Saturday, 21 November 2015

Cakes and Ale 1954 Limited Edition by W. Somerset Maugham: Prefaces and Hugh Walpole

Cakes and Ale, Limited Edition - W. Somerset Maugham
Cakes and Ale (1954) Limited Edition

Cakes and Ale (London: Heinemann, 1954)


Yes, another Cakes and Ale...

Before I got this beautiful limited edition for the celebration of W. Somerset Maugham's vulnerable eightieth birthday I already possessed five copies of this delightful novel.


Cakes and Ale, First Edition, 1930 - W. Somerset Maugham This is the 1930 first UK edition. I got the dust jacket later, from another copy that is in quite a bad shape, stains probably from tea or coffee that had been knocked over it. The catch is evidently that it was sold inexpensively. At the moment copies of this first edition with dust jacket, I surmise, are still of reasonable price. Of course "reasonable" is completely dependent on the individual's situation.

Heinemann's collected edition (1934), this copy is from 1936, which I picked up very cheaply while browsing in a bookshop. Cakes and Ale, 1936, Collected Edition - W. Somerset Maugham

Cakes and Ale, Sun Dial Edition, inverted symbol Then I have this curious Sun Dial copy, with an inverted Maugham symbol. The year of publication is unknown; it only has the copyright year listed as 1930. From the fact that it doesn't have a preface, it would be safe to say that it was most likely published before 1950, when a new preface was added to the American edition.

1950, The Modern Library; this contains a new introduction, which I will discuss more in details below. Cakes and Ale 1950 Modern Library - W. Somerset Maugham


Despite all, once I held this limited edition in hand, I could hardly part with it. So, here it is.

In this post, I will talk a bit about the prefaces that Maugham has written in several editions of Cakes and Ale centred on the scandal with Hugh Walpole and Thomas Hardy, describe this beautiful limited edition (more than just numbered and signed, much more, indeed), and show some pictures I took recently when I had the opportunity to look at the originals of some of Graham Sutherland's sketches.

Cakes and Ale – Prefaces and Hugh Walpole


When Cakes and Ale was published in 1930, it generated a lot of controversies because of two characters. One is Edward Driffield, the Grand Old Man of Letters, who was seen as Thomas Hardy. For some it was like blasphemy to the revered author not yet cold in his grave.

Cakes and Ale was published on 29 September 1930, and on the 8 November issue of The Literary Digest, there was an anonymous indignant chiding of such disrespect.

Stott registers this oddly illustrated article as by Maugham under the title "Maltreat the Dead in Fiction," but it is actually "Mistreating the Dead in Fiction," and it can be read online.

It basically argues that there are more similarities than Maugham cares to admit between Driffield and Hardy, etc. But honestly, I don't know where that would lead us.

Perhaps the problem is that when a writer becomes a Grand Old Man of Letters it automatically means that he is the very symbol of virtue. He would be a liberal (well, depending on the political climate of the time), a humanist, faithful husband, and loving father. Never a bad word passes his lips, nor a vulgarity in his taste.

But then isn't this the whole point of Cakes and Ale?

The other more immediate reviews collected in Anthony Curtis and John Whitehead's The Critical Heritage published in October were quiet on this point. Although one of them, written by Evelyn Waugh, made the connection of Driffield with Hardy, the reviewer was on Maugham's side and brushed off identifying the "real" model of an author's character as a meaningless activity.

The matter wasn't settled so simply for the other character, Alroy Kear. Although at first Maugham denied it and continued to do so in the 1934 preface to the collected edition, later in 1950 when he wrote the preface to a new edition of Cakes and Ale, he admitted he based it on Hugh Walpole (1884–1941) and twisted the last bit of his dagger by dismissing whatever talent the dead man had as negligible.

I haven't read any book by Walpole, which I may soon amend since I have several lying around in my library, and I have to say that I had great fun out of all these scandals and picturing the sorry sight of Walpole half dressed for dinner, stunned to immobility when finding himself cruelly and majestically portrayed in Cakes and Ale.

I have since repented. Alec Waugh, whose brother, Evelyn, reviewed Cakes and Ale when it came out and praised it highly, made a case for Hugh Walpole in "The Nail in the Coffin. The Curious Fate of Hugh Walpole," first published in Harper's Magazine, July 1953, later incorporated in his book, My Brother Evelyn & Other Profiles (1967). It is excellently written, without blaming one side or another, but stating the strange fact of how much damage a brilliant novel can make to the life of another.

It would appear that Walpole must have stepped on Maugham's toes one way or another. I can understand the pleasures and fun Maugham got out from doing him in in Cakes and Ale, but the subsequent prefaces somehow reveal an inherent dislike or impatience, an irritation that is almost unbecoming, calling for some kind of explanations.

In the 1934 collected edition, Maugham penned a preface in which he denied Driffield as Hardy, a claim that he sustained throughout till the end. What is interesting is that somehow along the way in the preface Maugham called Driffield Herbert instead of Edward, named a lion-hunter, Lady St. Helier, a.k.a. Lady Jeune, a detail that he skipped in later prefaces.

Naturally Maugham had to deal with the other controversial character in the novel, Alroy Kear. By that time Walpole was still alive, and Maugham negated what was commonly acknowledged as an irrefutable fact that Kear was based on Walpole, and claimed that he didn't base it on any writer in particular.

Then in 1950 when Walpole was safely in the grave and Cakes and Ale saw another edition, Maugham really let him have it.

The preface to this new American edition is quite something else all together. Maugham took out the reference to the lion-hunter and added a little anecdote on Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946), the German dramatist, novelist, and Nobel Prize winner, the proud godly creature who fed on his worshippers' admiration.

Maugham denied point blank the connection between Hardy and Driffield, and then from there he drifted to Walpole.

Waugh saw this preface as the nail on Walpole's coffin, whose reputation and any claim to posterity was shattered by Maugham's novel.

Indeed, Maugham sounds unusually harsh:
He was easy to like, but difficult to respect. When I devised the character of Alroy Kear I did all I could to cover my tracks; I made him a sportsman who rode to hounds, played tennis and golf much better than most, and an amorist who skillfully avoided the entanglement of marriage. None of this could be said of Hugh Walpole. When I replied to his letter I told him this, and I added that I had taken one characteristic from an author we both knew and another from another, and moreoever that above all I had put in Alroy Kear a great deal of myself. [...] But the fact remained that I had given Alroy Kear certain traits, certain discreditable foibles which Hugh Walpole too notoriously had, so that few people in the literary world of London failed to see that he had been my model. (New York: The Modern Library, 1950, ix–x)
However, Maugham must have felt that he hadn't said all that he had to say. Four years later, to celebrate his eightieth birthday, Heinemann was to launch a special edition of one of his books for the occasion. Maugham chose Cakes and Ale, because it was his favourite. Here, he really plunges his vindictive dagger into the heart of the monstrous Walpole. Waugh, in 1953, hadn't seen the last long, thick, sharp nail yet.
He was easy to like, but difficult to respect. He was generous to the poor, kindly to the obscure, and he had a pretty knack for writing a story; it was a pity that he wrote so much and so indifferently. One must be tolerant to an author whose talent is small, but I see no reason to have mercy on one who either from conceit or laziness will not take the trouble by industry and application to make the best of such gifts as nature has endowed him with. This Hugh Walpole would not or could not do. (x)

On examining the different editions of Cakes and Ale available on the Internet, the preface, if any, is the one of the 1934 collected edition.

In a letter from George H. Doran (Maugham's publisher since Of Human Bondage until the company merged with Doubleday in 1927) to Ray Long (the editor of Cosmopolitan) in 1930, Doran described to Long his encounter with Walpole, who, as he suspected due to his change of situation, behaved like a snob to him. Supposedly Doran was referring to him no longer being a publisher on his own, but I am not certain. He persuaded Walpole to sign with Doubleday, Doran & Co. 3 books instead of 6, as Walpole wished. Doran's conclusion was that Walpole wasn't an author for them for at least 3 years. In Doran's memoirs, The Chronicle of Barabbas, his chapter on Walpole is short and feels cold.

Curiously Doran's description matches that of Alroy Kear in Cakes and Ale, snobbish and dismissive when you are of no immediate use to him.

On more cheerful note, Maugham also explained the creation of the novel as sprung out from memories of the model of Rosie, whom he found that he had to write about, and the work he put into it to jump from one period to another seamlessly. Cakes and Ale was his favourite book and it gave him lots of pleasure in the process of writing it.

Cakes and Ale - Limited Edition


As I mentioned earlier, the limited edition is for the celebration of Maugham's eightieth birthday. It is a book beautifully made, with cream and navy blue calf boards divided by gold rule front and back, and Maugham's symbol blocked in blind on front, top edges cut and gilt, other edges uncut. I have a penchant for uncut edges. They look more special and individualized, especially the ones you have to cut them yourselves. It seems somehow you participate in that book's history. Spine is decorated with black rectangular label on top.

My copy is well-kept, which I am really thankful for, that previous owners took care of the books. One of them was David Fife Anderson, who got the book on 26 November 1962. I can't quite be sure, but there was one Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University of Glasgow who went by that name, born in 1904 and parted from us in 1988. It could very well be him.

Cakes and Ale, Limited Edition Numbered Copy
Cakes and Ale (1954) - Limited Edition Numbered Copy

The limited edition should come with a slipcase, but mine didn't. My copy is number 24, with Maugham's and Sutherland's signatures.

="Graham
Graham Sutherland's Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham in Cakes and Ale Limited Edition

It features Graham Sutherland's illustrations, which, personally, I really don't care much about. I'll show the frontispiece nonetheless, there are other illustrations spread across the book, decorations, pieces of Maugham, hand, ear, mouth, yeah, precisely. Sort of gruesome.

But before that, I will talk about another feature of this limited edition, which is the reason why I bought it.

The first four pages are facsimiles of Cakes and Ale manuscript.

Cakes and Ale Manuscript Facsimile - W. Somerset Maugham Cakes and Ale Manuscript Facsimile - W. Somerset Maugham Cakes and Ale Manuscript Facsimile - W. Somerset Maugham
Cakes and Ale Manuscript Facsimile

They are certainly wonderful. Unfortunately, the scans aren't perfect. I don't want to force my book too much. To achieve high quality scan result, one would need to cut the pages. Imagine.

I have seen several Maugham manuscripts and have got familiar with his handwritings and revision habits. Looking at the facsimiles is different, of course, but it is still marvellous. It is a pity that the facsimiles don't seem to be of full size though, which, I assume, is due to the fact that the notebooks that Maugham usually used are much bigger in dimension. Another thing that has not be reproduced faithfully is the lines. From Stott's description Cakes and Ale was written on the habitual lined sheets that Maugham liked. The ink is dark blue or black, which is not as common as a lighter blue that Maugham appeared to prefer.

Graham Sutherland's Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham


The famous portrait of Maugham done by Graham Sutherland in 1949 is now in Tate Gallery. Whatever merits it possesses artistically and historically I don't like it. But that is a very personal thing. I like more the lithograph that is used for this edition of Cakes and Ale.

Graham Sutherland's portrait of Somerset Maugham Graham Sutherland Sketches of W. Somerset Maugham - Shoe

I have recently seen the original of several of Sutherland's sketches of Maugham, which are now in Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Lord Beaverbrook, the press baron who became friends with Maugham in his last years, was closely involved in the scandalous publication of "Looking Back" (1962); he basically owned New Brunswick, where he was born and later returned after making his name, and pots of money, in England. In this gallery that he built, besides several sketches of Maugham by Sutherland, there are also Sutherland's portrait of him and more sketches of Churchill and other celebrities. I hope in the future to talk more about him in context with Maugham and the sale of one of Maugham's paintings to Lady Dunn, Beaverbrook's close friend's widow.

Graham Sutherland's Sketches of W. Somerset Maugham - Head Graham Sutherland's Sketches of W. Somerset Maugham - another head
Graham Sutherland's Sketches of W. Somerset Maugham - Head

Back to our limited edition. For now, prices are US$400 upwards, although recently I saw on eBay one starting with half of that. As numbered, signed, limited edition, there won't be much chance to find a cheap copy.
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Cakes and Ale Limited Edition at AbeBooks
Cakes and Ale First Edition with Dust Jacket at AbeBooks
Cakes and Ale 1950 Modern Library with new preface at AbeBooks
Cakes and Ale 1934 Collected Edition at AbeBooks


2 comments :

  1. Very nice! If I remember correctly.George Doran (who also published Walpole's books) described, in his autobiography, part of a conversation with Maugham where he had asked Maugham if he had read the latest novel by Hugh Walpole, and Maugham answered rather brusquely something like "No. Why would I do that?" My books are all packed up right now so I can't look up the exact words. There seems to have been something personal between those two. It appears, from your post, that perhaps Maugham resented Walpole for acting (or not acting) like he didn't even really try to write good books, while Maugham put everything into his craft - even travelling to dangerous parts of the world for inspiration.

    I've met people, with the same amount of success at one thing or another as me, who have tried to belittle my achievements by saying that they didn't even really try that hard...yet they achieved roughly the same amount of success.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, Doran was talking about Harmer John, and Maugham said that Jesus had already done that story. I am reading Walpole's Hans Frost, so far so so.

      I was thinking about that too, Maugham's dislike towards Walpole. I think it is possible that it boils down to the fact that Maugham couldn't stand insincerity. It seems sort of odd that he didn't have any trouble accepting all kinds of people as they were, but then at the same time I guess it isn't odd. Or I can put it like that: he didn't judge people as long as they were true to themselves; he cared little what the rest of the world thought. He put in a chapter in Strictly Personal, very similar to his rejection to Walpole. It's chapter 15, which is only in the US edition (not sure about the modern one though), supposedly about Godfrey Winn (renamed George Potter), a promising young writer whom Maugham took in and then later dropped. In the chapter Maugham was forced to tell Potter the reason why, and Maugham's answer was that he couldn't possibly keep the friendship of someone whose writing he despised. What Potter did was writing something trashy, which wasn't the problem; the problem was that he believed in the stuff he wrote, and that was what Maugham objected to.

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