reviews of Maugham's work
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Here is a review of his first book, "Liza of Lambeth", as reviewed in Black and White
W.S. Maugham’s Liza of Lambeth (Unwin) is a book over which there is bound to be some discussion. If it had appeared before Mr. Morrison began to write about the East End, the task of the critic would have been easy, for he would have perceived at once that his obvious duty was one of praise. Mr. Maugham certainly knows the region he describes – the sordid Southside – and his picture strikes you as being true in all essentials. Nor is his mode of treating his subject open to any objection, for the life of such folk as Liza is not to be described in the language that obtains in drawing rooms. Life itself is ugly down there, and when sin or folly is punished the end comes tragically. So far Mr. Maugham deserves a great deal of praise. One would be glad to give it but the fact remains that something is lacking. A story of this kind ought to stamp itself on the memory like a red- hot brand. for some reason not easy to discern, Mr. Maugham’s book fails to do this, and so may well enough win for him less credit than he obviously deserves.
12 August 1899, p 211
“If another than Mr. W.S. Maugham had written Orientations (Fisher, Unwin) it would be very good; as it is, the collection of stories does not do Mr. Maugham justice. Instead of being an advance on The Making of a Saint, it falls much below that work. That Mr. Maugham can write, and has some idea of writing well, is no reason for turning out a book like Orientations, into which he has allowed far too much slovenly work to pass. Some of the stories are marked by the vigour and strength which characterise most of Maugham’s writing, but even these are marred by hasty work, and by a lack of finish. We hope Mr. Maugham will avoid the short story until he realises that it requires far more polish and a more finished style than he gives it at present.”
If any of our customers are anxious to read a coarse, brutal story, smelling of beer and low vulgarity, recommend them Liza of Lambeth (3s, 6d, Unwin). It is a picture of the life that is led by these frowsy- looking girls, who affect cheap ostrich feathers, as large as possible, and although the story is told with a very considerable amount of cleverness, it gives an aspect of human affairs which is decidedly unpleasant. Mr, W. S. Maugham is the author. Booksellers Review, September 16, 1897, p. 5.