Chapter 3--Cakes and Ale

Snakfriends of Maugham

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Chapter 3--Cakes and Ale

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Redigeret: dec 27, 2010, 3:29 pm

The story begins. Flash-back. The Narrator remembers his past. He does not romanticize it. His memories, "seem to have lost its reality and I saw it as thought it were a scene in a play and I a spectator in the back row of a dark gallery". He remembers his uncle, aunt and the people of Blackstable: a rather difficult lot. People were cantankerous, ate too much, drank too much and were out of shape physically. They were irritable, vain, pig-headed and odd. The days were long and boring. The Narrator muses, things are better now. "It may be that we are flippant and careless, but we accept one another without the old suspicion; our manners, rough and ready, are kindly; we are more prepared to give and take and we are not so crabbed." (Here we have, I think, a major theme, as we explore the characters, their behaviors and fates as the novel progresses).
The Narrator first "meets" Driffield on the street. Driffield is accompanied by the Narrator's uncle's currate who does not introduce the two. The Narrator, snobbish as everyone else in Blackstable, doesn't want to meet Driffield anyway because Driffield is wearing nickerbockers, apparel not at all conducive to polite and cultured society.

Later that day tea time conversation centers on gossip about Driffield. He is from a low class (son on a baliff employed at Ferne Court, home of a local gentry), threw away a good education to "go to sea", married a Blackstable girl who works as a barmaid at a local pub (most inappropriate), and wrote a first novel, considered "trashy" by the Narrator's uncle. Ironic, thinks the present-day Narrator that now, after Driffield has attained great fame as an author, that the people of Blackstable furiously demanded his final resting place be the Church at Blackstable and not Westminster Abbey. (The Dean of the Abbey refused burial there anyway!)

The scene is set for both the Narrator (and readers) to seek out the notorious Driffields, husband and wife.

dec 27, 2010, 8:00 pm

A side note: The more of C&A I read, the more I find it interesting that some people have suggested Hardy as the model for Driffield. Maugham states over and over again that the Driffields didn't understand their position in society, insisted to talking to their betters and ignoring snubs. Likewise, anyone who was anyone wouldn't be caught dead associating with the Driffields. From the Hardy I've read, much of his work is exactly about this type of relationship, loves and friendships that are abandoned or put off due to class or reputation. However, Maugham's description of Driffield's writing doesn't sound like Hardy's writing, at least not IMHO.

dec 27, 2010, 8:40 pm

Thanks for the side note. I appreciate your 'take' on whether Driffield was Hardy or not. When I first read C&A I wondered as well but this time, strangely enough, I find myself just relaxing into the story and enjoying Maughams very, very witty satire. Not to diminish your interest in who is who in this novel. But somehow, the narrative swing just seems to have taken over and I read "Driffield" as "Driffield". I suspect that being a member of this group and reading about Maugham, his way of creating, his easy style---C&A is turning out to be a totally new novel to me.

dec 27, 2010, 10:12 pm

I agree. I think Maugham created a character and people afterward decided it must "be" someone. If it is "Hardy," he is more mocking Hardy, the literary institution, rather than Hardy the man.

Redigeret: dec 29, 2010, 4:49 pm

I agree with Katie about the dissimilarity in the literay output of Driffield and Hardy. Maugham makes it clear that only the most extreme snobs--those who might even have a problem with Dickens--have a problem with Driffield (unfortunately, the narrator's aunt and uncle are among that number). Hardy outraged whole segments of the reading public to the extent he ceased writing novels altogether. Yet so much of the outward Hardy mimics Driffield that, as Katie suggests, "Hardy, the literary institution", if not the man, is clearly present (Hardy died in 1928 at an advanced age (88), like Driffield, close to the publication of C&A; there was some question, as with Driffield, over whether to bury Hardy in Westminster Abbey or in the country; Hardy's second wife, like Driffield's, was a great deal younger--39 years--and was first in his employ). In fact, little about the outward Driffield and Hardy differ at all except for their early professional lives: Hardy worked as an architect whereas Driffield, like Conrad (from whom Maugham may have lifted this detail), went to sea.

maj 22, 2016, 1:44 pm

I like to think that Maugham pieced together various lives. I love Cakes and Ale and am giving it my second reading currently.

If you know of a writer called Vikram Seth who has apparently written the longest novel- A suitable boy- I find some similarities. The cities Seth describes in A suitable boy are an amalgamation of facets of a lot of Indian cities- and finally- it is difficult to understand which of those cities it is- but it looks deceptively similar to any of the cities from one angle.

I don't know which chapter this came from- but this bit about how the young got fooled into the trick of old age as being the 'wise age' is something I will never forget from Cakes and Ale.

Redigeret: maj 23, 2016, 10:38 am

>6 zasmine:, I believe you mean a passage from Chapter XI. A great favourite of mine, too:

A man who is a politician at forty is a statesman at three score and ten. It is at this age, when he would be too old to be a clerk or a gardener or a police-court magistrate, that he is ripe to govern a country. This is not so strange when you reflect that from the earliest times the old have rubbed ft in to the young that they are wiser than they, and before the young had discovered what nonsense this was they were old too, and it profited them to carry on the imposture; and besides, no one can have moved in the society of politicians without discovering that (if one may judge by results) it requires little mental ability to rule a nation.

This easily turns into a hilarious explanation of the reverence for old age that writers, specifically, enjoy:

After mature consideration I have come to the conclusion that real reason for the universal applause that comforts the declining years of the author who exceeds the common span of men is that intelligent people after the age of thirty read nothing at all. As they grow older the books they read in their youth are lit with its glamour and with every year that passes they ascribe greater merit to the author that wrote them. Of course he must go on; he must keep in the public eye. It is no good his thinking that it is enough to write one or two masterpieces; he must provide a pedestal for them of forty or fifty works of no particular consequence. This needs time. His production must be such that if he cannot captivate a reader by his charm he can stun him by his weight.