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64 superior to the "longer" ones, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's realism was falsified by "the three-decker system," and the work of Jane Austen, Thackeray, Gissing, and Hardy, for example, shows the three-decker's influence on structure, plot, style, and other literary matters. The decline of the three-decker, we are told, was not merely due to George Moore's denunciations, but also to the fact that it became unprofitable. If I have summarized the contents of Mr» Gettmann^ book at some length, it has been with the hope of luring readers of this review, whatever their specialty, into the same pleasure I have experienced, Mr. Gettmann shows that a scholarly book can be informative and lively reading at the same time. Gettmann's book may well be—it should be—a model for its kind for a long time to come. It is an excellent demonstration of how clarity and order can be imposed upon a chaos of detail and how statistics, often drab "facts and figures," can be translated into a lively discussion. — H. E. G, xxxxxxxxx SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHICAL AMD CRITICAL STUDY. By Richard A. Cordell. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1961. $5.95. Mr. Cordell's book is made up of "revisions and extensions of parts of an earlier book" [SOMERSET MAUGHAM (Edinburgh, 1937)], a revised form of his Modern Library Edition Introduction to OF HUMAN BONDAGE, a revised version of an article in MODERN DRAMA, I (February 1959), 211-17, and some new material. It does not significantly affect our knowledge of Maugham's life, but it is a much needed reminder to modern critics that Maugham's work deserves serious attention. In its modesty and good taste, this study of Maugham is also an appropriate antidote to Mr. Pfeiffer's somewhat journalistic, presumptuous, and biographical and critically quite valueless study of "Willy" in W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A CANDID PORTRAIT (NY: Norton, 1958) [see review in EFT, II, No. 1 (1959), 33. The opening "Biographical Sketch" reviews for us, with some additional details gathered by Mr. Cordell over the years he has known the novelist, the life Mr. Maugham has himself recorded quite candidly in his autobiographical writings and interviews. Chapter Il argues against the "nonsense" that has been written about the novelist's "enigmatic personality, iconoclasm, and sardonic view of his fellow men." Mr. Cordell points out that Maugham simply values his privacy, that his work is noteworthy for its clarity, that he "is not a member of the crossword-puzzle school of writers," that he is unambiguously an atheist, that the generous and philanthropic Maugham attacks idealism because "he deplores wishful thinking," that (despite "his reputed cynicism and misanthropy") he "believes in a basic nobility in man," he has an affirmative philosophy akin to Emerson's in "Self-Reliance," that like Dreiser and Zola he gives particular credence to the importance of biology and environment in the formation of character, that he is frankly a hedonist in the best sense but no cynic, and that while he appears on the whole to be a misogynist he is not unconditionally one. 65 Chapter Ml concerns three autobiographical novels: OF HUMAN BONDAGE (pp. 86103 ), THE MOON AND SIXPENCE (pp. 103-13), and CAKES AND ALE (pp. 114-31). While nothing startlingly new is revealed, we are intelligently reminded not to read more autobiography into details than are there. Mr. Cordell again reminds us that insofar as Philip finds spiritual freedom in his "exultant discovery that life has no meaning," it is not a depressing novel. The real-life models for characters and scenes are again identified, although Mildred still remains something of β mystery, Mr, Cordell suggests the influence of Maugham;s playwriting on the novel, while granting that there are many digressions (e, g» on art), Cordell judges THE MOON AND SIXPENCE to be inferior to OF HUMAN BONDAGE, notes that its theme is the half-truth "that human nature is unpredictable," that it is full of digressions, that over half the story is about Dick and Blanche Stroeve rather than about Strickland, and he insists that, with all its faults, the novel holds the reader's interest. Mr. Cordell gives some interesting anecdotes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 64-66
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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