Articles and Features

W. Somerset Maugham's Birthday January 25, 1874

Week of January 25, 1998

It is usually fairly difficult for me to compose these pages. I search the books and web pages for a timely subject, and then search my quote books and literature for great quotes. This week, however, did not pose those problems. W. Somerset Maugham's name jumped right out at me and there were plenty of quotes available in the quote books.

W. Somerset Maugham was born in Paris on January 25, 1874. He abandoned a medical career to pursue literature. Suffering from a stammer, he was able to express what he desired with eloquence through the printed word. He was the author of Rain (later made into a movie with Joan Crawford) and the ever popular Of Human Bondage (also made into a movie with Bette Davis).

Of Human Bondage was my first real experience with Somerset Maugham (although I didn't know it at the time). When my sugar levels are erratic, I suffer from an insomnia that awakens me at 3 a.m. with nightmares. I am unable to return to sleep, and I can't take a sleeping pill because I would sleep until noon. Instead, I have learned to stay awake and lose the two hours of sleep to bad movies and offset schedules. On one of these occasions, AMC was running the movie Of Human Bondage. I watched it strictly because of Bette Davis, but I expected the cheesy movie faire that Jezebel and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? had given me.

I was shocked to find an intelligent and moving screenplay about a club-footed and shy young man (Philip) who falls desperately in love with a cheap and no-good waitress (Mildred). The treatment of such a storyline I had never thought possible in a black and white movie. I expected love and foppery, and instead I was agonizing over the Philip's choice of Mildred over the loving and wonderful woman he had found in later life. I had seen this scene replayed by my friends before, and I sat on my couch, bundled in a blanket, just as helpless to aid Philip as I had been when my friends made the same stupid choices. I was entranced and spellbound.

The following are some of the best quotes from this great author.

Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.

"Tea girls, warm and sweet. / Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham Suite."
Tim Rice, "Chess"
"There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror."
W. Somerset Maugham
"People ask for criticism, but they only want praise."
W. Somerset Maugham, "Of Human Bondage," 1915
"At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely."
W. Somerset Maugham, "Writer's Notebook," 1949
"When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long."
W. Somerset Maugham
"Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five."
W. Somerset Maugham, "Of Human Bondage," 1915
"It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."
W. Somerset Maugham
"It was such a lovely day I thought it a pity to get up."
W. Somerset Maugham, "Our Betters," 1923
"Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young."
W. Somerset Maugham
"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."
W. Somerset Maugham, "Strictly Personal," 1941
"She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit."
W. Somerset Maugham
Featured Books
The following books and tapes are available through
  • Of Human Bondage Paperback by W. Somerset Maugham - Immerse yourself in the original story of Philip and Mildred.
  • Of Human Bondage VHS Tape starring Bette Davis - The movie that haunted me is just as good today as it was when it was filmed.
  • Collected Short Stories: Volume 1 Paperback by W. Somerset Maugham - This collection is the first of a four volume collection of his short stories. There are 30 stories in all, including The Fall of Edward Barnard.
  • Rain VHS Tape starring Joan Crawford - Another movie adaptation of Somerset Maugham's work. Joan Crawford stars as a career woman on a Samoan island who is pursued by a religious man played by Walter Huston.
For more information about W. Somerset Maugham, try these links:
  • W. Somerset Maugham Quotes - A small list of quotes from our featured gentleman. The attributes are simple, but there are a few there that are not listed in this week's list.
  • Of Human Bondage - The Book-Reading Club read this book by Somerset Maugham. Their comments, a link to the full book, and a summary of the book are available through this simple page. I read through some of their comments and now I'm jealous that I didn't read it along with the group.
  • Great Quotations To Inspire - Quotes from Somerset Maugham, compliments of The People's Cyber Nation. A large selection divided by subject with simple attributes.
Previous: Edgar Allan Poe Next: Ayn Rand