W. Somerset Maugham

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The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.

William Somerset Maugham (25 January 187416 December 1965) was an English playwright, novelist, and short story writer; often published as simply W. Somerset Maugham.


If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.
  • She gathered herself together. No one could describe the scorn of her expression or the contemptuous hatred she put into her answer.
    "You men! You filthy dirty pigs! You're all the same, all of you. Pigs! Pigs!"
    • "Sadie Thompson" in Altogether - Rain (1934)
  • The Riviera isn't only a sunny place for shady people.
    • Strictly Personal, p. 156 (Doubleday, Doran and co., inc., 1941)
  • He knew that women appreciated neither irony nor sarcasm, but simple jokes and funny stories. He was amply provided with both.
    • Then and Now : A Novel (1946), p. 136
  • Now the world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger.
    • Great Novelists and Their Novels (1948)
  • The trouble with our younger authors is that they are all in the sixties.
    • As quoted in "Sayings of the Week" in The Observer (14 October 1951)
  • It is unsafe to take your reader for more of a fool than he is.
    • Ten Novels and Their Authors (1954)
  • Money is like a sixth sense - and you can't make use of the other five without it.
    • The New York Times Magazine (October 18, 1958)
  • What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one's faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one's memories.
    • Points of View (1959) Ch. 1
  • What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered I would probably... have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps have become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature.
    • Newsweek (23 May 1960)
  • Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.
  • To eat well in England, you should have a breakfast three times a day.
    • Quoted in Somerset Maugham (1980) by Ted Morgan
  • Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets.
    • Quoted in Somerset Maugham (1980) by Ted Morgan
  • My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.
    • Quoted in Somerset Maugham (1980) by Ted Morgan
  • A soul is a troublesome possession, and when man developed it he lost the Garden of Eden.
  • Observing these people I am no longer surprised that there is such a scarcity of domestic servants back home.
    • Said in an uncharacteristically loud voice after being refused entry to the premier British expatriate club in Singapore in 1960. Quoted in Robert Calder, Willie (1989), p. 361
You know, there are two good things in life, freedom of thought and freedom of action.
  • It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.
    • Ch. 29
  • Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind.
    • Ch. 39
  • Art... is merely the refuge which the ingenious have invented, when they were supplied with food and women, to escape the tediousness of life.
    • Ch. 42
  • I do not confer praise or blame: I accept. I am the measure of all things. I am the centre of the world.
    • Ch. 45
  • Men seek but one thing in life — their pleasure.
    • Ch. 45
  • People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.
    • Ch. 50
  • There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one's means of livelihood...Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.
    • Ch. 51
  • You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh. They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer. It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent.
    • Ch. 51
  • It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late.
    • Ch. 51
  • I daresay one profits more by the mistakes one makes off one's own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody's else advice.
    • Ch. 52
  • Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner.
    • Ch. 53
  • There was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed.
    • Ch. 54
  • Of course it was cause and effect, but in the necessity with which follows the other lay all tragedy of life.
    • Ch. 65
  • Life wouldn't be worth living if I worried over the future as well as the present. When things are at their worst I find something always happens.
    • Ch. 66
  • When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.
    • Ch. 67
  • It's no use crying over spilt milk, because all of the forces of the universe were bent on spilling it.
    • Ch. 68
  • But when all was said the important thing was to love rather than to be loved.
    • Ch. 70
  • There's always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved.
    • Ch. 71
  • It's asking a great deal that things should appeal to your reason as well as your sense of the aesthetic.
    • Ch. 88
  • He was always seeking for a meaning in life, and here it seemed to him that a meaning was offered; but it was obscure and vague. He was profoundly troubled. He saw what looked like the truth as by flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown lands.
    • Ch. 88
  • The rain fell alike upon the just and upon the unjust, and for nothing was there a why and a wherefore.
    • Ch. 106
  • D'you call life a bad job? Never! We've had our ups and downs, we've had our struggles, we've always been poor, but it's been worth it, ay, worth it a hundred times I say when I look round at my children.
    • Ch. 108
  • He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it.
    • Ch. 116
  • It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.
    • Ch. 122
Page numbers used in this section are from the Penguin Classics edition (1993) ISBN 0140185976
  • The modern clergyman has acquired in his study of the science which I believe is called exegesis an astonishing facility for explaining things away.
  • I forget who it was that recommended men for their soul's good to do each day two things they disliked: it was a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed scrupulously; for every day I have got up and I have gone to bed.
  • I reflected, while I chatted with the woman I had been asked to ‘take in’, that civilized man practises a strange ingenuity in wasting on tedious exercises the brief span of his life.
  • I did not then know the besetting sin of woman, the passion to discuss her private affairs with anyone who is willing to listen.
  • I had not yet learnt how contradictory is human nature; I did not know how much pose there is in the sincere, how much baseness in the noble, or how much goodness in the reprobate.
  • Conscience is the guardian in the individual of the rules which the community has evolved for its own preservation.
  • Whatever anguish she suffered she concealed. She saw shrewdly that the world is quickly bored by the recital of misfortune, and willingly avoids the sight of distress.
  • She was making money. But she could not get over the idea that to earn her living was somewhat undignified, and she was inclined to remind you that she was a lady by birth.
  • It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive.
  • I don't think of the past. The only thing that matters is the everlasting present.
  • Life isn't long enough for love and art.
  • The poignancy which all beauty has.
  • I am a little shy of any assumption of moral indignation. There is always in it an element of self-satisfaction which makes it awkward to anyone who has a sense of humour.
  • One of the falsest of proverbs is that you must lie on the bed that you have made. The experience of life shows that people are constantly doing things which must lead to disaster, and yet by some chance manage to evade the result of their folly.
  • We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us.
  • The writer is more concerned to know than to judge.
  • “A woman can forgive a man for the harm he does her,” he said, “but she can never forgive him for the sacrifices he makes on her account.”
  • Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.
  • But who can fathom the subtleties of the human heart? Certainly not those who expect from it only decorous sentiments and normal emotions.
  • He made one laugh sometimes by speaking the truth, but this is a form of humour which gains its force only by its unusualness; it would cease to amuse if it were commonly practised.
  • Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.
  • Men are always the same. Fear makes them cruel.
  • Tahiti is very far away, and I knew that I should never see it again. A chapter of my life was closed, and I felt a little nearer to inevitable death.

Great Novelists and Their Novels

  • Both these men are in love with Natasha, Count Rostov's younger daughter, and in her Tolstoy has created the most delightful girl in fiction. Nothing is so difficult as to portray a young girl who is at once charming and interesting. Generally the young girls of fiction are colorless (Amelia in Vanity Fair), priggish (Fanny in Mansfield Park), too clever by half (Constantia Durham in The Egoist), or little geese (Dora in David Copperfield), silly flirts or innocent beyound belief. It is understandable that they should be an awkward subject for the novelist to deal with, for at that tender age the personality is undeveloped. Similarly a painter can only make a face interesting when the vicissitudes of life, thought, love and suffering have given it character. In the portrait of a girl the best he can do is to represent the charm and beauty of youth. But Natasha is entirely natural. She is sweet, sensitive, and sympathetic, willful, childish, womanly already, idealistic, quick-tempered, warm-hearted, headstrong, capricious and in everything enchanting. Tolstoy created many women and they are wonderfully true to life, but never another who wins the affection of the reader as does Natasha.
    • Leo Tolstoy and War and Peace
  • It's no good trying to keep up old friendships. It's painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.
    • p. 14
  • Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.
    • p. 15
  • Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.
    • p. 140.
  • ...you know what the critics are. If you tell the truth they only say you're cynical and it does an author no good to get a reputation for cynicism.
    • p. 137
  • It's very hard to be a gentleman and a writer.
    • p. 157
  • ...when you are young you take the kindness people show you as your right...
    • p. 166
  • The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes...
    • p. 184
  • There is no silence in the East.
    • p. ?
  • Mandalay has its name; the falling cadence of the lovely word has gathered about itself the chiaroscuro of romance.
    • p. ?
  • The Chinese are the aristocracy of the East.
    • p. ?
  • They are like a face full of character that intrigues and excites you, but that on closer acquaintance you discover is merely the mask of a vulgar soul. Such is Tourane.
Page numbers in this section are from the first edition by Doubleday, Doran & Co.
  • I would sooner read a time-table or a catalogue than nothing at all. ... They are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written.
    • p. 1
  • There is a sort of man who pays no attention to his good actions, but is tormented by his bad ones. This is the type that most often writes about himself.
  • There is only one thing about which I am certain, and this is that there is very little about which one can be certain.
  • I have not been afraid of excess: excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.
    • p. 48
  • ...the future will one day be the present and will seem as unimportant as the present does now.
    • p. 51
  • ...we learn resignation not by our own suffering, but by the suffering of others.
    • p. 64
  • You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humour teaches tolerance, and the humorist, with a smile and perhaps a sigh, is more likely to shrug his shoulders than to condemn.
    • p. 67
  • I do not believe they are right who say that the defects of famous men should be ignored. I think it is better that we should know them. Then, though we are conscious of having faults as glaring as theirs, we can believe that that is no hindrance to our achieving also something of their virtues.
    • p. 71
  • The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down the hill.
    • p. 185
  • Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young.
    • p. 164
  • ... habits in writing as in life are only useful if they are broken as soon as they cease to be advantageous.
    • p. 182
  • The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people bitter and cruel.
    • p. 182
  • I'll give you my opinion of the human race in a nutshell... their heart's in the right place, but their head is a thoroughly inefficient organ.
    • p. 206
  • I have been forced to conclude from this that we know our friends by their defects rather than by their merits.
    • p. 214
  • It is salutary to train oneself to be no more affected by censure than by praise...
    • p. 223
  • The great critic ... must be a philosopher, for from philosophy he will learn serenity, impartiality, and the transitoriness of human things.
    • p. 223
  • Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.
    • p. 223
  • There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.
    • p. 285
  • Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.
    • p. 290
  • Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.
    • p. 290
  • Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life's ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved.
    • p. 297
  • We are not the same persons this year as last ; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
    • p. 306
  • Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.
    • p. 310
  • By the time I was twenty-four I had constructed a complete system of philosophy. It rested on two principles: The Relativity of Things and The Circumferentiality of Man. I have since discovered that the first was not a very original discovery. It may be that the other was profound, but though I have racked my brains I cannot for the life of me remember what it was.
    • section 66

Christmas Holiday (1939)

  • "Aren't you missing a lot of fun? You know, one's young for such a little while."
    • Ch. 2 - p.43 [Page numbers per the Pan Books 1978 edition. This was also made into movie.]
  • "It's so wonderful to shut out the world for a few hours. Rest, peace, silence, solitude. You would think they were luxuries that only the very rich can afford, and yet they cost nothing. Strange that they should be so hard to come by."
    • Ch. 4 - p.79
  • "God? What has God to do with it? Do you suppose I can look at the misery in which the vast majority of the people live in the world and believe in God? Do you suppose I believe in God who let the Bolsheviks kill my poor, simple father? Do you know what I think? I think God has been dead for millions upon millions of years. I think when he took infinity and set in motion the process that has resulted in the universe, he died, and for ages and ages men have sought and worshipped a being who ceased to exist in the act of making existence possible for them."
    He wondered if there was anything in what she said, this woman with her tragic history and miserable life, that God had died when he created the wide world; and was he lying dead on some vast mountain range on a dead star or was he absorbed into the universe he caused to be?
    • Ch. 5 - p.131, 132
  • "You know, a thing that has always struck me is people's fiendish eagerness to give anyone away. They pretend it's public spirit, I don't believe a word of it; I don't believe it's even, as a rule anyway, the desire for notoriety; I believe it's just due to the baseness of human nature that gets a kick out of injuring others. There's a whole mass of people who can't wait if they have the chance of doing down someone who's trying to get away with anything."
    • Ch. 6 - p.154
  • The world he knew, the peaceful happy world of the surface, was like a pretty lake in which were reflected the dappled clouds and the willows that grew on its bank, where carefree boys paddled their canoes and the girls with them trailed their fingers in the soft water. It was terrifying to think that below, just below, dangerous weeds waved tentacles to ensnare you and all manner of strange, horrible things, poisonous snakes, fish with murderous jaws, waged an unceasing and hidden warfare.
    • Ch. 7 - p.163
  • It was too sweeping a judgement to be satisfactory; the idea dawned in Charley's mind that perhaps men were more complicated than he had imagined, and if you just said that a man was this or that you couldn't get very far.
    • Ch. 7 - p.164
  • "Stunning, isn't it?" he said then, giving her arm an affectionate pressure.
    "Yes, it's all right. What business is it of yours?"
    Charley turned his head sharply. No one had ever asked him a question like that about a picture before.
    "What on earth d'you mean? It's one of the great portraits of the world. Titian, you know."
    "I daresay. But what's it got to do with you?"
    Charley didn't quite know what to say.
    "Well, it's a very fine picture and it's beautifully painted. Of course it doesn't tell a story if that's what you mean."
    "No, I don't," she smiled.
    "I don't suppose it's got anything to do with me really."
    "Then why should you bother about it?"
    • Ch. 8 - p.192-193
  • It was like one of those comedies where the sets are good and the clothes pretty, where the dialogue is clever and the acting competent, so that you pass an agreeable evening, but a week later cannot remember a thing about it.
    • Ch. 8 - p.203
  • It looked as though the people we thought we knew best carried secrets that they didn't even know themselves. Charley had a sudden inkling that human beings were infinitely mysterious. The fact was that you knew nothing about anybody.
    • Ch. 9 - p.213
  • "I'm beginning to think it's very hard to know what to believe in this world."
    • Ch. 9 - p.239
  • "I don't believe in the god of the Christians who gave his son in order to save mankind. That's a myth. But why should it have arisen if it didn't express some deep-seated intuition in men? I don't know what I believe, because it's instinctive, and how can you describe an instinct with words? I have an instinct that the power that rules us, human beings, animals and things, is a dark and cruel power and that everything has to be paid for, a power that demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and that though we may writhe and squirm we have to submit, for the power is ourselves."
    • Ch. 9 - p.240
  • In point of fact, however, they were much more anxious to tell him about their doings than to listen to his.
    • Ch. 10 - p.247
Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.
In art honesty is not only the best but the only policy.
  • Passion is destructive; if it does not destroy, it dies.
  • Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.
  • I thought I should be a fool to allow work to interfere with a delight in the passing moment that I might never enjoy again so fully.
  • He was the kind of man with whom one would have hesitated to pass a lonely evening, but with whom one might cheerfully have looked forward to spending six months.
  • It may be that if I lead the life I've planned for myself it may affect others; the effect may be no greater than the ripple caused by a stone thrown in a pond, but one ripple causes another.
  • Almost all the people who have had most effect on me I seem to have met by chance.
  • Don't you know? Because American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers.
  • Things don't get any easier by putting them off.
  • He found himself now in the agreeable situation of being able to do what was best for others and at the same time what was convenient to himself.
  • There are men who are possessed by an urge so strong to do some particular thing that they can't help themselves, they've got to do it. They're prepared to sacrifice everything to satisfy their yearning.
  • Women are always glad to listen when you discourse upon love...
  • Passion doesn't count the cost. ... Passion is destructive.
  • In art honesty is not only the best but the only policy.
  • Religion is...a conspiracy of...priests to gain control over the people...
  • The sad Don Quixote of a worthless purpose.
  • A god that can be understood is not a god.

A Writer's Notebook (1946)

Page numbers used in this section are from the first general edition by Country Life Press (1949)
  • Considering how foolishly people act and how pleasantly they prattle, perhaps it would be better for the world if they talked more and did less.
    • "1892", p. 1
  • The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.
    • p. 13
  • Anyone can tell the truth, but only very few of us can make epigrams.
    • "1896", p. 17
  • Men have an extraordinarily erroneous opinion of their position in nature; and the error is ineradicable.
    • "1896", p. 20
  • Few misfortunes can befall a boy which bring worse consequences than to have a really affectionate mother.
    • "1896", p. 28
  • There is no object to life. To nature nothing matters but the continuation of the species.
    • p. 38. Maugham says something similar in The Summing up, Ch 22: "Love was only the dirty trick nature played on us to achieve the continuation of the species"
  • In the country the darkness of night is friendly and familiar, but in a city, with its blaze of lights, it is unnatural, hostile and menacing. It is like a monstrous vulture that hovers, biding its time.
    • p. 48
  • There are men whose sense of humour is so ill developed that they still bear a grudge against Copernicus because he dethroned them from the central position in the universe. They feel it a personal affront that they can no longer consider themselves the pivot upon which turns the whole of created things.
    • "1901", p. 66
  • What mean and cruel things men can do for the love of God.
    • "1901", p. 67
  • If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.
    • "1901", p. 76. Sometimes misquoted as "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing". Sometimes misattributed to Bertrand Russell or Anatole France
  • She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious.
    • p. 189
  • Things were easier for the old novelists who saw people all of a piece. Speaking generally, their heroes were good through and through, their villains wholly bad.
    • "1922", p. 196
  • It was not till quite late in life that I discovered how easy it is to say: "I don't know."
    • p. 258
  • I made up my mind long ago that life was too short to do anything for myself that I could pay others to do for me.
    • "1941", p. 336
  • Sentimentality is only sentiment that rubs you up the wrong way.
    • "1941"
  • At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.
    • Unidentified page

Short stories

  • "You bloody fool, you've killed the wrong man."
    • The Hairless Mexican (1927)
  • She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit...
    • (August 1926). "The Creative Impulse". Harper's Bazaar: 41. ISSN 0017-7873.
    • Revised with quotation in the 1931 compilation Six Stories Written in the First Person Singular.
    • Often misattributed to George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde
  • Now it is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it...
    • The Mixture As Before (1940) "The Treasure"
  • Marriage is a very good thing, but I think it's a mistake to make a habit out of it.
    • '"The Treasure"

Collected short stories 1

  • He loved her so passionately he wanted her to be one soul and one body with him; and he was conscious that here, with those deep roots attaching her to the native life, she would always keep something from him.
    • "The pool", p. 123
  • He had a bitter pain in his heart, for he knew that she was still a stranger to him and his hungry love was destined ever to remain unsatisfied.
    • "The pool", p. 127
  • I held my breath, for to me there is nothing more awe-inspiring than when a man discovers to you the nakedness of his soul.
    • "The pool", p. 140
  • It is very natural that clever young men should be rather odious. They are conscious of gifts that they do not know how to use. They are exasperated with the world that will not recognize their merit. They have something to give, and no hand is stretched out to receive it. They are impatient for the fame they regard as their due.
    • "The voice of the turtle", p. 250
  • Bob Forestier had pretended for so many years to be a gentleman that in the end, forgetting that it was all a fake, he had found himself driven to act as in that stupid, conventional brain of his he thought a gentleman must act. No longer knowing the difference between sham and real, he had sacrificed his life to a spurious heroism.
    • "The lion's skin", p. 283
  • I have always been convinced that if a woman once made up her mind to marry a man nothing but instant flight could save him.
    • "The escape", p. 309
  • [...] the Eternal turned his attention to the three shades who stood humbly and yet hopefully before him. The quick, with so short a time to live, when they talk of themselves, talk too much; but the dead, with eternity before them, are so verbose that only angels could listen to them with civility.
    • "The judgement seat", p. 314
  • 'I sometimes think,' said the Eternal, 'that the stars never shine more brightly than when reflected in the muddy waters of a wayside ditch.'
    • "The judgement seat", p. 316
  • She had a very agreeable smile; it did not light up her face suddenly, but seemed rather to suffuse it by degrees with charm. It hesitated for a moment about her lips and then slowly travelled to those great shining eyes of hers and there softly lingered.
    • "The promise", p. 407


You can do anything in this world if you are prepared to take the consequences.
  • After all, a man marries to have a home, but also because he doesn't want to be bothered with sex and all that sort of thing.
    • Arnold, in The Circle: A Comedy in Three Acts (1921), p. 58-59
  • You can't learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency.
    • The Circle
  • You can do anything in this world if you are prepared to take the consequences.
    • The Circle
  • When you have loved as she has loved, you grow old beautifully.
    • The Circle
  • It was such a lovely day I thought it was a pity to get up.
    • Our Betters (1923)
  • We have long passed the Victorian Era when asterisks were followed after a certain interval by a baby.
    • The Constant Wife (1927)
  • You know that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct.
    • The Bread-Winner (1930)
  • I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.


  • It seems that the creative faculty and the critical faculty cannot exist together in their highest perfection.
  • No gray hairs streak my soul, no grandfatherly fondness there! I shake the world with the might of my voice, and walk—handsome, twentytwoyearold.

Quotes about Maugham

    • All the way from Maugham and de Maupassant and Chekhov to Ring Lardner the short story has served to portray the characteristics, the habits, the manners, the morals, the emotions of a nation, a whole people.
    • Edna Ferber Introduction, One basket (1947)
  • Then there was Somerset Maugham, a grim figure; rat-eyed; dead man cheeked, unshaven; a criminal I should have said had I met him on a bus.
    • Virginia Woolf, Letter to Vanessa Bell, 2 November 1938, in The Letters of Virginia Woolf, ed. N. Nicolson and J. Trautmann (1975-80)


  • W. Somerset Maugham, Collected Short Stories, I (Penguin Books, 1977) ISBN 0140018719