Somerset Maugham, a life

by Meyers, Jeffrey.

Format: Print Book 2004
Availability: Available at 2 Libraries 2 of 2 copies
Available (2)
Location Collection Call #
C.C. Mellor Memorial Library Non Fiction 92 Maugham
Location  C.C. Mellor Memorial Library
Collection  Non Fiction
Call Number  92 Maugham
CLP - Main Library Second Floor - Non-fiction PR6025.A86 Z763 2004
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Second Floor - Non-fiction
Call Number  PR6025.A86 Z763 2004
He was an instinctive and magnificent storyteller, with a talent also for success.Of Human Bondagewas his masterpiece;The Razor's Edgehis most spectacular best-seller. He lived nearly ninety-two years, wrote seventy-eight books (forty million sold worldwide) and once had four plays running in London simultaneously. "Rain," reflecting his fascination with the South Seas, is among the most widely read stories of our time. In World War I, he performed expertly and courageously as ambulance driver and as secret agent in Samoa and Russia. Eventually he knew "everybody": Britain's, Hollywood's and literature's royalty. He was seen as formidable, a cynic and the very emblem of worldliness. He wrote constantly about social and sexual entanglements but, in a closeted age, was increasingly secretive about his own--loving men, wanting to love women. To the extraordinary life of Somerset Maugham and his development as a writer, Jeffrey Meyers brings all his gifts as biographer: of Hemingway ("simply the best book there is on Hemingway" --J. F. Powers), of Orwell ("moving and edifying" --Paul Theroux) and of D. H. Lawrence ("probably the best biography of him" --Times Literary Supplement). Telling Maugham's story, from his sad, orphaned childhood in the small English coastal town of Whitstable, through his Paris years and his wandering years, to his luxurious, indeed glamorous, old age at the Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat, Meyers reveals much that is new--about Maugham's days at Heidelberg and on Capri, his medical training, his wartime espionage, his quarrels with D. H. Lawrence and Edmund Wilson, his friendship with Noël Coward, and about his longtime lover, Gerald Haxton. He writes of Maugham's encounters with Winston Churchill, E. M. Forster, the Sitwells, T. S. Eliot, Bernard Berenson and the Windsors; of his affairs with four attractive and accomplished women; of his torturous ten-year marriage to one of them--Syrie, who became a celebrated decorator--and his wish to marry the actress Sue Jones, gentle, loving and promiscuous, who was his model for Rosie Driffield inCakes and Ale. Meyers describes Joseph Conrad's influence on Maugham and Maugham's on George Orwell and V. S. Naipaul. He provides a fascinating portrait of a brilliant and complex man whose talent has held and dazzled a cultivated audience from the late Victorian era to the twenty-first century.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Prolific biographer Meyers--whose previous subjects have included Lawrence, Hemingway, Orwell, Fitzgerald, and Humphrey Bogart--now adds writer W. Somerset Maugham to his long and distinguished bibliography. Most literary biographies are more about the works than the life, but Maugham is an exception. His novels, once best-sellers, are seldom read today, but he lived a life of some drama and no little intrigue (despite being a reserved, disciplined, and orderly man). During World War I, Maugham worked as a secret agent for the British government. Posted to Russia in 1917, he just happened to serve as chief saboteur for Britain and America in the months prior to the October Revolution. Maugham's restless wanderings--he resided for various periods of time in just about every exotic locale in the world--and his manifold sexual adventures (with a few women and many men) are explored in detail here, and they make for a fascinating story. An absorbing and readable biography. --Trygve Thoreson Copyright 2004 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "The long-lived and highly prolific Maugham (1874-1965) finds a sympathetic biographer in the similarly productive Meyers (George Orwell, etc.). This inveterate traveler was marked as a wanderer by his Parisian birth and early orphanhood-he journeyed from Europe and America to the South Seas and the Far East-and he was a natural for the secret service in civil war Russia. Maugham's largely unhappy existence culminated in unfulfilling luxury in exile, elusive critical approval in England and embittered misanthropy. After becoming a bestselling author and popular playwright, Maugham stayed away from England, as much to avoid its tax code as to conduct his secretive sex life away from draconian laws against homosexuality. Since Maugham preferred basing his work on real events from his travels and real people from his social circle, his biographer must provide plot summaries and decode identities. While this could be cruelly obvious, as in the reputation-wrecking portrait of the novelist Hugh Walpole in Cakes and Ale, Meyers finds a match for Of Human Bondage's Mildred in Maugham's one-time companion Harry Philips, and, in general, he diligently collates fiction and fact. While Maugham was clearly important in the literary world, Meyers's high estimation of him, compared with his rivals and betters such as Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence and Joseph Conrad, is not fully convincing. Maugham's characteristically harsh but accurate verdict on his own position as "in the very first row of the second-raters" trumps Meyers's praise and reassessment, but Meyers does show how Maugham maintained, through determination as much as talent, the longest successful career in English letters. 55 photos. (Feb. 20) FYI: Vintage's reissue of The Painted Veil coincides with this biography's publication. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Maugham, W. Somerset -- (William Somerset), -- 1874-1965.
Authors, English -- 20th century -- Biography.
Publisher New York :Knopf :2004
Distributed by Random House,
Edition 1st ed.
Other Titles Somerset Maugham
Language English
Description xvi, 411 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Filmography: pages 398-400.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 395-397) and index.
ISBN 0375414754
Other Classic View