Friday, May 30, 2008

Burning Manuscripts: W. Somerset Maugham

Ted Morgan's biography of Somerset Maugham includes this wonderful description of the author making his own decisions about what to preserve from a lifetime of writing:
“He and his secretary, Alan Searle, held a series of ‘bonfire nights’ in the large stone fireplace in the drawing room of the Villa Mauresque in 1958. Piles of letters were thrown in, as well as some of Maugham’s manuscripts. Searle - horrified to see so much valuable material go up in smoke - tried to rescue choice items. Coming down to breakfast after a bonfire night, Maugham would rub his hands and tell Searle: “That was a good night’s work. Now we’ll burn everything you’ve hidden under the sofa.”

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