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Of Human Bondage: (A Modern Library E-Book) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

'It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham,' wrote Gore Vidal. 'He was always so entirely there.' Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage is a potent expression of the power of sexual obsession and of modern man's yearning for freedom. This classic bildungsroman tells the story of ...
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Of Human Bondage: (A Modern Library E-Book)

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Overview

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

'It is very difficult for a writer of my generation, if he is honest, to pretend indifference to the work of Somerset Maugham,' wrote Gore Vidal. 'He was always so entirely there.' Originally published in 1915, Of Human Bondage is a potent expression of the power of sexual obsession and of modern man's yearning for freedom. This classic bildungsroman tells the story of Philip Carey, a sensitive boy born with a clubfoot who is orphaned and raised by a religious aunt and uncle. Philip yearns for adventure, and at eighteen leaves home, eventually pursuing a career as an artist in Paris. When he returns to London to study medicine, he meets the androgynous but alluring Mildred and begins a doomed love affair that will change the course of his life. There is no more powerful story of sexual infatuation, of human longing for connection and freedom. 'Here is a
novel of the utmost importance,' wrote Theodore Dreiser on publication. 'It is a beacon of light by which the wanderer may be guided. . . . One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz of priceless texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones.' With an Introduction by Gore Vidal Commentary by Theodore Dreiser and Graham Greene.
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Editorial Reviews

New Republic
A gorgeous read, as interesting and valuable at the beginning as at the end...compact with the experiences, the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the disillusionment, the ruptures, and the philosophizing of a strangely starved soul, it is a beacon light by which the wanderer may be guided. -- The New Republic
Theodore Dreiser
A gorgeous read, as interesting and valuable at the beginning as at the end. Compact of the experiences, the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the disillusionments, the ruptures, and the philosophizing of a strangely starved soul, it is a beacon light by which the wanderer may be guided.
The New Republic
From the Publisher
"The modern writer who has influenced me the most." - George Orwell

"One of my favourite writers." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"A writer of great dedication." - Graham Greene

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679641704
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Series: Modern Library 100 Best Novels
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,124,613
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris on January 25, 1874. His father, Robert Ormond Maugham, was a solicitor to the British embassy; his mother, Edith Mary, saw to it that Willie, as he would be known, was born on the grounds of the embassy so as to ensure his British citizenship. By the time Willie was four years old, his three older brothers were all being schooled in England, and he was raised as an only child. Edith died in January 1882, and Robert Maugham died two years later. The orphaned Willie, who barely spoke English, was packed off to the Kent home of his uncle Henry MacDonald Maugham, the rector of Whitstable, and his German-born aunt Barbara Sophia. They were a childless middle-aged couple. Willie was sent to the King's School in Canterbury, where he was ridiculed for his small stature, his foreignness, and, especially, his stammer. Still, Maugham discovered an appreciation of and gift for words, and it was during a period of studying at Heidelberg that Maugham decided to become a writer.

Shored up by a meager income of ú150 a year--his inheritance from his father--Maugham briefly studied accountancy before opting to attend medical school. During this time, Maugham also cultivated a passion for the theater. He published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), inspired in part by his work as an obstetric clerk in the London slums. Sojourns in Italy and Spain followed, and it was in Seville that he wrote The Artistic Temperament of Stephen Carey, an unpublished work that he would later refine into Of Human Bondage. Once again in En-gland, Maugham wrote several plays and stories, including The Hero (1901) and Mrs. Craddock (1902). In 1903, the Stage Society mounted Maugham's A Man of Honour. The piece was well received, although it was not until 1907 that Maugham found theatrical success with the biting comedy Lady Frederick. Within a year, Maugham had an unprecedented four plays (Lady Frederick plus The Explorer, Jack Straw, Mrs. Dot) running simultaneously in the West End.

Four years later, Maugham temporarily abandoned playwriting to write the semi-autobiographical Of Human Bondage as a means of exorcising childhood memories that had lately been haunting him. Expanding his Stephen Carey manuscript, Maugham told the story of the clubfooted Philip Carey, an orphan sent to live with his vicar uncle. Philip then studies art in Paris before returning to London to take up medicine, where he meets and falls obsessively in love with the waitress Mildred. Although the novel was not initially a success on its London publication in 1915, it did well in the United States, thanks to a championing review by Theodore Dreiser.

In the winter of 1913, Maugham met Syrie Wellcome, a married woman long separated from her husband. A very public affair ensued; Syrie, pregnant with Maugham's child, suffered a devastating miscarriage. Their liaison was interrupted by Maugham's wartime stint in the Ambulance Unit in France, followed by work as a secret agent. After the war he moved to Rome, where Syrie joined him. In New York in 1916 to witness the production of his play Our Betters, Maugham dodged Syrie by announcing a trip to Tahiti with Gerald Haxton, a high-living American he had met during the war. Haxton, who had earlier been banned from England as an undesirable alien, became Maugham's lover and secretary for twenty-nine years.

The South Seas trip was a journey of discovery for Maugham. Fascinated by the denizens of the Pacific, he gathered much material--including the inspiration for the story 'Miss Thompson,' more famously known onstage and in films as Rain, and for the novel The Moon and Sixpence (1919), based on the life of Paul Gauguin. On the way home to England via America, Maugham wed Syrie in New Jersey. They had a daughter, Liza, and settled uneasily into a marriage blighted by Syrie's increasingly grasping nature and Maugham's fear that she would betray his homosexuality. The couple divorced in 1927, and Syrie went on to enjoy considerable professional success as an interior designer.

In 1928 Maugham bought a home in Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera. During the Second World War he fled to Paris and then to England. At the end of the war, Maugham, now in his seventies, returned to his home in France with a new secretary and companion, his longtime friend Alan Searle. During the twenties and thirties Maugham was a famous and successful playwright and short story writer; many of his stories were made into films. Among his novels are The Painted Veil (1925), Cakes and Ale (1930), and The Razors Edge (1944). After a last collection of short stories, Creatures of Circumstances (1947), and a final novel, Catalina (1948), Maugham abandoned fiction entirely for essays and nonfiction. His general nonfiction books, inspired by his love of travel, include On a Chinese Screen (1923) and Don Fernando (1935), the revealing The Summing Up (1938), and A Writer's Notebook (1949). He also established the Somerset Maugham Award, to allow novelists to travel as he himself had done. Maugham died on December 16, 1965, just short of his ninety-second birthday, at his home France. His New York Times obituary said, 'For decades he cast a clinical eye on human behavior and turned out works that made him a fortune few writers have equalled. . . . His style was neat and simple; his stories were sharply defined; . . . his audience was vast.'
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Read an Excerpt

The day broke grey 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.

'Wake up, Philip,' she said.

She pulled down the bed-clothes, took him in her arms, and carried him downstairs. He was only half awake.

'Your mother wants you,' she said.

She opened the door of a room on the floor below and took the child over to a bed in which a woman was lying. It was his mother. She stretched out her arms, and the child nestled by her side. He did not ask why he had been awakened. The woman kissed his eyes, and with thin, small hands felt the warm body through his white flannel nightgown. She pressed him closer to herself.

'Are you sleepy, darling?' she said.

Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great distance. The child did not answer, but smiled comfortably. He was very happy in the large, warm bed, with those soft arms about him. He tried to make himself smaller still as he cuddled against his mother, and he kissed her sleepily. In a moment he closed his eyes and was fast asleep. The doctor came forward and stood by the bedside.

'Oh, don't take him away yet,' she moaned.

The doctor, without answering, looked at her gravely. Knowing she would not be allowed to keep the child much longer, the woman kissed him again; and she passed her hand down his body till she came to his feet; she held the right foot in her hand and felt the five small toes; and then slowly passed her hand over the left one. She gave a sob.

'What's the matter?' said the doctor. 'You're tired.'

She shook her head, unable to speak, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. The doctor bent down.

'Let me take him.'

She was too weak to resist his wish, and she gave the child up. The doctor handed him back to his nurse.

'You'd better put him back in his own bed.'

'Very well, sir.'

The little boy, still sleeping, was taken away. His mother sobbed now broken-heartedly.

'What will happen to him, poor child?'

The monthly nurse tried to quiet her, and presently, from exhaustion, the crying ceased. The doctor walked to a table on the other side of the room, upon which, under a towel, lay the body of a still-born child. He lifted the towel and looked. He was hidden from the bed by a screen, but the woman guessed what he was doing.

'Was it a girl or a boy?' she whispered to the nurse.

'Another boy.'

The woman did not answer. In a moment the child's nurse came back. She approached the bed.

'Master Philip never woke up,' she said.

There was a pause. Then the doctor felt his patient's pulse once more.

'I don't think there's anything I can do just now,' he said. 'I'll call again after breakfast.'

'I'll show you out, sir,' said the child's nurse.

They walked downstairs in silence. In the hall the doctor stopped.

'You've sent for Mrs Carey's brother-in-law, haven't you?'

'Yes, sir.'

'D'you know at what time he'll be here?'

'No, sir, I'm expecting a telegram.'

'What about the little boy? I should think he'd be better out of the way.'

'Miss Watkin said she'd take him, sir.'

'Who's she?'

'She's his godmother, sir. D'you think Mrs Carey will get over it, sir?'

The doctor shook his head.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 111 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(63)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 101 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    A Great Read

    It's been almost two weeks since I finished reading this book and it's still in my mind. If you have lived any at all, this beautiful book will stir you. I read a friend's copy and now I have to get my own. I would get a hardcover if it were available. It is that good.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Of Human Bondage-Intellectually Provacative

    I won't lie. I was bored the first 300 pages. But the next 400 pages made up for it. Maugham built the basis for the plot and the characters slowly in this semi-autobiographical theme fest. Great for book clubs who want to discuss coming of age, changing thoughts on relegion and philosophy, human nature, one-sided love and the pursuit of happiness. Maugham managed to create tension every time Milred, the horrible object of young Philip Cary's obsession, enters a scene. Likewise, one dreads the financial demise of Phillip with equal tension. As a bookclub member for over 15 years, it is nice to find a book with real meat in it.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2003

    Incredible!

    The prose is absolutely marvelous. Nothing to jar your concentration. It deals with trials and tribulations of an orphan called Carey who is born with a club foot. The author is very clever and in fact quite ruthless in showing whole complex character of Carey. He is ashamed of his deformity, he is naïve, sentimental, foolish and in the end even harbors murderous feeling for his Uncle to get his money. The point is that a human being need not act according to his character always but can react differently to situations to suit his own interest. Maugham uses powerful prose to describe the death of Carey¿s uncle, a real tear-jerker. Highly stimulating. Now this is a big novel and the start of the novel is somewhat Dickenish , but it is successful to hold your interest from the first page. This is in contract to Victor Hugo¿s Les Miserables and even compares favorably with M M Kaye¿s Far Pavillions ( a big book) which resorts to the boring description of the Anglo-Afghan war Yawn!. A must read and indeed can come only from a complex character like Maugham himself You can also try Razor¿s Edge, but it is nothing compared to this one. A true classy classic.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Absolutely stunning

    A towering novel. It is amazing that someone can write with such clarity and insight into human psychology. Remarkable use of the English language. The book is very well formatted with only a few misspellings.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2005

    Fantastic Read!

    I just finished this almost 700 page novel and I had a hard time putting down! It really is Maugham's masterpiece. I enjoyed almost every page not just for the story itself but for the tidbits of philosophy that Maugham scatters throughout the work. I would definitely put this on my list of top ten reads of all time.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2005

    It is my holly book!

    I have never been attached to a book like this one. I have read it more than 4 times and keep reading some random pages of it every day. I take it with me everywhere I go. Philip Carey is everyone of us, with a one weakness that remains an obsession throughout first 30 years. Extremely representative of inner conflicts of human beings. I believe that what happens in the book happens to me i.e. events, thoughts, emotions, the 'poor things' for other humans and it is the 'autobiography' of someone living in Yemen, that's me! I long to have the same ending as I am now 32 at Philip's age before the last chapter! I finally understood Fanny Price and Mildred, and I found Cronshaw's rug and my life pattern inscripted within!!!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    Perhaps the finest example of combining plot and story with thou

    Perhaps the finest example of combining plot and story with thought-provoking issues that I’ve ever read. The writing is lovely, Philip Carey’s story compelling, and the issues of life are brought into the story in appealing and integrated ways. I read it in the Nook anthology 25 Favorite Novels II, and want to post my thoughts, but couldn't post them there for only one of the books. I read this because respected friend JH told me this might be her favorite book of all. I can surely see why since it rose quickly to among the best I’ve ever read, too. Orphaned almost immediately after the book begins, Philip Carey and his club foot are placed in the late 19th century home of his aunt and uncle, a vicar, who are childless. He is sent to school where his previously sensitive, but agreeable self is tested. Thus his transformation from gregarious to introspective loner commences. The decisions about directions he should take with an eye to the future, lead Philip to change course more than once, and paralleling his career changes in direction are his romantic relationships, which also follow a meandering course. Philip’s first thirty years or so are written brilliantly, with insight into his inner thoughts and actions, the support characters in his life interesting but largely without their inner lives told. The settings, Germany, Paris, London, and other British locales resonate in their nineteenth century form. Among the issues in Philip’s life are some alluded to above, the changes and choices, the way being disabled affects his growing up and life, and the difficulties of being a sensitive, sometimes too sensitive, introvert and having meaningful friendships. Other issues include the importance and role of art, especially visual art, in his life, the interplay between impulses and emotion vs. philosophies of life in determining actions, the costs and benefits of being good-hearted and loyal, the effect of having or not having family, and those are all topped off by the biggie: the meaning of life. There are more issues worth mentioning, but I will close here with the observation that the first two sentences above are true at the highest levels, and this is an amazing book for both its story and its issues. Top-notch.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    Really interesting and insightful story.

    This is a story about one man's struggle to find his place in the world. I love the way the story is built and the increasing maturity of the main character. Many parts of this story parallel those of Maugham's own life. Parts of it drag, but others are beautifully rendered.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just finished it!

    The book is good. Philip let Mildred make a fool out of him over and over and over again. And I told myself that if he ends up with her at the end of the book I will throw the book into the fire when I'm done. I won't spoil the story for anyone. But I will recommend reading it. It's really good.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Heart Somerset Maugham

    This was the first book by Somerset Maugham I read, and it is a keeper!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    Speechless

    Maugham's masterpiece is truly worth the read. I spent quite a while plowing through this work, convincing myself I must read on, and it was worth it. Although some parts were slow, the realization of this book's reality to life caused even the most tedious of tales to ring true. This book and this author knows what it means to be human and, therefore, imperfect and wonderful. It comes with no sappy ending, and no climactic bang peaks in the middle -- but if you read closely, Maugham's main character, Phillip, will tell you your life story as he tells his. I can still see the streets of Paris.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2003

    gut wrenchingly honest

    This novel paints a picture of the human spirit through a very truthful and seductive eye. The characters are fantastically dynamic and vulnerable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    An woNDERFUL bOOK!

    At first I thought a 600 page book would be monotonous and exhausting, but think again. I really understood what the main characters' were going through; it's probably an enlightment for many individuals who can't find the significance of life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    100 years later and it still means something...

    This book was written about 1915 about a kid growing up. As I read it, it was amazing how many things were written that I identified with and related to today. It was a great story with a lot of insights into humanity that can be ingested at one's own leisure. They are not force fed to you; the book does not hold your hand, but rather tells a story and allows one to take from what they will - wonderful!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2000

    One of the best books I've ever read

    This book is probably one of the best books I've ever read in my life, after Les Miserables and Atlas Shrugged. It's poignant and heart-rending, and beautiful all the same. The language is probably one of the best things about it, Maugham has a true gift for prose and he writes in a way that leaves you on the point of tears for poor Phillip. The fact that the novel is more or less autobiographical makes it all the more powerful, and adds to the story's beauty. Never before has someone written with such beauty of the pain and trials of being a prisoner of one's emotions, and to read this novel is to fall in love with the little boy who grows to be a man and fights with himself and with cruel society his whole life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    Lots of errors

    And symbols and weird stuff. Looked at the first 3 pages and deleted it. Buy the book for 99 cents. The free versions are all crappy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Do not download this free version

    This download has strange characters peppered throughout the text and "Digitized by Google" also appearing randomly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Sort of recommended

    I am a girl from the "hood. I have some college education and figure myself not too wordly on language from the 19th century. I must admit that I don't know what they are talking about a lot of the time, but when the story goes toward dialog, it is a good story. I can't believe that Phillip can be so gullable to acquiesce to Mildred's every need at times and I just wanted to slap the crap out of him...but I know what he went through. I've been that pathetic in my life at times myself. I thank GOD that I am over it though (not to mention how much money it has cost me to get here though) I can understand his infatuation. This is a good story but it takes one a long time to get through it. I must admit that I've seen the movie starring Bette Davis and Lesley (whatever his name from Gone With the Wind) and I would love to see the movie again. I wanted to see what the director did with the story applied against the book story. I do remember that the movie has nothing to do with the characters that Phillip interacted with in the book though...that would have made a very boring movie I think. Ok, that's my take on it anyway.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    Absolutely worth the read.

    What an incredible novel! I wish I was half as articulate as W. Somerset Maugham, so that I could adequately express how much I loved this book. As another reviewer previously stated, the first 300 pages or so are a little slow but I definitely think that as a whole, it's all worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2001

    Excellent

    The first half of the novel seems a bit deliberate, but the reader only realizes that it is the slow events of the first half that lead to the experiences that Phillip encounters in the second half. The first half of the book took me about 2-3 months to read; the second half took me 6 days. It was simply hard to put down as Maugham's style clearly facilitates an easy feeling of sympathy for Philip. The philosophical discussions and reassessments that Philip has are very well thought out and expressed. It is simply a great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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