W. Somerset Maugham. An Appreciation. By Richard Aldington -- Review

W. Somerset Maugham. An Appreciation
by Richard Aldington

Aldington, Richard. Somerset Maugham. An Appreciation (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1939)

Recently I read Richard Aldington's old panegyric pamphlet on W. Somerset Maugham’s work as a whole up to the year 1939.

It is a brave and welcoming effort of the critic to revindicate Maugham’s worthiness to be considered a serious writer of literature.

However, it would take more than Aldington’s moral indignation, genuine enthusiasm, and facile arguments against some equally ill supported claims.

More interesting are the short essay written by Maugham on his sixty-fifth year and the section on “Some Recent Appreciations of the Works of W. Somerset Maugham.”

The latter provides convincing evidence of Maugham’s merits, pinpointing his achievements in specific works. I like one in particular, written by Louis Kronenberger in the New York Times Book Review (August 1934) on East and West:
It is not conceivable that anybody should be bored reading Mr. Maugham; he is the sort of writer who can choose a subject in which you have no interest, who can indeed choose a subject that you definitely dislike, and yet by his gift for narrative compel you to read on to the end (23).

This is also reproduced in Anthony Curtis and John Whitehead’s more thorough collection of contemporary criticism, The Critical Heritage, almost fifty years later.

W. Somerset Maugham. An Appreciation at AbeBooks


  1. That is a very good review and description of Maugham's great talent.
    I'm surprised to see you don't have any posts here about Maugham's (and Houseman's) literary magazine "Venture" (1903 & 1905). I recently purchased both volumes at a decent price.

    Also, I'm debating whether or not to get the 1st English "Making of a Saint." I have the 1st American (with the gold title lettering on the spine). The angel on my right shoulder says it would complete my (true first) collection of the T. Fisher Unwin years. The devil on my left says why bother spending that kind of money on a book that is probably unvaluable, when I have the true fist Amercian? Or maybe it's the other way around, right? :-)

    1. Thanks Mike!

      I did some time ago look for the magazine, but didn't find it. I would be very interested indeed to get a copy. What would the "decent price" be that you paid for?

      I would tend to think that the devil has a case here... But of course, if you have money to spare.... I haven't looked at the price of the UK first, but there are some other editions that could be more attractive.

  2. There are two issues apparently. Unfotunately, a lot of sellers either don't distinguish which one they're selling OR the 1903 one is the only one with Maugham in it. Looking on ABE I saw the 1903 edition for under $200. In fact there are currently several original copies under or around $200 - not including the print-on-demand of course. I got both issues as a package for around $350. Most single issues are listed for around $400-500.

    How is that Cakes and Ale record you have?

    1. I am afraid at the moment that doesn't seem very "decent" to me. Perhaps some other time.

      No, I didn't get the Cakes and Ale recording. I was outbid I am afraid.

  3. Oh, I had forgotten the outcome of that (C&A record). This past year has been up and down financially for me as well. The only missing piece really for me is "The Hero" 1st, but it's a 'nice-to-have' not a 'need-to-have'. I'm also missing the August 1962 issue of Show concluding the "Looking Back" trilogy. I read some of it online, and in my opinion I felt I was reading more Alan Searle than Maugham in that last issue. Also, thanks again to you I'll purchase a copy of "W. Somerset Maugham. An Appreciation"
    by Richard Aldington if I can find one.

  4. I am sorry about the August issue, but I am sure that it will come up some time. It took me ages to get the July issue, but perseverance did pay! I have to say that the "Looking Back" is a collection that you should seriously consider having complete.

  5. Hi. I just came across this. An auction for The Venture 1903 cheap like $15. Here's the link. http://historical.ha.com/itm/books/periodicals/-literary-periodical-laurence-housman-and-w-somerset-maugham-the-venture-an-annual-of-art-and-literature-londo/a/201434-93047.s?type=wlem&wlc=343160307

    1. Wow, great opportunity! Have you bid there before? I have looked at several things but never tried. I would be very interested in past experience.
      Your comment whetted my appetite and I got that magazine (couldn't help it!), at a much higher price unfortunately.... Have been thinking of writing about it but I seem to be occupied with different tasks in my physical life all the time.

  6. Hi. Yes I have one experience with them. It was for a lot of two rare antique colored photos, one of which I recently found out is of value. I bought them for $1.00, but they have a minimum of $25, so I had to pay 24 more dollars. I never used them again, but I get Maugham alerts from them (which is very convenient) in the hopes of finding an affordable "The Hero" first (which I'm sure would meet that $25 minimum!) Congrats on "The Venture"! It's my next read. Right now I'm reading a great, long contemporary novel by a Frenchman, called "Where Tigers Are At Home." Quite good. :-)

  7. I have been subscribed to them for some time, but somehow the alert doesn't seem to work and I haven't spent more time trying to figure it out. I used to check them out from time to time. When I was on the verge of completing my collection I visited them quite often to lament the opportunities that I had missed....

    Best of luck for The Hero. Back in 2005 some guy sold a copy with upside down symbol for US$10!!! I wrote to him but of course it was sold long long ago.

    I have been lazy to look for books to read and settle for old time favourites. One or two turn out to have lost their flavour. It is sad to realize that you have outgrown books and people.

    Not that it has anything to with the novel you are reading, except that it is also a French one; last year I came across a French novel "The Possibility of an Island, which I like very much. Do tell if it's worth reading after you finish yours.


Post a Comment