1928 (professional)
Place premiered Arts Theatre (1928 production)
Original language English
Subject Foundlings demand parenting from the Lord Chancellor
Genre "tomfoolery"
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".


  • Horace Brabazon, a beautiful young man
  • Sir Cardonius Boshington, the Lord Chancellor
  • Anastasia Vulliamy, a suffragette
  • Mercer, an elderly clerk


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 wards of court. 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.

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. Horace, reappears, having forgotten his walking-stick. 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.

Production and Publication

It was written at Shaw's 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.[1] 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."[2] It was first played professionally by the Arts Theatre Club in January 1928, running for forty-four performances.[2]

It was published in 1926 in a collection entitled, Translations and Tomfooleries, characterised as the latter.[3]

Critical views

Critic Homer E. Woodbridge says that the play is so bad that it was "properly" subtitled "a disgrace to the author". Henderson also says it was "best described" by the phrase.[2] Woodbridge adds that "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."[4] Shaw himself seems to have taken much the same view, writing in a letter to Lillah McCarthy, "I can't stand The Fascinating Foundling".[5]


  1. ^ Judith Evans, The Politics and Plays of Bernard Shaw, McFarland, 2002, p.84.
  2. ^ a b c Archibald Henderson, George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1956, p.572.
  3. ^ Violet M. Broad & C. Lewis Broad, Dictionary to the Plays and Novels of Bernard Shaw, A. & C. Black, London, 1929, p.99.
  4. ^ Homer E. Woodbridge, George Bernard Shaw: Creative Artist, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL., p.92.
  5. ^ Holroyd, Michael, Bernard Shaw: 1898-1918: The pursuit of power, Chatto & Windus, 1989, p.269
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