Somerset Maugham

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Somerset Maugham

Dic 28, 2019, 8:48am

1. Could someone please do a review of the LEC published 'Of Human Bondage'? I was not inclined to purchase it because the few illustrations i saw of this book (online) did not seem to be particularly impressive, and because i already own a copy of it published by Folio Society.

2. Did LEC ever publish 'The Moon and Six Pence'? I own a copy of this book published by Heritage Press, and another copy published by Easton Press, and it would have been nice to have an LEC copy of it.

3. I was unable to find a copy of 'The Razor's Edge' in either an LEC edition or a Heritage edition although it seems to have been published by Easton Press. Any recommendations or insights about which published copy of this book would be good for reading?

4. Did LEC or Heritage Press publish anything else written by Maugham?

Dic 28, 2019, 9:14am

I can answer a few of these.
1) At the present time I don't have a copy of Of Human Bondage, but if I buy a copy I assure you it'll be reviewed on my blog:

2) The Moon and Sixpence is a Heritage exclusive.

3/4) Unfortunately Maugham only had the two works previously mentioned published by either the LEC or Heritage Press. Easton does print its own work on top of owning the Heritage Press back catalog, so it's probable they pulled their edition from another source.

Hope that helps!

Dic 28, 2019, 9:41am

thank you. just so you know i've been reading your blog for quite some time now. i've made some purchases based on what you've written in your blog.

Dic 28, 2019, 10:09am

3) I appreciate you letting me know that! ^_^

Dic 28, 2019, 9:39pm

>1 blue.eyes:
I own a copy of the "Of Human Bondage", though I have not read it yet. It has an introduction specially written by Dreiser for LEC edition, which to me is already a significant bonus. The bindings of the two volumes are made of a nice cloth. (The spines of my copies are slightly sunned, unfortunately, but it is not a big deal to me.) The etchings of John Sloan are VERY nicely reproduced in this edition, and they look interesting to me, though, of course, I cannot judge yet how appropriate they are to the text since I have not read the novel.
The paper has a good feel under my fingers, and the presswork looks excellent to me.
Anything else, besides a comment that slipcase is just a usual LEC slipcase, would be to comment on the actual work, which I cannot do now.
All I can say is the books seem very comfortable to read, because of the size and because the work was divided into two volumes, and I know I will enjoy reading the novel when I get to it.
I hope this somewhat helps.

Editado: Dic 28, 2019, 10:22pm

These have been on my radar to review for The Whole Book Experience blog for a while. I read the intro with interest and just have to get to the novel itself. I've been off old white men writers for a while but he's higher up the queue than most as a LGBTQIA writer. I concur with what >5 booksforreading: says above with regards to my first impressions.

Dic 29, 2019, 2:22pm

The LEC {Of Human Bondage is a much sought-after and expensive (in Fine condition) edition. Prices on the Biblio site for Near Fine or better run $300--$500. I'm not sure whether this is due to the etchings by John Sloan, a major American artist, founder and "premier artist" of the Ashcan School, or the popularity of Maugham's novel, considered his masterpiece, and one of the few contemporary novels published by the LEC.

The production itself is typical of the superb quality of early LEC editions (a quality unmatched by all but the private presses today whose works sell for usually double of what even the higher-priced copies of this LEC sell for). The typography and letterpress is superb, as one would expect coming from C.P. Rollins at the Yale University Press, the paper is excellent, though not luxurious, which seems right for this story, and the original etchings are a major plus from the collector's standpoint. As for the aptness of the illustrations, however, I have to say that they are not on a par with Sloan's other work, or, in a roughly similar vein, Reginald Marsh's for Sister Carrie. They are superbly executed, with a knowing eye for period detail, but they lack the dramatic force of the story itself, which is sometimes almost overpowering in its merciless examination of the characters, especially of the hapless Philip (Maugham's alter ego). I am perhaps unduly influenced by having seen the famous 1934 film version, which while softening some of the bitter self-loathing of the main character in the novel, is carried triumphantly by the performances of Leslie Howard as Philip and Bette Davis as Mildred. These are the images I had in my mind when I read the novel, originally in an unillustrated paperback edition, and when I acquired the LEC much later, I felt that the illustrator had not been able to achieve that level of intensity.

The story itself is one that, as I observed above, is as powerful as the experience of having a stranger expose his nakedness to you, not the nakedness of a pinup model, but of an ordinary human with a physical defect. Philip's character, who has much promise due to an above-average intelligence and a fine, sensitive nature, is thwarted by his own awareness of his club foot and his belief in how this affects how others see him, and by his own inability to control his impulsive desires.

I am a fervent admirer of Maugham as a writer, and this work is his most honest and personal work. Although both The Moon and Sixpence and The Razor's Edge are very fine, Of Human Bondage deserves its reputation. I have not read Cakes and Ale, which I have in a Folio Society edition, and one of my favorite Folio Society publication is the 4-volume collection of short stories, which includes the Ashenden stories, which show what being a British secret agent is like far more than Fleming's james Bond, and some of Maugham's brilliant tales set in the South Pacific, such as "Rain" and "The Letter."

Maugham famously described his literary position as being in "the front row of the second-rate," but stories such as the ones I mentioned, and Of Human Bondage IMO belong in the first-rate section of 20th century English literature.

Editado: Dic 30, 2019, 8:38pm

Thanks for the details, Django. Some literary connoisseurs I have spoken with tell me that they consider Maugham's short stories to be, in general, better than his novels. Of his short stories that I've read so far, my favorite was 'Rain'. I have not yet read the Ashenden stories although i own the four volume Folio Society edition of his stories which you refer to.

I read 'Of Human Bondage' a long time ago, and i had one regret after reading it: the book is said to be autobiographical, but there is one particular aspect of the protagonist's personality which Maugham had changed from his own. Maugham had suffered from a severe stutter ( i wonder if it became better as he aged; he must have eventually had access to the best speech therapy available in his times) and this was replaced by Philip's club foot. If Philip had also had the severe stutter, rather than the club foot, the shame, humiliation, and pain (including the pain of being taunted as in when the word 'cripple' was shouted at him by the woman he once loved) that Philip experienced would have presumably been more authentic since it would have been based on personal experience.

I would appreciate any recommendation for the best available edition of 'The Razor's Edge'. I ask because this particular book has unfortunately not been published either by LEC or Heritage Press or Folio Society.

Dic 31, 2019, 6:15pm

The only Maugham I have read is Ashenden, or the British Agent. As I remember, it was an excellent read. The only one my wife has read is The Razor's Edge, which she highly recommends. Inasmuch as both she and several of you think highly of the latter, perhaps it would behoove me to read it!

Ene 1, 2020, 11:33am

>8 blue.eyes: Easton Press has a nice edition of The Razor’s Edge in leather (2009).

Ene 1, 2020, 3:03pm

>10 HugoDumas: Fairly rare and quite expensive.

Jul 6, 2020, 10:24pm

Boom! Just finished. It will take some time for me to gather my thoughts and review it for The Whole Book Experience and there are one or two reviews in front of it but hopefully soon...

Oct 19, 2020, 6:53pm

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