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The rules are two, and very simple:
1) You ask a question. The first guy with the right answer asks the next one.
2) All questions must be linked in one way or another with Somerset Maugham
Here's something's easy to begin with:
Where does the title ''Cakes and Ale'' come from?
I am not sure about The Razor's Edge though. Maugham's own epigraph is taken from the Katha Upanishad and seems to be more relevant to the novel:
The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.
Anyway, your turn.
"Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread--behind lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
(Had to look it up.)
Many of Maugham's stories and some novels are set in Blackstable and nearby Tercanbury. Which real towns in the U.K. did he use as models for these fictional settings?
Blackstable is something like Maugham's trademark and he made it world famous with Of Human Bondage (1915) and Cakes and Ale (1930).
But do you know which is the first place where Maugham used the name 'Blackstable'?
"Orientations" contained six stories that WSM wrote from age 18 onward. He purposefully excluded them from his collected works on the basis that they were better off forgotten. None of the "complete short story" collections includes Daisy, and it was not reprinted until publication of Seventeen Lost Stories in 1969, after Maugham's death.
Daisy is available online to anyone who wants to read an amusing tale.
Maugham was of course just starting out, but it's interesting to see features that characterized the mature writer that he eventually became.
It was Sunday morning--a damp, warm November morning, with the sky overhead grey and low. Miss Reed stopped a little to take breath before climbing the hill, at the top of which, in the middle of the churchyard, was Blackstable Church. Miss Reed panted, and the sultriness made her loosen her jacket. She stood at the junction of the two roads which led to the church, one from the harbour end of the town and the other from the station. Behind her lay the houses of Blackstable, the wind-beaten houses with slate roofs of the old fishing village and the red brick villas of the seaside resort which Blackstable was fast becoming; in the harbour were the masts of the ships, colliers that brought coal from the north; and beyond, the grey sea, very motionless, mingling in the distance with the sky.... The peal of the church bells ceased, and was replaced by a single bell, ringing a little hurriedly, querulously, which denoted that there were only ten minutes before the beginning of the service. Miss Reed walked on; she looked curiously at the people who passed her, wondering....
Name the story and the character.
your turn to post a question, my friend.
I remember him well in The Razor's Edge. Tremendous performance! He was a really perfect Maugham; though without any stammer, he was a wonderful personification of what Maugham declared to be his favourite attitude to life: humorous resignation.
I didn't know he starred twice in The Letter either, and playing different parts at that: in 1929 he was the murdered lover and in 1940 he was the cuckoled husband. It would have been quite fascinating if he had starred in a third version as the shrewd lawer too.
Thanks a lot for this amazing question, sholofsky. I've learned quite a lot new things and am now determined to view these two versions of The Letter.
I don't know if the above is correct, and if it is, whether is acceptable or not.
Which is the only short story with Ashenden as a character which is not part of the volume Ashenden (1928)?
In the beginning I thought to ask which is the only short story with Ashenden as a character which has nothing to do with espionage, but then I reflected that there is at least one in the book Ashenden (His Excellency) which has nothing to do with spies.
For what it's worth, the short story in question was first published in magazine ten years after the other Ashenden stories were published in a book (1938 that is) and in book form appeared for the first nine years after that, as part of Maugham's last collection Creatures of Circumstance (1947).
To finish with this strange story, Sanatorium - which everybody knows (and Maugham himself says so in the movie) was based on his own experience in a Scottish sanatorium in the end of the FWW but had to wait some two decades to be written down - here are two great quotes from it:
(It was not for nothing that in the movie Maugham suggested that we might just want to accept the character of Ashenden as a flattering portrait of the old party that we see on the screen.)
People often said he had a low opinion for human nature. It was because he did not always judge fellows by the usual standards. He accepted, with a smile, a tear, or a shrug of the shoulders, much that filled others with dismay.
(And Ashenden speaks quite a bit like Maugham too.)
You're not the first rake who's fallen to innocence. It's merely the sentimentality of middle age.
Apparently, the title was inspired by Maugham's retelling an old story (from One Thousand and One Nights, some say) in his last play, Sheppey (1933), where The Death herself speaks:
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
Great story and terrific question.
How many times did Maugham read Don Quixote?
As a compensation for the flippancy, I am giving a great hint: at least if his own claim in Ten Novels and Their Authors is true.
so my guess is "3".
Or so Maugham claims in the absorbing introductory chapter of the book, The Art of Fiction, and in defence of his highly reprehensible practice of skipping.
Anyway, your turn.
I own the first edition of Ten Novels and Their Authors, published in 1948, in which Maugham states in his discussion of Don Quixote:
It is a great and important book, and a professed student of literature should doubtless read it once through (I myself have read it from cover to cover three times)...."
Now I see (as revealed by Waldstein's post) that in a later edition of this same work, published in 1955, he wrote a new introduction. This later introduction was included in Maugham's Selected Prefaces and Introductions with no hint that it was modified from the original one. Here Maugham states:
I have myself have read it from cover to cover twice in English and three times in Spanish
Thus, we are led to conclude that prior to 1948 Maugham had read Don Quixote three times, and in the ensuring 7 years, he read it twice more. (We cannot tell in which language he read it when, but from the numbers at least one of the earlier readings was in Spanish -- when he lived in Spain in the late 1800s perhaps?).
In any case, my answer and Waldsteins are both understandable in their historical context. It may well be that both answers are underestimates. If Maugham's love of this work continued, one wonders if he didn't read it again in his last decade of life.
Dan and Waldstein, look at it this way, a Maugham trivia quiz first: more than one correct answer, the question that keeps on giving!
It is funny to speculate when exactly did Maugham read Don Quixote in English? He was fluent in Spanish since he spent half an year or so in Spain, and that happened immediately after Liza was published when Maugham was 23-24 years old. It beggars belief that he read in English something he could easily have read in original language. He might have devoured the novel twice in English during his student years, who knows.
Another interesting question is whether Great Novelists and Their Novels (1948) and Ten Novels and Their Authors (1954) should be considered as separate books. I have yet to compare them carefully, but the introductory chapter seems to have been rewritten somewhat extensively, though there are of course some repetitions verbatim. But on the basis of the essay about Jane Austen, the only one I did compare in both books, I think Maugham merely expanded the other chapters, mostly with more biography. The very last chapter of Ten Novels and Their Authors is the only one that was specifically written for the later book: a most amusing summing-up in the form of imaginary literary party.
I stand corrected, Daniel. You answer is, not partly, but perfectly correct. We may blame Maugham for his inconsistency with details; rather typical for him.
PS To make the matters with the different books even more complicated, it seems, if Maugham's bibliographer R. T. Stott is to be believed, that Ten Novels and Their Authors was first published in America (Doubleday, 1955) as Art of Fiction: and Introduction to 10 Novels and their Authors; it's often referred to as Art of Fiction only, but it is not the introduction in pamphlet form as one might be lead to believe.
Of the revision Mr Stott has written:
Considerable new material has been added, the introduction has been extended, and there is an interesting new chapter in which the authors sums up the whole field of creative literary activity - a subject that has always held for him a singular fascination.
Apparently, Maugham thought the early essays written in haste and rather perfunctory, so he expanded them - which I am not sure was a good idea. As is well known, all ten pieces were originally written as introductions to abridged (by Maugham) versions of the ten novels; these were published by Winston in 1948-49 (no English edition). Nine of the essays appeared in Atlantic Monthly between November 1947 and July 1948.
One outcome is that we now recognize that these are in some ways different works -- analogous to how Maugham rewrote a few of his short stories and republished them under separate titles. It might be interesting to compare the two in more details.
As to when Maugham read Don Quixote, do you happen to know whether he was sufficiently fluent in Spanish to have read it during his early residence there? I ask because DQ is not for beginners!
Wouldn't it be great to stumble on an unpublished diary of Maugham's readings over the years; it might be revealing. Of course this is only a fantasy, since I have no reason to think he was the sort of person to keep one, and even if he had, it would have been burned along with his notes and correspondence by Alan Searles and himself in his later years.
But I do know it would contain countless numbers of the "detective stories" he read during his long residence at the Villa. Maugham knew and appreciated great literature, but being the opposite of a literary snob, I infer that he could enjoy the junk fiction of his day as much as the rest of us enjoy ours.
Maugham and languages is another quite interesting of facet his personality worthy of detailed investigation. I really don't know when he knew Spanish well enough to tackle a work like Cervantes' masterpiece, but I can make some highly speculative guesses. It is probably certain to assume that by 1935, when Don Fernando was first published, Maugham already knew the language pretty well, having visited the country at least twice meanwhile (1903 and 1933). I think his last visit was as late as 1954. I daresay it is possible that he actually did read Don Quixote after 1948, if we assume that he was able to speak Spanish more or less perfectly by the middle 1930s, but he might well have known it very well much earlier. It's anybody's guess really.
I really have to re-read Don Fernando, something I have wanted to do for quite some time but always something else has come up. I am also sure comparing both versions of his ''ten best'' would prove an interesting experience; maybe next year I'll do it.
It is funny that you should mention detective stories. I have been re-reading these days again and again Maugham's essay The Decline and Fall of the Detective Story. Truly stupendous fun! Maugham was confirmed detective story buff and, as usual, he makes me eager to try writers I have never read before, in this case Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, but there is really no chance for that just right now, alas. Maybe next year, at least The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, both movies being among my favourites with Humphrey Bogart.
Talking about Maugham's reading diary (pity he didn't left any indeed), in this essay comes one shocking confession: Maugham never read more than ''chapter here and there'' from Gibbon's Decline and Fall. What a shame, Willie! You should have followed the example of your dear friend Winston who devoured all volumes from cover to cover in his youth.
Anyway, to continue our trivia, though digressions are most welcome (and quips too: the one about Captain Ahab was absolutely brilliant; laughed my head off), I'll accept that my answer to my question was more correct and will give the next one. This time the source is any Maugham biography one wish to check: they all mention the answer.
Since we're talking of detective stories, it might be interesting to recall that Maugham's essay The Decline and Fall of the Detective Story was - apparently - written for an influential magazine edited by an eminent critic who finally decided that, though good enough for the magazine, the essay was not ''quite good enough'' for him and turned it down. Which was the magazine and who was its editor?
I don't know the subtext, but I wonder if Connolly's reaction was an attempt to put WSM "in his place". How can an article be good enough for Connolly's magazine, but not good enough for its editor? I don't believe for a moment that he rejected the article out of a wish to protect Maugham's reputation, as evidenced by his catty remark.
What was an original title that WSM contemplated for his book Of Human Bondage? (I mean the actual novel, not its unpublished forerunner "The Trials of Philip Carey").
There are actually two answers one can give.
The Road Uphill
The Broad Road
A Winter's Day
The Day's March
and one that the publisher Heinemann had proposed
The latter WSM thought to be commonplace. He settled on "Of Human Bondage", taken from a chapter in Spinosa's 'Ethics'.
Now I ask you: Would we be as likely to know of this great novel if it originally had been named "Life's Thoroughfare"?
In any case, sholofsky, you get to pose the next triva question!
At any rate, to the business at hand. I don't know if this will be a tough one or not, but I found it interesting. Maugham always chose an initial for his first name William. In what classic novel of his is the possible reason for this revealed, and what might be the reason? I hope it's not cutting things too fine, but I'm looking for the literary answer, not any Maugham may have given in his autobiographical material or interviews.
With these alternatives, I think Willy is having fun with us and perhaps poking fun at himself.
The Vessel of Wrath?
The words in question are:
The dog it was that died.
And one hint: Maugham himself gives the answer in the novel, through the words of Waddington.
This seems to put a whole new light on Walter's behavior, to me at least. Does this not imply that he expected Kitty to die? I've wondered and debated over his actions in exposing Kitty to danger. If I'm interpreting his words correctly, he knew exactly what he was doing, and expected her not to survive. Or is there another interpretation possible?
It does seem so to me, too. Perhaps significantly, earlier in the novel Kitty did ask Walter point blank "Did you want me to die when you brought me here?" (or similar words to that effect), but he evaded the answer advising her to leave now, until she still can. Yet, no matter how he might have changed, his initial motives seem to have been quite similar to those in the story that apparently inspired Maugham. Very subtle of Maugham to give such a hint with the Elegy - and what an amazing sense of humour on Walter's side in his last minutes.
In this Elegy well-known among people for whom English is first language? I didn't know anything about it, of course, and it took me some time to find the complete poem, and all it implies. It fits the plot very neatly.
I have debated Walter's motives with a couple people, and we concluded that Maugham left them deliberately ambiguous. The meaning of the poem sheds new light on the issue. His motives and goals now seem to have been meant to be unclear earlier in the story, but resolved at the end. I guess if we modern readers had been more literate, we would not have been puzzled!
King's School, fifth form, 1889.
Re his use of an initial rather than full given name, I can easily imagine schoolboys taunting and hugely embarrassing a William by calling him Willie. The latter is in this part of the world a slang term, most often used by children, for penis.