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Thread: William Somerset Maugham

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    Default William Somerset Maugham

    Somerset Maugham: LSI

    ISTj --- --- Pragmatist
    using 2 subtypes: Logical Pragmatist (Ti-ISTj)
    using 4 subtypes: Normalizing Pragmatist (N-ISTj)
    using 8 subtypes: Conscientious [or Relational or Moral] Pragmatist (Fi-ISTj)
    using 16 subtypes: Empathetic [or Humanistic] Pragmatist (ISTj-INFj)

    Here are the pictures:


    Here are the quotes:

    - from Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham; pp. 83-84 [XXIII]: “...Then my people want me to go to Oxford.”
    Wharton gave a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders. It was a new experience for Philip to learn that there were persons who did not look upon that seat of learning with awe.
    “What d’you want to go there for? You’ll only be a glorified school boy. Why don’t you matriculate here? A year’s no good. Spend five years here. You know, there are two good things in life, freedom of thought and freedom of action. In France you get freedom of action: you can do what you like and nobody bothers, but you must think like everybody else. In Germany you must do what everybody else does, but you may think as you choose. They’re both very good things. I personally prefer freedom of thought. But in England you get neither: you’re ground down by convention. You can’t think as you like and you can’t act as you like. That’s because it’s a democratic nation. I expect America’s worse.”
    He [Wharton] leaned back cautiously, for the chair on which he sat had a rickety leg, and it was disconcerting when a rhetorical flourish was interrupted by a sudden fall to the floor.

    - pp. 84-85: Philip soon learned the various interests of the household. Fraulein Thekla, the professor’s elder daughter, was engaged to a man in England who had spent twelve months in the house to learn German, and their marriage was to take place at the end of the year. But the young man wrote that his father, an india-rubber merchant who lived in Slough, did not approve of the union, and Fraulein Thekla was often in tears. Sometimes she and her mother might be seen, with stern eyes and determined mouths, looking over the letters of the reluctant lover. Thekla painted in water colour, and occasionally she and Philip, with another of the girls to keep them company, would go out and paint little pictures.

    - p. 100: There was some doubt in his mind about the chastisement of unbelievers. It was possible that a merciful judge, reserving the flames of hell for the heathen – Mahommedans, Buddhists, and the rest – would spare Dissenters and Roman Catholics (though at the cost of how much humiliation when they were made to realise their error!), and it was also possible that He would be pitiful to those who had had no chance of learning the truth, -- this was reasonable enough, though such were the activities of the Missionary Society there could not be many in this condition – but if the chance had been theirs and they had neglected it (in which category were obviously Roman Catholics and Dissenters), the punishment was sure and merited. It was clear that the miscreant was in a parlous state. Perhaps Philip had not been taught it in so many words, but certainly the impression had been given him that only members of the Church of England had any real hope of eternal happiness.

    - pp. 106-107: He yearned above all things for experience and felt himself ridiculous because at his age he had not enjoyed that which all fiction taught him was the most important thing in life; but he had the unfortunate gift of seeing things as they were, and the reality which was offered him differed too terribly from the ideal of his dreams.
    He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed before the traveller through life comes to an acceptance of reality. It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life. The strange thing is that each one who has gone through that bitter disillusionment adds to it in his turn, unconsciously, by the power within him which is stronger than himself.

    - from Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham; p. 290: She made the best of her difficult lot. Her keen sense of humour enabled her to get amusement out of every vexatious circumstance. Sometimes things went wrong, and she found herself with no money at all; then her trifling possessions found their way to a pawnshop in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and she ate bread and butter till things grew brighter. She never lost her cheerfulness.

    - pp. 402-406: Athelny got up from his chair, walked over to the Spanish cabinet, let down the front with its great gilt hinges and gorgeous lock, and displayed a series of little drawers. He took out a bundle of photographs.

    “Do you know El Greco?” he asked.

    “Oh, I remember one of the men in Paris was awfully impressed by him.”

    “El Greco was the painter of Toledo. Betty couldn’t find the photograph I wanted to show you. It’s a picture that El Greco painted of the city he loved, and it’s truer than any photograph. Come and sit at the table.”

    Philip dragged his chair forward, and Athelny set the photograph before him. He looked at it curiously, for a long time, in silence. He stretched out his hand for other photographs, and Athelny passed them to him. He had never before seen the work of that enigmatic master; and at the first glance he was bothered by the arbitrary drawing: the figures were extraordinarily elongated; the heads were very small; the attitudes were extravagant. This was not realism, and yet, and yet even in the photographs you had the impression of a troubling reality. Athelny was describing eagerly, with vivid phrases, but Philip only heard vaguely what he said. He was puzzled. He was curiously moved. These pictures seemed to offer some meaning to him, but he did not know what the meaning was. There were portraits of men with large, melancholy eyes which seemed to say you knew not what; there were long monks in the Franciscan habit or in the Dominican, with distraught faces, making gestures whose sense escaped you; there was an Assumption of the Virgin; there was a Crucifixion in which the painter by some magic of feeling had been able to suggest that the flesh of Christ’s dead body was not human flesh only but divine; and there was an Ascension in which the Saviour seemed to surge up towards the empyrean and yet to stand up on the air as steadily as though it were solid ground: the uplifted arms of the Apostles, the sweep of their draperies, their ecstatic gestures, gave an impression of exultation and of holy joy. The background of nearly all was the sky by night, the dark night of the soul, with wild clouds swept by strange winds of hell and lit luridly by an uneasy moon.

    “I’ve seen that sky in Toledo over and over again,” said Athelny. “I have an idea that when first El Greco came to the city it was by such a night, and it made so vehement an impression upon him that he could never get away from it.”

    Philip remembered how Clutton had been affected by this strange master, whose work he now saw for the first time. He thought that Clutton was the most interesting of all the people he had known in Paris. His sardonic manner, his hostile aloofness, had made it difficult to know him; but it seemed to Philip, looking back, that there had been in him a tragic force, which sought vainly to express itself in painting. He was a man of unusual character, mystical after the fashion of a time that had no leaning to mysticism, who was impatient with life because he found himself unable to say the things which the obscure impulses of his heart suggested. His intellect was not fashioned to the uses of the spirit. It was not surprising that he felt a deep sympathy with the Greek who had devised a new technique to express the yearnings of his soul. Philip looked again at the series of portraits of Spanish gentlemen, with ruffles and pointed beards, their faces pale against the sober black of their clothes and the darkness of the background. El Greco was the painter of the soul; and these gentlemen, wan and wasted, not by exhaustion but by restraint, with their tortured minds, seem to walk unaware of the beauty of the world; for their eyes look only in their hearts, and they are dazzled by the glory of the unseen. No painter has shown more pitilessly that the world is but a place of passage. The souls of the men he painted speak their strange longings through their eyes: their senses are miraculously acute, not for sounds and odours and colour, but for the very subtle sensations of the soul. The noble walks with the monkish heart within him, and his eyes see things which saints in their cells see too, and he is unastounded. His lips are not lips that smile.

    Philip, silent still, returned to the photograph of Toledo, which seemed to him the most arresting picture of them all. He could not take his eyes off it. He felt strangely that he was on the threshold of some new discovery in life. He was tremulous with a sense of adventure. He thought for an instant of the love that had consumed him: love seemed very trivial beside the excitement which now leaped in his heart. The picture he looked at was a long one, with houses crowded upon a hill; in one corner a boy was holding a large map of the town; in another was a classical figure representing the River Tagus; and in the sky was the Virgin surrounded by angels. It was a landscape alien to all Philip’s notion, for he had lived in circles that worshipped exact realism; and yet here again, strangely to himself, he felt a reality greater than any achieved by the masters in whose steps humbly he had sought to walk. He heard Athelny say that the representation was so precise that when the citizens of Toledo came to look at the picture they recognized their houses. The painter had painted exactly what he saw but he had seen with the eyes of the spirit. There was something unearthly in that city of pale gray. It was a city of the soul seen by a wan light that was neither that of night nor day. It stood on a green hill, but of a green not of this world, and it was surrounded by massive walls and bastions to be stormed by no machines or engines of man’s invention, but by prayer and fasting, by contrite sighs and by mortifications of the flesh. It was a stonghold of God. Those gray houses were made of no stone known to masons, there was something terrifying in their aspect, and you did not know what men might live in them. You might walk through the streets and be unamazed to find them all deserted, and yet not empty; for you felt a presence invisible and yet manifest to every inner sense. It was a mystical city in which the imagination faltered like one who steps out of the light into darkness; the soul walked naked to and fro, knowing the unknowable, and conscious strangely of experience, intimate but inexpressible, of the absolute. And without surprise, in that blue sky, real with a reality that not the eye but the soul confesses, with its rack of light clouds driven by strange breezes, like the cries and the sighs of lost souls, you saw the Blessed Virgin with a gown of red and a cloak of blue, surrounded by winged angels. Philip felt that the inhabitants of that city would have seen the apparition without astonishment, reverent and thankful, and have gone their ways.

    Athelny spoke of the mystical writers of Spain, of Teresa de Avila, San Juan de la Cruz, Fray Luis de Leon; in all of them was that passion for the unseen which Philip felt in the pictures of El Greco: they seemed to have the power to touch the incorporeal and see the invisible. They were Spaniards of their age, in whom were tremulous all the mighty exploits of a great nation: their fancies were rich with the glories of America and the green islands of the Caribbean Sea; in their veins was the power that had come from age-long battling with the Moor; they were proud, for they were masters of the world; and they felt in themselves the wide distances, the tawny wastes, the snow-capped mountains of Castile, the sunshine and the blue sky, and the flowering plains of Andalusia. Life was passionate and manifold, and because it offered so much they felt a restless yearning for something more; because they were human they were unsatisfied; and they threw this eager vitality of theirs into a vehement striving after the ineffable. Athelny was not displeased to find someone to whom he could read the translations with which for some time he had amused his leisure; and in his fine, vibrating voice he recited the canticle of the Soul and Christ her lover, the lovely poem which begins with the words en una noche oscura, and the noche serena of Fray Luis de Leon. He had translated them quite simply, not without skill, and he had found words which at all events suggested the rough-hewn grandeur of the original. The pictures of El Greco explained them, and they explained the pictures.

    Philip had cultivated a certain disdain for idealism. He had always had a passion for life, and the idealism he had come across seemed to him for the most part a cowardly shrinking from it. The idealist withdrew himself, because he could not suffer the jostling of the human crowd; he had not the strength to fight and so called the battle vulgar; he was vain, and since his fellows would not take him at his own estimate, consoled himself with despising his fellows. For Philip his type was Hayward, fair, languid, too fat now and rather bald, still cherishing the remains of his good looks and still delicately proposing to do exquisite things in the uncertain future; and at the back of this were whiskey and vulgar amours of the street. It was in reaction from what Hayward represented that Philip clamoured for life as it stood; sordidness, vice, deformity, did not offend him; he declared that he wanted man in his nakedness; and he rubbed his hands when an instance came before him of meanness, cruelty, selfishness, or lust: that was the real thing. In Paris he had learned that there was neither ugliness nor beauty, but only truth: the search after beauty was sentimental. Had he not painted an advertisement of chocolat Menier in a landscape in order to escape from the tyranny of prettiness?

    But here he seemed to divine something new. He had been coming to it, all hesitating, for some time, but only now was conscious of the fact; he felt himself on the brink of a discovery. He felt vaguely that here was something better than the realism which he had adored; but certainly it was not the bloodless idealism which stepped aside from life in weakness; it was too strong; it was virile; it accepted life in all its vivacity, ugliness and beauty, squalor and heroism; it was realism still; but it was realism carried to some higher pitch, in which facts were transformed by the more vivid light in which they were seen. He seemed to see things more profoundly through the grave eyes of those dead noblemen of Castile; and the gestures of the saints, which at first had seemed wild and distorted, appeared to have some mysterious significance. But he could not tell what the significance was. It was like a message which it was very important for him to receive, but it was given him in an unknown tongue, and he could not understand. He was always seeking for a meaning in life, and here it seemed to him that a meaning was offered; but it was obscure and vague. He was profoundly troubled. He saw what looked like the truth as by flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown lands.

    - pp. 286-287 [LXV]: Hayward’s visit did Philip a great deal of good. Each day his thoughts dwelt less on Mildred. He looked back upon the past with disgust. He could not understand how he had submitted to the dishonour of such a love; and when he thought of Mildred it was with angry hatred, because she had submitted him to so much humiliation. His imagination presented her to him now with her defects of person and manner exaggerated, so that he shuddered at the thought of having been connected with her.

    “It just shows how damned weak I am,” he said to himself. The adventure was like a blunder that one had committed at a party so horrible that one felt nothing could be done to excuse it: the only remedy was to forget. His horror at the degradation he had suffered helped him. He was like a snake casting its skin and he looked upon the old covering with nausea. He exulted in the possession of himself once more; he realised how much of the delight of the world he had lost when he was absorbed in that madness which they called love; he had had enough of it; he did not want to be in love any more if love was that. Philip told Hayward something of what he had gone through.

    “Wasn’t it Sophocles,” he asked, “who prayed for the time when he would be delivered from the wild beast of passion that devoured his heart-strings?”
    Philip seemed really to be born again. He breathed the circumambient air as though he had never breathed it before, and he took a child’s pleasure in all the facts of the world. He called his period of insanity six months’ hard labour.

    - pp. 457-458: Saturday. It was the day on which he had promised to pay his landlady. He had been expecting something to turn up all through the week. He had found no work. He had never been driven to extremities before, and he was so dazed that he did not know what to do. He had at the back of his mind a feeling that the whole thing was a preposterous joke. He had no more than a few coppers left, he had sold all the clothes he could do without; he had some books and one or two odds and ends upon which he might have got a shilling or two, but the landlady was keeping an eye on his comings and goings: he was afraid she would stop him if he took anything more from his room. The only thing was to tell her that he could not pay his bill. He had not the courage. It was the middle of June. The night was fine and warm. He made up his mind to stay out. He walked slowly along the Chelsea Embankment, because the river was restful and quiet, till he was tired, and then sat on a bench and dozed. He did not know how long he slept; he awoke with a start, dreaming that he was being shaken by a policeman and told to move on; but when he opened his eyes he found himself alone. He walked on, he did not know why, and at last came to Chiswick, where he slept again. Presently the hardness of the bench roused him. The night seemed very long. He shivered. He was seized with a sense of his misery; and he did not know what on earth to do: he was ashamed at having slept on The Embankment; it seemed peculiarly humiliating, and he felt his cheeks flush in the darkness. He remembered stories he had heard of those who did and how among them were officers, clergymen, and men who had been to universities: he wondered if he would become one of them, standing in a line to get soup from a charitable institution. It would be much better to commit suicide. He could not go on like that: Lawson would help him when he knew what straits he was in; it was absurd to let his pride prevent him from asking for assistance. He wondered why he had come such a cropper. He had always tried to do what he thought best, and everything had gone wrong. He had helped people when he could, he did not think he had been more selfish than anyone else, it seemed horribly unjust that he should be reduced to such a pass.

    But it was no good thinking about it. He walked on. It was now light: the river was beautiful in the silence, and there was something mysterious in the early day; it was going to be very fine, and the sky, pale in the dawn, was cloudless. He felt very tired, and hunger was gnawing at his entrails, but he could not sit still; he was constantly afraid of being spoken to by a policeman. He dreaded the mortification of that. He felt dirty and wished he could have a wash. At last he found himself at Hampton Court. He felt that if he did not have something to eat he would cry.

    - pp. 562-563: Philip walked along Parliament Street. It was a fine day, and there was a bright, frosty sun which made the light dance in the street. It was crowded. There was a tenuous mist in the distance, and it softened exquisitely the noble lines of the buildings. He crossed Trafalgar Square. Suddenly his heart gave a sort of twist in his body; he saw a woman in front of him who he thought was Mildred. She had the same figure, and she walked with that slight dragging of the feet which was so characteristic of her. Without thinking, but with a beating heart, he hurried till he came alongside, and then, when the woman turned, he saw it was someone unknown to him. It was the face of a much older person, with a lined, yellow skin. He slackened his pace. He was infinitely relieved, but it was not only relief that he felt; it was disappointment too; he was seized with horror of himself. Would he never be free from that passion? At the bottom of his heart, notwithstanding everything, he felt that a strange, desperate thirst for that vile woman would always linger. That love had caused him so much suffering that he knew he would never, never quite be free of it. Only death could finally assuage his desire.

    But he wrenched the pang from his heart. He thought of Sally, with her kind blue eyes; and his lips unconsciously formed themselves into a smile.

    - from Up at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham; p. 5: The setting was seemly and not unduly romantic. There were orange trees in tubs and marble sarcophagi brimming over with gaily wanton flowers. The terrace was protected by an old stone balustrade on which at intervals were great stone vases and at each end a somewhat battered statue of a baroque saint.

    - pp. 10-11: ‘I think it’s terribly unsafe for you to drive along these deserted roads by yourself at all hours of the night. But you’ll keep your promise to me, won’t you?’

    ‘What promise? Oh, the revolver. I think it’s perfectly ridiculous, the roads of Tuscany are just as safe as the roads of England, but if it’ll set your mind at ease I’ll take it with me to-night.’

    Knowing how fond Mary was of driving about the country by herself, and having the Englishman’s belief that foreigners on the whole were very dangerous people, Edgar had insisted on lending her a revolver and exacted a promise from her that unless she were only going into Florence she would always take it with her.

    ‘The country’s full of starving workmen and penniless refugees’, he said. ‘I shan’t have a moment’s peace unless I know that if the need arises you can take care of yourself.’

    - pp. 13-14: She stepped in, drove cautiously along the narrow drive, out of the iron gates and down a winding country lane till she got on to the highway that led into Florence. She turned the light on to see what the time was and finding that she had plenty kept to a leisurely speed. At the back of her mind was a faint disinclination to arrive, for really she would have much preferred to dine by herself on the terrace of the villa. To dine there on a June evening, when it was still day, and after dinner to sit till the softness of the night gradually enveloped her, was a delight of which Mary felt that she could never tire. It gave her a delicious feeling of peace, but not of an empty peace in which there was something lethargic, of an active, thrilling peace rather in which her brain was all alert and her senses quick to respond. Perhaps it was something in that light Tuscan air that affected you so that even physical sensation had in it something spiritual. It gave you just the same emotion as listening to the music of Mozart, so melodious and so gay, with its undercurrent of melancholy, which filled you with so great a contentment that you felt as though the flesh had no longer any hold on you. For a few blissful minutes you were purged of all grossness and the confusion of life was dissolved in perfect loveliness.
    Last edited by HERO; 01-26-2018 at 05:31 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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    Metaphysician thehotelambush's Avatar
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    I like LSI also. SLI could work too.

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    Of Human Bondage was (supposedly) a semi-autobiographical novel, I think. I'm reintroducing this quote/excerpt in part as a potential reflection on the personality of the author, Somerset Maugham:

    "Philip had cultivated a certain disdain for idealism. He had always had a passion for life, and the idealism he had come across seemed to him for the most part a cowardly shrinking from it. The idealist withdrew himself, because he could not suffer the jostling of the human crowd; he had not the strength to fight and so called the battle vulgar; he was vain, and since his fellows would not take him at his own estimate, consoled himself with despising his fellows . . . Philip clamoured for life as it stood; sordidness, vice, deformity, did not offend him; he declared that he wanted man in his nakedness; and he rubbed his hands when an instance came before him of meanness, cruelty, selfishness, or lust: that was the real thing. In Paris he had learned that there was neither ugliness nor beauty, but only truth: the search after beauty was sentimental.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    I'm going with SLI now that you posted a picture.

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    Default William Somerset Maugham: LSI-Ti or SLI? [Poll]

    - from The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham; p. v: The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

    - pp. 10-12: It is true that his guests were chosen for their social importance rather than because they were good company, but he took care to invite at least one or two for their powers of entertainment, so that his parties were almost always amusing. People laughed at him behind his back and called him a filthy snob, but nevertheless accepted his invitations with alacrity. His French was fluent and correct and his accent perfect. He had taken great pains to adopt the manner of speech as it is spoken in England and you had to have a very sensitive ear to catch now and then an American intonation. He was a good talker if only you could keep him off the subject of dukes and duchesses, but even about them, now that his position was unassailable, he allowed himself, especially when you were alone with him, to be amusing. He had a pleasantly malicious tongue and there was no scandal about these exalted personages that did not reach his ears. From him I learnt who was the father of the Princess X’s last child and who was the mistress of the Marquis de Y. I don’t believe even Marcel Proust knew more of the inner life of the aristocracy than Elliott Templeton.

    When I was in Paris we used often to lunch together, sometimes at his apartment and sometimes at a restaurant. I like to wander about the antiquity shops, occasionally to buy but more often to look, and Elliott was always enchanted to go with me. He had knowledge and a real love of beautiful objects. I think he knew every shop of the kind in Paris and was on familiar terms with the proprietor. He adored haggling and when we started out would say to me:

    “If there’s anything you want don’t try to buy it yourself. Just give me a hint and let me do the rest.”

    He would be delighted when he had got for me something I fancied for half the asking price. It was a treat to watch him bargain. He would argue, cajole, lose his temper, appeal to the seller’s better nature, ridicule him, point out the defects of the object in question, threaten never to cross his threshold again, sigh, shrug his shoulders, admonish, start for the door in frowning anger, and when finally he had won his point shake his head sadly as though he accepted defeat with resignation. Then he would whisper to me in English.

    “Take it with you. It would be cheap at double the money.”

    Elliott was a zealous Catholic. He had not lived long in Paris before he met an abbe who was celebrated for his success in bringing infidels and heretics back to the fold. He was a great diner-out and a noted wit. He confined his ministrations to the rich and the aristocratic. It was inevitable that Elliott should be attracted by a man who, though of humble origins, was a welcome guest in the most exclusive houses, and he confided to a wealthy American lady who was one of the abbe’s recent converts that, though his family had always been Episcopalian, he had for long been interested in the Catholic Church. She asked Elliott to meet the abbe at dinner one evening, just three of them, and the abbe was scintillating. Elliott’s hostess brought the conversation around to Catholicism and the abbe spoke of it with unction, but without pedantry, as a man of the world, though a priest, speaking to another man of the world. Elliott was flattered to discover that the abbe knew all about him.

    “The Duchesse de Vendome was speaking of you the other day. She told me that she thought you highly intelligent.”

    Elliott flushed with pleasure. He had been presented to Her Royal Highness, but it had never occurred to him that she would give him a second thought. The abbe spoke of the faith with wisdom and benignity; he was broad-minded, modern in his outlook, and tolerant. He made the Church seem to Elliott very like a select club that a well-bred man owed it to himself to belong.

    - pp. 18-20: I said little, and Isabel’s young man, Larry, I’d forgotten his surname, said nothing at all. He was sitting on the other side of the table between Brabazon and Elliott and every now and then I glanced at him. He looked very young. He was about the same height as Elliott, just under six feet, thin and loose-limbed. He was a pleasant-looking boy, neither handsome nor plain, rather shy and in no way remarkable. I was interested in the fact though, so far as I could remember, he hadn’t said half a dozen words since entering the house, he seemed perfectly at ease and in a curious way appeared to take part in the conversation without opening his mouth. I noticed his hands. They were long, but not large for his size, beautifully shaped and at the same time strong. I thought that a painter would be pleased to paint them. He was slightly built but not delicate in appearance; on the contrary I should have said he was wiry and resistant. His face, grave in repose, was tanned, but otherwise there was little color in it, and his features, though regular enough, were undistinguished. He had rather high cheekbones and his temples were hollow. He had dark brown hair with a slight wave in it. His eyes looked larger than they really were because they were deep set in the orbits and his lashes were thick and long. His eyes were peculiar, not of the rich hazel that Isabel shared with her mother and her uncle, but so dark that the iris made one color with the pupil, and this gave them a peculiar intensity. He had a natural grace that was attractive and I could see why Isabel had been taken by him. Now and again her glance rested on him for a moment and I seemed to see in her expression not only love but fondness. Their eyes met and there was in his a tenderness that was beautiful to see. There is nothing more touching than the sight of young love, and I, a middle-aged man then, envied them, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine why, I felt sorry for them. It was silly because, so far as I knew, there was no impediment to their happiness; their circumstances seemed easy and there was no reason why they should not marry and live happily ever afterward.

    Isabel, Elliott, and Gergory Brabazon went on talking of the redecoration of the house, trying to get out of Mrs. Bradley at least an admission that something should be done, but she only smiled amiably.

    “You mustn’t try to rush me. I want to have time to think it over.” She turned to the boy. “What do you think of it all, Larry?”

    He looked round the table, a smile in his eyes.

    “I don’t think it matters one way or the other,” he said.

    “You beast, Larry,” cried Isabel. “I particularly told you to back us up.”

    “If Aunt Louisa is happy with what she’s got, what is the object of changing?”

    His question was so much to the point and so sensible that it made me laugh. He looked at me then and smiled.

    “And don’t grin like that just because you’ve made a very stupid remark,” said Isabel.

    But he only grinned the more, and I noticed then that he had small and white and regular teeth. There was something in the look he gave Isabel that made her flush and catch her breath. Unless I was mistaken she was madly in love with him, but I don’t know what it was that gave me the feeling that in her love for him there was also something maternal. It was a little unexpected in so young a girl. With a soft smile on her lips she directed her attention once more to Gergory Brabazon.

    “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s very stupid and entirely uneducated. He doesn’t know anything about anything except flying.”

    “Flying?” I said.

    “He was an aviator in the war.”

    “I should have thought he was too young to have been in the war.”

    “He was. Much too young. He behaved very badly. He ran away from school and went to Canada. By lying his head off he got them to believe he was eighteen and got into the air corps. He was fighting in France at the time of the armistice.”

    “You’re boring your mother’s guests, Isabel,” said Larry.

    “I’ve known him all my life, and when he came back he looked lovely in his uniform, with all those pretty ribbons on his tunic, so I just sat on his doorstep, so to speak, till he consented to marry me just to have a little peace and quiet. The competition was awful.”

    “Really, Isabel,” said her mother.

    Larry leant over toward me.

    “I hope you don’t believe a word she says. Isabel isn’t a bad girl really, but she’s a liar.”

    - pp. 24-25: Gray Maturin was striking rather than handsome. He had a rugged, unfinished look; a short blunt nose, a sensual mouth, and the florid Irish complexion; a great quantity of raven black hair, very sleek, and under heavy eyebrows clear, very blue eyes. Though built on so large a scale he was finely proportioned, and stripped he must have been a fine figure of a man. He was obviously very powerful. His virility was impressive. He made Larry, who was sitting next to him, though only three or four inches shorter, look puny.

    “He’s very much admired,” said my shy neighbor. “I know several girls who would stop at nothing short of murder to get him. But they haven’t a chance.”

    “Why not?”

    “You don’t know anything, do you?”

    “How should I?”

    “He’s so much in love with Isabel, he can’t see straight, and Isabel’s in love with Larry.”

    “What’s to prevent him from setting to and cutting Larry out?”

    “Larry’s his best friend.”

    “I suppose that complicates matters.”

    “If you’re as high-principled as Gray is.”

    I was not sure whether she said this in all seriousness or whether there was in her tone a hint of mockery. There was nothing saucy in her manner, forward or pert, and yet I got the impression that she was lacking neither in humor nor in shrewdness. I wondered what she was really thinking while she made conversation with me, but that I knew I should never find out. She was obviously unsure of herself and I conceived the notion that she was an only child who had lived a secluded life with people a great deal older than herself. There was a modesty, an unobtrusiveness about her that I found engaging, but if I was right in thinking that she had lived much alone I guessed that she had quietly observed the older persons she lived with and had formed decided opinions upon them. We who are of mature age seldom suspect how unmercifully and yet with what insight the very young judge us.

    - pp. 30-32: I had been put up for the length of my stay at a club which possessed a good library, and next morning I went there to look at one or two of the university magazines that for the person who does not subscribe to them have always been rather hard to come by. It was early and there was only one other person there. He was seated in a big leather chair absorbed in a book. I was surprised to see it was Larry. He was the last person I should have expected to find in such a place. He looked up as I passed, recognized me, and made as if to get up.

    “Don’t move,” I said, and then almost automatically: “What are you reading?”

    “A book,” he said, with a smile, but a smile so engaging that the rebuff of his answer was in no way offensive.

    He closed it and looking at me with his peculiarly opaque eyes held it so that I couldn’t see the title.

    “Did you have a good time last night?” I asked.

    “Wonderful. Didn’t get home till five.”

    “It’s very strenuous of you to be here so bright and early.”

    “I come here a good deal. Generally I have the place to myself at this time.”

    “I won’t disturb you.”

    “You’re not disturbing me,” he said, smiling again, and now it occurred to me that he had a smile of great sweetness. It was not a brilliant, flashing smile, it was a smile that lit his face as with an inner light. He was sitting in an alcove made by jutting-out shelves and there was a chair next to him. He put his hand on the arm. “Won’t you sit down for a minute?”

    “All right.”

    He handed me the book he was holding.

    “That’s what I was reading.”

    I looked at it and saw it was William James’s Principles of Psychology. It is, of course, a standard work and important in the history of the science with which it deals; it is moreover exceedingly readable; but it is not the sort of book I should have expected to see in the hands of a very young man, an aviator, who had been dancing till five in the morning.

    “Why are you reading this?” I asked.

    “I’m very ignorant.”

    “You’re also very young,” I smiled.

    He did not speak for so long a time that I began to find the silence awkward and I was on the point of getting up and looking for the magazines I had come to find. But I had a feeling that he wanted to say something. He looked into vacancy, his face grave and intent, and seemed to meditate. I waited. I was curious to know what it was all about. When he began to speak it was as though he were continuing the conversation without awareness of that long silence.

    “When I came back from France they all wanted me to go to college. I couldn’t. After what I’d been through I felt I couldn’t go back to school. I learned nothing at my prep school anyway. I felt I couldn’t enter into a freshman’s life. They wouldn’t have liked me. I didn’t want to act a part I didn’t feel. And I didn’t think the instructors would teach me the sort of things I wanted to know.”

    “Of course I know this is no business of mine,” I answered, “but I’m not convinced you were right. I think I understand what you mean and I can see that, after being in the war for two years, it would have been rather a nuisance to become the sort of glorified schoolboy an undergraduate is during his first and second years. I can’t believe they wouldn’t have liked you. I don’t know much about American universities, but I don’t believe American undergraduates are very different from English ones, perhaps a little more boisterous and a little more inclined to horse-play, but on the whole very decent, sensible boys, and I take it that if you don’t want to lead their lives they’re quite willing, if you exercise a little tact, to let you lead yours. I never went to Cambridge as my brothers did. I had the chance, but I refused it. I wanted to get out into the world. I’ve always regretted it. I think it would have saved me a lot of mistakes. You learn more quickly under the guidance of experienced teachers. You waste a lot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one to lead you.”

    “You may be right. I don’t mind if I make mistakes. It may be that in one of the blind alleys I may find something to my purpose.”

    “What is your purpose?”

    He hesitated a moment.

    “That’s just it. I don’t quite know it yet.”

    I was silent, for there didn’t seem to be anything to say in answer to that. I, who from a very early age have always had before me a clear and definite purpose, was inclined to feel impatient, but I chid myself; I had what I can only call an intuition that there was in the soul of that boy some confused striving, whether of half-thought-out ideas or of dimly felt emotions I could not tell, which filled him with a restlessness that urged him he did not know whither. He strangely excited my sympathy. I had never before heard him speak much and it was only now that I became conscious of the melodiousness of his voice. It was very persuasive. It was like balm. When I considered that, his engaging smile, and the expressiveness of his very black eyes I could well understand that Isabel was in love with him. There was indeed something very lovable about him. He turned his head and looked at me without embarrassment, but with an expression in his eyes that was at once scrutinizing and amused.

    “Am I right in thinking that after we all went off to dance last night you talked about me?”

    “Part of the time.”

    “I thought that was why Uncle Rob had been pressed to come to dinner. He hates going out.”

    “It appears that you’ve got the offer of a very good job.”

    “A wonderful job.”

    “Are you going to take it?”

    “I don’t think so.”

    “Why not?”

    “I don’t want to.”

    I was butting into an affair that was no concern of mine, but I had a notion that just because I was a stranger from a foreign country Larry was not disinclined to talk to me about it.

    “Well, you know when people are no good at anything else they become writers,” I said, with a chuckle.

    - pp. 62-64: Looking at Larry, he was obliged to admit that there was something peculiarly attractive in him; with his deep-set strangely black eyes, his high cheekbones, pale skin, and mobile mouth he reminded Elliott of a portrait by Botticelli, and it occurred to him that if he were dressed in the costume of the period he would look extravagantly romantic. He remembered his notion of getting him off with a distinguished Frenchwoman and he smiled slyly on reflecting that he was expecting at dinner on Saturday Marie Louise de Florimond, who combined irreproachable connections with notorious immorality. She was forty, but looked ten years younger; she had the delicate beauty of her ancestress painted by Nattier which, owing to Elliott himself, now hung in one of the great American collections; and her sexual voracity was insatiable. Elliott decided to put Larry next to her. He knew she would waste no time in making her desires clear to him. He had already invited a young attaché at the British embassy whom he thought Isabel might like. Isabel was very pretty, and as he was an Englishman, and well off, it wouldn’t matter that she had no fortune. Mellowed by the excellent Montrachet with which they had started lunch and by the fine Bordeaux that followed, Elliott thought with tranquil pleasure of the possibilities that presented themselves to his mind. If things turned out as he thought they very well might, dear Louisa would have no more cause for anxiety. She had always slightly disapproved of him; poor dear, she was very provincial; but he was fond of her. It would be a satisfaction to him to arrange everything for her by help of his knowledge of the world.

    To waste no time, Elliott had arranged to take his ladies to look at clothes immediately after lunch, so as they got up from table he intimated to Larry with the tact of which he was a master that he must make himself scarce, but at the same time he asked him with pressing affability to come to the two grand parties he had arranged. He need hardly have taken so much trouble, since Larry accepted both invitations with alacrity.

    But Elliott’s plan failed. He was relieved when Larry appeared at the dinner party in a very presentable dinner-jacket, for he had been a little nervous that he would wear the same blue suit that he had worn at lunch; and after dinner, getting Marie Louise de Florimond into a corner, he asked her how she had liked his young American friend.

    “He has nice eyes and good teeth.”

    “Is that all? I put you beside him because I thought he was just your cup of tea.”

    She looked at him suspiciously.

    “He told me he was engaged to your very pretty niece.”

    “Voyons, ma chere, the fact that a man belongs to another woman has never prevented you from taking him away from her if you could.”

    “Is that what you want me to do? Well, I’m not going to do your dirty work for you, my poor Elliott.”

    Elliott chuckled.

    “The meaning of that, I presume, is that you tried your stuff and found there was nothing doing.”

    “Why I like you, Elliott, is that you have the morals of a bawdy-house keeper. You don’t want him to marry your niece. Why not? He is well bred and quite charming. But he’s really too innocent. I don’t think he had the least suspicion of what I meant.”

    “You should have been more explicit, dear friend.”

    “I have enough experience to know when I’m wasting my time. The fact is that he has eyes only for your little Isabel, and between you and me, she has twenty years advantage over me. And she’s sweet.”

    “Do you like her dress? I chose it for her myself.”

    “It’s pretty and it’s suitable. But of course she has no chic.”

    Elliott took this as a reflection on himself, and he was not prepared to let Madame de Florimond get away without a dig. He smiled genially.

    “One has to have reached your ripe maturity to have your chic, dear friend,” he said.

    Madame de Florimond wielded a bludgeon rather than a rapier. Her retort made Elliott’s Virginian blood boil.

    “But I’m sure that in your fair land of gangsters [votre beau pays d’apaches] they will hardly miss something that is so subtle and so inimitable.”

    - pp. 68-70: “I couldn’t go back now. I’m on the threshold. I see vast lands of the spirit stretching out before me, beckoning, and I’m eager to travel them.”
    “What do you expect to find in them?”

    “The answers to my questions.” He gave her a glance that was almost playful, so that except that she knew him so well, she might have thought he was speaking in jest. “I want to make up my mind whether God is or God is not. I want to find out why evil exists. I want to know whether I have an immortal soul or whether when I die it’s the end.”

    Isabel gave a little gasp. It made her uncomfortable to hear Larry say such things, and she was thankful that he spoke so lightly, in the tone or ordinary conversation, that it was possible for her to overcome her embarrassment.

    “But Larry,” she smiled. “People have been asking those questions for thousands of years. If they could be answered, surely they’d have been answered by now.”

    Larry chuckled.

    “Don’t laugh as if I’ d said something idiotic,” she said sharply.

    “On the contrary I think you’ve said something shrewd. But on the other hand you might say that if men have been asking them for thousands of years it proves that they can’t help asking them and have to go on asking them. Besides, it’s not true that no one has found the answers. There are more answers than questions, and lots of people have found answers that were perfectly satisfactory for them. Old Ruysbroek for instance.”

    “Who was he?”

    “Oh, just a guy I didn’t know at college,” Larry answered flippantly.

    Isabel didn’t know what he meant, but passed on.

    “It all sounds so adolescent to me. Those are the sort of things sophomores get excited about and then when they leave college they forget about them. They have to earn a living.”

    “I don’t blame them. You see, I’m in the happy position that I have enough to live on. If I hadn’t I’d have had to do like everybody else and make money.”

    “But doesn’t money mean anything to you?”

    “Not a thing,” he grinned.

    “How long d’you think all this is going to take you?”

    “I wouldn’t know. Five years. Ten years.”

    “And after that? What are you going to do with all this wisdom?”

    “If I ever acquire wisdom I suppose I shall be wise enough to know what to do with it.”

    Isabel clasped her hands passionately and leant forward in her chair.

    “You’re so wrong, Larry. You’re an American. Your place isn’t here. Your place is in America.”

    “I shall come back when I’m ready.”

    “But you’re missing so much. How can you bear to sit here in a backwater just when we’re living through the most wonderful adventure the world has ever known? Europe’s finished. We’re the greatest, the most powerful people in the world. We’re going forward by leaps and bounds. We’ve got everything. It’s your duty to take part in the development of your country. You’ve forgotten, you don’t know how thrilling life is in America today. Are you sure you’re not doing this because you haven’t the courage to stand up to the work that’s before every American now? Oh, I know you’re working in a way, but isn’t it just an escape from your responsibilities? Is it more than just a sort of laborious idleness? What would happen to America if everyone shirked as you’re shirking?”

    - pp. 72-73: “Larry, if you hadn’t a cent to your name and got a job that brought you in three thousand a year I’d marry you without a minute’s hesitation. I’d cook for you, I’d make the beds, I wouldn’t care what I wore, I’d go without anything, I’d look upon it as wonderful fun, because I’d know that it was only a question of time and you’d make good. But this means living in a sordid beastly way all our lives with nothing to look forward to. It means that I should be a drudge to the day of my death. And for what? So that you can spend years trying to find answers to questions that you say yourself are insoluble. It’s so wrong. A man ought to work. That’s what he’s here for. That’s how he contributes to the welfare of the community.”

    “In short it’s his duty to settle down in Chicago and enter Henry Maturin’s business. Do you think that by getting my friends to buy the securities that Henry Maturin is interested in I should add greatly to the welfare of the community?”

    “There must be brokers and it’s a perfectly decent and honorable way of earning a living.”

    “You’ve drawn a very black picture of life in Paris on a moderate income. You know, it isn’t really like that. One can dress very nicely without going to Chanel. And all the interesting people don’t live in the neighborhood of the Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue Foch. In fact few interesting people do, because interesting people generally don’t have a lot of money. I know quite a number of people here, painters and writers and students, French, English, American, and what not, whom I think you’d find much more amusing than Elliott’s seedy marquises and long-nosed ducheses. You’ve got a quick mind and a lively sense of humor. You’d enjoy hearing them swap ideas across the dinner table even though the wine was only vin ordinare and you didn’t have a butler and a couple of footmen to wait on you.”

    “Don’t be stupid, Larry. Of course I would. You know I’m not a snob. I’d love to meet interesting people.”

    “Yes, in a Chanel dress. D’you think they wouldn’t catch on to it that you looked upon it as a sort of cultured slumming? They wouldn’t be at their ease, any more than you would, and you wouldn’t get anything out of it except to tell Emily de Montadour and Gracie de Chateau-Gaillard afterward what fun you’d had meeting a lot of weird bohemians in the Latin Quarter.”

    Isabel slightly shrugged her shoulders.

    “I dare say you’re right. They’re not the sort of people I’ve been brought up with. They’re not the sort of people I have anything in common with.”
    Last edited by HERO; 01-26-2018 at 05:37 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  8. #8
    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    Isn't it obvious that he's an Aristocratic type from is parties and invitation of people?

    This is classic Te for me:

    “On the contrary I think you’ve said something shrewd. But on the other hand you might say that if men have been asking them for thousands of years it proves that they can’t help asking them and have to go on asking them. Besides, it’s not true that no one has found the answers. There are more answers than questions, and lots of people have found answers that were perfectly satisfactory for them. Old Ruysbroek for instance.”

    That's estimating cause and effect, or at least seeing how things work in an algorithmic fashion hence Te valuer. It's arriving at a logical conclusion or a "judgment" based on how things work, have worked, or external observation of these events and things. It's again confining the happenings of life to a logical/methodical formula.

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    I’m inclined to agree with the SLI typing of him.

    Edit (Jan. 25, 2018): I've also recently considered LSE for Maugham. And then I did a search and found this thread by woofwoofl who typed Maugham LSE:

    I'm also considering ESI-Se for Somerset Maugham.

    - from Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham; pp. xvii-xxiii [Introduction by

    GORE VIDAL]: In 1915, while Maugham was spying for England, Of Human Bondage

    was published. Maugham now was seen to be not only a serious but a solemn novelist—in the

    ponderous American manner. The best that can be said of this masterpiece is that it made a

    good movie and launched Bette Davis’s career. I remember that on all the pre-Second War

    editions, there was a quotation from Theodore Dreiser to the effect that the book “has

    rapture, it sings.” Mr. Calder does not mention Dreiser but Mr. Frederic Raphael does, in

    his agreeable picture book with twee twinkly text, Somerset Maugham and His World

    (Scribner’s, 1977). Mr. Raphael quotes from Dreiser, whom he characterizes as “an earnest

    thunderer in the cause of naturalism and himself a Zolaesque writer of constipated

    power.” Admittedly, Dreiser was not in a class with Margaret Drabble but—constipated?

    The Maugham persona was now perfected in life and work. Maugham’s wit was taken for true

    evil as he himself was well known, despite all subterfuge, to be non-MMM&G. Mr. Calder is

    disturbed by Maugham’s attempts at epigrams in conversation. Sternly, Mr. Calder notes:

    “Calculated flippancy was none the less a poor substitute for natural and easy insouciance.” But

    despite a near-total absence of easy insouciance, Maugham fascinated everyone. By 1929 he had

    settled into his villa at Cap Ferrat; he was much sought after socially even though the Windsors,

    the Churchills, the Beaverbrooks all knew that Haxton was more than a secretary. But the very

    rich and the very famous are indeed different from really real folks. For one thing, they often

    find funny the MMM&Gs. For another, they can create their own world and never leave it if they


    It is a sign of Maugham’s great curiosity and continuing sense of life (even maturity) that he

    never stopped traveling, ostensibly to gather gossip and landscapes for stories, but actually to

    come alive and indulge his twin passions, boys and bridge, two activities far less damaging to the

    environment than marriages, children, and big-game hunting. Haxton was a splendid organizer

    with similar tastes. Mr. Calder doesn’t quite get all this but then his informants, chiefly nephew

    Robin Maugham and the last companion, Alan Searle, would have been discreet.

    During the Second War, Maugham was obliged to flee France for America. In Hollywood he

    distinguished himself on the set of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. George Cukor had explained to

    Willie how, in this version of the Stevenson story, there would be no horrendous makeup change

    for the star, Spencer Tracy, when he turned from good Dr. Jekyll into evil Mr. Hyde. Instead, a

    great actor, Tracy, would bring forth both evil and good from within. Action! Tracy menaces the

    heroine. Ingrid Bergman cowers on a bed. Tracy simpers, drools, leers. Then Maugham’s uneasy

    souciant voice is heard, loud and clear and stammerless. “And which one is he supposed to be


    During this time, the movie of The Moon and Sixpence was released—the twenty-third

    Maugham story to be filmed. Maugham himself traveled restlessly about the East coast, playing

    bridge. He also had a refuge in North Carolina where, while writing The Razor’s Edge, Haxton

    died. For a time Maugham was inconsolable. Then he took on an amiable young Englishman,

    Alan Searle, as secretary-companion, and together they returned to the Riviera where Maugham

    restored the war-wrecked villa and resumed his life.

    One reason, prurience aside, why Mr. Calder tells us so much about Maugham’s private life

    (many kindnesses and charities are duly noted) is that Maugham has no reputation at all in North

    American academe where Mr. Calder is a spear-carrier. The result is a lot of less than half-praise:

    His career had been largely a triumph of determination and will, the success in three genres

    of a man not naturally gifted as a writer.

    Only a schoolteacher innocent of how literature is made could have written such a line.

    Demonstrably, Maugham was very talented at doing what he did. Now, this is for your final

    grade, what did he do? Describe, please. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good describers

    (critics) in any generation. But I shall give it a try, presently.

    At seventy-two, Maugham went to Vevey, Switzerland, where a Dr. Niehans injected aging

    human organisms with the cells of unborn sheep, and restored youth. All the great and not-so-

    good came to Niehans, including Pius XII—in a business suit and dark glasses, it was said—an

    old man in no hurry to meet his Jewish employer. Thanks perhaps to Niehans, Maugham

    survived for nearly fifteen years in rude bodily health. But body outlived mind and so it was that

    the senile Maugham proceeded to destroy his own great invention, W. Somerset Maugham, the

    teller of tales, the man inclined to the good and to right action, and above all, to common sense.

    By the time that old Maugham had finished with himself, absolutely nothing was what it seemed

    and the double self-portrait that he had given the world in The Summing Up and A

    Writer’s Notebook
    was totally undone by this raging Lear upon the Riviera, who tried to

    disinherit daughter while adopting Searle as well as producing Looking Back, a final set of

    memoirs not quite as mad as Hemingway’s but every bit as malicious. With astonishing

    ingenuity, the ancient Maugham mined his own monument; and blew it up.

    For seven decades Maugham had rigorously controlled his personal and his artistic life. He

    would write so many plays, and stop; and did. So many novels, and stop; and did. So many short

    stories . . . He rounded off everything neatly, and lay back to die, with a quiet world-weary smile

    on those ancient lizard lips. But then, to his horror, he kept on living, and having sex, and

    lunching with Churchill and Beaverbrook. Friends thought that Beaverbrook put him up to the

    final memoir, but I suspect that Maugham had grown very bored with a lifetime of playing it so

    superbly safe.


    It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the

    work of Somerset Maugham. He was always so entirely there. By seventeen I had

    read all of Shakespeare; all of Maugham.
    Perhaps more to the point, he dominated the

    movies at a time when movies were the lingua franca of the world. Although the French

    have told us that the movie is the creation of the director, no one in the twenties, thirties,

    forties paid the slightest attention to who had directed Of Human Bondage,

    Rain, The Moon and Sixpence, The Razor’s Edge, The Painted

    , The Letter. Their true creator was W. Somerset Maugham, and a

    generation was in thrall to his sensuous, exotic imaginings of a duplicitous world.

    Although Maugham received a good deal of dutiful praise in his lifetime, he was never to be

    taken very seriously in his own country or the United States, as opposed to Japan where he has

    been for two thirds of a century the most read and admired Western writer. Christopher

    Isherwood tells us that he met Maugham at a Bloomsbury party where Maugham looked most ill

    at ease with the likes of Virginia Woolf. Later Isherwood learned from a friend of Maugham’s

    that before the party, in an agony of indecision, as the old cliché master might have put it, he had

    paced his hotel sitting room, saying, “I’m just as good as they are.”

    I suspect that he thought he was probably rather better for what he was, which was not at all what

    they were. Bloomsbury disdained action and commitment other than to Art and to Friendship

    (which meant going to bed with one another’s husbands and wives). Maugham liked action. He

    risked his life in floods, monsoons, the collapse of holy Russia. He was worldly like

    Hemingway, who also stalked the big game of wild places, looking for stories, self. As for what

    he thought of himself, Mr. Calder quotes Maugham to the headmaster of his old school: “I think

    I ought to have the O.M. [Order of Merit]. . . . They gave Hardy the O.M. and I think I am the

    greatest living writer of English, and they ought to give it to me.” When he did get a lesser order,

    Companion of Honour, he was sardonic: “It means very well done . . . but.”

    But. There is a definite but. I have just reread for the first time in forty years The Narrow Corner,

    a book I much admired; The Razor’s Edge, the novel on which the film that I found the ultimate

    in worldly glamour was based; A Writer’s Notebook, which I recalled as being very wise;

    and, yet again, Cakes and Ale. Edmund Wilson’s famous explosion at the success of

    Maugham in general and The Razor’s Edge in particular is not so far off the mark:

    The language is such a tissue of clichés that one’s wonder is finally aroused at the writer’s

    ability to assemble so many and at his unfailing inability to put anything in an individual


    Maugham’s reliance on the banal, particularly in dialogue, derived from his long experience in

    the theater, a popular art form in those days. One could no more represent the people on stage

    without clichés than one could an episode of Dynasty: Maugham’s dialogue is a slightly

    sharpened version of that of his audience.

    Both Wilde and Shaw dealt in this same sort of realistic speech but Shaw was a master of the

    higher polemic (as well as of the baleful clichés of the quaint workingman, rendered phonetically

    to no one’s great delight) while Wilde made high verbal art of clichés so slyly crossed as to yield

    incongruent wit. But for any playwright of that era (now, too), the mot juste was apt to be

    the well-deployed mot banal. Maugham’s plays worked very well. But when Maugham

    transferred the tricks of the theater to novel writing, he was inclined to write not only the same

    sort of dialogue that the stage required but in his dramatic effects he often set his scene with

    stage directions, ignoring the possibilities that prose with dialogue can yield. This economy won

    him many readers, but there is no rapture, song. Wilson, finally, puts him in the relation of

    Bulwer-Lytton to Dickens: “a half-trashy novelist who writes badly, but is patronized by half-

    serious readers who do not care much about writing.” What ever happened to those readers?

    How can we get them back?

    Wilson took the proud modernist view that, with sufficient education, everyone would want to

    move into Axel’s Castle. Alas, the half-serious readers stopped reading novels long ago while the

    “serious” read literary theory, and the castle’s ruins are the domain of literary archaeologists. But

    Wilson makes a point, inadvertently: If Maugham is half-trashy (and at times his most devoted

    admirers would probably grant that) what, then, is the other half, that is not trash? Also, why is it

    that just as one places, with the right hand, the laurel wreath upon his brow, one’s left hand starts

    to defoliate the victor’s crown?

    A Writer’s Notebook (kept over fifty years) is filled with descriptions of sunsets and people

    glimpsed on the run. These descriptions are every bit as bad as Wilson’s (in The Twenties)

    and I don’t see why either thought that writing down a fancy description of a landscape could or

    should—be later glued to the page of a novel in progress. Maugham’s descriptions, like

    Wilson’s, are disagreeably purple while the physical descriptions of people are more elaborate

    than what we now put up with. But Maugham was simply following the custom of nineteenth-

    century novelists in telling us whether or not eyebrows grow together while noting the exact

    placement of a wen. Also, Dr. Maugham’s checklist is necessary for diagnosis. Yet he does

    brood on style; attempts to make epigrams. “Anyone can tell the truth, but only very few of us

    can make epigrams.” Thus, young Maugham, to which the old Maugham retorts, “In the nineties,

    however, we all tried to.”

    In the preface, Maugham expatiates on Jules Renard’s notebooks, one of the great delights of

    world literature and, as far as I can tell, unknown to Anglo-Americans, like so much else. Renard

    wrote one small masterpiece, Poil de Carotte, about his unhappy childhood—inhuman bondage

    to an evil mother rather than waitress.

    Renard appeals to Maugham, though “I am always suspicious of a novelist’s theories, I have

    never known them to be anything other than a justification of his own shortcomings.” Well, that

    is commonsensical. In any case, Maugham, heartened by Renard’s marvelous notebook, decided

    to publish his own. The tone is world-weary, modest. “I have retired from the hurly-burly and

    ensconced myself not uncomfortably on the shelf.” Thus, he will share his final musings.

    There is a good deal about writing. High praise for Jeremy Taylor:

    He seems to use the words that come most naturally to the mouth, and his phrases, however

    nicely turned, have a colloquial air. . . . The long clauses, tacked on to one another in a string

    that appears interminable, make you feel that the thing has been written without effort.

    Here, at twenty-eight, he is making the case for the plain and the flat and the natural sounding:

    There are a thousand epithets with which you may describe the sea. The only one which, if

    you fancy yourself a stylist, you will scrupulously avoid is blue; yet it is that which most

    satisfied Jeremy Taylor. . . . He never surprises. His imagination is without violence or


    Of Matthew Arnold’s style, “so well suited to irony and wit, to exposition. . . . It is a method

    rather than an art, no one more than I can realize what enormous labour it must have needed to

    acquire that mellifluous cold brilliance. It is a platitude that simplicity is the latest acquired of all

    qualities. . . .” The interesting giveaway here is Maugham’s assumption that Arnold’s style must

    have been the work of great labor. But suppose, like most good writers, the style was absolutely

    natural to Arnold and without strain? Here one sees the hard worker sternly shaping himself

    rather than the natural writer easily expressing himself as temperament requires:

    My native gifts are not remarkable, but I have a certain force of character which has enabled

    me in a measure to supplement my deficiencies. I have common sense. . . . For many years I have

    been described as a cynic; I told the truth. I wish no one to take me for other than I am, and on

    the other hand I see no need to accept others’ pretenses.

    One often encounters the ultimate accolade “common sense” in these musings. Also, the conceit

    that he is what you see, when, in fact, he is not. For instance, his native gifts for narrative were of

    a very high order. While, up to a point, he could tell the truth and so be thought cynical, it was

    always “common sense,” a.k.a. careerism, that kept him from ever saying all that he knew. Like

    most people, he wanted to be taken for what he was not; hence, the great invention W. Somerset


    - from W. Somerset Maugham’s Collected Stories; pp. ix-xi [Introduction (by

    Nicholas Shakespeare)]:

    When you come down to brass tacks the value of a work of art depends on the

    artist’s personality.

    W. Somerset Maugham

    Towards the end of his life, the most widely read English writer since Dickens, and the

    highest paid in history, was observed by an old woman on Vevey railway station trying to

    play hide-and-seek with his male secretary. ‘Yoo-hoo,’ he called from behind a pillar.

    When the secretary began to reprimand him, the woman moved to intercede: ‘You should be

    gentle with that nice old man. He thinks he’s Somerset Maugham.’

    Hide-and-seek was a game that Maugham had made his profession, a game of concealment and

    catching other people out. At the height of his powers he would have savoured the excruciating

    irony: the writer in decline accused of impersonating himself. This was the type of story

    closest to his heart. Perhaps like the old lady, and perhaps because he was so adept at

    constructing a monolithic persona, we all feel we know who Somerset Maugham is. But

    his large audience, swollen by screen and television adaptations, has tended to undermine

    his critical reputation. There hangs over his name a suspicion of something middle-brow that

    his personality has failed to dispel. Among the words he attracted were: misogynist, cynic,

    mysterious, sensitive, malicious, vulnerable, racist, suspicious, sophisticated, inscrutable. His

    authorial gaze has the expression of a tribal mask nailed to the wall, surmising you. A friend

    commented: ‘Not once in all the years that I’ve known him have I seen the mask drop. He’s on

    guard all the time, alert as a hawk, watching everything he does and says.’ Only at one

    remove, in remarks he made about others – El Greco, Arnold Bennett, Maupassant – does there

    appear the occasional suggestive crack. Otherwise he maintains the pose in Graham Sutherland’s

    portrait of him. The defiant, unblinking, arms-crossed pose of a mandarin in a smoking-jacket.

    Maugham was more than happy to probe into the lives of other writers, especially those he

    admired, but he was a litigious curmudgeon when it came to anyone investigating his

    biography. He behaved as if he could control its shape and content like one of his stories, but

    life has a tremendous resistance to being twisted and squeezed. It is not—as Maugham knew to

    his cost—a mask. In his essay The Art of Fiction, he observed with habitual common

    sense: ‘Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due

    course they actually become the person they seem. But in his book or picture the real man

    delivers himself defenceless.’ Maugham proved no exception to his own rule. He understood

    that what a writer writes is ‘the expression of his personality and the manifestation of his

    instincts, his emotions, his intuitions and his experience’. In a body of seventy-three works

    nowhere does Maugham’s truest self call out louder to be recognized than in two or three of his

    novels and in his twelve volumes of short stories.

    Interviewed in 1933, Maugham remarked: ‘It has always seemed to me that literature can only

    find its fullest and freest expression in the essay or short story.’ He wrote more than one hundred

    stories, at least fourteen of which he burned on one of his ‘bonfire nights’, after Winston

    Churchill warned that they contravened the Official Secrets Act. Of the stories that do

    survive, he estimated that maybe a dozen would find their way into anthologies, ‘if only

    because some of them deal with circumstances and places to which the passage of time and the

    growth of civilization will give a romantic glamour’. When assessing his worth, Maugham had

    not too many illusions.

    In a writing career spanning sixty-five years, he produced much that is well forgotten. At his

    worst, as David Garnett said of him, he reads like ‘a choppy sea’. He has a fatal fondness for the

    surprise twist which can, on occasions, rip the head right off a story. There are moments when he

    stirs in the reader the uneasy sense that he shares the prejudices of those he dissects with such

    pitilessness. (‘I think of those thin black arms of hers around you and it fills me with a physical

    nausea.’) As for his women! When a woman in Maugham says: ‘One must behave like a

    gentleman’, you suspect that that is what originally she was. It comes hardly as a surprise, for

    instance, to learn that the model for the parlourmaid in ‘The Treasure’ was a valet. Then

    there is the accusation that for all his genius at narrative, he has no depth. You wait for him to go

    to another level, but something always pulls him back, as in his own description of the fever

    bird. ‘It has three notes and it just misses the fourth which would make the chord and the ear

    waits for it maddeningly.’ He lacks, in other words, that extra note which might rank him with

    the greatest.

    Maugham demanded, quite rightly, that a writer should be judged by his best work. He

    believed that this, rather like his talent at the bridge table, placed him ‘in the very first row of the

    second-raters’ – a judgement with which the intelligentsia whom he loathed concurred.

    ‘Division II, Class I,’ reckoned Lytton Strachey, after reading one of Maugham’s books

    during a bout of flu. His harshest critics, such as Edmund Wilson, positioned him still

    further back, on the level of ‘one of the less brilliant contributions to a prep-school

    magazine’. Perhaps his talent was, in the final analysis, a Gentleman’s Relish that he

    spread too thin, but his finest stories leave a taste that is not in doubt. At his best, his clear,

    painterly prose seems written by the light of the Mediterranean sun that fell across his

    page at the Villa Mauresque, streaming into his study through the Gauguin glass

    window of a Tahitian woman and a rabbit. To Desmond MacCarthy, he was ‘the English

    Maupassant’; to Cyril Connolly, who rated him the best short-story writer of the

    twentieth century, ‘the Kipling of the Pacific’. His admirers number Evelyn Waugh (‘the

    only living studio-master under whom one can study with profit’), Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    (‘one of my favourite writers’) and George Orwell (‘I believe the modern writer who has

    influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of

    telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.’).

    - Of Human Bondage; p. xii [Introduction by Gore Vidal (from The New York Review of

    Books, 1990)]: On balance, the tragic wound to which he was to advert throughout a long

    life strikes me as no more than a scratch or two. Yes, he wanted to be taller than five foot

    seven; yes, he had an underslung jaw that might have been corrected; yes, he stammered.

    But . . . tant pis, as he might have observed coldly of another (used in a novel, the

    phrase would be helpfully translated).

    Yet something was gnawing at him. As he once observed, sardonically, to his nephew Robin

    Maugham, “Jesus Christ could cope with all the miseries I have had to contend with in life. But

    then, Jesus Christ had advantages I don’t possess.” Presumably, Jesus was a six-foot-tall blond

    blue-eyed body-builder whereas Maugham was slight and dark with eyes like “brown velvet”;

    and, of course, Jesus’ father owned the shop. On the other hand, Maugham was not obliged to

    contend with the sadomasochistic excitement of the Crucifixion, much less the head-turning

    rapture of the Resurrection. It is the common view of Maugham biographers that the true tragic

    flaw was homosexuality, disguised as a club foot in Of Human Bondage—or was that the

    stammer? Whatever it was, Maugham was very sorry for himself. Admittedly, a liking for boys

    at the time of Oscar Wilde’s misadventures was dangerous but Maugham was adept at passing

    for MMM&G—Married, Mature, Monogamous, and Good: he appeared to have affairs with

    women, not men, and he married and fathered a daughter. There need not have been an either/or

    for him.

    Maugham’s career as a writer was singularly long and singularly successful. The cover of each

    book was adorned with a Moorish device to ward off the evil eye: the author knew that too much

    success overexcites one’s contemporaries, not to mention the gods. Also, much of his

    complaining may have been prophylactic: to avert the furies if not the book-chatterers, and so he

    was able to live just as he wanted for two thirds of his life, something not many writers—or

    indeed anyone else—ever manage to do.

    - pp. xiii-xiv: “Few authors,” Mr. Calder tells us, “read as widely as Maugham and his works are

    peppered with references to other literature.” So they are—peppered indeed—but not always

    seasoned. The bilingual Maugham knew best the French writers of the day. He tells us that he

    modelled his short stories on Maupassant. He also tells us that he was much influenced by Ibsen,

    but there is no sign of that master in his own school of Wilde comedies. Later, he was awed by

    Chekhov’s stories but, again, he could never “use” that master because something gelled very

    early in Maugham the writer, and once his own famous tone was set it would remain perfectly

    pitched to the end.

    In his first published novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), Maugham raised the banner of Maupassant

    and the French realists but the true influence on the book and its method was one Arthur

    Morrison, who had made a success three years earlier with Tales of Mean Streets. Robert Calder

    [Maugham’s biographer] notes that Morrison,

    writing with austerity and frankness, . . . refused to express sympathy on behalf of his readers

    so that they could then avoid coming to terms with the implications of social and economic

    inequality. Maugham adopted this point of view in his first novel, and was therefore, like

    Morrison, accused of a lack of conviction.

    In general realists have always been open to the charge of coldness, particularly by romantics

    who believe that a novel is essentially a sermon, emotional and compassionate and so inspiring

    that after the peroration, the reader, wiser, kinder, bushier indeed, will dry his eyes and go forth

    to right wrong. This critical mindset has encouraged a great deal of bad writing. The unemotional

    telling of a terrible story is usually more effective than the oh, by the wind-grieved school of

    romantic (that is, self-loving) prose. On the other hand, the plain style can help the dishonest,

    pusillanimous writer get himself off every kind of ideological or ethical hook. Just the facts,

    ma’am. In this regard, Hemingway, a literary shadow self to Maugham, was our time’s most

    artful dodger, all busy advancing verbs and stony nouns. Surfaces coldly rendered. Interiors

    unexplored. Manner all.

    For someone of Maugham’s shy, highly self-conscious nature (with a secret, too) the adoption of

    classic realism, Flaubert with bitters, was inevitable. Certainly, he was lucky to have got the tone

    absolutely right in his first book, and he was never to stray far from the appearance of plain

    storytelling. Although he was not much of one for making up things, he could always worry an

    anecdote or bit of gossip into an agreeable narrative. Later, as the years passed, he put more and

    more effort—even genius—into his one triumphant creation, W. Somerset Maugham, world

    weary world-traveler, whose narrative first person became the best-known and least wearisome

    in the world. At first he called the narrator “Ashenden” (a name carefully chosen so that the

    writer would not stammer when saying it, unlike that obstacle course for stammerers,

    “Maugham”); then he dropped Ashenden for Mr. Maugham himself in The Razor’s Edge

    (1944). Then he began to appear, as narrator, in film and television dramatizations of his work.

    Thus, one of the most-read novelists of our time became widely known to those who do not read.

    Shaw and Wells invented public selves for polemical reasons, while Mark Twain and

    Dickens did so to satisfy a theatrical need, but Maugham contrived a voice and a manner that not

    only charm and surprise in a way that the others did not, but where they were menacingly larger

    than life, he is just a bit smaller (5’ 7”), for which he compensates by sharing with us something

    that the four histrionic masters would not have dreamed of doing: inside gossip. It is these

    confidences that made Maugham so agreeable to read: nothing, he tells us with a smile, is

    what it seems.[/I] That was his one trick, and it seldom failed. Also, before D. H. Lawrence, Dr.

    Maugham (obstetrician) knew that women, given a fraction of a chance, liked sex as much as

    men did. When he said so, he was called a misogynist.

    - pp. xv-xvii: Maugham enjoyed his celebrity; he was a popular diner-out; he was, when he could

    get the words out, something of a wit. He was eminently marriageable in Edwardian eyes. So

    which will it be—the lady or the tiger/man? Mr. Calder cannot get enough of Maugham the

    f****t in conflict with Maugham the potential MMM&G. Will the good drive out evil? Maturity


    Unhappily, the witch-doctor approach to human behavior still enjoys a vogue in academe and

    Mr. Calder likes to put his subject on the couch, while murmuring such Freudian incantations as

    “loss of a beloved mother, the lack of a father with whom to identify . . . follow a common

    pattern in the development of homosexuality.” That none of this makes any sense does not alter

    belief: in matters of faith inconvenient evidence is always suppressed while contradictions go

    unnoticed. Nevertheless, witch doctors to one side, witches did—and do—get burned, as Oscar

    Wilde discovered in 1895, and an entire generation of same-sexers was obliged to go

    underground or marry or settle in the south of France. I suspect that Maugham’s experiences

    with women were not only few but essentially hydraulic. Writers, whether same-sexers or other-

    sexers, tend to have obsessive natures; in consequence they cross the sexual borders rather less

    often than the less imaginative who want, simply, to get laid or even loved. But whereas a same-

    sexer like Noel Coward never in his life committed an other-sexual act (“Not even with Gertrude

    Lawrence?” I asked. “Particularly not with Miss Lawrence” was the staccato response), Dr.

    Maugham had no fear of vaginal teeth—he simply shut his eyes and thought of Capri.

    At twenty-one Maugham was well and truly launched by one John Ellingham Brooks, a

    litterateur who lived on Capri, then known for the easy charm of its boys. “The nasty procuring

    side” of Maugham started in Capri and he kept coming back year after year. At ninety, he told a

    reporter, “I want to go to Capri because I started life there.” In old age, he told Glenway

    Westcott that Brooks was his first lover. This is doubtful. Maugham told different people

    different things about his private life, wanting always to confuse. Certainly, for sheer energetic

    promiscuity he was as athletic as Byron; with a club foot, what might he not have done! Even so,

    “He was the most sexually voracious man I’ve ever known,” said Beverly Nichols, the journalist

    and one-time Maugham secretary, who knew at first hand. Robin Maugham and the last

    companion, Alan Searle, agreed.

    Ironically, within a dozen years of Wilde’s imprisonment, Maugham was the most popular

    English playwright. Unlike the reckless Oscar, Maugham showed no sign of ever wanting to

    book so much as a room at the Cadogan Hotel. Marriage it would be. With Syrie Barnardo

    Wellcome, an interior decorator much liked in London’s high bohemia. Fashionable wife for

    fashionable playwright. A daring woman of the world—an Iris March with a green hat pour le

    , Syrie wanted a child by Maugham without wedlock. Got it. As luck—hers and his

    would have it, Maugham then went to war and promptly met the great love of his life, Gerald


    For a time Maugham was a wound dresser. Gerald was in the Ambulance Corps. They were to be

    together until Gerald’s death twenty-nine years later, “longer than many marriages,” observes the

    awed Mr. Calder. But there was a good deal of mess to be cleaned up along the way. Haxton

    could not to go to England: he had been caught by the police in bed with another man. Maugham

    himself did not want, finally, to be even remotely MMM&G. Syrie suffered. They separated.

    Toward the end of his life, Maugham tried to disinherit his daughter on the ground that she was

    not his but, ironically, he had got a door prize for at least one dutiful attendance and she was very

    much his as anyone who has ever seen her or her descendants can attest: the saturnine Maugham

    face still gazes by proxy upon a world where nothing is ever what it seems.

    During the war, Maugham was hired by the British secret service to go to Moscow and shore up

    the Kerensky government. He has written of all this in both fiction (Ashenden—literary

    ancestor to Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, John Le Carre) and two books of memoirs. Unfortunately,

    the mission to Moscow was aborted by the overthrow of Kerensky.

    Maugham developed tuberculosis. During twenty months in a Scottish sanitarium he wrote four

    of his most popular plays, including The Circle and the highly successful novel The Moon

    and Sixpence, where a Gauguin-like English painter is observed by the world-weary Ashenden

    amongst Pacific palms. Maugham wrote his plays rather the way television writers (or

    Shakespeare) write their serials—at great speed. One week for each act and a final week to pull it

    all together. Since Mr. Calder is overexcited by poor Willie’s rather unremarkable (stamina to

    one side) sex life, we get far too little analysis of Maugham’s writing and of the way that he

    worked, particularly in the theater. From what little Mr. Calder tells us, Maugham stayed away

    from rehearsals but, when needed, would cut almost anything an actor wanted. This doesn’t

    sound right to me but then when one has had twenty play productions in England alone, there is

    probably not that much time or inclination to perfect the product. In any case, Mr. Calder is, as

    he would put it, “disinterested” in the subject.

    - Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham; pp. 67-68 (XVIII): But Philip could

    not live long in the rarefied air of the hilltops. What had happened to him when first he was

    seized by the religious emotion happened to him now. Because he felt so keenly the beauty of

    faith, because the desire for self-sacrifice burned in his heart with such a gem-like glow, his

    strength seemed inadequate to his ambition. He was tired out by the violence of passion.

    His soul was filled on a sudden with a singular aridity. He began to forget the presence

    of God which had seemed so surrounding; and his religious exercises, still very

    punctually performed, grew merely formal. At first he blamed himself for this

    falling away, and the fear of hell-fire urged him to renewed vehemence; but the

    passion was dead, and gradually other interests distracted his thoughts.

    Philip had few friends. His habit of reading isolated him: it became such a need that after being

    in company for some time he grew tired and restless; he was vain of the wider knowledge he

    had acquired from the perusal of so many books, his mind was alert, and he had not the skill to

    hide his contempt for his companions’ stupidity. They complained that he was conceited; and,

    since he excelled only in matters which to them were unimportant, they asked satirically

    what he had to be conceited about. He was developing a sense of humour, and found that he

    had a knack of saying bitter things, which caught people on the raw; he said them because they

    amused him, hardly realizing how much they hurt, and was much offended when he found

    that his victims regarded him with active dislike. The humiliations he suffered when first he

    went to school had caused in him a shrinking from his fellows which he could never

    entirely overcome; he remained shy and silent. But though he did everything to alienate the

    sympathy of other boys he longed with all his heart for the popularity which to some was so

    easily accorded. These from his distance he admired extravagantly; and though he was

    inclined to be more sarcastic with them than with others, though he made little jokes at

    their expense, he would have given anything to change places with them . . . . He would

    imagine that he was some boy whom he had a particular fancy for; he would throw his soul, as it

    were, into the other’s body, talk with his voice and laugh with his laugh; he would imagine

    himself doing all the things the other did. It was so vivid that he seemed for a moment really to

    be no longer himself. In this way he enjoyed many intervals of fantastic happiness.

    - pp. 175-176: He began on the head, thinking that he would work slowly downwards,

    but, he could not understand why, he found it infinitely more difficult to draw a head

    from the model than to draw one from his imagination. He got into difficulties. He

    glanced at Miss Price. She was working with vehement gravity. Her brow was wrinkled

    with eagerness, and there was an anxious look in her eyes. It was hot in the studio, and

    drops of sweat stood on her forehead. She was a girl of twenty-six, with a great deal of dull

    gold hair; it was handsome hair, but it was carelessly done, dragged back from her

    forehead and tied in a hurried knot. She had a large face, with broad, flat features and

    small eyes; her skin was pasty, with a singular unhealthiness of tone, and there was no

    colour in the cheeks. She had an unwashed tone, and you could not help wondering if she

    slept in her clothes. She was serious and silent. When the next pause came, she stepped

    back to look at her work.

    ‘I don’t know why I’m having so much bother,’ she said. ‘But I mean to get it right.’

    She turned to Philip. ‘How are you getting on?’

    ‘Not at all,’ he answered, with a rueful smile.

    She looked at what he had done.

    ‘You can’t expect to do anything that way. You must take measurements. And you

    must square out your paper.’

    She showed him rapidly how to set about the business. Philip was impressed by her

    earnestness, but repelled by her want of charm. He was grateful for the hints she gave him

    and set to work again. Meanwhile other people had come in, mostly men, for the women

    always arrived first, and the studio for the time of year (it was early yet) was fairly full.

    Presently there came in a young man with thin, black hair, an enormous nose, and a face so

    long that it reminded you of a horse. He sat down next to Philip and nodded across him to

    Miss Price.

    ‘You’re very late,’ she said. ‘Are you only just up?’

    - pp. 179-181: Philip walked down the Boulevard du Montparnasse. It was not at all

    like the Paris he had seen in the spring during his visit to do the accounts of the Hotel St

    Georges—he thought already of that part of his life with a shudder—but reminded him of

    what he thought a provincial town must be. There was an easy-going air about it, and a

    sunny spaciousness which invited the mind to day-dreaming. The trimness of the trees,

    the vivid whiteness of the houses, the breadth, were very agreeable; and he felt himself

    already thoroughly at home. He sauntered along, staring at the people; there seemed an

    elegance about the most ordinary, workmen with their broad red sashes and their wide

    trousers, like soldiers in dingy, charming uniforms. He came presently to the Avenue de

    l’Observatoire, and he gave a sigh of pleasure at the magnificent, yet so graceful, vista. He

    came to the gardens of the Luxembourg: children were playing, nurses with long

    ribbons walked slowly two by two, busy men passed through with satchels under their

    arms, youths strangely dressed. The scene was formal and dainty; nature was

    arranged and ordered, but so exquisitely, that nature unordered and unarranged seemed

    barbaric. Philip was enchanted. It excited him to stand on that spot of which he had

    read so much; it was classic ground to him; and he felt the awe and the delight which

    some old don might feel when for the first time he looked on the smiling plain of


    As he wandered he chanced to see Miss Price sitting by herself on a bench. He

    hesitated, for he did not at that moment want to see anyone, and her uncouth way

    seemed out of place amid the happiness he felt around him; but he had divined her

    sensitiveness to affront, and since she had seen him thought it would be polite to

    speak to her.

    ‘What are you doing here?’ she said, as he came up.

    ‘Enjoying myself. Aren’t you?’

    ‘Oh, I come here every day from four to five. I don’t think one does any good if one

    works straight through.’

    ‘May I sit down for a minute?’ he said.

    ‘If you want to.’

    ‘That doesn’t sound very cordial,’ he laughed.

    ‘I’m not much of a one for saying pretty things.’

    Philip, a little disconcerted, was silent as he lit a cigarette.

    ‘Did Clutton say anything about my work?’ she asked suddenly.

    ‘No, I don’t think he did,’ said Phillip.

    ‘He’s no good, you know. He thinks he’s a genius, but he isn’t. He’s too lazy, for one

    thing. Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains. The only thing is to peg away. If one

    only makes up one’s mind badly enough to do a thing one can’t help doing it.’

    She spoke with a passionate strenuousness which was rather striking. She wore a sailor

    hat of black straw, a white blouse which was not quite clean, and a brown skirt. She had no

    gloves on, and her hands wanted washing. She was so unattractive that Philip wished he

    had not begun to talk to her. He could not make out whether she wanted him to stay or go.

    “I’ll do anything I can for you,’ she said all at once, without reference to anything

    that had gone before. ‘I know how hard it is.’

    ‘Thank you very much,’ said Philip, then in a moment: ‘Won’t you come and have tea

    with me somewhere?’

    She looked at him quickly and flushed. When she reddened her pasty skin acquired a

    curiously mottled look, like strawberries and cream that had gone bad.

    ‘No, thanks. What do you think I want tea for? I’ve only just had lunch.’

    ‘I thought it would pass the time,’ said Philip.

    ‘If you find it long you needn’t bother about me, you know. I don’t mind being left


    At that moment two men passed, in brown velveteens, enormous trousers, and basque

    caps. They were young, but both wore beards.

    ‘I say, are those art-students?’ said Philip. ‘They might have stepped out of the Vie de


    ‘They’re Americans,’ said Miss Price scornfully. ‘Frenchmen haven’t worn things like that for

    thirty years, but the Americans from the Far West buy those clothes and have themselves

    photographed the day after they arrive in Paris. That’s about as near to art as they ever get.

    But it doesn’t matter to them, they’ve all got money.’

    Philip liked the daring picturesqueness of the Americans’ costume; he thought it

    showed the romantic spirit.

    - p. xxvii [COMMENTARY (AS A REALIST SEES IT by Theodore Dreiser, from The New

    Republic, 1915)]: Sometimes in retrospect of a great book the mind falters, confused by the

    multitude and yet the harmony of the detail, the strangeness of the frettings, the brooding,

    musing intelligence that has foreseen, loved, created, elaborated, perfected, until, in this middle

    ground which we call life, somewhere between nothing and nothing, hangs the perfect thing

    which we love and cannot understand, but which we are compelled to confess a work of art. It is

    at once something and nothing, a dream, a happy memory, a song, a benediction. In viewing it

    one finds nothing to criticise or to regret. The thing sings, it has color. It has rapture. You wonder

    at the loving, patient care which has evolved it.

    Only recently I finished reading Mr. W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. It was with

    some such feeling as this that I laid it down.

    Here is a novel or biography or autobiography or social transcript of the utmost importance. To

    begin with it is unmoral, as a novel of this kind must necessarily be. The hero is born with a club

    foot, and in consequence, and because of a temperament delicately attuned to the miseries of life,

    suffers all the pains, recessions, and involute self tortures which only those who have striven

    handicapped by what they have considered a blighting defect can understand. He is a youth,

    therefore, with an intense craving for sympathy and understanding. He must have it. The thought

    of his lack and the part which his disability plays in it soon becomes an obsession. He is tortured,


    In pursuit of his ideal from his earliest youth he clings to both men and women in a pathetic way,

    a truly moving spectacle.

    - pp. xxix-xxx: Compact of the experiences, the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the

    disillusionments, the ruptures, and the philosophisings of a strangely starved soul, it is a beacon

    light by which the wanderer may be guided. Nothing is left out; the author writes as though it

    were a labor of love. It bears the imprint of an eager, almost consuming desire to say truly what

    is in his heart.

    Personally I found myself aching with pain when, yearning for sympathy, Philip begs the

    wretched Mildred, never his mistress but on his level, to no more than tolerate him. He finally

    humiliates himself to the extent of exclaiming, “You don’t know what it means to be a cripple!”

    The pathos of it plumbs the depths. The death of Fannie Price, of the sixteen-year-old mother in

    the slum, of Cronshaw, and the rambling agonies of old Ducroz and of Philip himself, are perfect

    in their appeal.

    There are many other and all equally brilliant pictures. No one short of a genius could rout the

    philosophers from their lairs and label them as individuals “tempering life with rules agreeable to

    themselves,” or could follow Mildred Rogers, waitress of the London A B C restaurant, through

    all the shabby windings of her tawdry soul. No other than a genius endowed with an immense

    capacity for understanding and pity could have sympathized with Fannie Price, with her futile

    and self-destructive art dreams; or old Cronshaw, the wastrel of poetry and philosophy; or M.

    Ducroz, the worn-out revolutionary; or Thorne Athelny, the caged grandee of Spain; or Leonard

    Upjohn, airy master of the art of self advancement; or Dr. South, the vicar of Blackstable, and his

    wife—these are masterpieces. They are marvelous portraits; they are as smooth as a Vermeer, as

    definite as a Hals, as brooding and moving as a Rembrandt.

    - pp. xxxi-xxxii [NOTES ON SOMERSET MAUGHAM by Graham Greene]: Kinglake once

    referred to ‘that nearly immutable law which compels a man with a pen in his hand to be

    uttering every now and then some sentiment not his own,’ and compared an author with a

    French peasant under the old regime, bound to perform a certain amount of work upon the

    public highways. I doubt if any author has done—of recent years—less highway labour than

    Maugham. I say ‘of recent years’ because, as he himself admits in this summing-up of his life

    and work,* he passed like other writers through the stage of tutelage—and to the most unlikely

    people, the translators of the Bible and Jeremy Taylor. That stage lasted longer with Maugham

    than with most men of equal talent—there is at the heart of his work a humility and a

    self-distrust rather deadening in their effects, and his stories as late as The Painted Veil

    were a curious mixture of independent judgement, when he was dealing with action, and of

    clichés, when he was expressing emotion.

    An author of talent is his own best critic—the ability to criticize his own work is inseparably

    bound up with his talent: it is his talent, and Maugham defines his limitations perfectly: ‘I

    knew that I had no lyrical quality. I had a small vocabulary and no efforts that I could make to

    enlarge it much availed me. I had little gift of metaphor; the original and striking simile seldom

    occurred to me,’ and in a passage—which is an excellent example of his hard-won style at its

    best, clear, colloquial, honest—he relates his limitations to his character:

    It did not seem enough merely to write. I wanted to make a pattern of my life, in which writing

    would be an essential element, but which would include all the other activities proper to man.... I

    had many disabilities. I was small; I had endurance but little physical strength; I stammered; I

    was shy; I had poor health. I had no facility for games, which play so great a part in the normal

    life of Englishmen; and I had, whether for any of these reasons or from nature I do not know, an

    instinctive shrinking from my fellow-men that has made it difficult for me to enter into any

    familiarity with them. . . . Though in the course of years I have learned to assume an air of

    heartiness when forced into contact with a stranger, I have never liked anyone at first sight. I do

    not think I have ever addressed someone I did not know in a railway carriage or spoken to a

    fellow-passenger on board ship unless he first spoke to me. . . . These are grave disadvantages

    both to the writer and the man. I have had to make the best of them. I think it was the best I could

    hope for in the circumstances and with the very limited powers that were granted to me by


    * The Summing-Up

    - W. Somerset Maugham’s Collected Stories; pp. ix-xi [Introduction by Nicholas

    Shakespeare] pp. xii-xxi: When a medical student in London, Maugham often revisited Paris,

    where he had passed his first ten years, and combed the book-stores for editions of Maupassant,

    reading them sometimes standing up and ‘peering between the uncut pages’. He singled out ‘La

    Parure’as a model: ‘You can tell it over the dinner-table or in a ship’s smoking-room and hold

    the attention of your listeners. It relates a curious, but not improbable incident. The scene is set

    before you with brevity, as the medium requires, but with clearness; and the persons concerned,

    the kind of life they lead and their deterioration, are shown to you with just the amount of detail

    that is needed to make the circumstances of the case plain.’ Another model was Chekhov, who

    taught him to rid his story of anything superfluous, to keep his description of nature brief, and to

    narrate the facts, leaving it to the reader to decide what should be done about them. Lucidity,

    euphony, simplicity—these were his lodestars.

    The stories Maugham most liked to tell were sparked by incidents that he had heard about, or,

    preferably, witnessed himself. Those that made up Ashenden (1928) were, he wrote, ‘on

    the whole a very truthful account of my experiences during the war when I was in the Secret

    Service’. In his other collections, too, he depended on that confirmative grain of truth before he

    could let his imagination run. ‘To know a thing actually happened gives it a poignancy, touches a

    chord, which a piece of acknowledged fiction misses.’ Like many writers, he was not good at

    pure invention.

    In his most famous story, ‘Rain’, Maugham did not even bother to change the name of the

    plump, pretty prostitute, Miss Thompson, whom he had met on the deck of a cruise ship from

    Honolulu. About ‘The Vessel of Wrath’, he maintained: ‘All the people I have described in this

    story I met at one time or another.’ An entry in his notebook, describing a Resident in an

    outstation who took a bottle of whisky to bed every night, was the source of ‘Before the Party’.

    A story he particularly liked, ‘The Alien Corn’, was based on a young man he knew who had

    made ‘a hash of his life’ – while ‘The Colonel’s Lady’ incubated for many years on the back

    of an envelope, Maugham dashing off the anecdote that he had heard when staying at the

    New York Ritz.

    Three of his best stories – ‘The Letter’, ‘Footprints in the Jungle’, ‘The Book-bag’ – were told to

    him straight. He came upon the incidents described in ‘The Letter’ while on a visit to the Far

    East where he learned how Mrs Ethel Proudlock, wife of the acting head of the Victoria

    Institution in Kuala Lumpur, had shot dead on her veranda the manager of a tin-mine, not once

    but six times, after he tried to kiss her. ‘I had nothing to do but make them probable, coherent

    and dramatic.’ Likewise, the story behind ‘Footprints in the Jungle’, involving another murder,

    was given to him ‘word for word’ one evening in a club in a town in Malaya. ‘I was shown two

    of the people concerned in it and, believe me, when I looked at them, knowing their story, I

    could hardly believe my eyes.’ The rest, he maintained, were invented ‘by the accident of my

    happening upon persons here and there, who in themselves or from something I heard about

    them, suggested a theme that seemed suitable for a short story’.

    His themes elaborate a sceptical world view derived from Schopenhauer and La Rochefoucauld.

    Many of his stories read like dramatized maxims. Only a trembling leaf separates hope from

    despair. Suffering doesn’t ennoble. The murderer doesn’t get caught. The wages of sin aren’t

    always death. Men hate those they have injured. Beneath the mousiest woman lurks the most

    vicious Valkyrie.

    If he had few illusions about himself, he had none whatsoever about his characters. ‘As a

    rule my characters are suggested by someone I have known,’ he told The Bookman in

    1926, in answer to a questionnaire. He was drawn to those men and women who were

    destroyed by a code of honour, an appetite, a passion. By the time he had finished with them,

    however, little remained of the original. Asked about his favourite characters, he singled out two

    for the reason that they were ‘gay, amusing and unscrupulous’. Rather like Maugham himself.

    ‘The I who writes is just as much a character in the story as the other persons with whom it

    is concerned.’

    By common consent, Maugham’s most satisfying character is the ‘I’ who sets the scene, the

    Marlow-like narrator who beckons you closer into the lamplight, the cigar-smoke, and over a gin

    pahit guides you by the elbow through several discussions until the conversation, so to speak,

    gets into its shirtsleeves and the guts of the story are laid out bare. To start with, though, we

    meet him in evening dress or white ducks. In the majority of stories, he is a middle-aged

    English author, married, although appearing to travel alone, which he does first-class, with

    infinite time on his hands, gliding at leisure through the South Seas, the Far East, the French

    penal colonies, the Riviera, Capri, Mayfair. He is at ease equally with prisoners, parlourmaids

    and Foreign Secretaries. By the same token, he cares precious little for those people whose

    tragedies he is swift to tap, his deeper emotions being reserved for a fine Havana or a cold

    grouse. ‘My sympathies were not deeply engaged in the matter,’ is his typical response. For

    Anthony Burgess, who lived in Malaya, this narrator was ‘something that English fiction

    needed – the dispassionate commentator, the “raisonneur”, the man at home in Paris and

    Vienna but also in Seoul and Djakarta, convivial and clubbable, as ready for a game of poker as

    for a discussion on the Racine alexandrine, the antithesis of the slippered bookman’. Burgess

    was not alone in considering this pokerfaced persona the character of Maugham’s most likely to

    endure. To V. S. Pritchett, Maugham’s uninvolved and cosmopolitan narrator was ‘the Great Dry

    Martini in person’ and gratified the reader’s wish ‘to see oneself as worldly-wise and sagacious,

    to have impenetrable savoir-faire, to call for that dry Martini and light a sceptical cigar at the

    end of the day’. He reminds you of none other than the character he helped to inspire, save that

    unlike James Bond he would not have wished to be disturbed in bed. Whatever hidden steps

    Maugham’s narrator takes elsewhere in the territory of sex, almost the only lapse in the entire

    short-story canon is Ashenden’s flirtation with Baroness von Higgins – a flirtation he considers,

    then rejects.

    Maugham, of course, took pains to point out that the first-person narrator is a convention as

    old as the caves, the object being to create credibility. It had also the virtue of compactness, of

    limiting time and space. ‘When you are shut up with a man for ten days in a railway carriage

    you can hardly fail to learn most of what there is to know about him.’ But the narrator in

    Maugham’s confined setting is much more than a technical device. He is also a thin

    disguise for the author. In a few places is he so thinly disguised as in the character he

    named Willie Ashenden, a figure cited by Goebbels in a 1941 radio speech as an

    example of the repellent cynicism of the British Secret Service to which Maugham once

    belonged . . . .

    Maugham’s formula changes little, causing him to title one of his collections The

    Mixture as Before
    . An ordinary-looking man, thin, elderly, bald, at first sight with

    nothing to attract his attention – or it could be a prim, demure wife, ‘the sort of woman

    you simply didn’t notice’ – sinks into a cane chair, glares at the narrator with pregnant eyes

    and says: ‘I’m afraid you’ll think it awfully strange of me to talk to you like this. I’m at the

    end of my tether. If I don’t talk to somebody I shall go off my head’ – whereupon out tumbles a

    melodrama of incest, jealousy and parricide. It was a discovery of terrific consequence to

    Maugham that people at the end of their tether at the end of the world ‘find it a relief to tell

    someone whom in all probability they will never meet again the story that had burdened perhaps

    for years their waking thoughts and their dreams at night’. And, of course, the more cold,

    distinguished and snobbish the British official whom Ashenden/Maugham encounters, the

    more consuming and degrading the passion to which inevitably they confess. The nectar

    sucked, the narrator is free to flutter on. ‘I like meeting people whom I shall never meet

    again. No one is boring whom you will never see but once in your life.’

    Maugham rooted his stories in direct observations that beg certain questions of the unrooted

    author. He defined a work of fiction as ‘an arrangement which the author makes of the facts of

    his experience with the idiosyncrasies of his own personality’. In the end, the point of

    Henry James – for Maugham – was his personality, not his artistry. What, after all, has a

    writer to give you but himself? A writer has to write as he can ‘and as he must because he is a

    certain sort of man’. But what sort of man was Maugham? He exploited the ‘I’ more so than

    most authors, and yet about himself he was astonishingly reticent.

    It was well observed by one of his biographers, Anthony Curtis, that ‘everything there is to

    say about Maugham has (so it seems) already been said by Maugham himself’. The facts of

    his life are well known, but as Maugham observed, ‘fact is a poor story-teller’. They deserve


    The author [Maugham] . . . was a stateless atheist born in an Embassy and raised from the age of

    ten to seventeen in a vicarage. His birthplace in 1874 was a parcel of English territory abroad,

    the second floor of the British Embassy in Faubourg St Honore that had been turned into a

    maternity ward in order to exempt him from French military service. His russet-haired

    mother was known to British diplomats as ‘Beauty’; his father, a diminutive, sallow-faced

    solicitor who worked for the Embassy, as ‘the Beast’. Willie, their fourth son, resembled his

    father. He looked in point of fact like a ‘sick monkey’, wrote Evelyn May Wiehe. As for his

    short height, this no doubt contributed to the fierce, Napoleonic angle of his gaze. ‘The world is

    an entirely different place to the man of five foot seven from what it is to the man of six foot

    two.’ His smallness gave him the perspective and the disadvantages of a child. Travelling with

    his lover, Gerald Haxton in Sarawak in 1921, his boat capsized in circumstances that he

    describes in ‘The Yellow Streak’. ‘Gerald cried out that he could touch bottom. I put down my

    legs, but could feel nothing.’ Feeling nothing was an emotion with which Maugham was

    familiar. While he had few scales in front of his eyes, plenty encased his heart.

    He spent his first ten years in France and until he was twelve spoke better French than

    English. It was a Proustian childhood, of salons and servants and excursions to the coast. The

    first author he read was La Fontaine, whose fables he recited to his mother at teatime; the first

    sand that he played on was the beach at Deauville where he once spotted Lillie Langtry. ‘It

    was France that educated me, France that taught me to value beauty, distinction, wit and good

    sense, France that taught me to write.’ Right up until the Second World War, his stories were

    more popular in France than in Britain. His French upbringing instilled in him two codes of

    life, two liberties, two points of view. But this duality, he believed, had a dislocating effect—and

    ‘prevented me from ever identifying myself completely with the instincts and prejudices of one

    people or another’.

    From his ravishing mother he inherited an impossible, idealized notion of love as well as a

    susceptibility to tuberculosis. Mrs Maugham’s doctor believed that having another child would

    cure her. Actually, it killed both the child, who died on Maugham’s eighth birthday, and six days

    later the mother. Her death at the age of forty-one was the tragedy of his life, concluded another

    of Maugham’s biographers, Ted Morgan. ‘If in some lives there is an original sin, in Maugham’s

    there was an original wound, from which, by his own admission, he never recovered.’ Nearly

    sixty years later he broke down and wept as he talked of it. ‘I shall never get over her death. I

    shall never get over it,’ he railed to his nephew. In his most persistent dream he would wake to

    find himself at home with his mother. When he died, her picture was on his bedside table. Her

    sudden disappearance, so early on, coloured his subsequent dealings with women. He never

    trusted any woman enough to replace her in his affections. At the same time, he clenched

    himself against the likelihood of being abruptly deserted. One of his favourite aphorisms

    was by Logan Pearsall Smith: ‘If we shake hands with icy fingers, it is because we have

    burnt them so horribly before.’ There smoulders in the name of his alter ego the aroma of

    someone irredeemably scalded. ‘The first syllable had to me a particular connotation which I

    found suggestive.’ Where Graham Greene had a splinter of ice in his heart, Maugham had a

    small mound of ash.

    Two years later, in 1884, his father died and he was properly alone. His French nurse took him to

    Whitstable, to stay with his uncle Henry, a deep-eyed, snobbish parson married to a German

    aristocrat. Almost Henry’s first act was to sack the nurse. Maugham took eventual revenge on

    his uncle by drawing on him for the missionary figure in the story ‘Rain’—prompting Greene to

    observe that Maugham had done more than anyone ‘to stamp the idea of the repressed

    strait-laced clergyman on the popular imagination’.

    The effect of being orphaned and uprooted had a further alienating impact. ‘Tell him I stammer,

    Uncle,’ said the ten-year old Willie as they prepared to meet the headmaster of King’s School,

    Canterbury, where he would board for the next seven years. It was the stammer, wrote Morgan,

    of someone getting stuck on one word ‘like a typewriter key’, and it started more or less upon

    Maugham’s arrival at the ivy-covered vicarage, when overnight he had to exchange his primary

    language. Whatever the cause of his speech impediment, it indicated the separateness that

    already he felt from others, the sense that he did not fit in. As often is pointed out, his

    handicap was no less attention-drawing than the clubfoot that he gives to his autobiographical

    hero in Of Human Bondage. In Maugham’s case, it encouraged his natural shyness which

    he later described as a ‘mixture of diffidence and conceit’. He admitted: ‘My life and my

    production has been greatly influenced by my stammer.’ Without it, he probably would have

    become a lawyer like his father and his brother Freddy, who rose to be Lord Chancellor. Instead,

    it hastened his retreat into the aloof, unobtrusive observer of the sort that he detected in Arnold

    Bennett, who suffered from the same thing: ‘It may be that except for the stammer which

    forced him to introspection, Arnold would never have become a writer.’

    On top of everything, there was his homosexuality. The first glimmerings appear in an

    attachment he formed at King’s School, Canterbury. Possibly the other boy was Leonard

    Ashenden, with whom he shared a prize. At any rate, his sexual make-up – three-quarters

    ‘queer’, one quarter ‘normal’ in Maugham’s arithmetic – was made conspicuous to him

    during a year he spent in Heidelberg, arranged by his German aunt. His seduction by a

    twenty-six-year-old Cambridge graduate, John Ellingham Brooks, who later fled to Capri,

    launched Maugham into a life of unavoidable pretence and facade that must have been

    especially galling for a man who in most respects could not look at a facade without wishing to

    blow-torch it.

    In Heidelberg, he discovered also the European writers and philosophers who would shape his

    literary tastes. La Rochefoucauld, Maupassant, Racine, Ibsen, whose influence saturates his

    earliest stories like ‘A Bad Example’ and ‘Daisy’; and Schopenhauer, who believed, as

    Maugham came to believe, that religion was an illusion to help us endure the accident of

    existence. Their outlook chimed with Maugham’s association of love with suffering and his

    pessimistic view of human nature following his mother’s death. An entry in his notebook

    reads: ‘Everything in life is meaningless, the pain and the suffering are fruitless and futile.

    There is no object in life.’ He returned to England equipped to see the worst in anything. To

    recreate Whitstable as Blackstable.

    Turning down a chance to go to Cambridge – a decision he later regretted – he worked for a

    firm of accountants, a situation that he could only tolerate for a few weeks. He had started

    writing in a dedicated way from the age of fifteen, but could not explain to his uncle that this

    was the profession on which he had set his heart. ‘Why not try medicine?’ suggested his

    uncle’s doctor in Whitstable, and so he enrolled at St. Thomas’s. If he could not yet be a

    writer, at least he could study medicine like some of the writers he admired: Chekhov,

    Conan Doyle, Keats.

    He was grateful for his five years’ training at the London hospital. ‘There I saw human

    nature in the raw.’ As it had granted Chekhov, his profession gave him access to places

    where his stammer and his reticence denied him. In the slums of Lambeth, in kerosene-smoked

    rooms, he opened his doctor’s black bag, as later he opened the notebooks that he bought

    from the Papeterie Brocchi, 30 Faubourg St Honore—and experienced the privilege and thrill of

    having utter strangers trust him with their lives. In one period of three weeks, he calculated that

    he delivered sixty-three babies.

    He had no intention of practising. He had a mind, as Edward Garnett said, like a pair of

    scissors, but he would not have made a good surgeon. ‘One of our failures, I’m afraid,’

    recalled a doctor who had worked alongside him as a dresser. Fumbling to dissect a body in

    anatomy class, he could not for the life of him find an obvious nerve. His professor helped him to

    locate it, with a remark that Maugham took as his motto: ‘You see, the normal is the rarest thing

    in the world.’ Once the pen had replaced the scalpel, as shortly it did, he never lost the vital

    habit of regarding all he met as patients to be dispassionately listened to and diagnosed. He

    behaved like Willie Ashenden, unmoved by the grief of Giulia Lazzari: ‘He felt his relation to

    her as impersonal as a doctor’s in the presence of a pain that he cannot alleviate. He saw now

    why R. had given him this peculiar task; it needed a cool head and an emotion well under


    - pp. xxi-xxii: Maugham’s Swiss winter affected his lungs. It was partly to recover his health

    that in 1916 he travelled to the South Seas with his lover Gerald Haxton, a San Franciscan whom

    he had met two years earlier, in Flanders. Both were serving in the same ambulance unit.

    Maugham was forty at the time; Haxton twenty-two, with a pock-marked face that sometimes he

    disguised with make-up, and an appetite for gambling and alcohol. ‘He stank,’ wrote Beverly

    Nichols, who considered Haxton a liar, a forger and a cheat. ‘If he thought it would be of the

    faintest advantage he’d jump into bed with a hyena.’ Maugham in his stories makes

    extraordinarily few glances to his personal life, but the rare nod speaks volumes. ‘I know

    nothing more shattering than to love with all your heart . . . someone who is worthless.’ That

    Haxton led Maugham on a dance as merry as it must have been painful is suggested by an

    uncharacteristic flight into verse (In weariness, and not in death or parting, is / The

    bitterness of love. Spent is my passion / Like a river dried up by the sun’s fierce rays
    ) and

    further supported by his confession to Godfrey Winn: ‘You do not know what it is like,

    Godfrey, and I hope you never will, to be married to someone who is married to drink.’ But

    Maugham loved Haxton, and his best stories were collected and written in his company. As he

    revealed in Ashenden: ‘In these stories no more than the barest suggestion has been made

    that Ashenden was capable on occasions of the passion ironically called tender . . . but even

    when suffering most acutely from the pangs of unrequited love he had been able to say to

    himself, albeit with a wry face, after all, it’s grist to the mill.’

    In 1915, Haxton was arrested in a Convent Garden hotel and indicted on six counts of gross

    indecency. A cloud hung over him—‘a cloud no bigger than a boy’s hand,’ sighed a friend of

    Maugham’s on Capri, exiled for a similar reason. Not long afterwards Haxton was deported as an

    undesirable alien. The refusal of the authorities ever to let his lover enter England was the

    principal reason that Maugham left England, to live in France, but there were other factors, as he

    mentioned in The Summing Up: ‘I am attached to England but I have never felt myself

    very much at home there. I have always been shy with English people. To me England has been

    a country where I had obligations that I did not want to fulfil and responsibilities that irked me. I

    have never felt entirely myself till I had put at least the Channel between my native country and

    me. Some fortunate persons find freedom in their own minds; I, with less spiritual power than

    they, find it in travel.’

    - from Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham; p. i (Praise for W. Somerset Maugham):

    “Maugham remains the consummate craftsman. . . . [His writing is] so compact, so

    economical, so closely motivated, so skillfully written, that it rivets attention from the

    first page to last.”

    --Saturday Review of Literature

    - pp. 19-26: When Julia was sixteen and went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Gower

    Street she knew already much that they could teach her there. She had to get rid of a certain

    number of tricks that were out of date and she had to acquire a more conversational style. But

    she won every prize that was open to her, and when she was finished with the school her good

    French got her almost immediately a small part in London as a French maid. It looked for a

    while as though her knowledge of French would specialize her in parts needing a foreign accent,

    for after this she was engaged to play an Austrian waitress. It was two years later that Jimmie

    Langton discovered her. She was on tour in a melodrama that had been successful in London; in

    the part of an Italian adventuress, whose machinations were eventually exposed, she was

    trying somewhat inadequately to represent a woman of forty. Since the heroine, a blonde

    person of mature years, was playing a young girl, the performance lacked verisimilitude.

    Jimmie was taking a short holiday which he spent in going every night to the theatre in one

    town after another. At the end of the piece he went round to see Julia. He was well enough

    known in the theatrical world for her to be flattered by the compliments he paid her, and

    when he asked her to lunch with him next day she accepted.

    They had no sooner sat down to table than he went straight to the point.

    “I never slept a wink all night for thinking of you,” he said.

    “This is very sudden. Is your proposal honourable or dishonourable?”

    He took no notice of the flippant rejoinder.

    “I’ve been at this game for twenty-five years. I’ve been a call-boy, a stage-hand, a

    stage-manager, an actor, a publicity man, damn it, I’ve even been a critic. I’ve lived in

    the theatre since I was a kid just out of a board school, and what I don’t know about acting

    isn’t worth knowing. I think you’re a genius.”

    “It’s sweet of you to say so.”

    “Shut up. Leave me to do the talking. You’ve got everything. You’re the right height, you’ve

    got a good figure, you’ve got an indiarubber face.”

    “Flattering, aren’t you?”

    “That’s just what I am. That’s the face an actress wants. The face that can look anything, even

    beautiful, the face that can show every thought that passes through the mind. That’s the face

    Duse’s got. Last night, even though you weren’t really thinking about what you were doing,

    every now and then the words you were saying wrote themselves on your face.”

    “It’s such a rotten part. How could I give it my attention? Did you hear the things I had to


    “Actors are rotten, not parts. You’ve got a wonderful voice, the voice that can wring an

    audience’s heart, I don’t know about your comedy, I’m prepared to risk that.”

    “What d’you mean by that?”

    “Your timing is almost perfect. That couldn’t have been taught, you must have that by

    nature. That’s the far, far better way. Now let’s come down to brass tacks. I’ve been

    making enquiries about you. It appears you speak French like a Frenchwoman and so they

    give you broken English parts. That’s not going to lead you anywhere, you know.”

    “That’s all I can get.”

    “Are you satisfied to go on playing those sort of parts for ever? You’ll get stuck in them and

    the public won’t take you in anything else. Seconds, that’s all you’ll play. Twenty pounds a

    week at the outside and a great talent wasted.”

    “I’ve always thought that someday or other I should get a chance of a straight part.”

    “When? You may have to wait ten years. How old are you now?”


    “What are you getting?”

    “Fifteen pounds a week.”

    “That’s a lie. You’re getting twelve, and it’s a damned sight more than you’re worth. You’ve

    got everything to learn. Your gestures are commonplace. You don’t know that every gesture

    must mean something. You don’t know how to get an audience to look at you before you

    speak. You make up too much. With your sort of face the less make-up the better. Wouldn’t

    you like to be a star?”

    “Who wouldn’t?”

    “Come to me and I’ll make you the greatest actress in England. Are you a quick study? You

    ought to be at your age.”

    “I think I can be word-perfect in any part in forty-eight hours.”

    “It’s experience you want and me to produce you. Come to me and I’ll let you play twenty

    parts a year. Ibsen, Shaw, Barker, Sudermann, Hankin, Galsworthy. You’ve got magnetism

    and you don’t seem to have an idea how to use it.” He chuckled. “By God, if you had, that

    old hag would have had you out of the play you’re in now before you could say knife. You’ve

    got to take an audience by the throat and say, now, you dogs, you pay attention to me. You’ve

    got to dominate them. If you haven’t got the gift no one can give it you, but if you have you can

    be taught how to use it. I tell you, you’ve got the makings of a great actress. I’ve never been so

    sure of anything in my life.”

    “I know I want experience. I’d have to think it over of course. I wouldn’t mind coming to you for

    a season.”

    “Go to hell. Do you think I can make an actress of you in a season? Do you think I’m going to

    work my guts out to make you give a few decent performances and then have you go away to

    play some twopenny-halfpenny part in a commercial play in London? What sort of a bloody

    fool do you take me for? I’ll give you a three years’ contract, I’ll give you eight pounds a week

    and you’ll have to work like a horse.”

    “Eight pounds a week’s absurd. I couldn’t possibly take that.”

    “Oh, yes, you could. It’s all you’re worth and it’s all you’re going to get.”

    Julia had been on the stage for three years and had learnt a good deal. Besides, Jane

    Taitbout, no strict moralist, had given her a lot of useful information.

    “And are you under the impression, by any chance, that for that I’m going to let you sleep with me

    as well?”

    “My God, do you think I’ve got time to go to bed with the members of my company? I’ve got

    much more important things to do than that, my girl. And you’ll find that after you’ve

    rehearsed for four hours and played a part at night to my satisfaction, besides a couple of

    matinees, you won’t have much time or much inclination to make love to anybody. When you go

    to bed all you’ll want to do is to sleep.”

    But Jimmie Langton was wrong there.


    Julia, taken by his enthusiasm and his fantastic exuberance, accepted his offer. He started her in

    modest parts which under his direction she played as she had never played before. He

    interested the critics in her, he flattered them by letting them think that they had discovered a

    remarkable actress, and allowed the suggestion to come from them that he should let the public

    see her as Magda. She was a great hit and then in quick succession he made her play Nora in

    The Doll’s House, Ann in Man and Superman, and Hedda Gabler. Middlepool was

    delighted to discover that it had in its midst an actress who it could boast was better than any

    star in London, and crowded to see her in plays that before it had gone to only from local

    patriotism. The London paragraphers mentioned her now and then, and a number of enthusiastic

    patrons of the drama made the journey to Middlepool to see her. They went back full of praise,

    and two or three London managers sent representatives to report on her. They were doubtful. She

    was all very well in Shaw and Ibsen, but what would she do in an ordinary play? The managers

    had had bitter experiences. On the strength of an outstanding performance in one of these

    queer plays they had engaged an actor, only to discover that in any other sort of play he was no

    better than anybody else.

    When Michael joined the company Julia had been playing in Middlepool for a year. Jimmie

    started him with Marchbanks in Candida. It was the happy choice one would have

    expected him to make, for in that part his great beauty was an asset and his lack of warmth no


    Julia reached over to take out the first of the cardboard cases in which Michael’s photographs

    were kept. She was sitting comfortably on the floor. She turned the early photographs over

    quickly, looking for that which he had had taken when first he came to Middlepool; but when she

    came upon it, it gave her a pang. For a moment she felt inclined to cry. It had been just like him

    then. Candida was being played by an older woman, a sound actress who was cast generally for

    mothers, maiden aunts or character parts, and Julia with nothing to do but act eight times a week

    attended the rehearsals. She fell in love with Michael at first sight. She had never seen a more

    beautiful young man, and she pursued him relentlessly. In due course Jimmie put on

    Ghosts, braving the censure of respectable Middlepool, and Michael played the boy and

    she played Regina. They heard one another their parts and after rehearsals lunched, very

    modestly, together so that they might talk of them. Soon they were inseparable. Julia had

    little reserve; she flattered Michael outrageously. He was not vain of his good looks, he knew he

    was handsome and accepted compliments, not exactly with indifference, but as he might have

    accepted a compliment on a fine old house that had been in his family for generations. It was a

    well-known fact that it was one of the best houses of its period, one was proud of it and took care

    of it, but it was just there, as natural to possess as the air one breathed. He was shrewd and

    ambitious. He knew that his beauty was at present his chief asset, but he knew it could not

    last for ever and was determined to become a good actor so that he should have something

    besides his looks to depend on. He meant to learn all he could from Jimmie Langton and then go

    to London.

    “If I play my cards well I can get some old woman to back me and go into management. One’s

    got to be one’s own master. That’s the only way to make a packet.”

    Julia soon discovered that he did not much like spending money, and when they ate a meal

    together, or on a Sunday went for a small excursion, she took care to pay her share of the

    expenses. She did not mind this. She liked him for counting the pennies, and, inclined to be

    extravagant herself and always a week or two behind her rent, she admired him because he

    hated to be in debt and even with the small salary he was getting managed to save up a little

    every week. He was anxious to have enough put by so that when he went to London he need not

    accept the first part that was offered him, but could afford to wait till he got one that gave him a

    real chance. His father had little more than his pension to live on, and it had been a sacrifice to

    send him to Cambridge. His father, not liking the idea of his going on the stage, had insisted on


    “If you want to be an actor I suppose I can’t stop you,” he said, “but damn it all, I insist on your

    being educated like a gentleman.”

    - my Mom (regarding The Constant Wife by W. Somerset Maugham): “I like the gossip

    and the cheating.”

    - from The Constant Wife by W. Somerset Maugham; pp. 5-10 --

    MARTHA (moving down a little and seeing MRS. CULVER): Mother!

    MRS. CULVER (very calmly): Yes, darling. (She does not look up from the

    page she is studying.

    MARTHA (moving to the L. end of the sofa): You’re the last person I expected to

    find here. You never told me you were coming to see Constance.

    MRS. CULVER (good-humouredly: I didn’t intend to till I saw in your beady eye

    that you meant to. I thought I’d just as soon be here first. (She puts down the


    MARTHA: Bentley says she’s out.

    MRS. CULVER: Yes. Are you going to wait?

    MARTHA (crossing down to the fireplace): Certainly.

    MRS. CULVER: Then I will too.

    MARTHA: That’ll be very nice.

    MRS. CULVER: Your words are cordial, but your tone is slightly frigid, my dear.

    MARTHA (turning): I don’t know what you mean by that, mother.

    MRS. CULVER: My dear, we’ve known one another a great many years, haven’t we? More

    than we always find it convenient to mention.

    MARTHA: Not at all. I’m thirty-two. I’m not in the least ashamed of my age. Constance is


    MRS. CULVER: And yet we still think it worth while to be a trifle disingenuous with one

    another. Our sex takes a natural pleasure in dissimulation.

    MARTHA: I don’t think anyone can accuse me of not being frank.

    MRS. CULVER: Frankness, of course, is the pose of the moment. It is often a very

    effective screen for one’s thoughts.

    MARTHA (moving in, to R. of the sofa: I think you’re being faintly disagreeable to me,


    MRS. CULVER: I, on the other hand, think you’re inclined to be decidedly foolish.

    MARTHA: Because I want to tell Constance something she ought to know?

    MRS. CULVER: Ah, I was right then. And it’s to tell her that you’ve broken an

    engagement and left three wretched people to play cut-throat.

    MARTHA: It is.

    MRS. CULVER: And may I ask why you think Constance ought to know?

    MARTHA: Why? Why? (Moving down R. to the easy chair.) That’s one of those

    questions that really don’t need answering.

    MRS. CULVER: I’ve always noticed that the questions that really don’t need answering are

    the most difficult to answer.

    MARTHA: It isn’t at all difficult to answer. She ought to know the truth because it’s the

    . (She sits in the easy chair down R.)

    MRS. CULVER: Of course truth is an excellent thing, but before one tells it one should be

    quite sure that one does so for the advantage of the person who hears it rather than for one’s own


    MARTHA: Mother, Constance is a very unhappy person.

    MRS. CULVER: Nonsense. She eats well, sleeps well, dresses well and she’s losing

    weight. No woman can be unhappy in those circumstances.

    MARTHA: Of course, if you won’t understand it’s no use my trying to make you. You’re a

    darling, but you’re the most unnatural mother. Your attitude simply amazes me.

    (The door opens and BENTLEY ushers in MRS. FAWCETT. MRS. FAWCETT

    is a trim, businesslike woman of forty. MARTHA rises.)

    BENTLEY: Mrs. Fawcett.

    (He exits.)

    MRS. CULVER: Oh, Barbara, how very nice to see you.

    BARBARA (crossing down and kissing her): Bentley told me you were here and

    Constance was out. What are you doing?

    MRS. CULVER: Bickering.

    BARBARA (crossing below the sofa): What about? (She sits R. of MRS.


    MRS. CULVER: Constance.

    MARTHA (R. of the sofa): I’m glad you’ve come, Barbara . . . Did you know that

    John was having an affair with Marie-Louise?

    BARBARA: I hate giving a straight answer to a straight question.

    MARTHA: I suppose everyone knows but us. How long have you known? They say

    it’s been going on for months. I can’t think how it is we’ve only just heard it.

    MRS. CULVER (ironically): It speaks very well for human nature that with the

    masses of dear friends we have it’s only today that one of them broke the news to us.

    BARBARA: Perhaps the dear friend only heard it this morning.

    MARTHA: At first I refused to believe it.

    MRS. CULVER: Only quite, quite at first, darling. You surrendered to the evidence with an

    outraged alacrity that took my breath away.

    MARTHA: Of course I put two and two together. After the first shock I understood

    everything. I’m only astonished that it never occurred to me before.

    BARBARA: Are you very much upset, Mrs. Culver?

    MRS. CULVER: Not a bit. I was brought up by a very strict mother to believe that men were

    naturally wicked. I am seldom surprised at what they do and never upset.

    MARTHA: Mother has been simply maddening. She treats it as though it didn’t matter a row of


    MRS. CULVER: Constance and John have been married for fifteen years. John is a very

    agreeable man. I’ve sometimes wondered whether he was any more faithful to his wife than

    most husbands, but as it was really no concern of mine I didn’t let my mind dwell on it.

    MARTHA: Is Constance your daughter, or is she not your daughter?

    MRS. CULVER: You certainly have a passion for straight questions, my dear. The answer is


    MARTHA: And are you prepared to sit there quietly and let her husband grossly deceive her

    with her most intimate friend?

    MRS. CULVER: So long as she doesn’t know I can’t see that she’s any the worse. Marie-Louise

    is a nice little thing, silly of course, but that’s what men like, and if John is going to deceive

    Constance, it’s much better that it should be with someone we all know.

    MARTHA (to BARBARA): Did you ever hear a respectable woman—and mother is

    respectable . . .

    MRS. CULVER (interrupting: Oh, quite.

    MARTHA: . . . talk like that? (She turns down to the fireplace.)

    BARBARA: You think that something ought to be done about it?

    MARTHA (turning to face them): I am determined that something shall be done about it.

    MRS. CULVER: Well, my dear, I’m determined that there’s at least one thing you shan’t do, and

    that is to tell Constance.

    BARBARA (to MARTHA; a trifle startled): Is that what you want to do?

    MARTHA: Somebody ought to tell her. If mother won’t, I must.

    BARBARA: I’m extremely fond of Constance. Of course, I’ve known what was going on for a

    long time, and I’ve been dreadfully worried.

    MARTHA (moving a pace towards the sofa): John has put her into an odious position. No

    man has the right to humiliate his wife as he has humiliated Constance. He’s made her perfectly


    MRS. CULVER: If women were ridiculous because their husbands are unfaithful to them, there

    would surely be a great deal more merriment in the world than there is.

    BARBARA ([I]delighted to have a good gossip[I]): You know they were lunching together


    MARTHA: We hadn’t heard that. But they were dining together the night before last.

    MRS. CULVER (brightly): We know what they had to eat for dinner. Do you know

    what they had to eat for lunch?

    MARTHA: Mother! (She moves down again to the fireplace.)

    MRS. CULVER: Well, I thought she seemed rather uppish about the lunch.

    MARTHA: You have no sense of decency, mother.

    MRS. CULVER: Oh, my dear, don’t talk to me about decency. Decency died with dear Queen


    (MARTHA sits, down R.)

    BARBARA (to MRS. CULVER): But you can’t approve of John having an open and

    flagrant intrigue with Constance’s greatest friend.

    MRS. CULVER: It may be that with advancing years my arteries have hardened. I am unable to

    attach any great importance to the philanderings of men. I think it’s their nature. John is a very

    hard-working surgeon. If he likes to lunch and dine with a pretty woman now and then, I don’t

    think he’s much to blame. It must be very tiresome to have three meals a day with the same

    woman for seven days a week. I’m a little bored myself at seeing Martha opposite me at the

    dinner-table. And men can’t stand boredom as well as women.

    MARTHA: I’m sure I’m very much obliged to you, mother.

    BARBARA (significantly): But they’re not only lunching and dining together.

    (MARTHA sits erect and looks at BARBARA.)

    MRS. CULVER: You fear the worst, my dear?

    BARBARA (with solemnity): I know the worst.

    MRS. CULVER: I always think that’s such a comfort. With closed doors and no one

    listening to us, so long as a man is kind and civil to his wife, do you blame him very much if he

    strays occasionally from the narrow path of virtue?

    MARTHA (rising and moving up to the R. end of the sofa): Do you mean to say that

    you attach no importance to husbands and wives keeping their marriage vows?

    MRS. CULVER: I think wives should.

    BARBARA: But that’s grossly unfair. Why should they any more than men?

    MRS. CULVER: Because on the whole they like it. We’re naturally faithful creatures and

    we’re faithful because we have no particular inclination to be anything else.

    BARBARA: I wonder.

    (MARTHA moves slowly across, above the sofa.)

    MRS. CULVER: My dear, you are a widow and perfectly free. Have you really had any

    great desire to do anything that the world might say you shouldn’t?

    BARBARA: I have my business. When you work hard eight hours a day you don’t much

    want to be bothered with love.

    MRS. CULVER: A man about the house if often useful. It’s nice to have someone around to tell

    you you’re quite right when you know in your heart you’re quite wrong.

    MARTHA (to BARBARA; turning, below the piano): By the way, how is your


    BARBARA: Growing by leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact I came here today to ask

    Constance if she would like to come in with me.

    MRS. CULVER: Why should she? John earns plenty of money.

    BARBARA: Well, I thought if things came to a crisis she might like to know that her

    independence was assured.

    (MARTHA moves slowly down L.C.)

    MRS. CULVER: Oh, you want them to come to a crisis, too?

    BARBARA: No, of course I don’t. But you know, they can’t go on like this. It’s a miracle

    that Constance hasn’t heard yet.

    MARTHA: I hope she’ll find out as quickly as possible. I still think it’s mother’s duty to tell her.

    MRS. CULVER: Which I have no intention of doing.

    MARTHA: And if mother won’t, I think I ought.

    MRS. CULVER: Which I have no intention of permitting.

    MARTHA (moving to C.): Her position is intolerable. He’s humiliated her beyond

    endurance. I have no words to express my opinion of Marie-Louise, and the first time I see

    her I shall tell her exactly what I think of her. She’s a horrid, ungrateful, mean and

    contemptible little cat.

    BARBARA (rising, breaking R., and turning): Anyhow, I think it would be a comfort to

    Constance to know that if anything happened she has me to turn to.

    MRS. CULVER: But John would make her a handsome allowance. He’s a very generous man.

    MARTHA (indignantly): Do you think Constance would accept it?

    BARBARA (to below and R. of the sofa): Martha’s quite right, Mrs. Culver. No

    woman in those circumstances would take a penny of his money.

    MRS. CULVER: That’s what she’d say. But she’d take care that her lawyer made the best

    arrangement he could. Few men know with what ingenuity women can combine the

    disinterested gesture with an eye for the main chance.

    BARBARA (easing a little, up R. of the sofa): Aren’t you rather cynical, Mrs.


    MRS. CULVER: I hope not. But when women are alone together I don’t see why they

    shouldn’t tell the truth now and then. It’s a rest from the weary round of pretending to be

    something that we quite well know we’re not.

    MARTHA (stiffly): I’m not aware that I’ve ever pretended to be anything I wasn’t.

    (She moves away, down L.C., above the low table.)

    MRS. CULVER: I daresay not, my dear. But I’ve always thought you were a little stupid. You

    take after your poor father. Constance and I have the brains of the family.

    (CONSTANCE enters up L.C. She is a handsome woman of five and thirty. She has been out

    and wears a hat. She carries a few small packages.

    BARBARA (eagerly, crossing above the sofa to C.): Constance!

    CONSTANCE (putting her packages on the piano): I’m so sorry I wasn’t in.

    (Moving down.) How nice of you all to wait. How are you mother darling?

    ([I]She kisses them—first BARBARA, then MRS. CULVER, and then MARTHA.)

    MARTHA: What have you been doing all day, Constance?

    CONSTANCE: Oh, I’ve been shopping with Marie-Louise. She’s just coming up.

    BARBARA (with dismay): Is she here?

    CONSTANCE (turning to BARBARA): Yes. She’s telephoning.

    MARTHA (ironically): You and Marie-Louise are quite inseparable.

    CONSTANCE (crossing to the fireplace): I like her. She amuses me.


    Last edited by HERO; 01-26-2018 at 05:06 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  10. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    William Somerset Maugham: ESI-Se (Creative? subtype) or Delta ST

    - From Ah King by W. Somerset Maugham; pages 269-294 (“Neil MacAdam”):

    Captain Bredon was good-natured. When Angus Munro, the Curator of the museum at Kuala Solor, told him that he had advised Neil MacAdam, his new assistant, on his arrival at Singapore to put up at the Van Dyke Hotel, and asked him to see that the lad got into no mischief during the few days he must spend there, he said he would do his best. Captain Bredon commanded the Sultan Ahmed, and when he was at Singapore always stayed at the Van Dyke. He had a Japanese wife and kept a room there. It was his home. When he got back after his fortnight's trip along the coast of Borneo the Dutch manager told him that Neil had been there for two days. The boy was sitting in the little dusty garden of the hotel reading old numbers of The Straits Times. Captain Bredon took a look at him first and then went up.

    'You're MacAdam, aren't you?'

    Neil rose to his feet, flushed to the roots of his hair, and answered shyly: 'I am.'

    'My name's Bredon. I'm skipper of the Sultan Ahmed. You're sailing with me next Tuesday. Munro asked me to look after you. What about a stengah? I suppose you've learned what that means by now.’

    'Thank you very much, but I don't drink.'

    He spoke with a broad Scots accent.

    'I don't blame you. Drink's been the ruin of many a good man in this country.' He called the Chinese boy and ordered himself a double whisky and a small soda.

    'What have you been doing with yourself since you got in?'

    'Walking about.'

    'There's nothing much to see in Singapore.'

    'I've found plenty.'

    Of course the first thing he had done was to go to the museum. There was little that he had not seen at home, but the fact that those beasts and birds, those reptiles, moths, butterflies, and insects were native to the country excited him. There was one section devoted to that part of Borneo of which Kuala Solor was the capital, and since these were the creatures that for the next three years would chiefly concern him, he examined them with attention. But it was outside, in the streets, that it was most thrilling, and except that he was a grave and sober young man he would have laughed aloud with joy. Everything was new to him. He walked till he was footsore. He stood at the corner of a busy street and wondered at the long line of rickshaws and the little men between the shafts running with dogged steps. He stood on a bridge over a canal and looked at the sampans wedged up against one another like sardines in a tin. He peered into the Chinese shops in Victoria Road where so many strange things were sold. Bombay merchants, fat and exuberant, stood at their shop doors and sought to sell him silks and tinsel jewellery. He watched the Tamils, pensive and forlorn, who walked with a sinister grace, and the bearded Arabs, in white skull-caps, who bore themselves with scornful dignity. The sun shone upon the varied scene with hard, acrid brilliance. He was confused. He thought it would take him years to find his bearings in this multi-coloured and excessive world.

    After dinner that night Captain Bredon asked him if he would like to go round the town.

    'You ought to see a bit of life while you're here,' he said.

    They stepped into rickshaws and drove to the Chinese quarter. The Captain, who never drank at sea, had been making up for his abstinence during the day. He was feeling good. The rickshaws stopped at a house in a side street and they knocked at the door. It was opened and they passed through a narrow passage into a large room with benches all round it covered with red plush. A number of women were sitting about—French, Italian, and American. A mechanical piano was grinding out harsh music and a few couples were dancing. Captain Bredon ordered drinks. Two or three women, waiting for an invitation, gave them inviting glances.

    'Well, young feller, is there anyone you fancy here?' the Captain asked facetiously.

    'To sleep with, d'you mean? No.'

    'No white girls where you're going, you know.'

    'Oh, well.'

    'Like to go an' see some natives?'

    'I don't mind.'

    The Captain paid for the drinks and they strolled on. They went to another house. Here the girls were Chinese, small and dainty, with tiny feet and hands like flowers, and they wore suits of flowered silk. But their painted faces were like masks. They looked at the strangers with black derisive eyes. They were strangely inhuman.

    'I brought you here because I thought you ought to see the place,' said Captain Bredon, with the air of a man doing his bounden duty, 'but just look-see is all. They don't like us for some reason. In some of these Chinese joints they won't even let a white man in. Fact is, they say we stink. Funny, ain't it? They say we smell of corpses.'


    'Give me Japs,' said the Captain. 'They're fine. My wife's a Jap, you know. You come along with me and I'll take you to a place where they have Japanese girls, and if you don't see something you like there I'm a Dutchman.' Their rickshaws were waiting and they stepped into them. Captain Bredon gave a direction and the boys started off. They were let into the house by a stout middle-aged Japanese woman, who bowed low as they entered. She took them into a neat, clean room furnished only with mats on the floor; they sat down and presently a little girl came in with a tray on which were two bowls of pale tea. With a shy bow she handed one to each of them. The Captain spoke to the middle-aged woman and she looked at Neil and giggled. She said something to the child, who went out, and presently four girls tripped in. They were sweet in their kimonos, with the shining black hair artfully dressed; they were small and plump, with round faces and laughing eyes. They bowed low as they came in and with good manners murmured polite greetings. Their speech sounded like the twittering of birds. Then they knelt, one on each side of the two men, and charmingly flirted with them. Captain Bredon soon had his arms round two slim waists. They all talked nineteen to the dozen. They were very gay. It seemed to Neil that the Captain's girls were mocking him, for their gleaming eyes were mischievously turned towards him, and he blushed. But the other two cuddled up to him, smiling, and spoke in Japanese as though he understood every word they said. They seemed so happy and guileless that he laughed. They were very attentive. They handed him the bowl so that he should drink his tea, and then took it from him so that he should not have the trouble of holding it. They lit his cigarette for him and one put out a small, delicate hand to take the ash so that it should not fall on his clothes. They stroked his smooth face and looked with curiosity at his large young hands. They were as playful as kittens.

    'Well, which is it to be?' said the Captain after a while. 'Made your choice yet?'

    'What d'you mean?'

    'I'll just wait and see you settled and then I'll fix myself up.'

    'Oh, I don't want either of them. I'm going home to bed.'

    'Why, what's the matter? You're not scared, are you?'

    'No, I just don't fancy it. But don't let me stand in your way. I'll get back to the hotel all right.'

    'Oh, if you're not going to do anything I won't either. I only wanted to be matey.'

    He spoke to the middle-aged woman and what he said caused the girls to look at Neil with sudden surprise. She answered and the Captain shrugged his shoulders. Then one of the girls made a remark that set them all laughing. 'What does she say?' asked Neil.

    'She's pulling your leg,' replied the Captain, smiling.

    But he gave Neil a curious look. The girl, having made them laugh once, now said something directly to Neil. He could not understand, but the mockery of her eyes made him blush and frown. He did not like to be made fun of. Then she laughed outright and throwing her arm round his neck lightly kissed him. 'Come on, let's be going,' said the Captain.

    When they dismissed their rickshaws and walked into the hotel Neil asked him: 'What was it that girl said that made them all laugh?'

    She said you were a virgin.'

    'I don't see anything to laugh at in that,' said Neil, with his slow Scots accent 'Is it true?'

    'I suppose it is.'

    'How old are you?'


    'What are you waiting for?'

    'Till I marry.'

    The Captain was silent. At the top of the stairs he held out his hand. There was a twinkle in his eyes when he bade the lad good night, but Neil met it with a level, candid, and untroubled gaze.

    Three days later they sailed. Neil was the only white passenger. When the Captain was busy he read. He was reading again Wallace's “Malay Archipelago.” He had read it as a boy, but now it had a new and absorbing interest for him. When the Captain was at leisure they played cribbage or sat in long chairs on the deck, smoking, and talked. Neil was the son of a country doctor, and he could not remember when he had not been interested in natural history. When he had done with school he went to the University of Edinburgh and there took a B.Sc. with Honours. He was looking out for a job as demonstrator in biology when he chanced to see in Nature an advertisement for an assistant curator of the museum at Kuala Solor. The Curator, Angus Munro, had been at Edinburgh with his uncle, a Glasgow merchant, and his uncle wrote to ask him if he would give the boy a trial. Though Neil was especially interested in entomology he was a trained taxidermist, which the advertisement said was essential; he enclosed certificates from Neil's old teachers; he added that Neil had played football for his university. In a few weeks a cable arrived engaging him and a fortnight later he sailed.

    'What's Mr Munro like?' asked Neil.

    'Good fellow. Everybody likes him.'

    'I looked out his papers in the scientific journals. He had one in the last number of “The Ibis” on the Gymnathidae.'

    'I don't know anything about that. I know he's got a Russian wife. They don't like her much.'

    'I got a letter from him at Singapore saying they'd put me up for a bit till I could look round and see what I wanted to do.'

    Now they were steaming up the river. At the mouth was a straggling fishermen's village standing on piles on the water; on the bank grew thickly nipah palm and the tortured mangrove; beyond stretched the dense green of the virgin forest. In the distance, darkly silhouetted against the blue sky, was the rugged outline of a mountain. Neil, his heart beating with the excitement that possessed him, devoured the scene with eager eyes. He was surprised. He knew his Conrad almost by heart and he was expecting a land of brooding mystery. He was not prepared for the blue milky sky. Little white clouds on the horizon, like sailing boats becalmed, shone in the sun. The green trees of the forest glittered in the brilliant light. Here and there, on the banks, were Malay houses with thatched roofs, and they nestled cosily among fruit trees. Natives in dugouts rowed, standing, up the river. Neil had no feeling of being shut in, nor, in that radiant morning, of gloom, but of space and freedom. The country offered him a gracious welcome. He knew he was going to be happy in it. Captain Bredon from the bridge threw a friendly glance at the lad standing below him. He had taken quite a fancy to him during the four days the journey had lasted. It was true he did not drink, and when you made a joke he was as likely as not to take you seriously, but there was something very taking in his seriousness; everything was interesting and important to him—that, of course, was why he did not find your jokes amusing; but even though he didn't see them he laughed, because he felt you expected it. He laughed because life was grand. He was grateful for every little thing you told him. He was very polite. He never asked you to pass him anything without saying 'please' and always said 'thank you' when you gave it. And he was a good-looking fellow, no one could deny that. Neil was standing with his hands on the rail, bare-headed, looking at the passing bank. He was tall, six foot two, with long, loose limbs, broad shoulders, and narrow hips; there was something charmingly coltish about him, so that you expected him at any moment to break into a caper. He had brown curly hair with a peculiar shine in it; sometimes when the light caught it, it glittered like gold. His eyes, large and very blue, shone with good-humour. They reflected his happy disposition. His nose was short and blunt and his mouth big, his chin determined; his face was rather broad. But his most striking feature was his skin; it was very white and smooth, with a lovely patch of red on either cheek. It would have been a beautiful skin even for a woman. Captain Bredon made the same joke to him every morning.

    'Well, my lad, have you shaved today?'

    Neil passed his hand over his chin.

    'No, d'you think I need it?'

    The Captain always laughed at this.

    'Need it? Why, you've got a face like a baby's bottom.'

    And invariably Neil reddened to the roots of his hair.

    'I shave once a week,' he retorted.

    But it wasn't only his looks that made you like him. It was his ingenuousness, his candour, and the freshness with which he confronted the world. For all his intentness and the solemn way in which he took everything, and his inclination to argue upon every point that came up, there was something strangely simple in him that gave you quite an odd feeling. The Captain couldn't make it out.

    'I wonder if it's because he's never had a woman,' he said to himself. 'Funny. I should have thought the girls never left him alone. With a complexion like that.'

    But the Sultan Ahmed was nearing the bend after rounding which Kuala Solor would be in sight and the Captain's reflections were interrupted by the necessities of his work. He rang down to the engine room. The ship slackened to half speed. Kuala Solor straggled along the left bank of the river, a white, neat, and trim little town, and on the right on a hill were the fort and the Sultan's palace. There was a breeze and the Sultan's flag, at the top of a tall staff, waved bravely against the sky. They anchored in mid-stream. The doctor and a police officer came on board in the government launch. They were accompanied by a tall thin man in white ducks. The Captain stood at the head of the gangway and shook hands with them. Then he turned to the last comer.

    'Well, I've brought you your young hopeful safe and sound.' And a glance at Neil: 'This is Munro.'

    The tall thin man held out his hand and gave Neil an appraising look. Neil flushed a little and smiled. He had beautiful teeth.

    'How do you do, sir?'

    Munro did not smile with his lips, but faintly with his grey eyes. His cheeks were hollow and he had a thin aquiline nose and pale lips. He was deeply sunburned. His face looked tired, but his expression was very gentle, and Neil immediately felt confidence in him. The Captain introduced him to the doctor and the policeman and suggested that they should have a drink. When they sat down and the boy brought bottles of beer Munro took off his topi. Neil saw that he had close-cropped brown hair turning grey. He was a man of forty, quiet, self-possessed in manner, with an intellectual air that distinguished him from the brisk little doctor and the heavy swaggering police officer.

    'MacAdam doesn't drink,' said the Captain when the boy poured out four glasses of beer.'

    'All the better,' said Munro. 'I hope you haven't been trying to lure him into evil ways.'

    'I tried to in Singapore,' returned the Captain, with a twinkle in his eyes, 'but there was nothing doing.'

    When he had finished his beer Munro turned to Neil.

    'Well, we'll be getting ashore, shall we?'

    Neil's baggage was put in charge of Munro's boy and the two men got into a sampan. They landed.

    'Do you want to go straight up to the bungalow or would you like to have a look round first? We've got a couple of hours before tiffin.'

    'Couldn't we go to the museum?' said Neil.

    Munro's eyes smiled gently. He was pleased. Neil was shy and Munro not by nature talkative, so they walked in silence. By the river were the native huts, and here, living their immemorial lives, dwelt the Malays. They were busy, but without haste, and you were conscious of a happy, normal activity. There was a sense of the rhythm of life of which the pattern was birth and death, love, and the affairs common to mankind. They came to the bazaars, narrow streets with arcades, where the teeming Chinese, working and eating, noisily talking, as is their way, indefatigably strove with eternity.

    'It's not much after Singapore,' said Munro, 'but I always think it's rather picturesque.'

    He spoke with an accent less broad than Neil's but the Scots burr was there and it put Neil at his ease. He could never quite get it out of his head that the English of English people was affected.

    The museum was a handsome stone building and as they entered its portals Munro instinctively straightened himself The attendant at the door saluted and Munro spoke to him in Malay, evidently explaining who Neil was, for the attendant gave him a smile and saluted again. It was cool in there in comparison with the heat without and the light was pleasant after the glare of the street.

    'I'm afraid you'll be disappointed,' said Munro. 'We haven't got half the things we ought to have, but up to now we've been handicapped by lack of money. We've had to do the best we could. So you must make allowances.'

    Neil stepped in like a swimmer diving confidently into a summer sea. The specimens were admirably arranged. Munro had sought to please as well as to instruct, and birds and beasts and reptiles were presented, as far as possible in their natural surroundings, in such a way as to give a vivid impression of life. Neil lost his shyness and began with boyish enthusiasm to talk of this and that. He asked an infinity of questions. He was excited. Neither of them was conscious of the passage of time, and when Munro glanced at his watch he was surprised to see what the hour was. They got into rickshaws and drove to the bungalow.

    Munro led the young man into a drawing-room. A woman was lying on a sofa reading a book and as they came in she slowly rose.

    'This is my wife. I'm afraid we're dreadfully late, Darya.'

    'What does it matter?' she smiled. 'What is more unimportant than time?'

    She held out her hand, a rather large hand, to Neil and gave him a long, reflective, but friendly look.

    'I suppose you've been showing him the museum.'

    She was a woman of five-and-thirty, of medium height, with a pale brown face of a uniform colour and pale blue eyes. Her hair, parted in the middle and wound into a knot on the nape of her neck, was untidy; it had a moth-like quality and was of a curious pale brown. Her face was broad, with high cheekbones, and she had a rather fleshy nose. She was not a pretty woman, but there was in her slow movements a sensual grace and in her manner as it were a physical casualness that only very dull people could have failed to find interesting. She wore a frock of green cotton. She spoke English perfectly, but with a slight accent.

    They sat down to tiffin. Neil was overcome once more with shyness, but Darya did not seem to notice it. She talked freely and easily. She asked him about his journey and what he had thought of Singapore. She told him about the people he would have to meet. That afternoon Munro was to take him to call on the Resident, the Sultan being away, and later they would go to the club. There he would see everybody.

    'You will be popular,' she said, her pale blue eyes resting on him with attention. A man less ingenuous than Neil might have noticed that she took stock of his size and youthful virility, his shiny curling hair and his lovely skin. 'They don't think much of us.'

    'Oh, nonsense, Darya. You're too sensitive. They're English, that's all.'

    'They think it's rather funny of Angus to be a scientist and they think it's rather vulgar of me to be a Russian. I don't care. They're fools. They're the most commonplace, the most narrow-minded, the most conventional people it has ever been my misfortune to live amongst.'

    'Don't put MacAdam off the moment he arrives. He'll find them kind and hospitable.'

    'What is your first name?' she asked the boy.


    'I shall call you by it. And you must call me Darya. I hate being called Mrs Munro. It makes me feel like a minister's wife.'

    Neil blushed. He was embarrassed that she should ask him so soon to be so familiar. She went on.

    'Some of the men are not bad.'

    'They do their job competently and that's what they're here for,' said Munro.

    'They shoot. They play football and tennis and cricket. I get on with them quite well. The women are intolerable. They are jealous and spiteful and lazy. They can talk of nothing. If you introduce an intellectual subject they look down their noses as though you were indecent. What can they talk about now? They're interested in nothing. If you speak of the body they think you improper, and if you speak of the soul they think you priggish.'

    'You mustn't take what my wife says too literally,' smiled Munro, in his gentle, tolerant way. 'The community here is just like any other in the East, neither very clever, nor very stupid, but amiable and kindly. And that's a good deal.'

    'I don't want people to be amiable and kindly. I want them to be vital and passionate. I want them to be interested in mankind. I want them to attach more importance to the things of the spirit than to a gin pahit or a curry tiffin. I want art to matter to them, and literature.' She addressed herself abruptly to Neil: 'Have you got a soul?'

    'Oh, I don't know. I don't know exactly what you mean.'

    'Why do you blush when I ask you? Why should you be ashamed of your soul? It is what is important in you. Tell me about it. I am interested in you and I want to know.’

    It seemed very awkward to Neil to be tackled in this way by a perfect stranger. He had never met anyone like this. But he was a serious young man and when he was asked a question straight out he did his best to answer it. It was Munro's presence that embarrassed him.

    'I don't know what you mean by the soul. If you mean an immaterial or spiritual entity, separately produced by the creator, in temporary conjunction with the material body, then my answer is in the negative. It seems to me that such a radically dualistic view of human personality cannot be defended by anyone who is able to take a calm view of the evidence. If, on the other hand, you mean by soul the aggregate of psychic elements which form what we know as the personality of the individual, then, of course, I have.'

    'You're very sweet and you're wonderfully handsome,' she said, smiling. 'No, I mean the heart with its longings and the body with its desires and the infinite in us. Tell me, what did you read on the journey, or did you only play deck tennis?'

    Neil was taken aback at the inconsequence of her reply. He would have been a little affronted except for the good-humour in her eyes and the naturalness in her manner. Munro smiled quietly at the young man's bewilderment. When he smiled the lines that ran from the wings of his nostrils to the corners of his mouth became deep furrows.

    'I read a lot of Conrad.'

    'For pleasure or to improve your mind?'

    'Both. I admire him awfully.'

    Darya threw up her arms in an extravagant gesture of protest.

    'That Pole,' she cried. 'How can you English ever have let yourselves be taken in by that wordy mountebank? He was all the superficiality of his countrymen. That stream of words, those involved sentences, the showy rhetoric, that affection of profundity: when you get through all that to the thought at the bottom, what do you find but a trivial commonplace? He was like a second-rate actor who puts on a romantic dress and declaims a play by Victor Hugo. For five minutes you say this is heroic, and then your whole soul revolts and you cry, no, this is false, false, false.'

    She spoke with a passion that Neil had never known anyone show when speaking of art or literature. Her cheeks, usually colourless, flushed and her pale eyes glowed.

    'There's no one who got atmosphere like Conrad,' said Neil. 'I can smell and see and feel the East when I read him.'

    'Nonsense. What do you know about the East? Everyone will tell you that he made the grossest blunders. Ask Angus.'

    'Of course he was not always accurate,' said Munro, in his measured, reflective way. 'The Borneo he described is not the Borneo we know. He saw it from the deck of a merchant-vessel and he was not an acute observer even of what he saw. But does it matter? I don't know why fiction should be hampered by fact. I don't think it's a mean achievement to have created a country, a dark, sinister, romantic, and heroic country of the soul.'

    'You're a sentimentalist, my poor Angus.' And then again to Neil: 'You must read Turgenev, you must read Tolstoy, you must read Dostoyevsky.'

    Neil did not in the least know what to make of Darya Munro. She skipped over the first stages of acquaintance and treated him at once like someone she had known intimately all her life. It puzzled him. It seemed so reckless. When he met anyone his own instinct was to go cautiously. He was amiable, but he did not like to step too far before he saw his way before him. He did not want to give anyone his confidence before he thought himself justified. But with Darya you could not help yourself; she forced your confidence. She poured out the feelings and thoughts that most people keep to themselves like a prodigal flinging gold pieces to a scrambling crowd. She did not talk, she did not act, like anyone he had ever known. She did not mind what she said. She would speak of the natural functions of the human animal in a way that brought the blushes coursing to his cheeks. They excited her ridicule.

    'Oh, what a prig you are! What is there indecent in it? When I'm going to take a purge, why shouldn't I say so, and when I think you want one, why shouldn't I tell you?'

    'Theoretically I daresay you're right,' said Neil, always judicious and reasonable.

    She made him tell her of his father and mother, his brothers, his life at school and at the university. She told him about herself. Her father was a general killed in the war and her mother a Princess Lutchkov. They were in Eastern Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power, and fled to Yokohama. Here they had subsisted miserably on the sale of their jewels and such objects of art as they had been able to save, and here she married a fellow-exile. She was unhappy with him and in two years divorced him. Her mother died and, penniless, she was driven to earn her living as best she could. She was employed by an American relief organization. She taught in a mission school. She worked in a hospital. She made Neil's blood boil, and at the same time embarrassed him very much, when she spoke of the men who tried to take advantage of her defencelessness and her poverty. She spared him no details.

    'Brutes,' he said.

    'Oh, all men are like that,' she replied, with a shrug of her shoulders.

    She told him how once she protected her virtue at the point of her revolver. 'I swore I'd kill him if he took another step, and if he had I'd have shot him like a dog.'

    'Gosh!' said Neil.

    It was at Yokohama that she met Angus. He was spending his leave in Japan. She was captivated by his straightforwardness, the decency which was so obvious in him, his tenderness and his consideration. He was not a business man; he was a scientist, and science is milk-brother to art. He offered her peace. He offered her security. And she was tired of Japan. Borneo was a land of mystery. They had been married for five years.

    She gave Neil the Russian novelists to read. She gave him “Fathers and Sons,” “Anna Karenina” and “The Brothers Karamazov.”

    'Those are the three peaks of our literature. Read them. They are the greatest novels the world has ever seen.'

    Like many of her countrymen she talked as though no other literature counted, and as though a few novels and stories, some indifferent poetry, and half a dozen good plays had made whatever else the world has produced negligible. Neil was fascinated and overwhelmed.

    'You're rather like Alyosha yourself, Neil,' she said, looking at him with eyes that were now so soft and tender, 'an Alyosha with a Scotch dourness, suspicious and prudent, that will not let the soul in you, the spiritual beauty, come out.'

    'I'm not a bit like Alyosha,' he answered self-consciously.

    'You don't know what you're like. You don't know anything about yourself. Why are you a naturalist? Is it for money? You could have made much more money by going into your uncle's office in Glasgow. I feel in you something strange and unearthly. I could bow down at your feet as Father Zossima did to Dimitri.'

    'Please don't,' he said, smiling, but flushing a little too.

    But the novels he read made her seem a little less strange to him. They gave her an environment and he recognized in her traits which, however unusual in the women he knew in Scotland, his mother and the daughters of his uncle in Glasgow, were common to many of the characters in Russian fiction. He no longer wondered that she should like to sit up so late, drinking innumerable cups of tea, and lie on the sofa nearly all day long reading and incessantly smoking cigarettes. She could do nothing at all for days on end without being bored. She had a curious mixture of languor and zest. She often said, with a shrug of her shoulders, that she was an Oriental, and a European only by chance. She had a feline grace that indeed suggested the Oriental. She was immensely untidy and it did not seem to affect her that cigarette-ends, old papers, and empty tins should lie about their living-room. But he thought she had something of Anna Karenina in her and he transferred to her the sympathy he felt for that pathetic creature. He understood her arrogance. It was not unnatural that she despised the women of the community, whose acquaintance little by little he made; they were commonplace; her mind was quicker than theirs, she had a wider culture, and she had above all a sort of tremulous sensitiveness that made them extraordinarily colourless. She certainly took no pains to conciliate them. Though at home she slopped about in a sarong and baju, when she and Angus went out to dinner she dressed with a splendour that was somewhat out of place. She liked to display her ample bosom and her shapely back. She painted her cheeks and made up her eyes like an actress for the footlights. Though it made Neil angry to see the amused or outraged glances that her appearance provoked, he could not in his heart but think it a pity that she should make such an object of herself. She looked grand, of course, but if you hadn't known who she was you would have thought she wasn't respectable. There were things about her that he could never get over. She had an enormous appetite and it fashed him that she ate more than he and Angus together. He could never quite get used to the bluntness with which she discussed sexual matters. She took it for granted that at home and in Edinburgh he had had affairs with a host of women. She pressed him for details of his adventures. His Scotch pawkiness helped him to parry her thrusts and he evaded her questions with native caution. She laughed at his reticence.

    Sometimes she shocked him. He grew accustomed to the frankness with which she admired his looks, and when she told him that he was as beautiful as a young Norse god he did not turn a hair. Flattery fell off him like water from a duck's back. But he did not like it when she ran her hand, though large, very soft, with caressing fingers, through his curly hair or, a smile on her lips, stroked his smooth face. He couldn't bear being mussed about. One day she wanted a drink of tonic water and began pouring some out in a glass that stood on the table.

    'That's my glass,' he said quickly. I've just been drinking out of it.' Well, what of it? You haven't got syphilis, have you?'

    'I hate drinking out of other people's glasses myself.'

    She was funny about cigarettes too. Once, when he hadn't been there very long, he had just lit one, when she passed and said: 'I want that.'

    She took it out of his mouth and began to smoke it. After two or three puffs, she said she did not want any more and handed it back to him. The end she had had in her mouth was red from the rouge on her lips, and he didn't want to go on smoking it at all. But he was afraid she would think it rude if he threw it away. It somewhat disgusted him. Often she would ask him for a cigarette and when he handed it to her, say: 'Oh, light it for me, will you?'

    When he did so, and held it out to her, she opened her mouth so that he should put it in. He hadn't been able to help wetting the end a little. He wondered she could bear to put it in her mouth after it had been in his. The whole thing seemed to him awfully familiar. He was sure Munro wouldn't like it. She had even done this once or twice at the club. Neil had felt himself go purple. He wished she hadn't got these rather unpleasant habits, but he supposed that they were Russian, and one couldn't deny that she was wonderfully good company. Her conversation was very stimulating. It was like champagne (which Neil had tasted once and thought wretched stuff), 'metaphorically speaking'. There was nothing she couldn't talk about. She didn't talk like a man; with a man you generally knew what he would say next, but with her you never did; her intuition was quite remarkable. She gave you ideas. She enlarged your mind and excited your imagination. Neil felt alive as he had never felt alive before. He seemed to walk on mountain peaks, and the horizons of the spirit were unbounded. Neil felt a certain complacency when he stopped to reflect on what an exalted plane his mind communed with hers. Such conversations made very small beer of the vaunted pleasure of sense. She was in many ways (he was of a cautious nature and seldom made a statement even to himself that he did not qualify) the most intelligent woman he had ever met. And besides, she was Angus Munro's wife.

    For, whatever Neil's reservations were about Darya, he had none about Munro, and she would have had to be a much less remarkable woman not to profit by the enormous admiration he conceived for her husband. With him Neil let himself go. He felt for him what he had never felt for anyone before. He was so sane, so balanced, so tolerant. This was the sort of man he would himself like to be when he was older. He talked little, but when he did, with good sense. He was wise. He had a dry humour that Neil understood. It made the hearty English fun of the men at the club seem inane. He was kind and patient. He had a dignity that made it impossible to conceive anyone taking a liberty with him, but he was neither pompous nor solemn. He was honest and absolutely truthful. But Neil admired him no less as a scientist than as a man. He had imagination. He was careful and painstaking. Though his interest was in research he did the routine work of the museum conscientiously.

    - pages 323-334:

    Munro came back at noon, and in the afternoon they busied themselves as usual. Darya, as she sometimes did, worked with them. She was in high spirits. She was so gay that Munro suggested that she was beginning to enjoy the life.

    'It's not so bad,' she admitted. 'I'm feeling happy today.'

    She teased Neil. She seemed not to notice that he was silent and kept his eyes averted from her.

    'Neil's very quiet,' said Munro. 'I suppose you're feeling a bit weak still.'

    'No. I just don't feel very talkative.'

    He was harassed. He was convinced that Darya was capable of anything. He remembered the hysterical frenzy of Nastasya Filipovna in “The Idiot,” and felt that she too could behave with that unfortunate lack of balance. He had seen her more than once fly into a temper with one of the Chinese servants and he knew how completely she could lose her self-control. Resistance only exasperated her. If she did not immediately get what she wanted she would go almost insane with rage. Fortunately she lost interest in a thing with the same suddenness with which she hankered for it, and if you could distract her attention for a minute she forgot all about it. It was in such situations that Neil had most admired Munro's tact. He had often been slyly amused to see with what a pawky and yet tender cunning he appeased her feminine tantrums. It was on Munro's account that Neil's indignation was so great. Munro was a saint, and from what a state of humiliation and penury and random shifts had he not taken her to make her his wife! She owed everything to him. His name protected her. She had respectability. The commonest gratitude should have made it impossible for her to harbour such thoughts as she had that morning expressed. It was all very well for men to make advances, that was what men did, but for women to do so was disgusting. His modesty was outraged. The passion he had seen in her face, and the indelicacy of her gestures, scandalized him.

    He wondered whether she would really carry out her threat to come to his room. He didn't think she would dare. But when night came and they all went to bed, he was so terrified that he could not sleep. He lay there listening anxiously. The silence was broken only by the repeated and monotonous cry of an owl. Through the thin wall of woven palm leaves he heard Munro's steady breathing. Suddenly he was conscious that someone was stealthily creeping into his room. He had already made up his mind what to do.

    'Is that you, Mr Munro?' he called in a loud voice.

    Darya stopped suddenly. Munro awoke.

    'There's someone in my room. I thought it was you.'

    'It's all right,' said Darya. 'It's only me, I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd go and smoke a cigarette on the veranda.'

    'Oh, is that all?' said Munro. 'Don't catch cold.'

    She walked through Neil's room and out. He saw her light a cigarette. Presently she went back and he heard her get into bed.

    He did not see her next morning, for he started out collecting before she was up, and he took care not to get in till he was pretty sure Munro would be back. He avoided being alone with her till it was dark and Munro went down for a few minutes to arrange the moth-traps.

    'Why did you wake Angus last night?' she said in a low angry whisper. He shrugged his shoulders and going on with his work did not answer. 'Were you frightened?'

    'I have a certain sense of decency.'

    'Oh, don't be such a prig.'

    'I'd rather be a prig than a dirty swine.'

    'I hate you.'

    'Then leave me alone.'

    She did not answer, but with her open hand smartly slapped his face. He flushed, but did not speak. Munro returned and they pretended to be intent on whatever they were doing.

    For the next few days Darya, except at meal-times and in the evenings, never spoke to Neil. Without prearrangement they exerted themselves to conceal from Munro that their relations were strained. But the effort with which Darya roused herself from a brooding silence would have been obvious to anyone more suspicious than Angus, and sometimes she could not help herself from being a trifle sharp with Neil. She chaffed him, but in her chaff was a sting. She knew how to wound and caught him on the raw, but he took care not to let her see it. He had an inkling that the good-humour he affected infuriated her.

    Then one day when Neil came back from collecting, though he had delayed till the last possible minute before tiffin, he was surprised to find that Munro had not yet returned. Darya was lying on a mattress on the veranda, sipping a gin pahit and smoking. She did not speak to him when he passed through to wash. In a minute the Chinese boy came into his room and told him that tiffin was ready. He walked out.

    ‘Where’s Mr. Munro?’ he asked.

    ‘He’s not coming,’ said Darya. ‘He sent a message to say that the place he’s at is so good he won’t come down till night.’

    Munro had set out that morning for the summit of the mountain. The lower levels had yielded poor results in the way of mammals, and Munro's idea was, if he could find a good place higher up, with a supply of water, to transfer the camp. Neil and Darya ate their meal in silence. After they had finished he went into the house and came out again with his topee and his collecting gear. It was unusual for him to go out in the afternoon.

    'Where are you going?' she asked abruptly.



    'I don't feel tired. I've got nothing much else to do this afternoon.' Suddenly she burst into tears.

    'How can you be so unkind to me?' she sobbed. 'Oh, it is cruel to treat me like this.'

    He looked down at her from his great height, his handsome, somewhat stolid face bearing a harassed look.

    'What have I done?'

    'You've been beastly to me. Bad as I am I haven't deserved to suffer like this. I've done everything in the world for you. Tell me one single little thing I could do that I haven't done gladly. I'm so terribly unhappy.'

    He moved on his feet uneasily. It was horrible to hear her say that. He loathed and feared her, but he had still the respect for her that he had always felt, not only because she was a woman, but because she was Angus Munro's wife. She wept uncontrollably. Fortunately the Dyak hunters had gone that morning with Munro. There was no one about the camp but the three Chinese servants and they, after tiffin, were asleep in their own quarters fifty yards away. They were alone.

    'I don't want to make you unhappy. It's all so silly. It's absurd of a woman like you to fall in love with a fellow like me. It makes me look such a fool. Haven't you got any self-control?'

    'Oh, God. Self-control!'

    'I mean, if you really cared for me you couldn't want me to be such a cad. Doesn't it mean anything to you that your husband trusts us implicitly? The mere fact of his leaving us alone like this puts us on our honour. He's a man who would never hurt a fly. I should never respect myself again if I betrayed his confidence.'

    She looked up suddenly.

    'What makes you think he would never hurt a fly? Why, all those bottles and cases are full of the harmless animals he's killed.'

    'In the interests of science. That's quite another thing.'

    'Oh, you fool, you fool.'

    'Well, if I am a fool I can't help it. Why do you bother about me?'

    ‘Do you think I wanted to fall in love with you?'

    'You ought to be ashamed of yourself.'

    'Ashamed? How stupid! My God, what have I done that I should eat my heart out for such a pretentious ass?'

    'You talk about what you've done for me. What has Munro done for you?'

    'Munro bores me to death. I'm sick of him. Sick to death of him.'

    'Then I'm not the first?'

    Ever since her amazing avowal he had been tortured by the suspicion that what those men at Kuala Solor had said of her was true. He had refused to believe a word of it, and even now he could not bring himself to think that she could be such a monster of depravity. It was frightful to think that Angus Munro, so trusting and tender, should have lived in a fool's paradise. She could not be as bad as that. But she misunderstood him. She smiled through her tears.

    'Of course not. How can you be so silly? Oh, darling, don't be so desperately serious. I love you.'

    Then it was true. He had sought to persuade himself that what she felt for him was exceptional, a madness that together they could contend with and vanquish. But she was simply promiscuous.

    'Aren't you afraid Munro will find out?'

    She was not crying any more. She adored talking about herself, and she had a feeling that she was inveigling Neil into a new interest in her.

    'I sometimes wonder if he doesn't know, if not with his mind, then with his heart. He's got the intuition of a woman and a woman's sensitiveness. Sometimes I've been certain he suspected and in his anguish I've sensed a strange, spiritual exaltation. I've wondered if in his pain he didn't find an infinitely subtle pleasure. There are souls, you know, that feel a voluptuous joy in laceration.'

    'How horrible!' Neil had no patience with these conceits. 'The only excuse for you is that you're insane.'

    She was now much more sure of herself. She gave him a bold look.

    'Don't you think I'm attractive? A good many men have. You must have had dozens of women in Scotland who weren't so well made as I am.'

    She looked down at her shapely, sensual figure with calm pride.

    'I've never had a woman,' he said gravely.

    'Why not?'

    She was so surprised that she sprang to her feet. He shrugged his shoulders. He could not bring himself to tell her how disgusting the idea of such a thing was to him, and how vile he had thought the haphazard amours of his fellow-students at Edinburgh. He took a mystical joy in his purity. Love was sacred. The sexual act horrified him. Its excuse was the procreation of children and its sanctification marriage. But Darya, her whole body rigid, stared at him, panting; and suddenly, with a sobbing cry in which there was exultation and at the same time wild desire, she flung herself on her knees and seizing his hand passionately kissed it.

    ‘Alyosha,’ she gasped. ‘Alyosha.'

    And then, crying and laughing, she crumpled up in a heap at his feet. Strange, hardly human sounds issued from her throat and convulsive tremors passed through her body so that you would have thought she was receiving one electric shock after another. Neil did not know if it was an attack of hysteria or an epileptic fit.

    'Stop it,' he cried. 'Stop it.'

    He took her up in his strong arms and laid her in the chair. But when he tried to leave her she would not let him. She flung her arms round his neck and held him. She covered his face with kisses. He struggled. He turned his face away. He put his hand between her face and his to protect himself. Suddenly she dug her teeth into it. The pain was so great that, without thinking, he gave her a great swinging blow.

    'You devil,' he cried.

    His violent gesture had forced her to release him. He held his hand and looked at it. She had caught him by the fleshy part on the side, and it was bleeding. Her eyes blazed. She was feeling alert and active.

    'I've had enough of this. I'm going out,' he said.

    She sprang to her feet.

    'I'll come with you.'

    He put on his topee and, snatching up his collecting gear without a word, turned on his heel. With one stride he leaped down the three steps that led from the floor of the house to the ground. She followed him.

    'I'm going into the jungle,' he said.

    'I don't care.'

    In the ravening desire that possessed her she forgot her morbid fear of the jungle. She recked nothing of snakes and wild beasts. She did not mind the branches that hit her face or the creepers that entangled her feet. For a month Neil had explored all that part of the forest and he knew every yard of it. He told himself grimly that he'd teach her to come with him. He forced his way through the undergrowth with rapid strides; she followed him, stumbling but determined; he crashed on, blind with rage, and she crashed after him. She talked; he did not listen to what she said. She besought him to have pity on her. She bemoaned her fate. She made herself humble. She wept and wrung her hands. She tried to cajole him. The words poured from her lips in an unceasing stream. She was like a mad woman. At last in a little clearing he stopped suddenly and turning round faced her.

    'This is impossible,' he cried. 'I'm fed up. When Angus comes back I must tell him I've got to go. I shall go back to Kuala Solor tomorrow morning and go home.'

    'He won't let you go, he wants you. He finds you invaluable.'

    'I don't care. I'll fake up something.'


    He mistook her.

    'Oh, you needn't be frightened, I shan't tell him the truth. You can break his heart if you want to; I'm not going to.'

    'You worship him, don't you? That dull, phlegmatic man.'

    'He's worth a hundred of you.'

    'It would be rather funny if I told him you'd gone because I wouldn't yield to your advances.'

    He gave a slight start and looked at her to see if she was serious.

    'Don't be such a fool. You don't think he'd believe that, do you? He knows it would never occur to me.'

    'Don't be too sure.'

    She had spoken carelessly, with no particular intention other than to continue the argument, but she saw that he was frightened and some instinct of cruelty made her press the advantage.

    'Do you expect mercy from me? You've humiliated me beyond endurance. You've treated me like dirt. I swear that if you make any suggestion of going I shall go straight to Angus and say that you took advantage of his absence to try and assault me.'

    'I can deny it. After all it's only your word against mine.'

    'Yes, but my word'll count. I can prove what I say.'

    'What do you mean?'

    'I bruise easily. I can show him the bruise where you struck me. And look at your hand.' He turned and gave it a sudden glance. 'How did those teeth marks get there?'

    He stared at her stupidly. He had gone quite pale. How could he explain that bruise and that scar? If he was forced to in self-defence he could tell the truth, but was it likely that Angus would believe it? He worshipped Darya. He would take her word against anyone's. What monstrous ingratitude it would seem for all Munro's kindness and what treachery in return for so much confidence! He would think him a filthy skunk and from his standpoint with justice. That was what shattered him, the thought that Munro, for whom he would willingly have laid down his life, should think ill of him. He was so unhappy that tears, unmanly tears that he hated, came to his eyes. Darya saw that he was broken. She exulted. She was paying him back for the misery he had made her suffer. She held him now. He was in her power. She savoured her triumph, and in the midst of her anguish laughed in her heart because he was such a fool. At that moment she did not know whether she loved or despised him.

    'Now will you be good?' she said.

    He gave a sob and blindly, with a sudden instinct of escape from that abominable woman, took to his heels and ran as hard as he could. He plunged through the jungle, like a wounded animal, not looking where he was going, till he was out of breath. Then, panting, he stopped. He took out his handkerchief and wiped away the sweat that was pouring into his eyes and blinding him. He was exhausted and he sat down to rest.

    'I must take care I don't get lost,' he said to himself. That was the least of his troubles, but all the same he was glad that he had a pocket compass, and he knew in which direction he must go.

    - from Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham; pp. vi-vii (biographical info): . . . Four

    years later, Maugham temporarily abandoned playwriting to write the semi-autobiographical

    Of Human Bondage as a means of exorcising childhood memories that had lately been

    haunting him. Expanding his Stephen Carey manuscript, Maugham told the story of the

    clubfooted Philip Carey, an orphan sent to live with his vicar uncle. Philip then studies art in

    Paris before returning to London to take up medicine, where he meets and falls obsessively in

    love with the waitress Mildred. Although the novel was not initially a success on its London

    publication in 1915, it did well in the United States, thanks to a championing review by

    Theodore Dreiser.

    In the winter of 1913, Maugham met Syrie Wellcome, a married woman long separated from her

    husband. A very public affair ensued; Syrie, pregnant with Maugham’s child, suffered a

    devastating miscarriage. Their liaison was interrupted by Maugham’s wartime stint in the

    Ambulance Unit in France, followed by work as a secret agent. After the war he moved to Rome,

    where Syrie joined him. In New York in 1916 to witness the production of his play Our Betters,

    Maugham dodged Syrie by announcing a trip to Tahiti with Gerald Haxton, a high-living

    American he had met during the war. Haxton, who had earlier been banned from England as an

    undesirable alien, became Maugham’s lover and secretary for twenty-nine years.

    The South Seas trip was a journey of discovery for Maugham. Fascinated by the denizens of the

    Pacific, he gathered more material—including the inspiration for the story “Miss Thompson,”

    more famously known onstage and in films as Rain, and for the novel The Moon and

    (1919), based on the life of Paul Gauguin. On the way home to England via America,

    Maugham wed Syrie in New Jersey. They had a daughter, Liza, and settled uneasily into a

    marriage blighted by Syrie’s increasingly grasping nature and Maugham’s fear that she would

    betray his homosexuality. The couple divorced in 1927, and Syrie went on to enjoy considerable

    professional success as an interior designer.

    In 1928 Maugham bought a home in Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera. During the Second World

    War he fled to Paris and then to England. At the end of the war, Maugham, now in his seventies,

    returned to his home in France with a new secretary and companion, his long-time friend Alan

    Searle . . . . Maugham died on December 16, 1965, just short of his ninety-second birthday, at his

    home France. His New York Times obituary said, “For decades he cast a clinical eye on human

    behavior and turned out works that made him a fortune few writers have equalled. . . . His style

    was neat and simple; his stories were sharply defined; . . . his audience was vast.”

    - p. xxxi: One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz or Daghestan of priceless

    texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones. Or

    better yet it is as though a symphony of great beauty by a master, Strauss or Beethoven, had just

    been completed and the bud notes and flower tones were filling the air with their elusive

    message, fluttering and dying.

    - p. xxxiii: The nearest Maugham comes to a confidence is in the description of his religious

    belief—if you can call agnosticism a belief, and the fact that on this subject he is ready to speak

    to strangers makes one pause. There are signs of muddle, contradictions . . . hints of an

    inhibition. Otherwise one might trace here the deepest source of his limitations, for creative art

    seems to remain a function of the religious mind. Maugham the agnostic is forced to minimize—

    pain, vice, the importance of his fellowmen. He cannot believe in a God who punishes and he

    cannot therefore believe in the importance of a human action. ‘It is not difficult,’ he writes, ‘to

    forgive people their sins’—it sounds like charity, but it may be only contempt. In another

    passage he refers with understandable scorn to writers who are ‘grandiloquent to tell you whether

    or not a little trollop shall hop into bed with a commonplace young man.’ That is a plot as old as

    Troilus and Cressida, but to the religious sixteenth-century mind there was no such thing as a

    commonplace young man or an unimportant sin; the creative writers of that time drew human

    characters with a clarity we have never regained (we had to go to Russia for it later) because they

    were lit with the glare and significance that war lends. Rob human beings of their heavenly and

    their infernal importance, and you rob your characters of their individuality. (‘What should a

    Socialist woman do?’) It has never been Maugham’s characters that we have remembered so

    much as the narrator, with his contempt for human life, his unhappy honesty.

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    William Somerset Maugham - INTJ - Robespierre

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