Friday, May 11, 2007

Is Somerset Maugham ripe for revival?

A reference to W Somerset Maugham on a writers' forum [private] yesterday reminded me how much I enjoyed his novels in my early teens.

There seems to be a feeling that the movie of his book The Painted Veil will revive his popularity.




Looking for Maugham online led me to a delightful site called Cap-Ferrat à Pied? by Ted Jones.

Mr Jones writes : "I left the coastal path at its southernmost point in search of the scrambled-egg coloured Villa Mauresque, built by King Leopold to house his personal priest. His lifestyle - he was known as le noceur - required confessional convenience.

Today, the street opposite, the Avenue Somerset Maugham, commemorates a more recent resident. Here the great storyteller spent the last 38 years of his long life - except for the years of the Occupation during World War II, when it housed German and Italian officers. André Cane, a retired builder and regional historian, now aged 95, remembers being called to brick up the window of Maugham's study because he found the panoramic view a distraction.

Many of Maugham's guests at the Villa Mauresque were writers, such as H. G. Wells, Ian Fleming and Evelyn Waugh, but many others achieved their fame in other fields. They included Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cecil Beaton, press baron Lord Beaverbrook, who lived on nearby Cap d'Ail, musician Arthur Rubenstein, dancer Isadora Duncan and painters Matisse, Picasso and Marc Chagall."

Villa Mauresque can be rented


Then at an American site, I found that anyone with enough money – I don't know the cost but would guess it's extremely expensive – can rent Maugham's house on Cap Ferrat.

"Villa Mauresque is available for rental year-round. Substantially discounted rental rates apply November through March. Because of its many sculptures and the delicacy of some furnishings, the owner declines to accept children less than six years of age. A large security deposit is required."

Titanic blackguard cleared


Another writer who spent his last years in the South of France was Sir Anthony Glyn whose obituary in The Times [22 January 1998] I keep among the pages of his biography of his maternal grandmother, Elinor Glyn, about whom I wrote on Monday 9 April.

Another clipping I've added to the biography is a recent Telegraph story headed "Letter clears 'blackguard of the Titanic'."

It opens – "He was one of the great blackguards of pre-First World War British society: Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, the man who not only was said to have bought his way off the sinking Titanic, but then stopped his half-empty lifeboat from returning to pick up drowning passengers.

However, the history books might have to be rewritten. A letter discovered in a London attic appears to exonerate the old Etonian baronet and fencing champion Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon of either cowardice or callousness."

What is the connection between Sir Cosmo and Elinor Glyn? He was her brother-in-law, the husband of her eldest sister Lucy who later became famous as the dressmaker Lucile.

Re-reading Sir Anthony Glyn's obit made me realise I should hunt for his other books, particularly The Companion Guide to Paris published in 1986 which sounds exceptionally good.

Comments on readers' comments


There have been some interesting comments recently which I hope to discuss on Monday.
Until then...

12 Comments:

At 11 May, 2007, Blogger bhadd said...

Maugham is wicked with people, Of Human Bondage stunk. The numerous betters cry Pleas No More Somerset!

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At 16 May, 2007, Blogger Richard Havers said...

I'm a Somerset Maugham fan, so I'd be happy to see a revival. Most people look a little blank a the mention of his name.

 
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