“A PROLIFIC NOVELIST, AND A MASTER STORYTELLER”: MAUGHAM’S THE PAINTED VEIL
MAUGHAM, W. Somerset. The Painted Veil. London: William Heinemann, (1925). Octavo, original blue cloth, uncut. $850.
First English edition, second issue (the first issue was all but destroyed— only 74 copies escaped) of Maugham’s epic story of love and betrayal set in Hong Kong.
Maugham is “the modern writer who has influenced me the most” (George Orwell). “First published to a storm of protest, The Painted Veil is a classic story of a woman’s spiritual awakening… Kitty Fane is the beautiful but shallow wife of Walter, a bacteriologist stationed in Hong Kong. Unsatisfied by her marriage, she starts an affair with charming, attractive and exciting Charles Townsend. But when Walter discovers her deception, he exacts a strange and terrible vengeance: Kitty must accompany him to his new posting in remote mainland China, where a cholera epidemic rages.” The Painted Veil had been adapted for the screen twice. The original 1934 film starred Greta Garbo, while the 2006 critically acclaimed version starred Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. Preceded by the March 20th Doran American edition (see Stott 22). The bibliographic history of this first English edition (April 23rd) is quite complex, “owing to two threatened libel actions which necessitated drastic alterations in the text after the first printing had been run off” (Stott). Prior to its publication in book form, The Painted Veil had appeared in serial form, both in Nash’s magazine in 1924 and in the American publication Hearst’s International Magazine between 1924 and 1925. During the Nash’s publication, several readers threatened to sue for libel as they shared the last name “Lane” with the protagonists. After settling the lawsuit, Maugham changed the characters’ names to “Forr,” finally opting for the name “Fane” in this 1925 first English publication in book form, which was printed in two runs of 4,000 copies each. Simultaneous to these press runs, Maugham was faced with a second major textual change— when the Assistant Secretary of the Hong Kong Government voiced his displeasure at the setting of the novel. Before this change could be made, the first run of 4,000 copies had already been distributed. That whole run was recalled— yet 74 copies (most of them review copies) still remain at large, constituting the virtually unobtainable first edition, first issue. The “Hong Kong” alteration to the text of the remaining set involved printing 4,000 cancel titles, 4,000 Author’s Notes, 4,000 errata slips (which were never used), and 12,000 sets of cancels to be inserted at three places in each book, consisting of 32, 16, and eight pages (the number of cancels varies between copies and has “no bibliographic significance”). The other relevant point with regard to the first edition concerns the half title. In all second issues, the half title is canceled and contains a listing of 26 titles on its verso (as opposed to only eight titles in some copies of the first issue). This copy, then, is a first English edition, second issue (from the second run of 4,000 copies printed), with cancel title page, 26 titles listed on the cancel half title, and with virtually all of the cancels. Without scarce original dust jacket. Stott 22.
Stray spots of foxing to edges and first few leaves. A near-fine copy.