Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Errata: Stott & Maugham (1973): Prefaces

Kaye & Ward, Hardback, 1973.
8vo. 320 pp. Revised and Extended edition.

The most important among Maugham's prefaces are those he wrote about Heinemann's The Collected Edition (TCE for short, 1934-69), especially the non-dramatic works. Mr Stott has summarised them nicely in B2. Here are couple of points which I at least find somewhat unsatisfactorily handled, or which Mr Stott could not have known at the time.

·  B2. From ''Cosmopolitans. 1938. Preface 7 pp.'' you might suppose that there is a new preface written especially for the edition. There isn't. The preface is the same as the one in the first edition (A50). Mr Stott does mention it in the collation section but he omits it from the table of contents. This is not right. The preface is one of Maugham's finest, and it is essential for the proper understanding of these ''very short stories''.

·   B2. ''Ah King. 1936. Preface 6 pp.'' Well, yes, there is a new preface for Ah King but it is an extended version of the original, also titled ''Ah King''. Amazingly, Mr Stott does not even mention the latter in his entry about the collection itself (A46). This is unforgivable. The piece, in addition to being a mini short story, contains important background information; it's also a rare case when Maugham was a very bad judge of character, and admitted as much; last but not least, it is a recommended read for those who still accuse him of racism. For TCE the last sentence of the original preface was expanded into several paragraphs, all of considerable interest.

·   B2. The case of Of Human Bondage is complicated. The new ''Preface 4 pp.'' mentioned here is the one written in 1934 for Heinemann's ''Presentation Edition, reset'' (A21c). Mr Stott does mention it but omit to tell us that it is titled ''Instead of a preface'' and finishes with a fan letter from a 16-year-old admirer. However, most modern editions (Vintage, Modern Library) contain the 1936 ''Foreword'' written for Doubleday's First Illustrated Edition (noted in A21d). This is the piece that starts with the disarming ''This is a very long novel and I am ashamed to make it longer by writing a preface to it.''

·  Modern Vintage paperbacks contain all those prefaces mentioned in B2 except those to On a Chinese Screen and The Moon and Sixpence. The reason for those omissions remains elusive. Of course Vintage does not reprint the short story collections; these have been out of print for ages and some old editions may not contain the TCE prefaces, or may contain the original ones under different titles. For example, the cheap 1959 Berkley paperback (from the series with the outrageous covers) has the titleless preface to First Person Singular titled ''Introduction''; the separate TCE preface is not reprinted at all, even though it had appeared in print more than 20 years earlier.

·   B9, the Heron Books edition of Willie's works (1967-69). Mr Stott is right about its being ''well-produced'' but he is quite incorrect that it is of ''the complete works of this author''. More importantly, he never mentions that this edition – at least judging by pagination and The Trembling of a Leaf – does contain the prefaces written for TCE.

·  The case with Penguin's 1963 four-volume edition of Collected Short Stories (B7) is baffling. Mr Stott forgets to inform us that this edition contains the same 91 stories as the three volumes of Heinemann (B17) or the two volumes of Doubleday (B20). But the prefaces, save for a few minor changes, are those of Heinemann's edition (B17). This four-volume edition is the most popular one, having been reprinted countless times through the years (Pan, Mandarin, Vintage, Folio Society, take your pick).

·  In the entries for several short story collection Mr Stott mentions their original prefaces only in the collation sections, where they can easily be overlooked, but omits them in the tables of contents, where they would be easy to spot. In addition to the already mentioned case of Cosmopolitans (A50), these also include The Mixture as Before (A58) and Creatures of Circumstance (A66).

·   The entry about The Trembling of a Leaf (A25) omits the epilogue ''Envoi'' in the table of contents. (Well, technically this is not a preface, but epilogues also count.)

·  A37b. The ''new 7-page preface'' mentioned about the 1941 Doubleday edition of Ashenden is actually an almost complete reprint of the preface from TCE (1934, B2). Only the last three paragraphs are new. They contain some interesting information about the changes in espionage between the two World wars as well as about Goebbels' famous announcing on the air that the Ashenden stories are ''an example of British cynicism and brutality''.

·  A1f. Mr Stott is correct about the important origins of the 1947 preface to the Jubilee Edition of Liza of Lambeth, but he doesn't tell us that the new material here is very little and entirely unimportant, a rare case in Maugham's prefaces. 

·   Last but not least, here is a short list with important prefaces which Mr Stott does mention: East and West (B2, B3), The Complete Short Stories (B17: British edition; B20=B2+B19: American edition), The Collected Plays (1952, B18), The World Over (B19), The Selected Novels (B21, the prefaces for the first two volumes are rehash from TCE), The Partial View (B22), The Travel Books (B25, only partly rehash from TCE).


  1. Amazing work! Out of curiosity, how many editions do you have?

    1. How many editions of what? Maugham's books? Most short story collections are presented by two editions, occasionally three. "Of Human Bondage" leads with five, "Liza" is second with four. The last "Liza" edition, a cheap Penguin paperback, I acquired only because of the lovely (first brought to my attention by you) inscription in the copyright page "First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann Ltd 1897". One of the others (the Jubilee edition, 1947) is the only book signed by Maugham that I have; it was an accident (I purchased it for the preface, didn't know it had a signature as well), and I'm afraid the bookseller did a very poor deal. :-)