W Somerset Maugham – the ‘compassionate cynic’!

Somerset Maugham is my favourite writer and I like his work across genres – novels, plays, short stories and non-fictional writing.

He is best known for being a popular short story writer who could follow the conventional form of it having a beginning, a middle and an end (usually with a nice twist)! Anyone who discovers him cannot get enough of his writings.

By: Print Collector Collection: Hulton Archive Courtesy Getty Images
By: Print Collector
Collection: Hulton Archive
Courtesy Getty Images

Known for his naturalism, Maugham never hesitated to call a spade by its name and is wrongly accused of being cynical. Cyril Connolly perhaps paid him the greatest tribute by calling him the ‘compassionate cynic’.

Maugham’s self-assessment was straightforward – ‘But if to look truth in the face and not resent it when it is unpalatable, and take human nature as you find it, smiling when it is absurd and grieved without exaggeration when it is pitiful, is to be cynical, then I suppose I am a Cynic. Mostly human nature is both absurd and pitiful, but if life has taught you tolerance you find in it more to smile at than to weep’.

I plan to write reviews of most of his popular work and my list so far includes as appended –

# Title My Review Link
1 Mrs Craddock http://wp.me/p44iYk-10P
2 Of Human Bondage http://wp.me/p44iYk-zY
3 The Moon and Sixpence http://wp.me/p44iYk-FJ
4 The Painted Veil http://wp.me/p44iYk-wd
5 Cakes and Ale http://wp.me/p44iYk-yn
6 The Narrow Corner http://wp.me/p44iYk-x5
7 Theatre http://wp.me/p44iYk-VV
8 The Razor’s Edge http://wp.me/p44iYk-tF
9 A Writer’s Notebook http://wp.me/p44iYk-Ow
10 Short Stories – Rain, The Back of Beyond, ‘The Outstation & Mackintosh’ The Door of Opportunity, The Lotus Eater, and The Kite http://wp.me/p44iYk-ow
11 W Somerset Maugham – the ‘compassionate cynic’! http://wp.me/p44iYk-1hU
12 Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham http://wp.me/p44iYk-1tC
13 Somerset Maugham’s play – ‘The Circle’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1tI
14 Somerset Maugham’s play – ‘The Constant Wife’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1tO
15 Somerset Maugham’s Rain http://wp.me/p44iYk-1tU
16 Somerset Maugham’s ‘Letter’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1uT
17 Somerset Maugham’s ‘Vessel of Wrath’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1uX
18 Somerset Maugham Short Stories -‘Creature of Circumstance’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1v1
19 Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Book-Bag’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1ve
20 Maugham’s ‘The Back of Beyond’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1vo
21 Maugham’s ‘Before The Party’ http://wp.me/p44iYk-1vs
22 Ashenden spy stories by Maugham http://wp.me/p44iYk-1vy
23 Maugham the masterly story teller … http://wp.me/p44iYk-1AG
24 Maugham’s last play – Sheppey! http://wp.me/p44iYk-1TC

No serious reading of Maugham can be regarded to be complete if one does not read his magnum opus – ‘Of Human Bondage’.  It is a true classic that has not become unfashionable so far. Notwithstanding its tome-like length and the fact that it was first published in 1915, I hope it continues to find new patrons like a wine that gets better with age. The challenge is to sustain one’s interest for the first 300 pages but beyond that voilà! – you then discover the skull beneath the skin.

And I have no doubt in my mind that one needs to revisit this classic once in every ten years to discover it further because inherently one begins with a limited view and experience of life that can be assuaged only by the passage of time.   It is meant for anyone who knows the joy of reading.To use the Master’s favourite double negatives, I am sure that you will not find it unreadable.

“When you are young you take the kindness people show you as your right.” Savour vintage Maugham wit for starters.

By: Print Collector Collection: Hulton Archive Courtesy Getty Images
By: Print Collector
Collection: Hulton Archive
Courtesy Getty Images
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