Friday, 22 March 2013

Somerset Maugham at Eighty


Cordell, Richard A. "Somerset Maugham at Eighty." College English 15 (1954): 201-207.

Cordell wrote a book on Maugham as early as 1937, and later in 1961. In this article, he gives a general overview of Maugham's achievement and predicts his future reception and influence.

He foresees, among all Maugham's work, several books that posterity will probably continue reading. For novels, he lists Liza of LambethMrs. CraddockOf Human BondageMoon and Sixpence and Cakes and Ale; the last of which he criticises as shortcoming its frequent shifts in time frame, which is later praised as expertly done by Palmer (see below). He thinks that The Narrow Corner and The Razor's Edge will come close and may even join this list.

For drama pieces, he eyes The Constant WifeThe Circleand Sheppey favourably. As for non-fiction work, he highlights On a Chinese ScreenThe Gentleman in the Parlour and Don Fernando; and The Summing Up and A Writer's Notebook are mentioned as very useful for writers and critics who study Maugham. Cordell praises The Gentleman in the Parlour particularly as an excellent piece of craftsmanship.

It is interesting for posterity, that is, us, now to confirm and reject this prediction. One unforeseeable feature is the influence and propaganda of pictures (the ones that move) on reviving some books, such as The Painted Veil and Theatre, to cite more recent examples.

Cordell also gives a short review of Maugham's success and failure as a writer.

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