William Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965)

Maugham began as a modernist writer. By and by he came to realize that it would bring him more fame & money if he starts writing in a manner comprehensive to most people.

Most critics incline to treat Maugham as a competent story-teller than as a major novelist. In his best he is in his “Of Human Bondage” & “Cakes & Ale”. The human types he produces are dramatic & sometimes original. At his weakest he is a commercial magazine writer. He produced superficial popular magazine fiction. Although Maugham gives an illusion of objectivity & detachment in his characters most of his fiction is based upon personal experience. His own background & career contribute to many of his works. His travels also provided him with material.

Maugham was born in Paris where his father was an attaché in the British embassy. He was bilingual from the time he began to speak. Orphan at ten, he was sent to live with his uncle, a Kentish clergyman, where he acquired his experience, which he was to fictionalize in his “Of Human Bondage”. He was to express his attitude to life & to his own predicament in a book, in which the main character is physically disabled. His Philipp Carey was a clubfoot. In fact Maugham had a pronounce stammer. This came from the confusion of French & English coming at the same time. Maugham was educated in Canterbury. Later he became a student of Heidelberg University, where he learned German & acquired the first taste of artistic literary life. After coming back to England he became a school teacher and received a degree. He never practiced. Meanwhile he was writing his first novel “Liza of Lambeth”. After he had finished it he decided to be a writer.

Till 1918 he lived in Paris storing his works in a steady rate. Success began to come to him in 1907. he traveled widely especially in the Orient, visited the USA & Spain.

He died at the age of 91, having become almost as well-known as Bernard Shaw. He said that “only a mediocre writer is only in his best. In my 20-s critics said that I was brutal, at ny 30-sa they say that I was flippant, in my 40-s they said that I was cynical, in my 50-s they said that I was confident & now they say that I am superficial”.


“Of Human Bondage”

Maugham’s best book “Of Human Bondage” is an autobiographical book. Its power & authenticity derives from the fact that Maugham was writing from his personal experience. The protagonist is Philipp Carey – a young man of an artistic bent who eventually becomes a physician. The story centers around his revote against the middle-class family background. In 1895 Philipp is an orphan sent to his uncle, a stingy vicar in the village in Kent. The uncle stifles the boy’s natural development through his unnatural Puritanism. His aunt secretly lavishes upon him her frustrated maternity as she was childless. So under these influenced the boy becomes sensitive, but dressed & timid. Sent away to school he’s tormented by the other boys, because he is clubfoot. He has great scholastic ability, but he hates school. As soon as he is 18 he goes to Heidelberg where he learns some radical ideas. It results in Philipp’s loving the faith his uncle has forced on him. Returning to Blackstable he engages in a transitory affair with Ms. Wilkinson, a woman much older than himself. His passions especially erotic begin to come to flow & it results in becoming a painter. He embarks to Paris where he finds a fascinating company of Bohemian students & for some time his motto is “Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner”. He next turns toward medicine career. He feels that he found his real vocation. It was a time when he was destined to turn a new leaf. He came across with Mildred Rogers, the waitress who is to dominate in the next epoch in his life. Mildred is totally unworthy of Philipp. She’s selfish & very vulgar. She’s rudely cold. He despises Mildred intellectually but he knows that he must have her at any cost. She grants him nothing although he offers her to marry him. Presently she marries another man who offers a promise of a better income. Philipp is frustrated. He meets Norah Nesbeth who troubles to support herself. He’s relieved. After a time Mildred appears again. Her “husband” has deserted her & left pregnant & destitute. Philipp turns back to Mildred & Norah goes her way. He spends so much money on Mildred that he is forced to drop out from the medical school. Mildred repays him by using his money & running away with another man. A new friend comes to his aid & finds Philipp a new job. He begins to learn for a stable family life. His uncle dies & he uses the inheritance to go back to the medical school. After graduating he takes his friend, settles & practices in a small fishing village.

The dominant theme of this novel lies in the protagonist’s effort to find his own nature. It’s a story of personal development. Many passions torment the young man: his sexual frustration, his resentment of the world that mocks him at his clubfoot, his reaction against the domination of his uncle. He thinks that if he tries hard to have his way, he will become free. It’s a great mistake. He becomes a free man by accepting the limitations his own beliefs impose on his ambitions. This is his choice of obscurity after the frantic battle for fame. Inside of this stupid plot the novel is unique. It shows the artist struggling against the hostile world & ends up with the hero accepting the comforts of steady life.


It was written in 1919 Maugham’s favorite book was “Cakes & Ale” about Driffield a talented young man. He marries a barmaid Rosy. She is so sensual gracious & generous that she is unable to resist the tensions of life. But with the time Driffield is deserted. At first he is monopolized by Mrs. Traffor. Then he falls under the attack of pneumonia. And in the end he marries his nurse. “Cakes & Ale” is a study of a modern literary career & the factors that make up popular literary success. The title shows the superficial nature of human ambitions & inability to pursue the real goals & lead a sincere life. Cakes – bread; body of Christ. Ale – wine; blood of Christ.




Nowadays the term “psychological literature” is used in many senses. In the 17th century it was used as the analysis of moral sentiments & the struggle of the ideas of right & wrong. In the 19th century the term “psychological analysis” was applied to novels in which the character’s inner world & motivations were examined by the reader & for the reader where the hero thought of his own actions & emotions. Later such writers as Dostoyevsky, Bodlain, E. A. Poe, and H. James were termed psychological as they were preoccupied with the abnormal states of mind.

Writers of the time were interested in exploring the dim recesses of human mind & psychic. Sometimes their interests were exposed. But their methods were considered unusual & untraditional. They all belonged to the literature of modernism & its manifestations.

Then Lawrence & partly Joyce were called psychological be cause they concentrated on the inner world of the characters. But their methods were different, but unusual it’s disregarded by many critics as far as Joyce is concerned. Critics usually speak about expressionistic dialogues, inner monologues, stream of consciousness etc.

“In long lassoes from the Cock the water flowed full covering the green-goldenly lagoons of sand rising flowing” – shows Joyce’s gift for word painting. He gives us a contour, volume, color, movement creating a picture.


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