Back Cover Blurb
- The stories in this collection move from Malaya to America and England, and include some of Maugham's most famous tales; 'Flotsam and Jetsam', the story of an old woman trapped for years in a loveless marriage in the remote rubber plantations; 'The Man with the Scar', and notably the opening story 'The Vessel of Wrath', a tale of the unexpected love that grows between a devout missionary nurse and a drunken reprobate.
- In this second volume of his collected stories, Maugham illustrates his characteristic wry perception of human foibles and his genius for evoking compelling drama from an acute sense of time and place.
- There is one point I want to make about these stories. The reader will notice that many of my stories are written in the first person singular. That is a literary convention which is as old as the hills. It was used by Petronius Arbiter in the Satyricon and by many of the story-tellers in The Thousand and One Nights. Its object is of course to achieve credibility, for when someone tells you what he states happened to himself you are more likely to believe that he is telling the truth than when he tells you what happened to somebody else. It has besides the merit from the story-teller's point of view that he need only tell you what he knows for a fact and can leave to your imagination what he doesn't or couldn't know.
- Some of the older novelists who wrote in the first person were in this respect very careless. They would narrate long conversations that they couldn't possibly have heard and incidents which in the nature of things they couldn't possibly have witnessed. Thus they lost the great advantage of verisimilitude which writing in the first person singular offers.
- But the I who writes is just as much a character in the story as the other persons with whom it is concerned. He may be the hero or he may be an onlooker or a confidant. But he is a character. The writer who uses this device is writing fiction and if he makes the I of his story a little quicker on the uptake, a little more level-headed, a little shrewder, a little braver, a little more ingenious, a little wittier, a little wiser than he, the writer, really is, the reader must show indulgence. He must remember that the author is not drawing a faithful portrait of himself, but creating a character for the particular purposes of his story.
Preface – i
- The vessel of wrath – 3
- The force of circumstance – 46
- Flotsam and jetsam – 75
- The alien corn – 103
- The creative impulse – 148
- Virtue – 187
- The man with the scar – 228
- The closed shop – 232
- The bum – 242
- The dream – 250
- The treasure – 254
- The colonel's lady – 272
- Lord Mountdrago – 293
- The social sense – 320
- The verger – 328
- In a strange land – 336
- The taipan – 341
- The consul – 349
- A friend in need – 355
- The round dozen – 360
- The human element – 390
- Jane – 431
- Footprints in the jungle – 460
- The door of opportunity – 495
Vintage Classics; New Edition (3 Jan. 2002)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)