Maugham and Muggeridge

December 15 2011

[See comment below.]

Period piece. Malcolm Muggeridge interviewing Somerset Maugham for BBC television, almost certainly in 1954, the year of his eightieth birthday. His Ten Novels and Their Authors was a set of essays which had begun as introductions to some American reissues of classic novels. Maugham had chosen the novels. Were they abridgements? He refers at one point in the interview to a condensation of Of Human Bondage.

The novels which he identifies as the ten best, not necessarily in this order, are:

Tom Jones
Pride and Prejudice
Le rouge et le noir
Le père Goriot
David Copperfield
Madame Bovary
Moby Dick
Wuthering Heights
The Brothers Karamazov
War and Peace

These lists are always depressing. Life is about reading more and more, not less and less, Edmund White says somewhere. I love lists of works, but not lists of bests.

Muggeridge was editor of Punch when this was recorded. He quotes Shakespeare’s phrase chronicle of wasted time. He says chronicles, and in that form it was the title of his own autobiography some twenty years later.

In a letter of the late ’40s or early ’50s, he writes that there is a “whiff of charlatanism” around Toynbee. (From memory.)

Old posts: another Maugham interview; Muggeridge in Christopher Hitchens’s film about Mother Teresa.

4 Responses to “Maugham and Muggeridge”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Muggeridge became one of the British moral reactionaries of the ’60s and ’70s. Lord Longford was another.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Maugham belonged to the age of the “author”, who was a tie-wearing professional, like the family doctor, or solicitor, or bank manager and who stood in roughly the same relationship to the reader as they did.

  3. davidderrick Says:

    He surely has a point about Proust’s title. Why has no one translated “perdu” as “wasted”?

  4. davidderrick Says:

    Although the 10-minute clip has been removed, part of the interview is towards the end of this montage of Maugham camera appearances:

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