The Maugham - Duff Letters - W. Somerset Maugham

the cover of the first edition of the maugham duff letters 1982
The Letters of William Somerset Maugham
to Lady Juliet Duff, 1982

Rothschild, Loren R., ed. The Letters of William Somerset Maugham to Lady Juliet Duff. California: Rasselas Press, 1982.

This post will be about this extraordinary book, a collection of W. Somerset Maugham's letters to one of his correspondents ranging from 1935 to 1962.

Maugham's Letters

Nowadays, letter-writing is almost non-existent, with the invention of telephone and subsequently the email. It was not so during Maugham's lifetime, when the first thing that one habitually did to begin the day was to answer letters and invitations. Maugham was a voracious letter writer; however, in November 1957, he solicited his friends and acquaintances that his letters be destroyed, and he himself on his part burnt all letters that he had received, among other personal papers.

Such an action has been condemned and lamented. Although it is truly a pity and I am curious to know what he burnt, it is perfectly within his rights to do so, to protect his own privacy. Does one have the right to know another person's most intimate thoughts? Or events and relations that the other does not want to be told?

I doubt if Maugham was a war criminal or a murderer, but since he burnt everything, one never knows...

Jokes apart, the consequence is that others did save his letters and they were auctioned, and eventually most of them landed in archives. Maugham's will forbade the publication of unpublished materials during his lifetime and thus, except researchers, the letters are out of reach. Two of his biographers, Ted Morgan and Selina Hastings, got permission and assistance from Maugham's literary executors and had free use of such materials, against Maugham's expressed wish.

Maugham and Lady Juliet

This book is a collection of Maugham's letters to one of his friends, Lady Juliet, spanning from their first acquaintance to almost the end of Maugham's life. One witnesses the maturing of their friendship and a Maugham at ease, expressing his thoughts in a more relaxed manner, describing what was happening in his life, his feelings and emotions, gossiping about mutual acquaintances outlining each with expert conciseness.

In these letters, one had a glimpse of a more private Maugham, his wish to be left alone to the work that he wanted to do, his affection for his daughter, his consideration to his friend, more unguarded comments on different people, with a touch of humour here and there.

The collection comes with an introduction by the editor, describing the circumstances of its publication and a brief biography of Lady Juliet, a most interesting personage.

The First Edition

certifying first edition of the collection of letters from Somerset Maugham to Lady Juliet
First edition, Maugham's letters to Lady Juliet

So far I think there is only one edition of this collection, with all together 300 copies; 26 of which are lettered copies signed by the editor and the printer, and 274 unsigned.

The Letters of William Somerset Maugham to Lady Juliet Duff at AbeBooks
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