The Escape

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THE ESCAPE
By Somerset Maugham
W. Somerset Maugham, a famous English writer, was born in 1874 in Paris. He received his medical degree, but he never practiced medicine; the ambition to write dominated his entire life. In 1897 "Liza of Lambeth", Maugham's first novel, appeared. It had no success. For the next ten years Maugham wrote and starved. He turned out a steady stream of plays and novels none of which excited much attention. His luck changed in 1907. In that year "Lady Frederic", a comedy of manners, was produced in London. It had a bright, fashionable success. By and by, Maugham became internationally celebrated; his plays were performed all over the world. Now independent and well able to enjoy life Maugham began to travel. He came to know Europe thoroughly and spent long periods in the United States, the South Seas and China. His favorite country was Spain ("The Land of the Blessed Virgin" and "Don Fernando"). In 1915 Maugham published a novel that had been in preparation for many years. Called "Of Human Bondage" it was received by critics with great respect. Over the years, it has become a modern classic. Many popular successes followed its publication: "Ashenden", "Moon and Sixpence", "Cakes and Ale", etc. He died in 1965.

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. Not always that; for once a friend of mine., seeing the inevitable loom menacingly before him, took ship from a certain port (with a toothbrush for all his luggage, so conscious was he of his danger and the necessity for immediate action) and spent a year travelling round the world; but when, thinking himself safe (women are fickle, he said, and in twelve months she will have forgotten all about me), he landed at the selfsame port the first person he saw gaily waving to him from the quay was the little lady from whom he had fled4. I have only once known a man who in such circumstances managed to extricate himself. His name was Roger Charing. He was no longer young when he fell in love with Ruth Barlow and he had had sufficient experience to make him careful; but Ruth Barlow had я gift (or should I call it a, quality?) that renders most men defenseless, and it was this that dispossessed Roger of his common sense, his prudence and his worldy wisdom. He went down like a row of ninebins.1 This was the gift of pathos. Mrs. Barlow, for she was twice a widow, had splendid dark eyes and they were the most moving I ever saw; they seemed to be [41] ever on the point of filling with tears; they suggested that the world was too much for her, and you felt that, poor dear, her sufferings had been more than anyone should be asked to bear. If, like Roger Charing, you were a strong, hefty fellow with plenty of money, it was almost inevitable that you should say to yourself: I must stand between the hazards of life and this helpless little thing, or, how wonderful it would be to take the sadness out of those big and lovely eyes! I gathered from Roger that everyone had treated Mrs. Barlow very badly. She was apparently one of those unfortunate persons with whom nothing by any chance goes right. If she married a husband he beat her; if she employed a broker he cheated her; if she engaged a cook she drank. She never had a little lamb but it was sure to die.2 When Roger told me that he had at last persuaded her to marry him, I wished him joy. "I hope you'll be good friends," he said. "She's a little afraid of you, you know; she thinks you're callous. "Upon my word I don't know why she should think that."

"You do like her, don't you?"
"Very much."
"She's had a rotten time, poor dear. 1 feel so dreadfully sorry for her." "Yes," I said.
I couldn't say less. I knew she was stupid and I thought she was scheming. My own belief was that she was as hard as nails. The first time I met her we had played bridge together and when she was my partner she twice trumped my best card. I behaved like...
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