- Three “Lost Stories” of W. Somerset Maugham
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM (1874–1965) was one of the most prolific, versatile, and popular writers of the twentieth century. During a career that lasted sixty-five years, he published twenty novels, twenty-six plays, seven books of essays, three travel books, and more than 110 short stories, as well as commentaries, memoirs, and periodical contributions.1 While critical opinion has long been mixed,2 reviews and analyses of Maugham’s work include thousands of articles and many book-length studies.3 Continued interest in Maugham is evident from the publication of several biographies,4 memoirs,5 bibliographies,6 and even encyclopedias.7 It is also reflected in the acquisition by several prominent university libraries of rare collections of Maugham’s writings and material related to his life and work.8
Maugham’s short stories are a major component of his legacy of fiction. Such stories were among his earliest writings and led in 1899 to his first published collection, Orientations.9 After 1920, each of Maugham’s short stories typically was published in a British or American periodical as well as in a book-length collection.10 Since 1951, comprehensive collections of ninety-one of these stories have been republished in multi-volume sets that are considered to be definitive compilations.11 An additional twenty-one stories were republished posthumously.12
The chief goal of this article is to bring attention to three long-forgotten short stories by Maugham that follow. Published in the early 1900s in obscure and long-defunct periodicals, these three stories have not been reprinted in any form for over a century. Accordingly, they have gone entirely unnoticed in the professional and secondary literature and in the many biographies and bibliographies devoted to the author’s work. The stories represent some of Maugham’s earliest writings; in fact two are among the first five he published in periodicals. Discovery of these stories more than doubles the number of works to be added [End Page 3] to the author’s known body of fiction in the past fifty years. They shed light on the earliest years of Maugham’s career, a time when he was struggling to establish himself as a writer of fiction and drama and also show, in nascent form, thematic and methodological elements reflected in his later writings.
Publication of the “Lost Stories”
The three stories under discussion were published in the early 1900s in various periodicals of the British Commonwealth. The first is entitled “A Really Nice Story: A Short Tale” and was printed in November of 1901 in the London periodical Black and White under the authorship of “William Somerset Maugham.”13 Two months later, a greatly condensed version of the story (sixty percent of the original length) was reprinted in the Winnipeg Free Press (Manitoba, Canada) but with no author attribution.14 The source of the story was given as the U.S. newspaper Philadelphia Telegraph. In May and June of 1902, the original story was reprinted in three New Zealand newspapers and attributed to Maugham.15 The source was indicated as “Black and White” with no further information.
The second is entitled “The Image of the Virgin: A Short Story” and was published in Black and White in December of 1901, also under the name “William Somerset Maugham.”16 No reprints of this story have come to light. The third story, “The Criminal,” was published in July of 1904 in Lloyd’s Weekly News.17 In contrast to the other two, its authorship was listed as “W. Somerset Maugham.” Two months later, this story was reprinted with the expanded title “The Criminal: A Modern Mystery” in two local Australian newspapers.18 However, neither the author’s identity nor the original source of the story was provided. Later that year, the story was reprinted with its original title in the Anamosa Prison Press, a weekly publication of a detention facility in the midwestern United States.19 The source of the story was imprecisely listed as “Lloyd’s London News” and no author’s name was mentioned.
Details of format and length of each of the printed stories are as...