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Edited by Somerset Maugham

Wyatt Mason: Bedtime stories for adults

17 March 2005
Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes 
by J. Robert Lennon.
Granta, 213 pp., £10, March 2005, 1 86207 740 1
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... In 1945, SomersetMaugham contributed a list to Redbook magazine of what were, in his opinion, ‘the ten best novels in the world’. Maugham’s choices were neither surprising nor controversial (War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Moby-Dick) but in a note that accompanied his list, he suggested that ‘the wise reader’ will ‘get the ...

Maughamisms

Elizabeth Mavor

18 July 1985
A Traveller in Romance 
by W. Somerset Maugham, edited by John Whitehead.
Muller, Blond and White, 275 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 85634 184 3
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... I’, declares a mysterious character in one of the short sketches that makes up this collection of fugitive pieces, ‘am a Traveller in Romance.’ It does not seem an apt title for SomersetMaugham, for apart from a passing whim to end his days at Angkor Wat, he strikes one as very little tinged with romance. He describes himself as ‘more inclined to look forward than to look back’, as ...

I only want the OM

Christopher Tayler: Somerset Maugham

1 September 2005
Somerset MaughamA Life 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Vintage, 411 pp., £12, April 2005, 1 4000 3052 8
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... In Cakes and Ale (1930), William SomersetMaugham has Willie Ashenden – his narrator and stand-in – explain that, in reputation-building terms, ‘longevity is genius.’ He comes out with this idea while discussing the case of his friend Edward ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham

17 December 2009
The Secret Lives of Somerset​ Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... In his lifetime, SomersetMaughamwas the most successful writer in the Anglophone world. By the time he was 90, 80 million copies of his books had been sold, he was a media celebrity and a very rich man. He had also lived, as Selina ...

Diners-out

E.S. Turner

3 July 1986
Augustus Hare: Victorian Gentleman 
by Malcolm Barnes.
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £20, May 1986, 9780049201002
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Midway on the Waves 
by James Lees-Milne.
Faber, 248 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 571 13723 7
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... After his first novel was published, SomersetMaughamwas a frequent guest at Holmhurst, in Sussex, of that indiscreet memoirist, Augustus Hare, then in his sixties. At morning worship, with the servants, Maugham noticed that the wording of the prayers ...

Diary

Susannah Clapp: On Angela Carter

12 March 1992
... Fans such as Kingsley Amis and Anthony Burgess praise Ballard to the skies but they themselves are classified differently, as, God help us, “serious writers” in comparison.’ She won the SomersetMaugham Award in 1968 (and described with some pleasure how she used the money to run away from her first husband: ‘I’m sure SomersetMaughamwould have been very pleased’), but she never wo...

Motoring

Frank Kermode: James Lees-Milne

30 November 2000
Deep Romantic Chasm: Diaries 1979-81 
by James Lees-Milne, edited by Michael Bloch.
Murray, 276 pp., £22.50, October 2000, 0 7195 5608 2
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A Mingled Measure: Diaries 1953-72 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 325 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 5609 0
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Ancient as the Hills: Diaries 1973-74 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 6200 7
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... in these books would have eliminated shyness for ever. Many of his women friends are named after counties or important metropolitan districts: Diana Westmoreland, Sally Westminster, Caroline Somerset, Deborah Devonshire. Numerous acquaintances identified in the text by their quite ordinary first names turn out, in the footnotes, to be dukes or earls. Some, by a process of dynastic agglutination ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley

1 June 1989
The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... wife Louise and his girlfriend Helen afford a ready-made tableau like Orestes and Hermione and Andromaque. The complete arbitrariness available to the Classical stage is so cunningly naturalised that we hardly notice at first reading how the parts have been taken from the contrivance of stage dilemmas, with the categories and imperatives of Roman Catholic doctrine acting as the indispensable prison ...

Man Who Burned

Adam Kuper: James Brooke

12 December 2002
White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke 
by Nigel Barley.
Little, Brown, 262 pp., £16.99, October 2002, 0 316 85920 6
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... In 1921, a boat carrying SomersetMaugham upriver in Borneo capsized in eight-foot waves, and for half an hour the writer clung desperately to the wreckage. ‘At last, helped by some of the crew,’ a district officer reported, ‘Maugham ...

German Jew

Michael Irwin

17 April 1980
The Missing Years 
by Walter Laqueur.
Weidenfeld, 281 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 297 77707 6
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Jack be nimble 
by Nigel Williams.
Secker, 213 pp., £5.50, March 1980, 0 436 57155 2
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Identity Papers 
by Anthony Cronin.
Co-op Books, 194 pp., £4.50, February 1980, 0 905441 23 0
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Narrow Rooms 
by James Purdy.
Black Sheep Books, 185 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 906538 60 2
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Six Moral Tales 
by Eric Rohmer, translated by Sabine d’Estrée.
Lorrimer, 252 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 85647 075 9
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... and verisimilitude of that work. But Defoe’s handling of anecdote and descriptive detail agitates the imagination as Dr Lasson’s rather flat story-telling does not. Nigel Williams, who won the SomersetMaugham Award for Fiction in 1978, has produced a second novel, which shows plenty of talent but is rather a mess. Its hero, Jack Warliss, a writer of sorts, invents a series of aliases for himself ...
23 May 1985
Mrs Henderson, and Other Stories 
by Francis Wyndham.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.50, April 1985, 0 224 02306 3
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... provide more than the barest minimum of characterisation, narrative structure or plot,’ unquote. Did you notice that ‘authoress’? Well, there’s a giveaway, for a start. I mean, this is 1979 we’re living in, right? No wonder this bigoted ignoramus can’t understand that my emphasis on the theme of menstruation is merely a reworking of the Little Red Riding Hood myth in a postmodernist ...

Suiting yourself

Peter Campbell

27 July 1989
I Modi. The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of Renaissance Italy 
by Lynne Lawner.
Northwestern, 132 pp., $35.95, February 1989, 0 8101 0803 8
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The Dress of the Venetians 1495-1525 
by Stella Mary Newton.
Scolar, 196 pp., £28.50, December 1988, 0 85967 735 4
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Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: René Bouët-Willamez and Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: Carl Erickson 
by William Parker.
Joseph, 128 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 86350 198 2
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Women and Fashion 
by Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton.
Quartet, 184 pp., £15, March 1989, 0 7043 2691 4
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... tucks and gussets into the background; the little fictions of the fashion feature which, in the Forties and Fifties, brought to mind a scene from a novel by Elizabeth Bowen, or a short story by SomersetMaugham, expanded to include Genet, The Story of O and comic books. Evans and Thornton spend some time analysing the feminist position on femininity, and here the disapproving tones of 15th-century ...

Pouting

Karl Miller: Smiley and Bingham

9 May 2013
A Delicate Truth 
by John le Carré.
Viking, 310 pp., £18.99, April 2013, 978 0 670 92279 6
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The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 308 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 513 6
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... and liberal faggots. So much for the CIA, which is included, along with certain of its detractors, among the novel’s dislikes. The native baddies explain that the British don’t do rendition, and we are left to feel that Americans do. The progressive politics noticeable in the books evokes, at times, the politics of the courageous former Foreign Office diplomat, Carne Ross, to whom ...

Vicious Poke in the Eye

Theo Tait: Naipaul’s fury

4 November 2004
Magic Seeds 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 294 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 330 48520 2
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... Willie Chandran asked his father one day: "Why is my middle name Somerset?”’ So begins Half a Life, the strange and chilling novel that V.S. Naipaul published in 2001 – thirty years or so after he first pronounced the novel a dying form. The story begins in the 1930s ...

Dry Eyes

John Bayley

5 December 1991
Jump and Other Stories 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1020 2
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Wilderness Tips 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 247 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 1019 9
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... she went through the barrier into the passport and security area. The plane blows up in mid-air. The trouble is that a story can have nothing to add to such an event. Like Mérimée or Maupassant or SomersetMaugham, Nadine Gordimer seems most at home when no commentary is necessary: most of all when even an implicit ideology can be sidetracked. ‘A Find’ is about a man powerful and prosperous enough ...

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