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[Preface to The Complete Short Stories: East and West, Doubleday, 1953 [1934], pp. v-xx:]

This book contains thirty stories.[1] They are all about the same length and on the same scale. The first was written in 1919 and the last in 1931. Though in early youth I had written a number of short stories, for a long time, twelve or fifteen years at least, occupied with the drama, I had ceased to do so; and when a journey to the South Seas [1916/17] unexpectedly provided me with themes that seemed to suit the medium, it was as a beginner of over forty that I wrote the story which is now called Rain. Since it caused some little stir the reader of this preface will perhaps have patience with me if I transcribe the working notes, made at the time, on which it was constructed. They are written in hackneyed and slipshod phrases, without grace; for nature has not endowed me with the happy gift of hitting instinctively upon the perfect word to indicate an object and the unusual but apt adjective to describe it. I was travelling from Honolulu to Pago Pago and, hoping they might at some time be of service, I jotted down as usual my impressions of such of my fellow-passengers as attracted my attention. This is what I said of Miss Thompson: “Plump, pretty in a coarse fashion, perhaps not more than twenty-seven. She wore a white dress and a large white hat, long white boots from which the calves bulged in cotton stockings.” There had been a raid on the Red Light district in Honolulu just before we sailed and the gossip of the ship spread the report that she was making the journey to escape arrest. My notes go on: “W. The Missionary. He was a tall thin man, with long limbs loosely jointed, he had hollow cheeks and high cheek bones, his fine, large, dark eyes were deep in their sockets, he had full sensual lips, he wore his hair rather long. He had a cadaverous air and a look of suppressed fire. His hands were large, with long fingers, rather finely shaped. His naturally pale skin was deeply burned by the tropical sun. Mrs. W. His Wife. She was a little woman with her hair very elaborately done, New England; not prominent blue eyes behind gold-rimmed pince-nez, her face was long like a sheep’s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of extreme alertness. She had the quick movements of a bird. The most noticeable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic, and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony, irritating to the nerves like the ceaseless clamour of a pneumatic drill. She was dressed in black and wore round her neck a gold chain from which hung a small cross. She told me that W. was a missionary on the Gilberts and his district consisting of widely separated islands he frequently had to go distances by canoe. During this time she remained at headquarters and managed the mission. Often the seas were very rough and the journeys were not without peril. He was a medical missionary. She spoke of the depravity of the natives in a voice which nothing could hush, but with a vehement, unctuous horror, telling me of their marriage customs which were obscene beyond description. She said, when first they went it was impossible to find a single good girl in any of the villages. She inveighed against dancing.[”] I talked with the missionary and his wife but once, and with Miss Thompson not at all. Here is the note for the story: “A prostitute, flying from Honolulu after a raid, lands at Pago Pago. There lands there also a missionary and his wife. Also the narrator. All are obliged to stay there owing to an outbreak of measles. The missionary finding out her profession persecutes her. He reduces her to misery, shame, and repentance, he has no mercy on her. He induces the governor to order her return to Honolulu. One morning he is found with his throat cut by his own hand and she is once more radiant and self-possessed. She looks at men and scornfully exclaims: dirty pigs.”

[…]

So far as I could remember it I have placed the stories in this volume in the order in which they were written. I thought it might possibly interest the reader to see how I had progressed from the tentativeness of the first ones, when I was very much at the mercy of my anecdote, to the relative certainty of the late ones when I had learnt so to arrange my material as to attain the result I wanted. Though all but two have been published in a magazine these stories were not written with that end in view. When I began to write them I was fortunately in a position of decent independence and I wrote them as a relief from work which I thought I had been too long concerned with. It is often said that stories are no better than they are because editors of magazines insist on their being written to a certain pattern. This has not been my experience. All but Rain and The Book-Bag were published in the Cosmopolitan Magazine and Ray Long, the Editor, never put pressure on me to write other as I wished. Sometimes the stories were cut and this is reasonable since no editor can afford one contributor more than a certain amount of space; but I was never asked to make the smallest alteration to suit what might be supposed to be the taste of the readers. Ray Long paid me for them not only with good money, but with generous appreciation. I did not value this less. We authors are simple, childish creatures and we treasure a word of praise from those who buy our wares. Most of them were written in groups from notes made as they occurred to me, and in each group I left naturally enough to the last those that seemed most difficult to write. A story is difficult to write when you do not know all about it from the beginning, but for part of it must trust to your imagination and experience. Sometimes the curve does not intuitively present itself and you have to resort to this method and that to get the appropriate line.

I beg the reader not to be deceived by the fact that a good many of the stories are told in the first person into thinking that they are experiences of my own. This is merely a device to gain verisimilitude. It is one that has its defects, for it may strike the reader that the narrator could not know all the events he sets forth; and when he tells a story in the first person at one remove, when he reports, I mean, a story that someone tells him, it may very well seem that the speaker, a police officer[2], for example, or a sea-captain[3], could never have expressed himself with such facility and such elaboration. Every convention has its disadvantages. These must be as far as possible disguised and what cannot be disguised must be accepted. The advantage of this one is its directness. It makes it possible for the writer to tell no more than he knows. Making no claim to omniscience, he can frankly say when a motive or an occurrence is unknown to him, and thus often give his story a plausibility that it might otherwise lack. It tends also to put the reader on intimate terms with the author. Since Maupassant and Chekov, who tried so hard to be objective, nevertheless are so nakedly personal, it has sometimes seemed to me that if the author can in no way keep himself out of his work it might be better if he put in as much of himself as possible. The danger is that he may put in too much and thus be as boring as a talker who insists on monopolizing the conversation. Like all conventions this one must be used with discretion. The reader may have observed that in the original note of Rain the narrator was introduced, but in the story as written omitted.

Three of the stories in this volume were told me and I had nothing to do but to make them probable, coherent and dramatic. They are The Letter, Footprints in the Jungle and The Book-Bag. The rest were invented, as I have shown Rain was, by the accident of my happening upon persons here and there, who in themselves or from something I heard about them suggested a theme that seemed suitable for a short story. This brings me to a topic that has always concerned writers and that has at times given the public, the writer’s raw material, some uneasiness. There are authors who state that they never have a living model in mind when they create a character. I think they are mistaken. They are of this opinion because they have not scrutinized with sufficient care the recollections and impressions upon which they have constructed the person who, they fondly imagine, is of their invention. If they did they would soon discover that, unless he was taken from some book they had read, a practice by no means uncommon, he was suggested by one or more persons they had at one time known or seen. The great writers of the past made no secret of the fact that their characters were founded on living people. We know that the good Sir Walter Scott, a man of the highest principle, portrayed his father, with sharpness first and then, when the passage of years had changed his temper, with tolerance; Henri Beyle, in the manuscript of at least one of his novels, has written in at the side the names of the real persons who were his models; and this is what Turgenev himself says: “For my part, I ought to confess that I never attempted to create a type without having, not an idea, but a living person, in whom the various elements were harmonized together, to work from. I have always needed some groundwork on which I could tread firmly.” […] It looks as though the practice were very common. I should have said it was necessary and inevitable. Its convenience is obvious. You are much more likely to depict a character who is a recognizable human being, with his own individuality, if you have a living model. The imagination can create nothing out of the void. It needs the stimulus of sensation. […] The whole affair would be plain sailing if it were not for the feelings of the persons concerned. The writer has to consider the vanity of the human race and the Schadenfreude which is one of its commonest and most detestable failings. A man’s friends will find pleasure in recognizing him in a book and though the author may never even have seen him will point out to him, especially if it is unflattering, what they consider his living image. Often someone will recognize a trait he knows in himself or a description of the place he lives in and in his conceit jumps to the conclusion that the character described is a portrait of himself. Thus in the story called The Outstation the Resident was suggested by a British Consul I had once known in Spain and it was written ten years after his death, but I have heard that the Resident of a district in Sarawak, which I described in the story, was much affronted because he thought I had had him in mind. The two men had not a trait in common. I do not suppose any writer attempts to draw an exact portrait. Nothing, indeed, is so unwise as to put into a work of fiction a person drawn line by line from life. His values are all wrong, and, strangely enough, he does not make the other characters in the story seem false, but himself. He never convinces. […] The created character, the result of imagination founded on fact, is art, and life in the raw, as we know, is of this only the material. The odd thing is that when the charge is made that an author has copied this person or the other from life, emphasis is laid only on his less praiseworthy characteristics. If you say of a character that he is kind to his mother, but beats his wife, everyone will cry: Ah, that’s Brown, how beastly to say he beats his wife; and no one thinks for a moment of Jones and Robinson who are notoriously kind to their mothers. I draw from this the somewhat surprising conclusion that we know our friends by their vices and not by their virtues. I have stated that I never even spoke to Miss Thompson in Rain. This is a character that the world has not found wanting in vividness. Though but one of a multitude of writers my practice is doubtless common to most, so that I may be permitted to give another instance of it. I was once asked to meet at dinner two persons, a husband and wife, of whom I was told only what the reader will shortly read. I think I never knew their names. I should certainly not recognize them if I met them in the street. Here are the notes I made at the time. “A stout, rather pompous man of fifty, with pince-nez, gray-haired, a florid complexion, blue eyes, a neat gray moustache. He talks with assurance. He is a resident of an outlying district and is somewhat impressed with the importance of his position. He despises the men who have let themselves go under the influence of the climate and the surroundings. He has travelled extensively during his short leaves in the East and knows Java, the Philippines, the coast of China and the Malay Peninsula. He is very British, very patriotic; he takes a great deal of exercise. He has been a very heavy drinker and always took a bottle of whiskey to bed with him. His wife has entirely cured him and now he drinks nothing but water. She is a little insignificant woman, with sharp features, thin, with a sallow skin and a flat chest. She is very badly dressed. She has all the prejudices of an Englishwoman. All her family for generations have been in second-rate regiments. Except that you know that she has caused her husband to cease drinking entirely you would think her quite colourless and unimportant.” On these materials I invented the story which is called Before the Party. I do not believe that any candid person could think that these two people had cause for complaint because they had been made use of. It is true that I should never have thought of the story if I had not met them, but anyone who takes the trouble to read it will see how insignificant was the incident (the taking of the bottle to bed) that suggested it and how differently the two chief characters have in the course of writing developed from the brief sketch which was their foundation.

[…]

There is evidently something that a number of people do not like in my stories and it is this they try to express when they damn them with the faint praise of competence. I have a notion that it is the definiteness of their form. I hazard the suggestion (perhaps unduly flattering to myself) because this particular criticism has never been made in France where my stories have had with the critics and the public much greater success than they have had in England. The French, with their classical sense and their orderly minds, demand a precise form and are exasperated by a work in which the ends are left lying about, themes are propounded and not resolved and a climax is foreseen and then eluded. This precision on the other hand has always been slightly antipathetic to the English. Our great novels have been shapeless and this, far from disconcerting their readers, has given them a sense of security. This is the life we know, they have thought, with the arbitrariness and inconsequence; we can put out of our minds the irritating thought that two and two make four. […] My prepossessions in the arts are on the side of law and order. I like a story that fits. I did not take to writing stories seriously till I had had much experience as a dramatist, and this experience taught to me leave out everything that did not serve the dramatic value of my story. It taught me to make incident follow incident in such a manner as to lead up to the climax I had in mind. I am not unaware of the disadvantages of this method. It gives a tightness of effect that is sometimes disconcerting. You feel that life does not dovetail into its various parts with such neatness. In life stories straggle, they begin nowhere and tail off without a point. This is probably what Chekov meant when he said that stories should have neither a beginning nor an end. It is certain that sometimes it gives you a sensation of airlessness when you see persons who behave so exactly according to character, and incidents that fall into place with such perfect convenience. The story-teller of this kind aims not only at giving his feelings about life, but at a formal decoration. He arranges life to suit his purposes. He follows a design in his mind, leaving out this and changing that; he distorts facts to his advantage, according to his plan; and when he attains his object he produces a work of art. It may be that life slips through his fingers; then he has failed; it may be that he seems sometimes so artificial that you cannot believe him, and you do not believe a story-teller he is done. When he succeeds he has forced you for a time to accept his view of the universe and has given you the pleasure of following out the pattern he has drawn on the surface of chaos. But he seeks to prove nothing. He paints a picture and sets it before you. You can take it or leave it.

[From A Writer's Notebook, Doubleday & Company, 1949, pp. 80, 110-11, 213:]

[1901]

They were talking about V.F. whom they’d all known. She published a volume of passionate love poems, obviously not addressed to her husband. It made them laugh to think that she’d carried on a long affair under his nose, and they’d have given anything to know what he felt when at last he read them.

This note gave me the idea for a story which I wrote forty years later. It is called ‘The Colonel’s Lady’.

[…]

[1916]

The missionary. He was a tall thin man, with long limbs loosely jointed, hollow cheeks and high cheekbones; his fine, large dark eyes were deep in their sockets, and he had full sensual lips; he wore his hair rather long. He had a cadaverous look, and a look of suppressed fire. His hands were large, rather finely shaped, with long fingers, and his naturally pale skin was deeply burned by the Pacific sun.

Mrs W., his wife, was a little woman with her hair very elaborately done, with prominent blue eyes behind gold-rimmed pince-nez; her face was long, like a sheep’s, but she gave no impression of foolishness, rather of extreme alertness. She had the quick movements of a bird. The most noticeable thing about her was her voice, high, metallic and without inflection; it fell on the ear with a hard monotony, irritating the nerves like the clamour of a pneumatic drill. She was dressed in black, and wore round her neck a thin gold chain from which hung a small cross. She was a New Englander.

Mrs W. told me that her husband was a medical missionary, and as his district (Gilberts) consisted of widely separated islands, he frequently had to go long distances by canoe. The sea was often rough and his journeys were not without danger. During his absence she remained in their headquarters and managed the mission. She spoke of the depravity of the natives in a voice nothing could hush, but with a vehement, unctuous horror; she described their marriage customs as obscene beyond description. She said that when they first went to the Gilberts it was impossible to find a single ‘good’ girl in any of the villages. She was very bitter about the dancing.

Miss Thompson. Plump, pretty in a coarse fashion, perhaps not more than twenty-seven: she wore a white dress and a large white hat, and long white boots from which her calves, in white cotton stockings, bulged. She had left Iwelei after the raid and was on her way to Apia, where she hoped to get a job in the bar of a hotel. She was brought to the house by the quartermaster, a little, very wrinkled man, indescribably dirty.

The lodging house. It is a two-storey frame house, with verandas on both floors, and it is about five minutes’ walk from the dock, on the Broad Road, and faces the sea Below is a store in which are sold canned goods, pork and beans, beef, hamburger steak, canned asparagus, peaches and apricots; and cotton goods, lava-lavas, hats, rain-coats, and such like. The owner is a half-caste with a native wife surrounded by little brown children. The rooms are almost bare of furniture, a poor iron bed with a ragged mosquito-curtain, a rickety chair and a washstand. The rain rattles down on the corrugated iron roof. No meals are provided.

On these three notes I constructed a story called ‘Rain’.

[1922]

They came to dinner. He was a big, fat man, with a very naked face, rather bald, prosy and pompous; she was smallish, dark, neither young nor pretty, but alert and evidently competent. She was very lady-like. She was the sort of woman whom you meet by the dozen in at Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham or Bath – born spinsters who seem never to have been young and who will never, you think, grow old. They have been married five years and seem very happy. I suppose she had married him just to be married.

I never saw them again, and they never knew what they had let themselves in for when they came to dinner that night. They suggested to me a story which I called 'Before the Party'.

[From Quartet, Doubleday & Company, 1949, pp. 24, 83, 123, 170-71, 189:]

Mr. Maugham appears on the screen and introduces the film.

The story you are now going to see is called The Facts of Life, but I didn't invent it. I was sitting one night in Monte Carlo in the Casino with a friend having a glass of beer before going home to bed, and then he suddenly told me this story out of the blue. It amused me and I hope it will amuse you. He assured me it was perfectly true, but it was very late at night and I dare say he embroidered on the facts a little. Anyhow I don't think any young man would be wise in going to Monte Carlo hoping that anything of the sort would happen to him, because it wouldn't.... The Facts of Life.

I think the moral of this story is that it's a great help in this life to be born lucky, but of course that isn't enough. You have to have the brains to take advantage of your luck and the determination to make the best possible use of it, because unfortunately you can't count on it.

[…]

Mr. Maugham appears on the screen and introduces the film.

The Alien Corn is a story about a young man who wanted to be a pianist. He was a great friend of mine and it has been a grief to me that his life was wasted. There is a certain amount of invention in the story of course, but the main facts are as I have stated them.

In the arts many are called but few are chosen. It's not enough to have a burning desire to paint, to write or to play an instrument. You must have at least a streak of talent and that is a gift of nature. If you haven't got that no amount of industry will help you, but if you have that streak only unremitting industry will enable you to make something worth while out of it. I am quite sure of this – that it's better to be a good plumber or a good typist than an indifferent painter, writer or pianist.

[…]

Mr. Maugham appears on the screen and introduces the film.

The story we are going to show you now is called The Kite. I should tell you right away that it isn't my story at all. I only wrote it. Before the war I had some small connection with the Prisoner's Aid Society and on that account I heard some stories that interested me. This was one of them. I hesitated to write it for a long time because to tell you the truth, I couldn't quite understand it myself. So at last I said to myself: Well there's only one thing to do and that is to sit down and write it and see how it comes out. That is precisely what I did.... The Kite.

Since The Kite was published, I have received any number of letters from psychologists and psycho-analysts explaining my story to me. And all I can tell you is that if Herbert Sunbury and his mother knew what shocking instincts lay behind his unfortunate passion for flying a kite, they would be very much surprised.

[…]

You know since the beginning of history men have gathered round the camp fire at night, or in a group in the market place to listen to telling of stories. I have a notion that the desire to listen to stories is as deeply rooted in the human animal as the sense of property. I have never pretended to be anything but a teller of stories – I have told a great many and I have enjoyed telling them.

In recent years a new way of telling stories has been discovered by the motion pictures, and most of my novels have been presented in this way. But I have also written a number of stories. Some were longish and needed an hour for the telling, but I have written some shorter ones and it is some of these, four in point of fact, which you are invited to see tonight.

The fourth is called The Colonel's Lady. I should like to tell you how the idea of it came to me, but if I did I should spoil it. So I'm not going to till after you've seen it.

I got the idea for this story nearly fifty years ago, but I may tell you that I was comparatively young man at the time. I was listening to two women gossiping. It appears that one of their friends had just published a book of passionate love poems which were obviously not addressed to her husband, and they were wondering how the husband would take it. I thought it would make a pretty good subject for a story and made a note of it. Then I forgot all about it. But one day two years ago I happened to be going through my old notebooks and came across it. I still thought it was a pretty good subject for a short story, so I wrote it.[4]

[…]

Mr. Maugham: Now you have seen all these stories, and I shall be happy if they have given you as much pleasure to see as they gave me to write. At the start I told you that I had used in my writings pretty well everything that has happened to me in the course of my life. It has been a long and varied one. I think I have learnt a little something about human nature and I have tried to tell others what I knew as truthfully and honestly as I could. The public – you – have been very kind to me, but sooner or later we must part. I hope we shall part good friends.

[From Trio, Doubleday & Company, 1950, pp. 48, 102:]

1. Medium close shot of Somerset Maugham.
Mr. Maugham: Mr. Know-All, I believe, is a story of my own invention, but I shouldn’t like to have to go into the witness box in a court of law and take my oath on it. I think I might venture to make use of a phrase of Dr. Johnson's, and say that if a story is good, it’s unlikely to be new, and if it’s new, it’s unlikely to be good. The fact is, we story tellers, like the hero of a celebrated poem, have come too late into a world too old.[5]

[…]

1. Medium long shot of Somerset Maugham.
Mr. Maugham: The Sanatorium is a story found on my own experiences, and if you like to take the character of Ashenden as a flattering portrait of the old party who stands before you, you are at perfect liberty to do so.

[From Encore, Doubleday & Company, 1952 [1951], pp. 16, 68, 122:]

After the main credit titles, Dissolve to a series of shots of Somerset Maugham in his garden, under which there is the following narration:

“No novel, or play, or short story written by Somerset Maugham could ever be mistaken for the work of another writer, they are characteristically his. So now that we have made three more of his stories into a film it seems suitable to take our camera to the South of France where he lives, and ask him to introduce them to you.”

Mr. Maugham has, by now, got fairly near the camera and sits by a small garden table:

Mr. Maugham: Ladies and gentlemen, I am really quite ashamed to face you again. You will begin to think I fancy myself as a film actor, but I assure you that I don’t. It is because I don’t that I am talking to you from my garden. I thought that if you were tired of looking at me you could look at the flowers. Today you’re going to see three more of my stories arranged for the screen by three very clever script writers. The stories are founded on fact, but of course they are fiction, and like every other author I have looked upon it as my right to arrange my facts to suit my purpose, which was to entertain.

1. Mr. Maugham: The aim of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is to amuse. You must not look in it for a moral because there isn’t one. My hero was a very lucky man; he is just the exception which proves the rule that, on the whole, honesty is the best policy and, in this hard world, if you want to eat you must work.

[…]

1. Mr. Maugham: “Winter Cruise” was suggested to me by a woman I met on a journey in the South Seas. She had a heart of gold, but she was a crashing bore. I avoided her like the plague, but I couldn’t help liking her, and I hope you will too.

[…]

1. Mr. Maugham: “Gigolo and Gigolette” is a story about two people in the show business. In it you are going to see something of their lives from the inside. For my part I wish there were laws to prevent them from risking life and limb night after night to give the public a morbid thrill, but there aren’t, and so to earn a hazardous living they will continue to break their backs and break their necks for your amusement.

[Prefaces to The Complete Short Stories, 3 vols., Heinemann, 1951:]

This is the first volume of my collected short stories. In my early youth I wrote a number, but they are so immature that I have preferred not to reprint them. A few are in a book that has long remained out of print, a few others are scattered in various magazines. They are best forgotten. The first of the stories in this collection, Rain, was written in 1920 in Hong Kong, but I had hit upon the idea for it during a journey I took in the South Seas during the winter of 1916. The last of my stories was written in New York in 1945 from a brief note that I found by chance among my papers and which I made as far back as 1901.[6] I do not expect ever to write another.

[…]

But my stories are of very different lengths. Some are as short as sixteen hundred words, some are ten times as long, and one is just over twenty thousand. I have sojourned in most parts of the world, and while I was writing stories I could seldom stay anywhere for any length of time without getting the material for one or more tales. I have written tragic stories and I have written humorous ones. It has been an arduous task to get some kind of symmetry and at least the semblance of a pattern into a collection of a large number of stories of such different lengths, placed in so many different countries and of such different character; and at the same time to make it as easy as possible for the reader to read them. For though to be read is not the motive which impels the author to write, his motive is other, once he has written his desire is to be read, and in order to achieve that he must do his best to make what he writes readable.

[…]

There is one more point I want to make. The reader will notice that many of my stories are written in the first person singular. That is a literary convention which as old as the hills. It was used by Petronius Arbiter in the Satyricon and by many of the story-tellers in The Thousand and One Nights. Its object is of course to achieve credibility, for when someone tells you what he states happened to himself you are more likely to believe that he is telling the truth than when he tells you what happened to somebody else. It has besides the merit from a story-teller’s point of view that he need only tell you what he knows for a fact and can leave to your imagination what he doesn’t or couldn’t know. Some of the older novelists who wrote in the first person were in this respect very careless. They would narrate long conversations that they couldn’t possibly have heard and incidents which in the nature of things they couldn’t possibly have witnessed. Thus they lost the great advantage of verisimilitude which writing in the first person singular offers. But the I who writes is just as much a character in the story as the other persons with whom it is concerned. He may be the hero or he may be an onlooker or a confidant. But he is a character. The writer who uses this device is writing fiction and if he makes the I of his story a little quicker on the uptake, a little more level-headed, a little shrewder, a little braver, a little more ingenious, a little wittier, a little wiser than he, the writer, really is, the reader must show indulgence. He must remember that the author is not drawing a faithful portrait of himself, but creating a character for the particular purposes of his story.

-------------------

In this final volume I have placed the rest of my stories the scene of which is set in Malaya. They were written long before the Second World War and I should tell the reader that the sort of life with which they deal no longer exists. When I first visited those countries the lives the white men and their wives led there differed but little from what they had been twenty-five years before. They got home leave once in five years. They had besides a few weeks leave every year. If they lived where the climate was exhausting they sought the fresh air of some hill-station not too far away; if, like some of the government servants, they lived where they might not see another white man for weeks on end, they went to Singapore so that they might consort for a time with their kind. The Times when it arrived at a station up-country, in Borneo for instance, was six weeks old and they were lucky if they received the Singapore paper in a fortnight.

Aviation has changed all that. Even before the war people who could afford it were able to spend even their short leave at home. Papers, illustrated weeklies, magazines reached them fresh from the press. In the old days Sarawak, say, or Selangor were where they expected to spend their lives till it was time for them to retire on a pension; England was very far away and when at long intervals they went back was increasingly strange to them; their real home, their intimate friends, were in the land in which the better part of their lives was spent. But with the rapidity of communication it remained an alien land, a temporary rather than a permanent habitation, which circumstances obliged them for a spell to occupy; it was a longish halt in a life that had its roots in the Sussex downs or on the moors of Yorkshire. Their ties with the homeland, which before had insensibly loosened and sometimes broke asunder, remained fast. England, so to speak, was round the corner. They no longer felt cut off. It changed their whole outlook.

The countries of which I wrote were then at peace. It may be that some of those peoples, Malays, Dyaks, Chinese, were restive under the British rule, but there was no outward sign of it. The British gave them justice, provided them with hospitals and schools, and encouraged their industries. There was no more crime than anywhere else. An unarmed man could wander through the length of the Federated Malay States in perfect safety. The only real trouble was the low price of rubber.

There is one more point I want to make. Most of these stories are on the tragic side. But the reader must not suppose that the incidents I have narrated were of common occurrence. The vast majority of these people, government servants, planters, and traders, who spent their working lives in Malaya were ordinary people ordinarily satisfied with their station of life. They did the jobs they were paid to do more or less competently. They were as happy with their wives as are most married couples. They led humdrum lives and did very much the same things every day. Sometimes by way of a change they got a little shooting; but as a rule, after they had done their day's work, they played tennis if there were people to play with, went to the club at sundown if there was a club in the vicinity, drank in moderation, and played bridge. They had their little tiffs, their little jealousies, their little flirtations, their little celebrations. They were good, decent, normal people.

I respect, and even admire, such people, but they are not the sort of people I can write stories about. I write stories about people who have some singularity of character which suggests to me that they may be capable of behaving in such a way to give me an idea that I can make use of, or about people who by some accident or another, accident of temperament, accident of environment, have been involved in unusual contingencies. But, I repeat, they are the exception.

[From the Preface to The World Over, Doubleday, 1953 [1952], pp. v-xii:]

This book contains all the stories I have written that are not included in East and West. The tales in that collection were of about the same length and written on the same scale and so it seemed convenient to publish them together in a single volume. Most of the stories which I have now gathered together are very much shorter. Some were written many years ago, others more recently. They appeared in magazines and were afterwards issued in book form. To the first lot I gave the title Cosmopolitans, because they were offered to the public in the Cosmopolitan Magazine, and except for Ray Long, who was then its editor, would never have been written.

[…]

In the preface to East and West I said pretty well all I had to say about the short story in general. I have nothing to add to that. I have written now nearly a hundred stories and one thing I have discovered is that whether you hit upon a story or not, whether it comes off or not, is very much a matter of luck. Stories are lying about at every street corner, but the writer may not be there at the moment they are waiting to be picked up or he may be looking at a shop window and pass them unnoticed. He may write them before he has seen all there is to see in them or he may turn them over in his mind so long that they have lost their freshness. He may not have seen them from the exact standpoint at which they can be written to their best advantage. It is a rare and happy event when he conceives the idea of a story, writes it at the precise moment when it is ripe, and treats it in such a way as to get out of it all it implicitly contains. Then it will be within its limitations perfect. But perfection is seldom achieved. I think a volume of modest dimensions would contain all the short stories which even closely approach it. The reader should be satisfied if in any collection of these short pieces of fiction he finds a general level of competence and on closing the book feels that he has been amused, interested and moved.

With one exception all the stories I have written have been published in magazines. The exception is a story called “The Book Bag.” When I sent it to Ray Long he wrote to me, in sorrow rather than in anger, that he had gone further with me than with any other author, but when it came to incest he had to draw the line. I could not blame him. He published the tale later in a collection of what he thought in his long career as editor of the Cosmopolitan were the best short stories that had ever been offered him.

[…]

[Last paragraph:]
I have written my last story.

[From “Looking Back”, Show Magazine, August 1962, p. 100:]

But for him [Gerald Haxton] I should not have got the material for many of the stories I wrote. At least on one occasion he gave me the story ready made. We had gone to Sumatra and were staying at a place which in my story I called Tanah Merah. As usual we were made honorary members of the white man’s club. We generally dined there, but late, since at sundown men gathered at the bar and did not stroll into the dining room till nine. One evening I grew tired of waiting for Gerald, who was with a group of fellows drinking at the bar, and sat down to my dinner. I had nearly finished when he staggered in. “I know I’m drunk,” he said, “but I’ve got a damned good story for you.” He told it to me and I wrote it. I called it “Footprints in the Jungle”. I don't think I can have written it very well; it was a murder story and when it was printed some critics found fault with it because it was very soon obvious who had committed the murder. But I was not trying to write a who-done-it. What interested me was something very different. The woman and her lover had killed her husband, but the crime could never be brought home to them. Though the members of the community, planters, traders, agents, doctors – and their wives – were well aware of the facts, they continued to live on the best of terms with the widow and her lover. They married and, in short, lived happily ever afterwards. I came to know and found them very agreeable. They were kindly and hospitable. I was pretty sure that they had never been troubled by remorse; it was impossible not to like them, for they were very nice. Human nature is very odd.

_________________________________________
[1] All stories from Maugham’s first five mature collections, six pieces each: The Trembling of a Leaf (1921), The Casuarina Tree (1926), Ashenden (1928), First Person Singular (1931) and Ah King (1933). Ed.
[2] Cf. “Footprints in the Jungle”. Ed.
[3] Cf. “Honolulu”. Ed.
[4] Cf. A Writer’s Notebook (1949), p. 80; see above. See also Garson Kanin, Remembering Mr. Maugham, Atheneum, 1966, p. 151. Ed.
[5] Alfred de Musset, Rolla, 1833:
Je suis venu trop tard dans un monde trop vieux.
(I have come too late into a world too old.) Ed.
[6] See note 4. Ed.
  WSMaugham | Jun 20, 2015 |
W. Somerset Maugham

Collected Short Stories

Penguin, Paperback, 1980s?

12mo. 4 vols. Preface by Maugham to each volume, 1951.
Vol. 1. 440 pp. Preface by Maugham [pp. 7-8].
Vol. 2. 423 pp. Preface by Maugham [p. 7].
Vol. 3. 252 pp. Preface by Maugham [p. 7].
Vol. 4. 464 pp. Preface by Maugham [pp. 7-8].

The Complete Short Stories first published in three volumes in Great Britain by William Heinemann Ltd, 1951.
Published in four volumes in Penguin Books in Great Britain, 1963.

Vol. 1 reprinted, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1985.
Vol. 2 reprinted, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974.
Vol. 3 reprinted, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1985.
Vol. 4 reprinted, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973.

Vol. 1 published in Penguin Books in the United States of America by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977.
Reprinted, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984.

Vol. 2 published in Penguin Books in the United States of America by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977.
Reprinted, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986.

Vol. 3 published in Penguin Books in the United States of America by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977.

Vol. 4 published in Penguin Books in the United States of America by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1978.
Reprinted, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985.

Contents

Volume 1

Preface
Rain
The Fall of Edward Barnard
Honolulu
The Luncheon
The Ant and the Grasshopper
Home
The Pool
Mackintosh
Appearance and Reality
The Three Fat Women of Antibes
The Facts of Life
Gigolo and Gigolette
The Happy Couple
The Voice of the Turtle
The Lion's Skin
The Unconquered
The Escape
The Judgement Seat
Mr. Know-All
The Happy Man
The Romantic Young Lady
The Point of Honour
The Poet
The Mother
A Man from Glasgow
Before the Party
Louise
The Promise
A String of Beads
The Yellow Streak

Volume 2

Preface
The Vessel of Wrath [formerly in vol. 1]
The Force of Circumstance [formerly in vol. 1]
Flotsam and Jetsam [formerly in vol. 1]
The Alien Corn
The Creative Impulse
Virtue
The Man with the Scar
The Closed Shop
The Bum
The Dream
The Treasure
The Colonel's Lady
Lord Mountdrago
The Social Sense
The Verger
In a Strange Land
The Taipan
The Consul
A Friend in Need
The Round Dozen
The Human Element
Jane
Footprints in the Jungle [formerly in vol. 3]
The Door of Opportunity [formerly in vol. 3]

Volume 3

Preface
Miss King [formerly in vol. 2]
The Hairless Mexican [formerly in vol. 2]
Giulia Lazzari [formerly in vol. 2]
The Traitor [formerly in vol. 2]
His Excellency [formerly in vol. 2]
Mr. Harrington's Washing [formerly in vol. 2]
Sanatorium [formerly in vol. 2]

Volume 4

Preface
The Book-bag
French Joe
German Harry
The Four Dutchmen
The Back of Beyond
P. & O.
Episode
The Kite
A Woman of Fifty
Mayhew
The Lotus Eater
Salvatore
The Wash-tub
A Man with a Conscience
An Official Position
Winter Cruise
Mabel
Masterson
Princess September
A Marriage of Convenience
Mirage
The Letter
The Outstation
The Portrait of a Gentleman
Raw Material
Straight Flush
The End of the Flight
A Casual Affair
Red
Neil Macadam

==============================================

This is not a review but a short note of certain bibliographical significance, and even that is largely repetition of what I have said before. But since the situation with editions of Maugham’s collected/complete short stories is complex and complicated, some things are worth repeating. The incomplete and often confusing information from publishers doesn’t help the matter. I’m still at sea as to when exactly those four volumes were published.

This edition, first published by Penguin in 1963, is virtually the same as the definitive Heinemann edition from 1951. The latter boasts the label “definitive” because Maugham wrote new prefaces to all volumes and arranged the order in which the stories appear. The major differences between both editions are the number of volumes (three vs four) and the title (“complete” vs “collected”). This naturally necessitated slight changes in the prefaces and the order of the stories. Basically, the two paragraphs of the preface to volume 2 of the Heinemann edition were split between volumes 2 and 3 of the Penguin edition. All seven stories featuring Ashenden were separated into volume 3 of the new edition; to prevent volume 2 from being too thin, five stories were transferred from the old volumes 1 and 3 (see the table of contents above).

By 1963 Maugham was still alive, though he may not have been in his right mind anymore. He probably carried out the revisions himself, or at least approved of them. In any case, the differences are negligible. Both editions contain the same 91 stories and virtually the same prefaces. The four-volume set under the title Collected Short Stories has become the standard edition. It has been reprinted countless times by Penguin, Pan, Mandarin and, currently, Vintage; even Folio Society has published it as a handsome set in a slipcase. The old Heinemann edition is very hard to find complete, decently priced and in good condition. The First American edition by Doubleday (1952, vol. 1: East and West, first published in 1934; vol. 2: The World Over) is still widely available and an excellent alternative. The stories are absolutely the same, but the prefaces are completely different and, in many ways, more substantial than those in the Heinemann and Penguin editions.

This is not to say that what Maugham wrote in 1951 should be neglected. These prefaces, short though they are, contain a good deal of important information about the background of the stories and Maugham’s credo as a writer. As I don’t like to make unsupportable claims, I conclude with the preface to volume 4 quoted complete:

In this final volume I have placed the rest of my stories the scene of which is set in Malaya. They were written long before the Second World War and I should tell the reader that the sort of life with which they deal no longer exists. When I first visited those countries the lives the white men and their wives led there differed but little from what they had been twenty-five years before. They got home leave once in five years. They had besides a few weeks leave every year. If they lived where the climate was exhausting they sought the fresh air of some hill-station not too far away; if, like some of the government servants, they lived where they might not see another white man for weeks on end, they went to Singapore so that they might consort for a time with their kind. The Times when it arrived at a station up-country, in Borneo for instance, was six weeks old and they were lucky if they received the Singapore paper in a fortnight.

Aviation has changed all that. Even before the war people who could afford it were able to spend even their short leave at home. Papers, illustrated weeklies, magazines reached them fresh from the press. In the old days Sarawak, say, or Selangor were where they expected to spend their lives till it was time for them to retire on a pension; England was very far away and when at long intervals they went back was increasingly strange to them; their real home, their intimate friends, were in the land in which the better part of their lives was spent. But with the rapidity of communication it remained an alien land, a temporary rather than a permanent habitation, which circumstances obliged them for a spell to occupy; it was a longish halt in a life that had its roots in the Sussex downs or on the moors of Yorkshire. Their ties with the homeland, which before had insensibly loosened and sometimes broke asunder, remained fast. England, so to speak, was round the corner. They no longer felt cut off. It changed their whole outlook.

The countries of which I wrote were then at peace. It may be that some of those peoples, Malays, Dyaks, Chinese, were restive under the British rule, but there was no outward sign of it. The British gave them justice, provided them with hospitals and schools, and encouraged their industries. There was no more crime than anywhere else. An unarmed man could wander through the length of the Federated Malay States in perfect safety. The only real trouble was the low price of rubber.

There is one more point I want to make. Most of these stories are on the tragic side. But the reader must not suppose that the incidents I have narrated were of common occurrence. The vast majority of these people, government servants, planters, and traders, who spent their working lives in Malaya were ordinary people ordinarily satisfied with their station of life. They did the jobs they were paid to do more or less competently. They were as happy with their wives as are most married couples. They led humdrum lives and did very much the same things every day. Sometimes by way of a change they got a little shooting; but as a rule, after they had done their day's work, they played tennis if there were people to play with, went to the club at sundown if there was a club in the vicinity, drank in moderation, and played bridge. They had their little tiffs, their little jealousies, their little flirtations, their little celebrations. They were good, decent, normal people.

I respect, and even admire, such people, but they are not the sort of people I can write stories about. I write stories about people who have some singularity of character which suggests to me that they may be capable of behaving in such a way to give me an idea that I can make use of, or about people who by some accident or another, accident of temperament, accident of environment, have been involved in unusual contingencies. But, I repeat, they are the exception.
( )
3 vote Waldstein | Aug 27, 2014 |
W. Somerset Maugham

The Complete Short Stories:
I. East and West
II. The World Over

Doubleday, Hardback, 1953.

8vo. 2 vols. New prefaces by the author.
Vol. 1: East and West. xx+955 pp. [preface, v-xx]
Vol. 2: The World Over. xv+681 pp. [preface, v-xii]

First published thus by Doubleday, 1952. Reprinted, 1953.
East and West first published by Doubleday, 1934. Published in England by Heinemann as Altogether.
The World Over first published by Doubleday, 1952.

Contents

Vol. I: East and West

Rain
The Fall of Edward Barnard
Mackintosh
Red
Honolulu
The Pool

[First published in book form as The Trembling of a Leaf, 1921]
The Letter
Before the Party
The Force of Circumstance
The Outstation
The Yellow Streak
P. & O.

[First published in book form as The Casuarina Tree, 1926]
Jane
The Round Dozen
The Creative Impulse

[First published in book form in First Person Singular, 1931]
Miss King
The Hairless Mexican
Giulia Lazzari
The Traitor
His Excellency
Mr. Harrington's Washing

[First published in book form as Ashenden, 1928]
Footprints in the Jungle
[First published in book form in Ah King, 1933]
The Human Element
Virtue
The Alien Corn

[First published in book form in First Person Singular, 1931]
The Book-Bag
The Vessel of Wrath
The Door of Opportunity
The Back of Beyond
Neil Macadam

[First published in book form in Ah King, 1931]

Vol. II: The World Over

A Woman of Fifty***
The Man with the Scar*
The Bum*
The Closed Shop*
An Official Position**
A Man with a Conscience**
French Joe*
German Harry*
The Four Dutchmen*
The End of the Flight*
Flotsam and Jetsam***
A Casual Affair***
Mr. Know-All*
Straight Flush*
The Portrait of a Gentleman*
Raw Material*
A Friend in Need*
The Dream*
The Taipan
The Consul
Mirage
Mabel
Masterson
A Marriage of Convenience
Princess September
In a Strange Land*
The Lotus Eater**
Salvatore*
The Wash Tub*
Mayhew*
The Happy Man*
The Point of Honour***
The Mother***
The Romantic Young Lady***
The Poet*
A Man from Glasgow***
The Lion's Skin**
The Three Fat Women of Antibes**
The Happy Couple***
The Voice of the Turtle**
The Facts of Life**
Gigolo and Gigolette**
Appearance and Reality***
The Luncheon*
The Unconquered***
The Ant and the Grasshopper*
Home*
The Escape*
The Judgement Seat*
Sanatorium***
Louise*
Lord Mountdrago**
A String of Beads*
The Promise*
The Verger*
The Social Sense*
The Colonel's Lady***
Episode***
The Kite***
The Treasure**
Winter Cruise***


* First published in book form in Cosmopolitans (1936). All stories for this volume were written between 1923 and 1929.

** First published in book form in The Mixture as Before (1940). All stories for this volume were written between 1933 and 1939.

*** First published in book form in Creatures of Circumstance (1947). All stories for this volume, Maugham's last, were written between 1934 and 1946, except for "A Man from Glasgow" and "The Mother" which were originally published in magazines as early as 1905 and 1909, respectively (the first under the title "Told in the Inn at Algeciras"), but later were only very slightly revised.

Note on different versions

"The Luncheon" (as "Cousin Amy"), "The Happy Couple" and "A Marriage of Convenience" are the other three examples for early short stories Maugham made a better use of later in his life. The original versions were published in magazines between 1906 and 1908; they all can be found in Seventeen Lost Stories (Doubleday, 1969), edited and with an Introduction by Craig Showalter. Unlike "The Mother", however, all three were significantly rewritten and quite a bit improved in their later versions. Interestingly, "A Marriage of Convenience" appeared for the first time in book form, not in one of Maugham's short story collections, but in one of his travel books: The Gentleman in the Parlour (1930), Chapter XXXIV.

Note on different first appearances in book form

It should also be noted that, in addition to the one case just mentioned in the previous note, six short stories more appeared first in book form as parts of Maugham's travel books:

The Gentleman in the Parlour (1930)
- Mabel (Chapter VI)
- Masterson (Chapter X)
- Princess September (Chapter XXXII)
- Mirage (Chapter XLIII)

On A Chinese Screen (1922)
- The Consul (XXX)
- The Taipan (XLIX)

Last but not least, the short story "The Buried Talent", a fine Malay shocker, was the only mature short story by Maugham that was never published in book form during his life. It appeared in magazine in 1934, but never in any of his collections or collected editions. It had to wait 50 years to appear in book form: A Traveller in Romance, edited by John Whitehead (Clarkson N. Potter, 1984).

===========================================

There is little doubt that of all literary genres Somerset Maugham tried during the six decades of his writing career, he was most conspicuously and most consistently at his best in the genre of the short story. If we count the three stories in his oeuvre which exist in two rather different versions, not as six, but as three pieces, the total number of short stories Maugham wrote during his life is exactly 109. His career in the genre lasted for about 50 years: his last collection was published in 1947, his first in 1899, and his earliest short stories were written at least a few years earlier. This is a stupefying period of time and a stupendous output.

But what truly fascinates me is the consistency. Maugham's early short stories – written before the First World War – are certainly immature and inferior in comparison with his later masterpieces, but much less so than his novels, or travel books, or plays, though in the last two genres Maugham again showed amazingly consistent pen, but that's another story – and not a short one. It must be noted, though, that after 1920, when his first mature short stories appeared in magazines, Maugham uncannily often reached the greatest heights in the genre for some quarter of a century.

It is interesting to investigate in some detail the pattern of Maugham's short story output. Until the First World War he wrote about 17 stories, the last of which were published in magazines as early as 1908; until 1919 he appears not to have written a single story. Maugham's first visit to the South Seas during the war fired his imagination and creative faculties as nothing before or since. It seemed to him that the huge amount of material he had amassed in his notebook is quite suitable for short stories. He was quite right and that's how his first mature collection was born: six stories set in the South Seas and first published in 1921 as The Trembling of a Leaf.

Maugham's later and extensive travels gave his short stories more cosmopolitan outlook than any other part of his oeuvre. Today he is, rightly, most famous for his Far Eastern tales dealing on the surface with British gentlemen and ladies, but in fact exploring the deepest and darkest depths of human nature. These are actually only two collections of six stories each, but they all are of great length and complexity: The Casuarina Tree (1926) and Ah King (1933). Meanwhile Maugham wrote and published two other volumes, again six stories each: one with dramatized versions of his spy adventures during the war, Ashenden (1928), and one with diverse stories but all set in Europe, First Person Singular (1931).

Then came his first collection of collected short stories – East and West in America or Altogether in England – which was first published in 1934 and consisted of all five aforementioned collections, or 30 stories overall. Afterwards Maugham published three collections more: 29 ''very short stories'' written on magazine commission in the 1920s and logically titled Cosmopolitans (1936), one set of ten pieces, neither too long nor too short, The Mixture as Before (1940), and finally Creatures of Circumstance (1947) in which he collected all of the rest that he thought merit publishing, mostly newly written pieces but also some that were about 40 years old at the time.

Never in his life did Maugham allow any of his early magazine short stories to be published in book form, nor his early collection Orientations (1899) to be reprinted. He stopped writing fiction one year after his last short story collection appeared.

What a pattern, eh!

Somerset Maugham's popularity as a short story writer is tellingly reflected in the collected editions of his short stories. There are three major ones: in two, three or four volumes; they all contain exactly the same 91 stories. Maugham's most conscientious bibliographer, Raymond Toole Stott, hails as the definitive edition the three-volume set titled The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham and first published by Heinemann in 1951, with new prefaces by the author and in order arranged by him. One year later came the First American edition of The Complete Short Stories by Doubleday, in two volumes and with completely different prefaces. As a matter of fact, the first of these volumes reprints word for word East and West (1934) and the second is identical with The World Over, first published separately in the same 1952. The prefaces to both collections were written in 1934 and 1952, respectively, and they have nothing to do with the ones in the Heinemann edition from 1951. The last major edition of Maugham's complete stories is in four volumes and bears the title The Collected Short Stories. It was first published by Penguin in 1963 and later reprinted by numerous other publishers, most recently by Vintage. The prefaces and the order of the stories are the same as in the Heinemann's three volume set from 1951, except for a few very slight modifications to accommodate the contents to one volume more.

The First American edition by Doubleday is a beautiful one: two massive octavo hardbacks, closely printed but still very comfortable for reading. The paper is of high quality and the fore edges – thank God! – are cut; altogether some 1500 pages – incidentally, pretty much the same number as in the three volumes by Heinemann.

The stories in the first volume are arranged in strictly chronological order of writing which must have taken some pains since it doesn't always correspond to the final volumes. Thus three of the stories from First Person Singular (1931) were really written before Ashenden (1928), even though they appeared in book form three years later; and thus "Footprints in the Jungle", one of Maugham's most famous exotic tales as well as one of the few crime stories he ever wrote, was actually written in 1927, at least a few years before all other pieces from Ah King (1933). This chronological order does not make a lot of sense and it is somewhat odd to find an exotic tale between two ''European'' ones; but, then again, such editions are not made to be read systematically from cover to cover.

Interestingly, the order appears to have been arranged by Maugham himself, for he thought the reader might want to follow his progress. Little can the reader do such a thing because even the earliest of these short stories already are masterpieces.

The second volume makes no such use of order and rightly so for it is much more diverse. Though the stories were written in the span of more than twenty years, I would challenge anybody to guess the year by any apparent diminishing of the quality; there is none. But the reader should remember that many of these stories were written on a magazine commission and therefore are naturally much shorter, simpler and designed exclusively for light entertainment. He is wise to refrain from comparisons. He certainly shouldn't lapse into the folly of John Whitehead who claimed that Maugham did a great disservice to his reputation as a short story writer when in the end of his life he arranged them in collected editions – because, mind you, his best stories were greatly diluted with mediocre ones. This is nonsense.

Of course Maugham is not always at his best – only the mediocre is, as he used to say – but even at his worst he is perfectly readable and even enjoyable. Even in those few cases when Maugham runs contrary to all his dictums about form and content – like "The Portrait of a Gentleman", for instance, where there is actually no story; it's a character sketch – he is still a pleasure to read. Moreover, a good many of Maugham's ''very short stories'' – "Mr Know-All", "The Wash Tub", "Louise", "A Friend in Need", "The Ant and the Grasshopper" or "The Verger", to name but a few – are as perfect masterpieces as the severe limitation of space allows. But that is neither here nor there.

Save the short stories which you can find in many a modern paperback, by far the most important part of this two-volume Doubleday edition are of course the prefaces, and they are not so easy to find. Both of them were later reprinted in Selected Prefaces and Introductions of W. Somerset Maugham (1963), but with minor deletions at request of Maugham himself. The preface to the second volume is rather short and not altogether important, but the preface to the first is not only quite long, but a real gem, too. Both pieces contain a good deal of repetition of course; in the second one, for instance, you'll find large chunks from the original preface to Cosmopolitans copied almost verbatim. Maugham always was highly repetitive and always admitted as much. For my part, I would much sooner have a writer who repeats himself and shows a remarkable consistency, than some fickle creature who changes his opinions on a whim or one who always racks his brains in search of new and original ways to say what he already has.

Together with the introduction to his anthology of short stories Teller of Tales (Doubleday, Doran, 1939) and his late essay The Short Story (from Points of View, 1958), the preface to East and West ranks as one of the most substantial pieces Maugham ever wrote entirely dedicated to a literary form he excelled at. It is worth having a closer look at it.

Some half of the preface is dedicated to the two most revered short story writers by Maugham: Chekov and Maupassant. Their styles and personalities are subjected to as close a scrutiny as the limited space allows. Though Maugham have some pretty harsh words for them, especially for Maupassant, it is quite obvious that he has a great deal of admiration for them, especially for Chekov. The other half is of course Maugham's. The most prominent part in it is taken by the eternal question, wrongly believed to be ethical, of basing fictional characters on real persons. Maugham was extremely notorious for doing just that, a bit too often and virtually always in very bad taste indeed. Naturally, he has a lot to say on the topic.

First of all, he shows conclusively that all great writers have used this technique: Dickens, Turgenev, Flaubert, you name the fellow. Maugham himself never denied it and he always claimed that it is inevitable; if you want your characters to have any life in them you must use a life model – and yourself, too. But Maugham always claimed that his characters – with only one exception, which he confessed – are no portraits; indeed, the author is very unwise to put the shadowy and insubstantial men from the real life directly as characters in his fiction; they always ring false and never convince. He insisted that character creation is an art and the real persons are simply its raw material; they need the author's imagination, inventiveness and insight; the complete character is a composite result of elaboration and invention.

From all that he drew his famous conclusion that we know our friends by their defects rather than by their merits – for when a real person behind a character, rightly or wrongly, is recognised, it is always by his negative qualities. No one has said it better than Maugham himself; the following excerpt from the preface to East and West (1934) in taken almost verbatim from Maugham's preface to his short story collection First Person Singular (1931), but it is well worth reading twice:

The complete character, the result of imagination founded on fact, is art, and life in the raw, as we know, is of this only the material. The odd thing is that when the charge is made than an author has copied this person or the other from life, emphasis is laid only on his less praiseworthy characteristics. If you say of a character that he is kind to his mother, but beats his wife, everyone will cry: Ah, that's Brown, how beastly to say he beats his wife; and no one thinks for a moment of Jones and Robinson who are notoriously kind to their mothers. I draw from this the somewhat surprising conclusion that we know our friends by their defects and not by their merits.

That's why in this preface Maugham spends considerable time to explain his method of creating characters and writing short stories. It is fascinating to observe that he quotes from his notebooks full fifteen years before they were officially published in A Writer's Notebook (1949). The notes that more inspired than served as some basis for the short stories "Rain" and "Before the Party" are given here and discussed at length. Allowing for some disingenuous overtones on Maugham's side, not untypical for him, and his omission of some additional notes both from this preface and from the later collection of notes, the real life foundations of both stories would again remain very, very slight. The subtle, penetrating and vivid characterization never could have come from such mundane matters like notes; it must have come directly from Maugham's mind.

Finally, Maugham finishes with a short but delightful fling with the critics. Though he confesses that he has always wanted to learn and improve from them, Maugham makes no bones that he has rarely found anything valuable in their evaluations. He quotes one perfectly charming remark of Chekov:

''Critics are like horse-flies which prevent the horse from ploughing,'' said Chekov. ''For over twenty years I have read criticisms of my stories, and I do not remember a single remark of any value or one word of valuable advice. Only once Skabichevsky wrote something which made an impression on me. He said I would die in a ditch, drunk.

Cute. Having read a good deal of Maugham as well as literary criticism about him, I cannot but agree, at least from my point of view as a reader. It is very seldom that I find something in the critical ramblings which is insightful and sensible enough as to improve at least a little bit my appreciation of Maugham. It is disconcertingly often that they write a strange mixture of obvious platitudes and stupendous nonsense, sometimes spiced up with degree of personal animosity which would have been revolting had it not also been amusing. And one can't help feeling sorry for such people. Hate, come to think of it, is really a very pathetic thing. ( )
2 vote Waldstein | Aug 12, 2010 |
W. Somerset Maugham.

The Complete Short Stories

Heinemann, Hardback, 1952.

8vo. 3 vols. New prefaces by the author and in order arranged by him.
Vol. 1: viii+1-528.
Vol. 2: viii+529-1048.
Vol. 3: viii+1049-1576.

First published thus by Heinemann, 1951. Reprinted, 1952.

Table of Contents:

Volume 1

Preface
Rain
The Fall of Edward Barnard
Honolulu
The Luncheon
The Ant and the Grasshopper
Home
The Pool
Mackintosh
Appearance and Reality
The Three Fat Women of Antibes
The Facts of Life
Gigolo and Gigolette
The Happy Couple
The Voice of the Turtle
The Lion's Skin
The Unconquered
The Escape
The Judgement Seat
Mr. Know-All
The Happy Man
The Romantic Young Lady
The Point of Honour
The Poet
The Mother
A Man from Glasgow
Before the Party
The Vessel of Wrath
Louise
The Promise
A String of Beads
The Yellow Streak
The Force of Circumstance
Flotsam and Jetsam

Volume 2
Preface
The Alien Corn
The Creative Impulse
Virtue
The Man with the Scar
The Closed Shop
The Bum
The Dream
The Treasure
The Colonel's Lady
Miss King
The Hairless Mexican
Giulia Lazzari
The Traitor
His Excellency
Mr. Harrington's Washing
Lord Mountdrago
Sanatorium
The Social Sense
The Verger
In a Strange Land
The Taipan
The Consul
A Friend in Need
The Round Dozen
The Human Element
Jane

Volume 3
Preface
Footprints in the Jungle
The Door of Opportunity
The Book-bag
French Joe
German Harry
The Four Dutchmen
The Back of Beyond
P. & O.
Episode
The Kite
A Woman of Fifty
Mayhew
The Lotus Eater
Salvatore
The Wash-tub
A Man with a Conscience
An Official Position
Winter Cruise
Mabel
Masterson
Princess September
A Marriage of Convenience
Mirage
The Letter
The Outstation
The Portrait of a Gentleman
Raw Material
Straight Flush
The End of the Flight
A Casual Affair
Red
Neil Macadam

-------------------------------------------------​

For detailed reviews of the separate volumes, see... well, the four separate volumes.

Few remarks about editions.

This three volume set is the definitive edition of Maugham's short stories as his bibliographer, Raymond Toole Stott, points out in the 1973 Revised Edition of his fascinating study Bibliography of the Works of W. Somerset Maugham.

The Vintage Classics edition, as well as all other editions of Maugham's short stories in four volumes and under the title Collected Short Stories I guess, contains all 91 stories from the original edition as well as the prefaces by the author written especially for the occasion. The order chosen by Maugham in the original edition from 1951 is slightly different in the four-volume set for the simple reason that it contains one volume more. For the same reason the preface to the original volume 2 from 1951 is split between volumes 2 and 3 of the four-volume set and several small changes were made to adjust the context to another number of volumes.

Anyway, these changes are of no consequence whatsoever. So do not worry yourselves if you do not have the original Heinemann edition from 1951 or 1952 but some of the later ones in four volumes (Penguin, Pan, Mandarin, Vintage, etc.). It will do very nicely.

The question where are the other 20 or so short stories that Maugham wrote during his career is quite interesting but here is not the place to discuss it into detail.

For those who are interested when and where all these 91 stories appeared originally in book form, below is a list of Maugham's short story collections together with their tables of contents and years of first edition. Seven short stories are something of a exception because they were originally published in book form, not in collections of short stories but as parts of travel books; they are also listed here but the contents of the books are omitted.

It should be noted that almost all of Maugham's short stories first appeared in magazines and later in book form, often under different titles (included here) and with a great deal of slight changes (not mentioned here) especially when the magazine version preceded the one in book form with more than a decade (which is the case, for example, with most of the stories commissioned by Cosmopolitan and later included in the short story collection Cosmopolitans). The year every single short story appeared in a magazine form and its alternative title if any, as well any other additional information I consider relevant, can be found in square brackets after its name.

The Trembling of a Leaf: Little Stories of the South Sea Islands*
[6 Short Stories. First published by Doran, 1921.]

I. The Pacific [Introduction]
II. Mackintosh [1920]
III. The Fall of Edward Barnard [1921]
IV. Red [1921]
V. The Pool [1921]
VI. Honolulu [1921]
VII. Rain [1921, as Miss Thompson]
VIII. Envoi [Epilogue]

*In 1935 Maugham wrote a wonderful preface to this collection of short stories especially for its inclusion in The Collected Edition. The preface is reprinted in the Heron edition from 1968.

The Casuarina Tree
[6 Short Stories. First published by Heinemann, 1926.]

The Casuarina Tree [preface]
The Letter [1924]
Before the Party [1923]
P. & O. [1923, as Bewitched]
The Outstation [1924]
The Force of Circumstance [1924]
The Yellow Streak [1925]
Postscript [not a short story of course]

Ashenden: or the British Agent
[6 Short Stories*. First published by Heinemann, 1928.]

Miss King [1928]
The Hairless Mexican [1927]
Giulia Lazzari [never published in magazine]
The Traitor [1927]
His Excellency [1927]
Mr. Harrington's Washing [1928]

*The book actually consists of 16 chapters. All but one of them were later merged into the six well known short stories. For the sake of clarity the names of the original chapters are omitted here.

Six Stories Written in the First Person Singular
[6 Short Stories. First published by Doubleday, 1931.]

[Introduction]
Virtue [1931]
The Round Dozen [1923]
The Human Element [1930]
Jane [1923]
The Alien Corn [1931]
The Creative Impulse [1926]

Ah King
[6 Short Stories. First published by Heinemann, 1933.]

Ah King [Preface]
Footprints in the Jungle [1927]
The Door of Opportunity [1931]
The Vessel of Wrath [1931]
The Book-Bag [never published in magazine*]
The Back of Beyond [1931, as The Right Thing is the Kind Thing]
Neil Macadam [1932, as The Temptation of Neil MacAdam]

*Ray Long was compelled to turn down this brilliant short story since its plot is concerned with incest; although Maugham does not mention the word even once, the short story was considered too scandalous for the pages of Cosmopolitan. Ray Long, however, did publish the story in a book form after all; it was included in a volume with his favourite short stories and subtitle 20 Best Short Stories in Ray Long's 20 Years as an Editor. He named the book The Book-Bag.

Cosmopolitans: Very Short Stories
[29 Short Stories. First published by Doubleday, 1936.]

Preface
Raw Material [1923, as The Imposters]
Mayhew [1923]
German Harry [1924]
The Happy Man [1924]
The Dream [1924]
In a Strange Land [1924]
The Luncheon* [1924]
Salvatore [1924, as Salvatore the Fisherman]
Home [1924, as Home from the Sea]
Mr. Know-All [1925]
The Escape [1925, as The Widow's Might]
A Friend in Need [1925, as The Man Who Wouldn't Hurt a Fly]
The Portrait of a Gentleman [1925, as The Code of a Gentleman]
The End of the Flight [1926]
The Judgement Seat [never published in magazine]
The Ant and the Grasshopper [1924]
French Joe [1926, as Another Man Without a Country]
The Man with the Scar [1925]
The Poet [1925, as The Great Man]
Louise [1925, as The Most Selfish Woman I Ever Knew]
The Closed Shop [1926]
The Promise [1925, as An Honest Woman]
A String of Beads [1927, as Pearls]
The Bum [1929, as A Derelict]
Straight Flush [1929]
The Verger [1929, as The Man Who Made His Mark]
The Wash Tub [1929, as In Hiding]
The Social Sense [1929, as The Extraordinary Sex]
The Four Dutchmen [1928]

*Significantly rewritten version of "Cousin Amy" which was first published in magazine in 1908 but had to wait more than 60 years to appear in book form: Seventeen Lost Stories (1969).

The Mixture as Before
[10 Short Stories. First published by Doubleday, 1940.]

Foreword
The Three Fat Women of Antibes [1933]
A Man with a Conscience [1939]
The Treasure [1934, as The Best Ever]
The Lotus Eater [1935]
The Lion's Skin [1937]
Lord Mountdrago [1939, as Doctor and Patient]
Gigolo and Gigolette [1935]
The Voice of the Turtle [1935]
An Official Position [1937]
The Facts of Life [1939]

Creatures of Circumstance
[15 Short Stories. First published by Heinemann, 1947.]

The Author Excuses Himself [Preface]
The Colonel's Lady [1946]
Flotsam and Jetsam [1940]
Appearance and Reality [1934]
The Mother* [1947]
Sanatorium [1938]
A Woman of Fifty [1946]
The Romantic Young Lady [1947]
A Casual Affair [1934]
The Point of Honour [1947]
Winter Cruise [1943, as The Captain and Miss Reid]
The Happy Couple** [1943]
A Man from Glasgow*** [never published in magazine]
The Unconquered [1943]
Episode [1947]
The Kite [never published in magazine]

*This appears to be one of the very few cases when Maugham was satisfied with an early work of his. "The Mother" was first published in magazine in 1909 and almost 40 years later was only slightly revised for its inclusion in book form. Apparently, the early version was reprinted in magazine form the same year (Liberty, 26 April 1947) and even appeared in book form 11 years later: The Cassell Miscellany (1958). I am quite sure about the latter, but I might well be wrong about the former.

**First published in Cassell's Magazine in 1908 but later significantly rewritten. The later version appeared in Redbook (February, 1943) and in the book four years later.

***Different version of this story, titled ''Told in the Inn at Algeciras'', was published as early as 1905 in magazine. It is reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 1998, ed. Jack Adrian.

-------------------------------------------------​

Short stories that also appear in Maugham's travel books:

On A Chinese Screen
[58 short travel sketches. First published by Doran, 1922.]

The Consul [1922, as Mr Pete; 1926 as The Consul]
The Taipan [1922]

The Gentleman in the Parlour
[Travel book. First published by Heinemann, 1930]

Mabel
[Chapter VI; appeared in magazine form under the title "The Woman Who Wouldn't Take a Hint" in 1924]
Masterson
[Chapter X; appeared in magazine form under the title "On the Road to Mandalay" in 1929]
Princess September
[Chapter XXXII; appeared in magazine form in 1922 under the title "The Princess and the Nightingale"; under the same title appeared in Queen's Dolls' House Library in 1924 and in pamphlet form in 1939; in 1969 published in pamphlet form as "Princess September"]
A Marriage of Convenience
[Chapter XXXIV; significantly rewritten version of an early short story first published in magazine in 1906 and in book form 63 years later in Seventeen Lost Stories; the rewritten version appeared in magazine form in 1929.]
Mirage
[Chapter XLIII; appeared in magazine form in 1929] ( )
4 vote Waldstein | Sep 27, 2009 |
Vol. 2 i'm not sure why i like maugham. witty, a timepiece. ( )
  pingobarg | Jan 26, 2007 |
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Rain (1932IMDb)
Trio (1950IMDb)
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Volume 1: "Rain":  It was nearly bed-time and when they awoke next morning land would be in sight.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The situation with collected editions of Somerset Maugham's short stories is complex.

Complete Short Stories
have been published in three volumes (Heinemann, 1951), in two volumes (Doubleday, 1952: I. East and West; II: The World Over) and even in four volumes (Washington Square Press, 1967). In contrast, Collected Short Stories have been published only in four volumes, first by Penguin in 1963, later by many other publishers (Pan, Mandarin, Folio Society, Vintage).

All of these editions, regardless of the number of volumes, contain the same 91 short stories. Therefore they all belong to this work, even though the Heinemann and the Doubleday editions contain two very different sets of prefaces by Maugham.

Please do not combine with separate volumes from any of these multivolume sets (e.g. East and West, Altogether* or The World Over), nor with any other single-volume collections. There is no one-volume edition of Maugham's short stories to approach such state of completeness as any of the multi-volume sets does.

==============

*English title of what was published in the USA as East and West.
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