Friday, 5 April 2013

Short, Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography of Works about Somerset Maugham

NB. With very few exceptions, the following volumes are infinitely inferior to what Maugham wrote about himself. But they are somewhat useful about facts and figures. In chronological order.

Life and Letters Vol. 6, No. 33; 
February 1931, ed. Desmond MacCarthy
"The Skirmishers" by Desmond MacCarthy is a powerful exploration of the parallel between Maugham and Maupassant, amusingly presented as a dialogue between a Maugham admirer (the author himself) and a Maugham detractor. A more substantial and more perceptive piece than MacCarthy's far more famous appreciation William Somerset Maugham, 'The English Maupassant' (1933). Some reflections of mine and some quotes from MacCarthy's piece can be found here.

Desmond MacCarthy, William Somerset Maugham, 'The English Maupassant', Heinemann, 1934.
[First published in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine, May 1933. Reprinted in Altogether (1934), the British edition of East and West, and in MacCarthy's Memories]
Though historical importance somewhat overrides its value as literary criticism, this is still a fine appreciation, especially considering it was first published as early as 1933. Not for nothing was Mr MacCarthy one of the very few among the critics whom Maugham regarded with great admiration. Unlike many of his colleagues, Mr MacCarthy obviously read a great deal of Maugham's works, and read them well too. The bibliography is not serious, but the illustrations (including a photo portrait of Maugham as a frontispiece) are delightful. [See the essay “The Short Story” from the collection Points of View (1958) for Maugham’s opinion on MacCarthy.]

Raymond Toole Stott, 
Maughamiana, the Writings of W. Somerset Maugham, Doubleday, 1950.
I haven’t seen this precursor of Mr Stott’s definitive bibliography (1973). For a comprehensive review of this booklet, see here.

William F. Smith, Fiction Techniques in the Short Stories and Novels of William Somerset Maugham, Master Thesis, 1952.
I have never read this one, but do have a look at this review.

The Maugham Enigma, ed. Klaus W. Jonas
The Citadel Press, 1954.
An indifferent collection of book reviews, general criticism and biographical essays, a kind of greatly inferior precursor to The Critical Heritage (1987), eds. Anthony Curtis and John Whitehead. Of historical interest only, especially if one wants to taste the contemporary academic response to Maugham's work. Vastly amusing at some places. For extensive selections of quotes, see here.

Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, Theatrical Companion to Maugham
Rockliff, 1955.
Very thorough study of Maugham's career as a playwright published with his own approval. Contains exhaustive information about probably all plays Maugham ever wrote, including unpublished ones and even translations of works of others. For every play there are dramatis personae, synopsis, quotes from contemporary reviews and Maugham's own works concerning the play in question as well as information about the time and place of its writing, publishing, productions and revivals. Contains also 196 photos from more or less all Maugham's plays ever produced. Invaluable book about a significant and important part of Maugham's literary output. For a table of contents, see here.

Klaus Jonas, The Gentleman from Cap Ferrat
Center for Maugham Studies, New Haven, Conn., 1956.
The great scarcity and monstrous price of this little pamphlet certainly do not live up to its importance. Superficial and mediocre account of Maugham's life and works. Contains few valuable excerpts from Maugham's letters and a beautifully written preface (also in the form of letter) by Maugham himself. For several further observations of mine, see here.

Raymond Toole Stott, The Writings of William Somerset Maugham
Bertram Rota, 1956.

Another early version of Mr Stott’s definitive 1973 bibliography I have never seen. Other Maugham admirers have, however; see this review.  

Raymond Toole Stott, Supplement to the above, 
Straker Bros., 1964.

Another piece of Mr Stott’s exhaustive research into Maugham’s oeuvre. Have never seen it myself, but more tenacious explorers of Maugham’s works have: see this review.  

Christopher Hassall, Edward Marsh, patron of the arts: A biography
Longmans, 1959.
The definitive biography of one of the very few people for whom Maugham had a great respect. Contains some of the proofs of The Summing Up (1938), the first of Maugham's books to have its proofs corrected by Eddie Marsh; his suggestions and Maugham's accepting/refusing them are also given here. Otherwise there is very little about Maugham, and that's mostly trivia.

Klaus W. Jonas, The world of Somerset Maugham
Peter Owen Limited, 1959.
Collection of five lengthy essays, including two by Mr Jonas himself, which purport to be a thorough exploration of Maugham's oeuvre. Except for a very comprehensive, if very prejudiced, study of the novels by M. C. Kuner and a warm, sympathetic and perceptive mixture of recollections and reflections by Glenway Wescott, not really worth reading. The evaluation of Maugham's dramatic works by St. John Ervine is a disgrace. For some reflections of mine, see here.

Karl G. Pfeiffer, W. Somerset Maugham, a Candid Portrait
W. W. Norton, 1959.

For some disparaging remarks about this book by Maugham himself in his letters to Klaus Jonas, see the 2009 mess of a book W. Somerset Maugham: The Man and His Work / Leben und Werk. For a devastating review of Mr Pfeiffer’s attempts at candour, see this link.

Richard Cordell, Somerset Maugham: a biographical and critical study
Heinemann, 1962.
Interesting, well-written, occasionally shrewd and more or less balanced critical study of Maugham's complete works. Contains some perceptive thoughts about Maugham's public persona and his family background, but there is little to admire in Mr Cordell's literary analyses. Though he lacks the usual caustic aggressiveness of the critics who write about Maugham, the author seldom has to say something different than the obvious; some of his judgements are, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Worth reading, but forgettable. For a more extensive review of mine, see here.

Laurence Brander, Somerset Maugham: A Guide
Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd [1963].

I haven’t read this one. See this review.

John Brophy, Somerset Maugham, Longmans, 1964.
Writers and Their Work No. 22. Revised edition with additional bibliography.
Fairly interesting, rather prejudiced, well written and virtually devoid of maliciousness study of Maugham's fiction. The Bibliography is a disgrace. A longer attempt for a review of mine can be found here.

Wilmon Menard, The Two Worlds of Somerset Maugham,
Sherbourne Press, 1965.
Well-written book by a fellow globetrotter and sincere admirer. Fascinating research into some of Maugham's most famous South Sea stories ("Rain", "The Pool") and excerpts from interviews with Maugham himself. Both, however, must be taken with a healthy dose of cynicism. Mr Menard's research remains for the most part elusively unsourced and he is apt to mix interviews with published writings, sometimes quoted word for word, sometimes dubiously rehashed. Recommended with caution!  For a table of contents and several observations of mine, see here.

Robin Maugham, Somerset and All the Maughams
Longmans: Heinemann, 1966.
Haven’t read this one yet. But an intelligent and perceptive friend has. Do check this fine review.

Garson Kanin, Remembering Mr. Maugham
Atheneum, 1966.
Garson Kanin recorded verbatim numerous conversations and anecdotes with Maugham. Most of them are fluff, but some offer insights into Maugham's inner world which you are not likely to find anywhere else - if the author is not Maugham himself, of course (this is deliberately repeated countless times). Nevertheless, this is an indispensable, if lightweight, addition to the library of every serious Maugham buff. Mr Kanin's warm and affectionate tone is unique in the Maughamian literature.

Beverley Nichols, A Case of Human Bondage
Secker & Warburg, 1966.

A notorious riposte to the presumably vicious portrait of his wife which Maugham drew in his late and still unpublished in book form memoirs Looking Back (1962). Haven’t read it but am scared of doing so thanks to this brilliant review. For a different point of view, see here.

M. K. Naik, W. Somerset Maugham
University of Oklahoma Press, 1966.

An obscure study I have never read. Here is a great review by a shrewd critic.

Alec Waugh, My Brother Evelyn & Other Profiles
Cassell, 1967.
Contains a warm and sympathetic portrait of Maugham titled "W. S. M.: R. I. P.".

William H. Henry, A French Bibliography of W. Somerset Maugham
The Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1967.

I have never seen this rarity, but it must be fascinating. A dear friend has written a fine review

Ivor Brown, W. Somerset Maugham
International Profiles, 1970.
Short, fairly comprehensive, rather indifferent and tediously written account of Maugham as a writer and playwright, his life and views. Mr Brown's remark that Graham Sutherland's famous portrait from 1949 and the photos of Maugham from the 1950s are pictures of misery is a gross exaggeration indeed. Lavishly illustrated with great photos; for them alone a worthy addition to the shelf 'About Maugham'. For a much better review, see here.

Robert Calder, W. Somerset Maugham and the Quest for Freedom
Heinemann, 1972.
Fascinating but misguided study. Intriguing major concept, but rather contrived in some places. Heavily marred by amateurish psychology and ill-advised attacks on Maugham's stature. Valuable appendices on the real foundations of Rosie, Maugham's spy activities in Petrograd in 1917 and the characters based on him in the fiction of others.

Raymond Toole Stott, Bibliography of the Works of W. Somerset Maugham
Kaye & Word, 1973.
Greatly revised and enlarged edition over the previous one, first published in 1956. Invaluable resource about Maugham's mammoth oeuvre despite some silly mistakes and the rather perfunctory treatment of his collected editions, including Heinemann's The Collected Edition and the many fascinating prefaces Maugham wrote especially for it. For a table of contents and several observations of mine, see here.

Anthony Curtis, The Pattern of Maugham: A Critical Portrait
Hamish Hamilton, 1974.

Thorough study of Maugham's complete oeuvre written in a very exquisite style and with a great deal of common sense that are not usually to be found in critics. Despite his obvious affection for Maugham, Anthony Curtis never gets affected about him; his praise is always qualified, his criticism sensible, perceptive and to the point.

Anthony Curtis, Somerset Maugham
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977.
Brief, lucid, balanced and sensible account of Maugham's life and work. But the lots of gorgeous photos remain the most precious part of the book. They illustrate virtually every significant event of Maugham's life in terms of places, people and himself. For reviews, see here.

Frederic Raphael, W. Somerset Maugham and his World
Book Club Associates, 1977.
Another superbly illustrated book. Indifferent text, somewhat laboriously written and full with the usual prejudices: too much importance attached to the homosexuality and the marriage, the shame of Looking Back, the second-class author, a lot of pointless speculations about the real persons behind the characters and so on and so forth. The mixture as before. But the photographs are magnificent. For a few reflections of mine, see here.

Robin Maugham, Conversations with Willie
W. H. Allen, 1978.
Haven’t read this one yet.

Ted Morgan, Maugham: A Biography
Triad/Granada, 1981.
[Frist published, 1980.]
The most famous and closest to definitive biography of Maugham - according to the critics. For my own part, this is a fairly well researched book, written in gossipy and highly readable style, that tells a lot about Maugham's life in facts in figures and nothing whatsoever about his personality as a writer and a man. Full of the usual prejudices and clichés; rather condescending at some places. For some thoughts from an old self of mine, see here.

Anthony Curtis, Somerset MaughamNorthcote Press, 1982. 
Writers and Their Work No. 279.
Indifferent pamphlet, uncertainly oscillating between biography and criticism. Exceedingly superficial and barbed compared to Mr Curtis superlative earlier critical study and illustrated biography. Very little of Maugham's works are discussed and only the discussion of the plays is somewhat insightful. Mr Curtis appears to have been unfortunately influenced by Morgan's hatchet job. The bibliography in the end is the same as in Mr Brophy's 1964 attempt. It contains the same blatant errors.

Forrest D. Burt, W. Somerset Maugham
Twayne's English Authors Series, c1985.

I have never seen this doubtless profound study. For a penetrating review by perceptive critic, see here.

W. Somerset Maugham: The Critical Heritage
eds. Anthony Curtis and John Whitehead, Routledge, 1987.
Collection of 150 reviews (and few other pieces) of almost all books Maugham ever wrote. Most of these are so trite, superficial and inane, that they are a great fun to read. Contains an excellent introduction by the editors, summarising the critical response to Maugham during his life, and many reviews of certain historical interest (including the notorious ones by Wilson, Lawrence and Mansfield). For table of contents and some confused reflections of myself, see here.

Archie K. Loss, W. Somerset Maugham
Ungar, 1987.
Stupendous crap not worth the paper it is printed on. Full of praise (?!) for Morgan's biography and amazing amount of the usual nonsense about Maugham: homosexuality, misogyny, cliché-ridden style, etc., etc. For an angry review of mine, see here.

John Whitehead, Maugham: A Reappraisal
Barnes and Noble, 1987.
Surprisingly good critical study of Maugham's complete oeuvre. Not without some priggish and prudish prejudices, certainly inferior to Anthony Curtis' superb treatment in The Pattern of Maugham (1974), but well worth reading all the same. Apart from tedious plot descriptions, it does contain a number of useful bits of information and insightful touches. For my of tendentious opions on this book, see here.

Robert Calder, Willie: The Life of W. Somerset Maugham
Heinemann, 1989.
Full-scale biography, thoroughly researched and well-written. A great deal better than Morgan's in terms of sympathy and analysis of Maugham's literary works. Suffers slightly from Mr Calder's preoccupation with Maugham's search for freedom and enormously from his obsession with Maugham's homosexuality. For a greatly prejudiced review of mine, see here.

Stanley Archer, W. Somerset Maugham: A Study of the Short Fiction
Twayne, 1993.
Comprehensive but exceedingly superficial survey of Maugham's short stories. Devoid of malice, to be sure, but certainly devoid of perceptive points, too. The most valuable part of the book is Maugham's own preface to his collected short stories East and West (1934) which is one of his most fascinating discourses on the art of the short story and is reprinted here in full. For comprehensive reviews, check this link.

Samuel J. Rogal, A Companion to the Characters 
in the Fiction and Drama of W. Somerset Maugham, Greenwood Press, 1996.

Am not acquainted with this mighty reference work, but I suspect this review is better than the book itself.

Samuel J. Rogal, A William Somerset Maugham Encyclopedia
Greenwood Press, 1997.
Very useful book for finding quickly and easy a lot of interesting things about Maugham's life, the people he knew, and the places he visited. In terms of his works, the encyclopaedia is rather useless, however. Contains extremely long and tedious plot descriptions. The history of publication is perfunctory and with quite a few mistakes. At many places Mr Rogal is unwise enough to express personal opinions. For my extensive reflections on the subject, see here.

Bryan Connon, Somerset Maugham & the Maugham Dynasty
Sinclair-Stevenson, 1997.
Total crap! Poorly researched and slanderous invective, trying to convince that Maugham's social duplicity was far and away the most important part of his life. Vast neglect combined with stupendous nonsense about some of Maugham's writings - but a lot of righteous venom on Looking Back. Lots of interesting stuff on the other Maughams, but also poorly researched and decidedly sensationalist. For some reflections by my annoyed self, see here.

A Bibliographical Catalogue of the Loren and Frances Rothschild William Somerset Maugham Collection, Heritage Books, 2001.
Not at all so great as the blurbs would lead you believe. Impressive collection, but with many important editions (important for readers that is, not for collectors) missing. Abominable treatment of Maugham's important prefaces and simply ghastly black-and-white illustrations. Valuable perhaps mostly for collectors; of little use for readers. For a table of contents and a few observations of mine, see here.

Jeffrey Meyers, Somerset Maugham: A Life
Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
Short, yet detailed, and decently written account of Maugham's life. Despite some fine moments, overall highly prejudiced with a great deal of nonsense from the usual kind about Maugham: hidden homosexuality and misogyny in his works, vicious sexual life, second rank in the history of the British literature, too much cynicism and so on and so forth. Still, it is much to Mr. Meyers' credit that he has a positive attitude to Maugham's notorious memoirs, a view that, to some extent at least, is apparently shared only by Garson Kanin. For a couple of my reflections more, see here.

Klaus Jonas, W. Somerset Maugham: The Man and His Work / Leben und Werk
Harrassowitz, 2009.
Mr Jonas has done a stupendous hash out of that book. So has his publisher. Extremely badly presented and superficially written chronology of Maugham's life and two lectures (one in English, one in German) given by Mr Jonas a good many years ago. Unbelievably disgraceful bibliography of Maugham's works, if it may be called bibliography at all, and somewhat useful, yet neither comprehensive nor annotated, bibliography of literature about Maugham. The only thing that can at least to some extent justify the exorbitant price of that book is the fascinating preface by Maugham himself (in the form of a letter to Klaus from 1954; reprinted from two of the earlier books by Mr Jonas) and the 66 photographs in the very end of the book among which many rare and some hitherto unpublished may be found. For a more extensive review of mine, see here.

Selina Hastings, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham
John Murray, 2010.
[First published, 2009.] 
Detailed and dull. Quite comprehensive in terms of facts and figures. Pedestrian in terms of literary or psychological analysis. Much better balanced than Morgan, Meyers or Calder. For a long and tedious attempt for a review of mine, see here.


  1. Love your Maugham reviews -- added you on LibraryThing, hope you don't mind!

  2. Thanks! Great to see them all together.