The collected material here gives a unified view of Maugham's outlook on letters-his own and those of others. ""The aim of art is to please,"" he writes--and applies the thought to novels, plays, short stories. The first chapter of The Art of Fiction offers an opportunity to discuss the novel; the prefaces to The Collected Plays the drama and its audience; the introductions to The Complete Short Stories that art form, especially as practiced by de Maupassant and Chekhov (Maugham prefers the former's approach). There are notes as well on the drive and craft of creation from A Writer's Notebook and Of Human Bondage introductions. There is insight into Henry James and an extended piece on Rudyard Kipling (""wonderfully various""), and the list made up for The Traveller's Library. For those interested in Maugham's own approach to craft, this reads suavely although with few surprises.