Five essays which reveal Maugham in a somewhat different role for here charity overtakes cynicism, and he has chosen, for the most part, unusual figures, and approached them from a personal rather than critical angle. ""After all, it is the personality of the author that gives his work its special interest"". In writing of Goethe, he uses his novels rather than his poetry to synthesize the man and the characters he created. In this essay, and in one other, on the short story, he expands to some extent on his own theories of writing. And in writing of the short story, his focus is on representative writers on the 19th century, read in preparation for his anthology, Maupassant, Poe, Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield. The other three essays deal with relatively less known figures; The Saint was the Maharshi, a mystic scholar met in India in 1936; Dr. Tillotson, a 17th century divine, whose career involved him in religious dissensions and political scandals, but whose sermons as Archbishop of Canterbury were internationally famous. The final essay, in many ways the most extraordinary, deals with the disagreable egotists- the Goncourt brothers- and the little group they attracted.... Mr. Maugham has announced that this is his last book. He has made a great and varied contribution in sixty years of publishing.