W. Somerset Maugham was one of the seminal writers of the twentieth century, and his travel writing has long been considered among his finest work. Now, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer maps out a masterful tour of these vivid, evocative pieces that are collected here for the first time.
Maugham worked as a secret agent in Russia, published novels in London, staged plays in New York, and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, India, and the United States, chronicling his travels, wherever he went, with exceptional insight. Beginning with "In the Land of the Blessed Virgin" and culminating in "A Partial View," Iyer selects vignettes of Maugham's razor-sharp prose that track his transformation from a boyish traveler in Spain to a worldly man of letters.
This is Maugham at his most keenly observant, direct, and powerful.
From the Hardcover edition.
The first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief spell in Paris as a would-be artist, he settles in London to train as a doctor where he meets Mildred, the loud but irresistible waitress with whom he plunges into a tortured and masochistic affair.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
At the age of twenty-three, Charlie Mason is endowed with good looks, good manners and a happy disposition. Following three years at Cambridge and one in his father's business, he is now looking forward to a jaunt in Paris with Simon Fenimore, his oldest friend.Yet Paris is not what he expects. And in just a few days his young eyes are opened to the horror and ugly drama of its underworld.Published before the outbreak of war in 1939, Maugham's purpose in Christmas Holiday was to warn the complacent, insular British middle-class of the immense upheavals taking place on the Continent.
Looking out upon the backstreets, the suburbs and the high society haunts of Edwardian London, the delightfully witty and independent spinster Miss Ley surveys a tangled web of lives; she sympathetically observes the struggle under the pressures of convention, and the complex interplay between love and reason. Through Miss Ley's eyes we witness the brief but happy marriage of a dying poet; a woman's adulterous passion for a young rascal, and finally, an honourable man's decision to take virtue to extremes.
Kitty Fane is the beautiful but shallow wife of Walter, a bacteriologist stationed in Hong Kong. Unsatisfied by her marriage, she starts an affair with charming, attractive and exciting Charles Townsend. But when Walter discovers her deception, he exacts a strange and terrible vengeance: Kitty must accompany him to his new posting in remote mainland China, where a cholera epidemic rages...
First published to a storm of protest, The Painted Veil is a classic story of a woman's spiritual awakening.
Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence, as she calmly contemplates her disastrous marriage. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence that shatters her serenity. She turns for help to the notorious Rowley Flint, and through him comes to realise that to deny love, with all its passions and risks, is to deny life itself.
Far Eastern Tales is a collection of short stories born of Maugham's experiences in Malaya, Singapore and other outposts of the former British Empire. Whether portraying a ship-borne flight from a lover's curse, murder in the jungle, or a marriage shattered by a past indiscretion, they all reveal Maugham at his best - sometimes caustic, sometimes gently comic, but always the shrewd and human judge of character and soul.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE Cakes and Ale is both a wickedly satirical novel about contemporary literary poseurs and a skilfully crafted study of freedom. As he traces the fortunes of Edward Driffield and his extraordinary wife Rosie, one of the most delightful heroines of twentieth-century literature, Maugham's sardonic wit and lyrical warmth expertly combine in this accomplished and unforgettable novel.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY PAUL THEROUX Somerset Maugham's success as a writer enabled him to indulge his adventurous love of travel, and he recorded the sights and sounds of his wide-ranging journeys with an urbane, wry style all his own. The Gentleman in the Parlour is an account of the author's trip through what was then Burma and Siam, ending in Haiphong, Vietnam. Whether by river to Mandalay, on horse through the mountains and forests of the Shan States to Bangkok, or onwards by sea, Maugham's vivid descriptions bring a lost world to life.
Berta Ley comes of age, inherits her father's money and promptly marries a handsome, calm and unimaginative man. Bertha is wildly in love with Edward and believes she can be happy playing the role of a dutiful wife in their country home. But, intelligent and sensual, she quickly becomes bored by her oppressively conventional life, and finds her love for her husband slipping away.
Originally rejected by publishers, Mrs. Craddock was first published only on condition that certain 'shocking' passages were removed. It was thirty years before the full text could be published.
Maugham spent the winter months of 1919 travelling fifteen hundred miles up the Yangtze river. Always more interested in people than places, he noted down acute and finely crafted sketches of those he met on countless scraps of paper. In the resulting collection we encounter Western missionaries, army officers and company managers who are culturally out of their depth in the immensity of the Chinese civilisation. Maugham keenly observes, and gently ridicules, their dogged and oblivious persistence with the life they know.
Down among the drab slums of Lambeth, eighteen-year-old Liza is the darling of Vere Street. Vibrant and bewitching, she is adored by the steady, loyal Tom. But then Liza meets Jim Blakeston, charming and worldy, new to the area, and married. Soon the streets are wise to their passionate affair and Liza's fall from grace is fast and fatal. Written while Maugham was a medical student, and his first published novel, Liza of Lambeth is a vividly realistic portrayal of working-class London life.
Impelled by the desire to recapitulate and amplify those 'subjects that have chiefly interested me during the course of my life', Somerset Maugham wrote The Summing Up when he was sixty-four.Autobiographical without being an autobiography, confessional without disclosing the private self, The Summing UP is one of the most highly regarded expressions of a personal credo. It is not only a classic avowal of a professional author's ideas about style, literature, art, drama and philosophy, but also an illuminating insight into this great writer's craft
Maugham's studies of the lives and masterpieces of ten great novelists are outstanding examples of literary criticism at its finest. Afforded here are some of the formulae of greatness in the genre, as well as the flaws and heresies which enfeeble it. Written by a master of fiction, Ten Novels and Their Authors is a unique and invaluable guide.
Crippled sixteen-year-old Catalina is the one person unable to join in the festivities of the Feast of the Assumption. But then she has a vision of the Virgin, and is miraculously cured. In the dark days of the Spanish Inquisition, such a claim to blessedness has serious consequences, especially when Catalina seems more inclined to obey her heart than the demands of the Church.
The last of Maugham's novels, Catalina is a romantic celebration of Spain and a delightfully mischievous satire on absolutism.
The Vagrant Mood is a brilliantly varied and colourful collection of essays. From Kant to Raymond Chandler; from the legend of Zurbaran to the art of the detective story; from Burke to Augustus Hare, Somerset Maugham brings his inimitable mastery of the incisive character sketch to the genre of literary criticism
Eclectic and illuminating, these essays are the last that Maugham published. Ranging from an appreciation of Goethe's novels, to an encounter with an Indian holy man, with a considered analysis of the form at which Maugham himself excelled - the short story - they present the enduring views and opinions of this eminent writer.
Considered by Graham Greene to be Maugham's best work, Don Fernando is a paean to a golden age of enormous creative energy. It discusses the writings of St. Teresa and the paintings of El Greco, and comments with sagacity and wit on such illustrious figures as Cervantes, Velazquez and the creator of Don Juan. This vibrant assessment of a great people at their greatest hour is full of happy surprises, curious facts and stimulating opinions that reflect Maugham's lifelong enchantment with the landscape and people of Spain.
The third volume of Somerset Maugham's Collected Short Stories, introduced by the author, contains the celebrated series about Ashenden, a secret service agent in World War I. Based on Maugham's own experiences with the British Intelligence service in Switzerland, the stories are vignettes in which he dramatises both the romance and absurdity of espionage as well as its ruthlessness and brutality. Accountable only to 'R', Ashenden travels all over the Continent on assignments which entangle him with such characters as the traitor Grantley Caypor, the passionate Guilia Lazzari, and the sinister 'hairless Mexican'.
On his way home from a remote Pacific island, Dr Saunders travels with two strangers: the treacherous Captain Nichols, and Fred, a handsome Australian with a shadowy past. Driven to shelter from a storm on the island of Banda, the trio meet good-natured Erik Christessen and his fiancee, the cool and beautiful Louise. A tense, exotic tale of love, jealousy, murder and suicide, which evolved from a passage in Maugham's earlier masterpiece, The Moon and Sixpence.
From 1892, when he was eighteen, until 1949, when this book was first published, Somerset Maugham kept a notebook. It is without doubt one of his most important works. Part autobiographical, part confessional, packed with observations, confidences, experiments and jottings it is a rich and exhilarating admission into this great writer's workshop
Charles Strickland, a conventional stockbroker, abandons his wife and children for Paris and Tahiti, to live his life as a painter. Whilst his betrayal of family, duty and honour gives him the freedom to achieve greatness, his decision leads to an obsession which carries severe implications. Inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is at once a satiric caricature of Edwardian conventions and a vivid portrayal of the mentality of a genius.
Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of this spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brillant characters - his fiancee Isabel, whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliot Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. The most ambitious of Maugham's novels, this is also one in which Maugham himself plays a considerable part as he wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.
Julia Lambert is in her prime, the greatest actress in England. Off stage, however, she is bored with her handsome husband, coquettish and undisciplined. She is at first flattered and amused by the attentions of a shy and eager young fan, but before long Julia is amazed to find herself falling wildly, dangerously, in love.