Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mrs Craddock was nice

Keeping me company these past couple of weeks was one of William Somerset Maugham's lesser known novels - Mrs Craddock.
If you are a keen reader of Maugham, you'll realize by the third page that this is an early work of a writer still seeking his artistic voice. It's more verbose and stylistically less accomplished. It uses unpalatable writing techniques to offer insights into the human psyche - Maugham's biggest strength in later years.
But it's still the work of a master. Because by Page 30, the characters have gripped you and you feel compelled to read through the placid plot.
I especially loved this quote in chapter 30: "I've learned by long experience that people generally keep their vices to themselves, but insist on throwing their virtues in your face."
Now how true is that? The racuous crusaders of today - me included - can benefit from mulling over these words. And doesn't the true angel seal her lips to brighten her halo?

P.S: For those of my dear readers who haven't read Maugham, I have a question: do you think breathing is synonymous with living? It isn't. And you haven't lived till you've read The Moon and Sixpence. Read it to be inspired. And to know that Howard Roark - Ayn Rand's unforgettable character from the novel The Fountainhead - had a predecessor. His name was Charles Strickland.


  1. :-)
    If you have read Liza of Lambeth then you might have a few more things to say about - specially the Dickensian melancholy that Maugham hurriedly (and thankfully) lost taste of in the work that followed.
    Re Strickland: the most amazing thing about the characterization is that the first-hand account by the author is over very early - probably by the third chapter. The rest is all collation of stories that the author 'heard' from other people. The wonderful thing is that the narration still grips us and we can still experience it as if it was happening in front of us. The last few pages of the blind Gaugain (aka Strickland) painting his masterpiece and it being burned down by Ata - haunting, unforgettable.

  2. Succintly put, Pat. And I'm not sure if Maugham got sufficient credit for creating Strickland, since he was supposed to have been inspired by Gauguin. Gauguin cared for recognition and exhibited suicidal tendencies and symptoms of chronic depression. Had Maugham written him as he was, we might not have been inspired so much.
    And the finale, as you mentioned, was truly unforgettable.