The Moon and Sixpence
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The Moon and Sixpence follows the life of one Charles Strickland, a bourgeois city gent whose dull exterior conceals the soul of a genius. Compulsive and impassioned, he abandons his home, wife, and children to devote himself slavishly to painting. In a tiny studio in Paris, he fills canvas after canvas, refusing to sell or even exhibit his work. Beset by poverty, sickness, and his own intransigent, unscrupulous nature, he drifts to Tahiti, where, even after being blinded by leprosy, he produces some of his most extraordinary works of art. Inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is an unforgettable study of a man possessed by the need to create—regardless of the cost to himself and to others.
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Praise For The Moon and Sixpence…
"It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham.... He was always so entirely there." -Gore Vidal
Penguin Classics, 9780143039341, 240pp.
Publication Date: November 29, 2005
About the Author
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He afterwards walked the wards of St. Thomas's Hospital with a view to practice in medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), won him over to letters. Something of his hospital experience is reflected, however, in the first of his masterpieces, Of Human Bondage (1915), and with The Moon and Sixpence (1919) his reputation as a novelist was assured.
His position as one of the most successful playwrights on the London stage was being consolidated simultaneously. His first play, A Man of Honour (1903), was followed by a procession of successes just before and after the First World War. (At one point only Bernard Shaw had more plays running at the same time in London.) His theatre career ended with Sheppey (1933). His fame as a short-story writer began with The Trembling of a Leaf, sub-titled Little Stories of the South Sea Islands, in 1921, after which he published more than ten collections.
W. Somerset Maugham's general books are fewer in number. They include travel books, such as On a Chinese Screen (1922) and Don Fernando (1935), essays, criticism, and the self-revealing The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer's Notebook (1949). He became a Companion of Honour in 1954.
Robert Calder is professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan.