Thursday, 27 February 2014

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham - First Edition First Issue

Of Human Bondage 1915 First Edition
W. Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage (New York: George H. Doran, 1915)


This is an occasion for celebration. Finally I got the first edition first issue of Of Human Bondage! It is indeed a heavy book, in total 400g heavier than a later edition that I own (yes, I did put them on the kitchen scale...).

Of Human Bondage
First Edition
Spine
The first issue is distinguished by a misprint on p. 257, line 4, the famous "help," which is corrected in the second issue. Naturally, the one with error fetches higher price (this sentence sounds funny, almost like we are in an upside down world...).

The UK edition was published a day after the US, which is famous for the controversial dust jacket with Philip's club foot on the wrong leg.

My copy isn't exactly in a perfect condition; it has a forlorn look, which I will try to repair shortly; but again, I don't mind.

Copies of the first editions of Of Human Bondage can still be found easily, and from time to time they appear in auctions. For the first edition second issue one could find a copy for slightly over US$100. For the first edition first issue it's already at least triple that, and then from there the price can reach to thousands, mostly for the signed copies.

Beware though that the true first has green binding and blocked in gold on front and spine. As later issues have only the 1915 copyright, sometimes they are listed in catalogues as first edition and sold as thus. For example, I have another copy with green cloth and title blocked in black, which was published in 1919 (as recorded in Norman Moore's catalogue), but there is no indication in the book that it was not published in 1915; and I have seen it being sold for thousands.


Of Human Bondage at AbeBooks


39 comments :

  1. Hi. This is a somewhat related comment, considering this novel is semi-autobiographical. After much research, I can say, with certitude, that W. Somerset Maugham was NOT a homosexual. I began coming to this conclusion by piecing together logic. Maugham made lots of enemies late in life - public figures who slander. Many unsuccessful writers were jealous of his widespread fame. Robin Maugham had become an envious enemy later in life; Somerset found him a boring drunk. I've just finished reading an eye-witenss account by a journalist (in an article in Look Magazine Oct. 18, 1966) of Syrie Maugham's hysterical jealousy of Gerald Haxton on a 1st class trip back to England from France after an incident in which Maugham broke her heart. She began speaking in an intentional loud voice so that everyone could hear (and everyone knew who she was - being a public figure and all) comparing Maugham to someone named Freddy who apparently was a famous homosexual (not open of course but according to Syrie "everyone knew about Freddy") who married a woman and had 3 kids. It was a wild accusation, and this woman journalist, who felt sympathy for Syrie having made an ass out of herself in France attempting a reconciliation with Maugham, acknowledged that it was not possible that Maugham was a homosexual and certainly there was no sex between him and Haxton. I put it simply, but coming from this journalist it is 100% convincing, especially when you consider how dreadfully cruel she was to Maugham throughout the article. She even went so far as to write every piece of dialogue from Maugham with cartoonish stammers "D-d-d-did you g-g-g-get a laundry b-b-b-bill from Syrie?" My reserch went far beyong this one article. If you are new to Maugham, please do not read Ted Morgan's "biography." It is nothing more than cheap, sensationalistic slander based on lies and bias. When you die, would you like people who never knew you to talk to your enemies about what kind of person you were?

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    1. Sorry, accidentally deleted the comment I made before....
      Is the article named "The Twisted Marriage of Somerset Maugham"? The title reminds me of Beverly Nichols' book, A Case of Human Bondage. A Tragically Twisted Marriage of W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1966. I haven't read it, but it is supposed to be very damning on Maugham. However, it seems that in that book he did say that Maugham was a homosexual, so it may have nothing to do with the article you mentioned.

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  2. I guess I'm saying that there is no proof of W. Somerset Maugham being a homosexual. There IS proof that he was heterosexual. The rumor Syrie vindictively started that he was a homosexual has been accepted as fact, when, according to the article I read and other peces of the puzzle, not only is there no proof but there is no indications that he was gay. There was no femininity in his manner, dress, or speech, and especially not in his writing. But his critics, enemies, and professional slanderers have prated on about it to such a point to where it is a work of fiction. I have no problem with homosexual people, but I don't rightfully include Maugham as one of them. Robin Maugham, however, was a documented homosexual.

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    1. Very fresh and original point of view, Mike. I do think you're the first to propose it. You may well be right. I'd be very interested in any further piece of evidence you care to share.

      I have little doubt about Willie's homosexuality myself, not for any other reason but simply because it is the theory that most conveniently fit the facts of his life (living with male companions for many years or those naked parties around the pool in the Villa Mauresque, for instance; difficult to believe it was all platonic). Not the facts are important, of course, but their influence, if any.

      Here I also have a controversial theory and I'd like to share it with you. I think Willie's homosexuality did influence his writing, but only broadly speaking and definitively in positive direction. It made him, as an outsider, a sharper observer of heterosexual relationships and, above all, women in particular. He is widely regarded as a misogynist. Rubbish, if you ask me. On the contrary, he is a feminist. I don't think it is an indefensible claim to suggest that most of Maugham's finest characterisation was spent on his female characters. Nor do I think it is a coincidence that very much the same thing can be said about another great writer, an American dramatist and a confirmed homosexual a generation or so younger than Maugham, namely Tennessee Williams.

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    2. I am not convinced by the argument that he is a misogynist either. I think it is made due to the confusion of mixing Maugham's views with those that he uses for characterization purpose.

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    3. Alexander, I have been thinking about your relating Maugham's homosexuality to his writing. I remember not long ago I read a report about the difference of the male and female brains, how they are wired differently, which can be seen in a form of MRI scan. To take this further (which has no proof still), there may just be some biological basis for a different perceptiveness and sensibilities in people in relation to their sexual orientation.

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  3. Well, there is definite proof of his heterosexuality - all the affairs he had with women, and Syrie who, in a fit of bitterness caused by dejection, said to a popular reporter that Maugham chose his Friendship with Gerald over his marriage because most likely he was gay. It's not unusual for a woman in that position, with pride hurt, to say a thing like that. Also, if a man doesn't much like his wife after a period of time, he always choses his friends over her. When he died, it was still a bad thing to be a homosexual which is why the people who disliked him, or were jealous of him, or thought he was a joke in his old age took that rumor and flew with it. Robin Maugham added fuel to that fire because he was a drunk, and Maugham wrote on more than one occasion that he found drunks boring and tiresome. Or maybe Robin was trying to de-criminate himself a little by giving Somerset some of his (Robin's) own homosexual traits in his books.

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  4. I finally have a 1st edition 1st issue Doran "Of Human Bondage" WITH the typo 'help.' Got it at a very good price in good shape. Now I'm looking to sell the 1st-1st I have with the typo corrected. It's still very rare it seems - with the gold lettering on spine, and no Doran stamp, etc.

    I also downloaded, then ran the MOCkumentary "Revealing Mr. Maugham" through a film editing program I have just to get a still of that b/w photo of Maugham from 1905 "The struggling author." [It shows up in the film within the first 10 minutes.] I then edited it, enlarged it, gave it a super-high resolution, printed it at roughly 15" x 18" and it's getting nicely framed right now.

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    1. Hi Mike,

      Congratulations and glad to hear from you! Wouldn't you like to keep the other copy also?

      Life has been so hectic... I don't think I noticed the photo but will check it out. Sounds very interesting indeed. Maugham in 1905. I saw some photos on ebay a while ago showing Maugham in a rehearsal in one of his early plays, which I believe I didn't see before.

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  5. Hello, a few years I purchased a few old editions of Of Human Bondage, as its my favorite book. I was able to snag a first edition - with the help typo - for $20 off eBay. I'm having trouble finding its market value. Do you have any insight? And if I was looking to sell, where would you suggest I start? Thanks, Tyler

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    1. I just had a look at Of Human Bondage first editions. Wow, how quickly the prices have risen! I was going to say $500 if you want to sell it quick, but after my check you can easily get $1,000. What I would do is to sell it a bit lower than the lowest equivalent. Some of the copies are outrageously priced, even the ones that are not the true first, and likely they are going to stay on the catalogues for quite a while.

      As an individual selling I would suggest eBay, but Mike has more experience about that; let's see if he chips in.

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  6. Yes. I quickly sold 3 Maugham firsts on eBay: "The Bishop's Apron" "Liza of Lambeth" and "Mrs. Craddock." All 3 sold within 2 weeks bringing in a total of $1180. Like he said you have to see what the cheapest one out there goes for, then sell it a bit less. With the "Of Human Bondage" true first, you HAVE to have a photo of the help typo on your listing. I would go between the aforementioned $500 and $1000. If it were me, I'd go $800. There is a person on eBay who has bought 3 pricey Maugham firsts from me; I found that listing your price then allowing the "or best offer" option helps. How long ago was it that you bought this edition for just $20?

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  7. Thanks for your help. I'm still trying to decide if I should sell or not.

    I purchased the book 4-5 years ago. Looks like I got a great deal!

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  8. Hi, I just noticed another typo in the true first edition. 'eat' where it should be 'ate'. 17th line from the bottom. "Mrs. Carey seldom eat more than bread and butter, with a little stewed fruit to follow, but the Vicar had a slice of cold meat." I have the Doran with the more famous 'help' for 'helped' on page 157.

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    1. Hi Mike,
      I was recording typos when reading the first editions, and found it puzzling why so many of them were not registered. I suspect it is because the rest of the errors continue in later issues, and only the ones, such as the case of "help," that were revised are used to distinguish different printings. (I suppose you mean p. 257?)

      On which page is the one about Mrs. Carey? I wonder if it is in later editions. I am working on a new project and proofreading a lot of books. Even in later editions there are many typos, and most of them are not in the first editions.

      I was in Whitstable and Canterbury a bit ago. It feels completely different when reading Of Human Bondage now. I was walking in King's School and it gives me such a strange feeling reading the descriptions of Philip studying there, the cathedral, the same with his life in Blackstable. I wish I could go again some time and read the novel on the spot. I guess that's what one feels when reading a local writer, which I have done, but I didn't feel so involved in those books.

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  9. It's on page 20. I forgot to include that key piece of information. :-)

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  10. I didn't realize I had five copies of the book. In two, 1915 and 1919, the error is there; it is corrected since the 1936 edition.

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  11. Interesting. It's like you wrote earlier about typos - how some are important while others are not. The fact that it's in the 1919 version makes it less important than the 'help' typo as it's not an indicator of a first edition, first printing.

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  12. I'm currently reading "Of Human Bondage." I'm just after Phillip breaks it off with Nora due to Mildred. Looking back on the chapters in Paris, and knowing that Lawton is based on Gerald Kelly, I'm wondering exactly how did Maugham and Gerald Kelly meet?

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    1. According to Calder, Maugham met Kelly in 1904, in Meudon; Kelly was a friend of his brother Charles and had been studying art in Paris for three years. Kelly's talk about Paris was the incentive for Maugham to go there in 1905. With Kelly's help, Maugham got an apartment in Montparnasse for £28 a year. The good old days! I wonder how much that is converting to present day value, still sounds very attractive.

      I am terribly behind, at Professor Erlin... in between reading several books that fail to capture my attention, putting a lid on an old research on the 16c, looking at birds...

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  13. I meant Lawson of course,

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  14. When Maugham was in Paris in 1905 - didn't he also meet Crowley there too? Wasn't Gerald Kelly chummy with Crowley?

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    1. Yes, Crowley married Kelly's sister Rose, a relationship that didn't turn out very well; Rose became an alcoholic and suffered from some mental illness afterwards. Thinking about it now, I wonder if poor Margaret's marriage to Haddo in The Magician wasn't based on that. Perhaps critics have already written about that already.

      I am not going to search for it now, but I remember reading that Cronshaw was based on Crowley, which I have my serious doubts about. I have my weakness for Cronshaw, and somehow I can't picture Crowley as him.

      I was going to ask you if you read Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. I like that book very much, and somehow Leora reminds me a lot of Nora.

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  15. No I've not read "Arrowsmith." I'll check it out sometime though. It's funny you mention Cronshaw. I believe Cronshaw could have been Baudelaire (whom friends of Maugham may have known; he was broke at the end of his life and lived with a dark hussy who notoriously had affairs and kids with other men)) and also partially his older brother Harry Neville Maugham who wrote poems no one wanted to publish - Maugham couldn't get them published either. If I remember correctly, W.S. was left with the responsibility of the funeral. There is a novelized version of Baudelaire and his woman called "Black Venus," by a James MacManus. It reminds me of Cronshaw a bit.

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    1. I guess like Maugham said, his characters were composite of people he knew and stories he heard of and himself, which I suspect, is the same case for other writers. On the other hand, many people seem to share similar fate and traits, which is an overwhelming thought.

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  16. Hi, I just finished reading "Of Human Bondage" for the first time in 23 years. Returning to it as a middle-aged man, I get something very different from it than I did when I was 20, which is to say entertainment above all. When I was 20, I was still looking for many answers and perspective on a life I was just about to enter. Back then it definitely inspired in me a very serious interest in visual art. My sympathies were elsewhere this time around as well; I'd cringe at many of Phillip's actions. His refusal to ask for help when he lost it all, reminded me of Mildred. In fact, it I noticed several times there would be passages where Phillip is mildly admonishing behaviors in other, then a chapter later he behaves/re-acts in much the same way as what he had admonished. I noticed this in my own life recently as well. I was more keen this time around to what seems to be the overall philosophical theme. The ending is perfect. Internally it was exactly what had happened to me a couple of years ago when I met my, now, wife - only without the desire to have children.

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    1. This is an immensely interesting observation. How we do the same thing that we criticize in others.

      Curiously I am not so moved by what is the most prominent theme, as people usually see, in the book, i.e. Philip-Mildred. What had an impact on me when I read it again seriously a few years ago was how crippled Philip was when he had to decide the course of his life. How he tried different things, but none came to a head, and the frustrations that came with it. How terrible at the same time this is, how one is betrayed by how one reads a book, a good book, naturally. It tells more about yourself than you care to let others know.

      I also think that the ending is good, contrary to main criticisms that the book receives. I don't think it is wish fulfilment or unrealistic. It is a step as courageous as if Philip were to decide to abandon Sally. Either way he will have to live with his decision. Perhaps happiness is just to have the right thing coming to you at the right time. I was thinking about that when I went to the part when Mr. Perkins finally gave up trying to persuade Philip to stay at King's School. Philip got what he wanted, but he felt so bad because it would have satisfied him a little before, and the contrariwise would have made him feel better at that time. It's like a mismatch of time and space, the ultimate human tragedy, perhaps.

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  17. Yes. I don't see Phillip-Mildred as the main theme like many do (as obviously Hollywood did), but rather like Phillip-the meaning of life.

    Another part of that observation I found was: when he believes he got Sally pregnant, is he no better than the people in the slums whose unwanted babies he was bringing into the world? That's an element of the book that escaped me 20 years ago, or it's just the way I perceive things now. No class of people is really any better than other classes. In America right now it's VERY easy to make this observation.

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  18. Maugham is saying no, people aren't any different. He was such an extraordinary observer of human activity, and the human personality.

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    1. Very interesting reading you're bringing us. It must be quite an anguish for someone as sensitive as Philip to see that. Then, at the same time, Philip has a way out, unfortunately for the poor people, they don't.

      Talking about America, I came across this, for a laugh:
      Some American Delusions.
      (i) That there is no class-consciousness in the country.
      (ii) That American coffee is good.
      (iii) That Americans are business-like.
      (iv) That Americans are highly-sexed and that redheads are more highly-sexed than others.

      Can you guess from where? Guess carefully...

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  19. Canada?
    Well, the reason I said that in America it's easy to make that observation, it's because here, how much money one has really doesn't determine their maturity, refinement, gentleness, morality at all. We have a stereotype here called "White Trash With Money." This would describe Paris Hilton, as well as most oil-wealth southerners, rock stars, and New York and Boston area sports fanatics with $2500 to spend on good seats to a sporting event. On the other hand we have blacks like P-diddy or Jay-Z, etc. who are Niggers With Money - money has done nothing to escalate them to beauty or kindness; their minds are still in the gangster gutter.

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    1. Got you! Maugham wrote that in 1941. I think he was making fun of people's self image from an outsider's point of view. For example, since you mention Canada, the Canucks believe they are incredibly polite.

      Yeah, I heard about those tickets. Brutal. When I was using all my wits to get money for my degree, I heard that someone opened a bottle of vintage wine the night before that costed the same amount for my whole year's expenses.

      I think nowadays money has little to do with education. If your family isn't rich, education won't make you richer, but we still believe that it would, or we are made to believe that it would, a myth that enables the universities to survive.

      I actually watched a movie with Paris Hilton (without realizing it) the other day, and it wasn't all that bad, House of Wax. Now, I thought the n-word was forbidden... You're going to headlines tomorrow. :-)

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    2. ...to make headlines, I mean.

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  20. Ha, yeah, only I won't apologize. :-) I figured it was only fair since I used the term white trash.

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  21. I have a misprint edition, a section of pages is left out, and another section is printed twice. Does anyone know anything about this?

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    1. Could you give more details? Which pages? Are you talking about this first edition first issue? Thanks!

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  22. I have a copy that has "educational edition" on the title page. I cannot find any information about this specific printing. It is hard bound, with the author's name,in red, in script, on the front cover

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    1. Can you describe the copy? Like the publisher, year, or any other information. I did a project some time ago registering editions of Of Human Bondage, and there are some photos in the video: https://mymaughamcollection.blogspot.com/p/to-celebrate-centenary-of-of-human.html

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