Subject Headings: Autobiographical Novel.
- (Wikipedia, 2015) ⇒ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Human_Bondage Retrieved:2015-1-1.
- Of Human Bondage (1915) is a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. It is generally agreed to be his masterpiece and to be strongly autobiographical in nature, although Maugham stated, "This is a novel, not an autobiography, though much in it is autobiographical, more is pure invention."  Maugham, who had originally planned to call his novel Beauty from Ashes, finally settled on a title taken from a section of Spinoza's Ethics.
- Dated 28 August 1957, author's inscription in a first edition for Californian book collector, Ingle Barr.
The day broke gray and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow. A woman servant came into a room in which a child was sleeping and drew the curtains. She glanced mechanically at the house opposite, a stucco house with a portico, and went to the child's bed.
"I wonder if it's worth while being a second-rate painter. You see, in other things, if you're a doctor or if you're in business, it doesn't matter so much if you're mediocre. You make a living and you get along. But what is the good of turning out second-rate pictures?"
... Philip was very nervous, but he forced himself to go up to him.
"Pardon, monsieur, I should like to speak to you for one moment."
Foinet gave him a rapid glance, recognised him, but did not smile a greeting.
"Speak," he said.
"I've been working here nearly two years now under you. I wanted to ask you to tell me frankly if you think it worth while for me to continue."
Philip's voice was trembling a little. Foinet walked on without looking up. Philip, watching his face, saw no trace of expression upon it.
"I don't understand."
"I'm very poor. If I have no talent I would sooner do something else."
"Don't you know if you have talent?"
"All my friends know they have talent, but I am aware some of them are mistaken."
Foinet's bitter mouth outlined the shadow of a smile, and he asked:
"Do you live near here?"
Philip told him where his studio was. Foinet turned round.
"Let us go there? You shall show me your work."
"Now?" cried Philip.
Philip had nothing to say. He walked silently by the master's side. He felt horribly sick. It had never struck him that Foinet would wish to see his things there and then; he meant, so that he might have time to prepare himself, to ask him if he would mind coming at some future date or whether he might bring them to Foinet's studio. He was trembling with anxiety. In his heart he hoped that Foinet would look at his picture, and that rare smile would come into his face, and he would shake Philip's hand and say: "Pas mal. Go on, my lad. You have talent, real talent." Philip's heart swelled at the thought. It was such a relief, such a joy! Now he could go on with courage; and what did hardship matter, privation, and disappointment, if he arrived at last? He had worked very hard, it would be too cruel if all that industry were futile. And then with a start he remembered that he had heard Fanny Price say just that. They arrived at the house, and Philip was seized with fear. If he had dared he would have asked Foinet to go away. He did not want to know the truth. They went in and the concierge handed him a letter as they passed. He glanced at the envelope and recognised his uncle's handwriting. Foinet followed him up the stairs. Philip could think of nothing to say; Foinet was mute, and the silence got on his nerves. The professor sat down; and Philip without a word placed before him the picture which the Salon had rejected; Foinet nodded but did not speak; then Philip showed him the two portraits he had made of Ruth Chalice, two or three landscapes which he had painted at Moret, and a number of sketches.
"That's all," he said presently, with a nervous laugh.
Monsieur Foinet rolled himself a cigarette and lit it.
"You have very little private means?" he asked at last.
"Very little," answered Philip, with a sudden feeling of cold at his heart. "Not enough to live on."
"There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one's means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for the people who despise money. They are hypocrites or fools. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without an adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off. The only thing to be careful about is that you do not pay more than a shilling for the shilling you earn. 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. I pity with all my heart the artist, whether he writes or paints, who is entirely dependent for subsistence upon his art."
Philip quietly put away the various things which he had shown.
"I'm afraid that sounds as if you didn't think I had much chance."
Monsieur Foinet slightly shrugged his shoulders.
"You have a certain manual dexterity. With hard work and perseverance there is no reason why you should not become a careful, not incompetent painter. You would find hundreds who painted worse than you, hundreds who painted as well. I see no talent in anything you have shown me. I see industry and intelligence. You will never be anything but mediocre."
Philip obliged himself to answer quite steadily.
"I'm very grateful to you for having taken so much trouble. I can't thank you enough."
Monsieur Foinet got up and made as if to go, but he changed his mind and, stopping, put his hand on Philip's shoulder.
"But if you were to ask me my advice, I should say: take your courage in both hands and try your luck at something else. It sounds very hard, but let me tell you this: I would give all I have in the world if someone had given me that advice when I was your age and I had taken it."
Philip looked up at him with surprise. The master forced his lips into a smile, but his eyes remained grave and sad.
"It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late. It does not improve the temper."
He gave a little laugh as he said the last words and quickly walked out of the room.
"I've given up painting," he said.
"Why?" asked his uncle in astonishment.
"I don't think there's much object in being a second-rate painter, and I came to the conclusion that I should never be anything else."
"You surprise me. Before you went to Paris you were quite certain that you were a genius."
"I was mistaken," said Philip.
"I should have thought now you'd taken up a profession you'd have the pride to stick to it. It seems to me that what you lack is perseverance."
Philip was a little annoyed that his uncle did not even see how truly heroic his determination was.
"'A rolling stone gathers no moss,'" proceeded the clergyman. Philip hated that proverb above all, and it seemed to him perfectly meaningless. His uncle had repeated it often during the arguments which had preceded his departure from business. Apparently it recalled that occasion to his guardian.
"You're no longer a boy, you know; you must begin to think of settling down. First you insist on becoming a chartered accountant, and then you get tired of that and you want to become a painter. And now if you please you change your mind again. It points to…"
He hesitated for a moment to consider what defects of character exactly it indicated, and Philip finished the sentence.
"Irresolution, incompetence, want of foresight, and lack of determination."
The Vicar looked up at his nephew quickly to see whether he was laughing at him. Philip's face was serious, but there was a twinkle in his eyes which irritated him. Philip should really be getting more serious. He felt it right to give him a rap over the knuckles.
"Your money matters have nothing to do with me now. You're your own master; but I think you should remember that your money won't last for ever, and the unlucky deformity you have doesn't exactly make it easier for you to earn your living."
Philip knew by now that whenever anyone was angry with him his first thought was to say something about his club-foot. His estimate of the human race was determined by the fact that scarcely anyone failed to resist the temptation. But he had trained himself not to show any sign that the reminder wounded him. He had even acquired control over the blushing which in his boyhood had been one of his torments.
"As you justly remark," he answered, "my money matters have nothing to do with you and I am my own master."
"At all events you will do me the justice to acknowledge that I was justified in my opposition when you made up your mind to become an art-student."
"I don't know so much about that. 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. I've had my fling, and I don't mind settling down now."
Philip was not prepared for the question, since in fact he had not made up his mind. He had thought of a dozen callings.
"The most suitable thing you could do is to enter your father's profession and become a doctor."
"Oddly enough that is precisely what I intend."
He had thought of doctoring among other things, chiefly because it was an occupation which seemed to give a good deal of personal freedom, and his experience of life in an office had made him determine never to have anything more to do with one; his answer to the Vicar slipped out almost unawares, because it was in the nature of a repartee. It amused him to make up his mind in that accidental way, and he resolved then and there to enter his father's old hospital in the autumn.
"Then your two years in Paris may be regarded as so much wasted time?"
"I don't know about that. I had a very jolly two years, and I learned one or two useful things."
Philip reflected for an instant, and his answer was not devoid of a gentle desire to annoy.
"I learned to look at hands, which I'd never looked at before. And instead of just looking at houses and trees I learned to look at houses and trees against the sky. And I learned also that shadows are not black but coloured."
"I suppose you think you're very clever. I think your flippancy is quite inane."
|1915 OfHumanBondage||W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)||Of Human Bondage||1915|