Of Human Bondage (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Of Human Bondage (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview


Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the most widely read novels of the twentieth century, W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece Of Human Bondage gives a harrowing depiction of unrequited love. Philip Carey, a sensitive orphan born with a clubfoot, finds himself in desperate need of passion and inspiration. He abandons his studies to travel, first to Heidelberg, and then to Paris, where he nurses ambitions of becoming a great artist. Philip’s youthful idealism erodes, however, as he comes face-to-face with his own mediocrity and lack of impact on the world. After returning to London to study medicine, he becomes wildly infatuated with Mildred, a vulgar, tawdry waitress, and begins a doomed love affair that will change the course of his life.

First published in 1915, the semi-autobiographical Of Human Bondage combines the values left over from the Victorian era with the prevailing irony and despair of the early twentieth century. Unsentimental yet bursting with deep feeling, Of Human Bondage remains Maugham’s most complete statement of the importance of physical and spiritual liberty, a theme that resounds more loudly than ever today.

Carin Companick is a freelance writer and a specialist in the field of language proficiency assessment. She studied English literature at Haverford College and completed her graduate work in Victorian and modern literature at Columbia University. She lives and works in Princeton, New Jersey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082383
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 02/01/2007
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 42,848
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


From Carin Companick’s Introduction to Of Human Bondage

Works such as Portrait of the Artist anticipated the ways that high modernism would disown traditional literary forms and concepts of representation after the war. They anticipated Ezra Pound’s famous injunction to “make it new.” But with Of Human Bondage, Maugham wanted above all to make it known. He was not interested in finding new ways of expressing meaning; he was interested in expressing meaning as plainly as he could. His aim, as he wrote in an essay years later, was “to allow nothing in my language to come between the reader and my meaning” (“Sixty-Five,” in A Traveller in Romance, p. 253; see “For Further Reading”). Wary of faddishness in literature, he had no interest in technical or stylistic innovation. “As a writer of fiction,” he said, “I go back, through innumerable generations, to the teller of tales round the fire in the cavern that sheltered neolithic man” (quoted in Swinnerton, “Somerset Maugham as a Writer,” p. 13). Certainly Maugham’s prose style honors that lineage. His sentences are modest and matter-of-fact; adjectives are used sparingly; fancy or unusual words are rarely chosen when shorter, simpler, everyday words will do. In the sturdy economy of Maugham’s prose, no word is there to look pretty or to indulge the logophile. “The most pleasing compliment I have ever received,” he wrote years later in the preface to a collection of critical essays about his writing, “came from a G.I. in the last war who . . . wrote to tell me that he had greatly enjoyed a book of mine that he had been reading because he had never had to look out a single word in the dictionary” (“Preface,” by Maugham, in The World of Somerset Maugham, p. 10). Modernist writers may have been Maugham’s contemporaries in time, but not in literary aim. And compared to their output, Of Human Bondage, with its traditional narrative progression, straightforward prose, and near-Edwardian realism, must have seemed the product of a bygone era.
To compound matters still further, most reviewers knew Maugham as a playwright, not a novelist. Though Of Human Bondage was Maugham’s ninth novel, he had for some years been pursuing a parallel career writing for the theatre. A series of drawing-room comedies beginning with the long-running Lady Frederick (1907) had brought him popularity and paychecks of a kind unknown to his peers. In 1908 four of his plays were running simultaneously on London’s West End stages, a feat no other dramatist could match. The status of Maugham the playwright was clear (and he had the glittery, A-list lifestyle to prove it), but reviewers were unprepared for this other Maugham who had withdrawn from playwriting long enough to produce a work so starkly unlike his plays.
While immediate reviews of the novel were mixed, most shared, for one reason or another, a patent detachment from the work. Gerald Gould, writing in England’s New Statesman in September 1915, described the novel as having many merits but also an “odd effect” coming from the man who had dazzled theatergoers with his smart dialogue and keen wit. Perplexed, Gould wrote himself into a tangle: “I am not sure [Maugham] has not written a highly original book. I am not even sure he has not written almost a great one.” Others found the novel less palatable. The writer of the unsigned review in the August 21, 1915, Athenaeum dismissed the novel as “a record of sordid realism” with a hero whose values are “so distorted as to have no interest beyond that which belongs to an essentially morbid personality.” In America, The Dial pronounced the novel “a most depressing impression of the futility of life.” But most reviewers were plain overwhelmed. In his January 25, 1925, New York Times piece, “After Ten Years of Of Human Bondage,” Marcus Aurelius Goodrich summed up the general attitude among both Britons and Americans in that summer of 1915 by quoting a “review” from the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph. In it, the writer confesses avoiding the novel as much as trying to take it all in:

The reason is that there are 648 pages of the story—300 pages too many for careful reading and candid review. But this much can be said: It opens with a funeral and ends with a wedding. As the author is one of the most successful of the younger dramatists . . . it may be taken for granted that his novel will repay the reading of it by those who have the time to do so (p. 137).

In fact, a great many people did have time to read the novel—at least eventually. Although Of Human Bondage did not appear on best-seller lists when it was published, demand for the book grew consistently in the years following. By 1925 Goodrich was calling it a classic. Many who have since written about Of Human Bondage have cited the role played by American writer Theodore Dreiser in the novel’s eventual recognition. In a Christmas 1915 review in the New Republic titled “As a Realist Sees It,” Dreiser took earlier reviewers to task, hailing Maugham’s “genius” and praising the work liberally. His opening sentence marks the tone of his entire piece:

Sometimes in retrospect of a great book the mind falters, confused by the multitude and yet the harmony of the detail, the strangeness of the frettings, the brooding, musing, intelligence that has foreseen, loved, created, elaborated, perfected, until, in this middle ground, which we call life, somewhere between nothing and nothing, hangs the perfect thing which we love and cannot understand, but which we are compelled to confess a work of art (W. Somerset Maugham: The Critical Heritage, pp. 130–131).

As the story goes, Dreiser’s appraisal was pivotal; it effectively “rescued” Of Human Bondage by persuading other critics to look seriously at the novel and find its merits. It also seemed to spur the traditionally American appreciation of the novel.

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Of Human Bondage 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
bookbusy More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
shmuelman More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
LisasGeode More than 1 year ago
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.
kittypaws More than 1 year ago
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.
Libejin More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel paints a picture of the human spirit through a very truthful and seductive eye. The characters are fantastically dynamic and vulnerable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Macycarew More than 1 year ago
If Maugham had no friends, it's no wonder. This is a good book, really. It's dull for the first 200 or so pages, but then out of curiosity you find that you want to read and find out what happens to Philip. One odd thing though, Philip has something bad to say about EVERYBODY! Everyone he meets is somehow ugly in varying ways. He would meet someone and say things like...they had a pleasant ugly face. If this book is semi autobiographical....then Maugham was a jerk. This is an easy read about the human condition and the cost of love...but seriously you can skip the first 200 pages and not have really missed anything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
LBJJL More than 1 year ago
This download has strange characters peppered throughout the text and "Digitized by Google" also appearing randomly.
GigglyPuff More than 1 year ago
This was the first book by Somerset Maugham I read, and it is a keeper!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
That synopsis is so inadequate, but honestly I have no idea how to improve it. To state that this book is about love is a gross understatement. In addition, this book is not just a coming-of-age novel. I would say that the main theme is relationships - to friends, to family, to the opposite sex, to yourself. Equal parts philosophical and dramatic, Maugham requires the reader to reexamine his or her own relationships throughout one's life, bringing to life both painful and joyful memories. Philip is very much a flawed main character. He is overly sensitive and boorish, snobbish and elitist. He struggles to form lasting relationships with others and constantly lets his clubfoot impact those relationships. Even worse, he has a delusional opinion of love that gets him constantly in trouble. And yet, the reader feels tremendous sympathy for Philip because we have all been in Philip's shoes at some point in time in our lives. Everyone has had experience being overly sensitive or boorish, snobbish or elitist. We have all had at least one bad, unhealthy love interest or friendship. We can relate to his struggles to grow up because we have all had to do so ourselves. This sympathy for Philip is what makes this book timeless. Philip's experiences easily translate to the twenty-first century because they are decidedly human experiences - questioning faith, experiencing love, struggling to make ends meet. Because of this, the book is equally frustrating and beautiful because honestly, who wants to relive their painful youth? And yet, Maugham tells the experience of growing up so well that the reader is forced to relive their youth through Philip's experiences.Because of the pain and angst Philip experiences throughout the book, it is not comfortable reading at times and therefore may not be for everyone. I know others who read this with me who expressed a desire to take Philip by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. I definitely shared those sentiments at time, and yet, the lack of sense is what made the book so enjoyable. Watching him grow and become a man is painful and frustrating, but so is actually doing it. As a reader of this book, remembering this fact is key to sympathizing with Philip and enjoying the book itself.I would recommend this book to anyone who loves classics or character-driven books. Maugham makes the reader think, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. Like most classics, it is not an easy read but worth the struggle. If you have read Of Human Bondage, I would love to know what you thought. Do you agree with my assessment or disagree? What were your impressions?
llasram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've re-read this book several times, and enjoyed it each. For most of the novel I feel a significant sympathy with Philip Carey. The ending strikes a jarringly false note, but it doesn't damage the novel too much. Plus: fun late 19th-century class distinctions!
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favoite books of all time. The twisted relationship between Philip and Mildred. This edition is an enriched edition with some background and history to expand on the understanding of the literature.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good, solid book. Phillip is a very genuine character who lives and loves, exults and suffers, learns and grows. He has talents and faults and his life is nothing extraordinary, except that he is so compelling to read about.
bohemima on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An incredibly detailed, completely believable story about a young man's progress from child to adult. Maugham wrote a book that will startle you with character insights. The main character, Philip Carey, grows, suffers, loves, and learns to make peace with the uncertainty and randomness of life. Mildred, the object of his affections, is a vividly portrayed picture of venality and meaness. Many minor characters appear and re-appear, always behaving realistically, with their motives made clear.Maugham said that he wanted to write a plain sort of book that could be read and understood by anyone. He's certainly succeeded here; the reader is completely wrapped up in these people's lives. Not a page-turner, but a compelling picture of its time. Recommended.