W. Somerset Maugham’s 1940s Thoughts on America Still Resonate Today

I found this 1944 Life Magazine article displayed at the lovely Colonial Inn on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s an interesting look at a successful author’s life on the Vineyard during WWII. At the time of his visit, he was “the most prolific and financially successful living writer in the English language – second only to Churchill as the most famous Englishman in the world.”

Maugham’s take on post-WWII America in The Razor’s Edge is interesting and  relevant today: That tumultuous conglomeration of humanity, distracted by so many conflicting interests…so wistful of good, so cocksure on the outside, so diffident within, so kind, so hard…so mean and so generous–the people of the U.S.

The American people seemed to dote on the 70 year old Maugham, on Martha’s Vineyard, at least, where the article says admirers invariably surround him–sometimes girls, more often elderly ladies who try unsuccessfully to corral him for cocktails. By elderly, did the author mean women his own age? Who wouldn’t be clamoring to hang out with Maugham with that porcupine frieze hair?  

He attended the premiere of the film adapted from his novel The Moon and Sixpence at the Edgartown Playhouse, the first such gala on the Vineyard. “The skies were dark under the wartime dim-out in effect on the Island and the setting was modest, but the audience glittered with the Hollywood producers and mainland press.”

A Vineyard reporter  wrote of Maugham’s visits: “This island, more than most places of the earth, takes pride in its visitors – which is perhaps an Island prerogative.” Still true today over 60 years later.


7 thoughts on “W. Somerset Maugham’s 1940s Thoughts on America Still Resonate Today”

  1. Just finished Lilac Girls this morning – couldn’t put it down. Thank you! My dad was a WWII survivor and wrote his story for us kids – not as gut-wrenching as this one but full of twists and turns. I always considered it a miracle that he made it to this country after the war, married my American mom and had 4 children.

    Thank you, again, for an incredible read.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Heidi! How wonderful that your father wrote his story for you…you’re so lucky.

  2. Martha,
    I just read Lilac Girls and declare it to be the BEST BOOK I’ve ever read! I knew from the first sentence that it was going to be a book that I couldn’t put down. In reading it, I learned much about a horrific time in history, and as difficult to imagine as it must have been, the knowledge made me thirst for even more.
    Your writing is just the absolute best, and I hope to see many more books by you!!
    Thank you so much for this terrific read and for opening my eyes in depth to the horror of the Holocaust.
    Sincerely, Jo L

  3. Martha,
    I just finished your wonderful book! I could not stop reading from the second I started. I cannot stop singing your praises!!! Such a beautifully written book about some of the ugliest and lesser known stories from WWII. Thank you for sharing your talent! I am looking forward to your prequels.

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