In Between Purely for My Pleasure (April 1962) and "Looking Back" (June 1962) - W. Somerset Maugham

Purely for My Pleasure (1962) & "Looking Back" (1962)
Purely for My Pleasure (1962) & "Looking Back" (1962)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one stumbles upon things while one is looking for something else, which jerks one back from a reverie. It is intriguing and disturbing at the same time. This is a brief post just to show a little advertisement on the dust jacket of the first UK edition of Purely for My Pleasure (1962), so that I can stop thinking about it.

"Looking Back," the very controversial memoirs, first published in three issues in Show in 1962, was several years in the making, which Calder relates in his biography of Maugham (363–6). After much consideration, he finds the version of one of Maugham's neighbours on the Riviera and acquaintance for many years, John Sutro, most persuasive.

It is that Maugham began writing the memoirs in 1959 and finished by 1960, with the intention to make a gift of the typescript to Alan Searle, his secretary and companion. However, it is surmised that the pages were either destroyed or Maugham decided to rewrite the whole thing.

Maugham's intention was to have it printed by his habitual publishing house, William Heinemann. It was to be done after its serialization in the Sunday Express. However, when the then chairman Alexander Frere of Heinemann read it, he refused to have it published. It must have taken a lot of guts and a very strong sense of decency on the part of Frere to make such a decision.

Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Sunday Express, came down badly in history in this business, as the unscrupulous entrepreneur who saw the opportunity to make pots of money (very avant-garde, if you think about it), and persuaded Maugham to publish it.

It is not clear what actually happened. Searle was present or not present when Beaverbrook went to Villa Mauresque and got Maugham to hand him the typescript, which he made a copy; whether it was a reaction to Glenway Wescott's comment (Hastings 529) or Beaverbrook's (Calder 364), or both, that in order to relieve his anger towards his late ex-wife, Syrie, which, everyone agrees, had become an obsession, Maugham should write about it. Everyone also agrees that Maugham was not quite in his right mind.

To the purpose of this post, it little matters... It seems that now I come to an anti-climax...

I only want to show the advertisement that Frere precipitated in Purely for My Pleasure.

Advertisement for "Looking Back" - W. Somerset Maugham
Advertisement for "Looking Back" - W. Somerset Maugham

When time passes us by, all this drama will become less and less comprehensible. I personally find little to object in "Looking Back." Whatever it was, the consequence is that the magazines have become collector items, and it gives one a strange (a thrill and, well, sort of despicable... well, it is the years of "religious" teaching that is talking, I mean for the "despicable") feeling to possess a copy that is not readily available. But then, isn't this what collecting is about? Or come to think about it, isn't this the same with how a limited edition of a pack of yoghurt catches one's eye?

Works Cited

Calder, Robert. Willie. The Life of W. Somerset Maugham. London: Mandarin, 1989. Print.

Hastings, Selina. The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham. London: John Murray, 2009. Print.

How to cite this:

Purely for My Pleasure at AbeBooks


  1. I really think it's about time someone puts out, in book form, the complete "Looking Back" memoirs. Finding all 3 copies of Show magazine containing the work is simply too difficult at this point, not that I'm trying, but I was at one point in my sickness when I had the collector fever.

    1. Unfortunately, I believe Maugham explicitly stated that it should never be reprinted. Of course, it all depends then on the Royal Literary Fund, if I am not mistaken. The other possibility is to wait for either the archives of Show Magazine and/or Sunday Express to come online. I think the archive of the latter is already, but it can be accessed only through subscription. On the other hand, Show must be in any big public libraries in US.

      I haven't seen any of these Show issues on ebay for quite some time. They used to appear on and off.

  2. The Royal Literary Fund? I wonder if one can justify reprinting "Looking Back" in book form, by indicating that Maugham originally wanted it published as a book by Heinemann.

  3. Hi, I found this, and thought you might be interested, if you haven't already seen it. I was trying to see if Alan Searle died in the States. For some reason I remember reading a long time ago in Ted Morgan's book that he was living in New Jersey at the time of publication.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I know practically next to nothing about Maugham's daughter except pages here and there that I flipped through in Maugham's bios. I try not to form any idea about her based on these brief glimpses, since it was such an ugly business, or as it seems. Maugham is already a big puzzle, at the moment I'll leave the rest of his family out.


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