Friday, 22 March 2013

W. Somerset Maugham. The Critical Heritage




Curtis, Anthony and John Whitehead, ed. W. Somerset Maugham. The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1987.

This is a collection of contemporary reviews on Maugham's work, which is a very useful manual for studying the reception of Maugham's books during his life time, from his very first production to the last. As the editors confess, it is quite impossible to enclose in one volume all that has been written during a professional writer's career, especially one as prolific as Maugham's. From the 2,355 items listed by Charles Sanders in his W. Somerset Maugham. An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him, Curtis and Whitehead select 150 which represent the initial reception of the author's publications and the performances of his dramatic work. The reprints, especially of new book and drama reviews in newspapers, supplements and magazines, save researchers a lot of work.

The collection is separated into several sections, which present no hindrance at all for searches of specific work, especially with the help of the detailed content page and the index. Moreover, different points of views from reviewers, including fellow writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield and Graham Greene, offer interesting information on the diverse taste of readers.

The editors' introduction sums up the turning points of Maugham's literary career in relation to how his work was received and situates him in the literary community of his time. It also highlights how Maugham makes use of criticism to improve his books in their subsequent publication.

In conclusion, this collection offers a revision of the career of Maugham as a professional writer.

A digitalised edition is available.

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