SOMERSET MAUGHAM AND HIS WORLD by Frederic Raphael

SOMERSET MAUGHAM AND HIS WORLD

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This series on ""A Writer. . . and His World"" has ranged (alphabetically) from James Boswell to Richard Wagner. The books have competent texts, on the whole, with lavish and splendidly integrated illustrations, at an affordable price; Raphael's book is no exception. He has found a wealth of appropriate photographs, and provided a chronology, a brief bibliography, a list of illustrations, and an index. He has recounted the life, a various story. After a number of rejections, the young doctor practicing on London's South Bank in 1897 published Lisa of Lambeth, an instant success. Within the space of a very few years the stuttering young man who had not known how to tip the servants of his society hosts had fame, a Mayfair address, and plenty of money. This would have been a happy story had it concluded then. Life is not so artful; the pathos is that Maugham survived so many, many years, dying in 1965 at the age of 91. Oh yes, there were good episodes later: the travels in the Orient with his secretary-companion, the acquiring of Impressionist paintings, the furnishing of the fabulous Villa Mauresque on the Riviera, and its restoration after WW II. But one feels that these were amusements, not passions, amusements designed to compensate for the pains of a fouled marriage, personal losses, and a critical reception that never matched his ambitions. Indeed, the critics speak now of Maugham as they once did of Rudyard Kipling, with whom he has so much terrain in common. Kipling seems to be moving up in the market; perhaps in time Maugham will too. If so, the change may owe something to this book, and its thoughtful final paragraph.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1977
Publisher: Scribners