George Orwell , etc.). This invet"/>

SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A Life

Jeffrey Meyers, Author . Knopf $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-375-41475-6

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.

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.