Saturday, December 06, 2014

Mini-Review of "Cakes and Ale" by Somerset Maugham - Lampooning Writers and the British Aristocracy

As I continue to wend my way through the novels of Somerset Maugham, I find this particular story, "Cakes and Ale," to be one of my favorites.  It is a delicious send-up of many aspects of British society, revolving around the lives of writers both great and small.  Although Maugham was assiduous in claiming hat no particular author was inferred in the portrait of Edward Driffield, it has long been supposed that there is a good deal of Thomas Hardy infused into this colorful character.

There are the usual Maugham touches in this story that I have come to expect and enjoy - the randy female who is unable to remain faithful to her husband, women described as having black eyes, and a heaping dose of sardonic humor at the expense of the English aristocracy.  One of my favorite sections of this novel is Maugham's aside in which the narrator opines that the freedom to write should be carefully regulated.  Only certain social classes should be allowed to write in a particular genre, with poetry reserved for those with titles. It is a brilliant conceit in which the author manages to kill two birds with one stone - lampooning both the nobility and the world of letters.

If this story were to be made into a film today, I could see a delectable role for Dame Maggie Smith as Mrs.Barton Trafford, patroness of the arts and of writers.

I find Maugham's distinctive style so engaging that I keep coming back for more.  "The Painted Veil" awaits.



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