“THIS NOVEL FOUNDED ON THE LIFE OF PAUL GAUGIN”: FIRST EDITION OF THE MOON AND SIXPENCE, 1919, INSCRIBED BY W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
MAUGHAM, W. Somerset. The Moon and Sixpence. London: William Heinemann, 1919. Octavo, original sage green cloth. $3500.
First edition, third issue, of Maugham’s novel about the nature and cost of artistic genius, inscribed by the author, “For Paul ——, this novel founded on the life of Paul Gaugin. W. Somerset Maugham.”
"Maugham had been pondering a novel based on the life of [French artist Paul] Gaugin since his first contact with the painter's work in Paris in 1905… His timing proved right. The post-Victorian figure of the artist as outcast was in vogue… For a post-World War I audience, wondering where society had led them, the time was ripe for the antisocial hero who goes his own way. It was also ripe for the exotic setting of Tahiti, far from European battlegrounds" (Morgan, 239). Although critics generally praised The Moon and Sixpence, parallels between its protagonist, Charles Strickland, and Gaugin largely went unnoticed. One notable reviewer who took issue with the novel, Katherine Mansfeld, wrote, "If Strickland is a real man and this book is a sort of guide to his works it has value; but if Mr. Maugham is merely pulling our critical leg it will not do… If you have to be so odious [as Strickland] before you can paint bananas—pray leave them unpainted" (Curtis, 107). First edition, third issue, with two new advertisement leaves inserted at rear (see Stott A23); the first edition saw at least four issues in 1919. Without exceptionally rare original dust jacket. Stott A23. Maughamiana 18. Parker & Kermode, 81-2.
Usual embrowning to text, printed on cheap, wartime paper: “white copies are very scarce” (Maughamiana). Tiny marginal chip to half title; light edge-wear including closed tear to front free endpaper, below but not touching Maugham’s inscription. Tissue restoration to inner paper hinges. Original cloth with spine ends lightly rubbed, lower front corner lightly bumped. A desirable inscribed copy in extremely good condition.