Thoughts Mrs. Craddock by W. Somerset Maugham, Penguin 1979 (orig 1902) 255 pages
My cover is different, however. Allow Esther and Oscar to present a pic of my copy:
What goodreads.com has to say:
Bertha Ley is mistress of Court Ley, a great spread of land. She marries Edward Craddock, a man beneath her station, but quite the essence of new order. A gentleman farmer, he is steady and a doer who turns Court Ley into an efficient farm. But Bertha wants passion and ardor: she gets reality.
I love that last phrase. What makes this a fun book is that Maugham uses disguised humor and interesting quips about humanity, genders, the classes, the English vs the French and yes, even passion.
Mrs. Craddock wants passion. She thinks she finds it when she woos or is wooed by – somewhat hard to tell – a fabulous hunk of a man (I was envisioning this guy:)
and gets a steadfast, entrepreneurial, too-perfect gentleman even though he comes (gasp!) from the working class. Personally, she couldn’t have married better. But she wants him to wallow away his days kissing her hands and telling her how lovely she is and how he just can’t stand to be apart from her. BORING. He would rather plow the fields, tend the flocks, hunt with his dogs and make some money the honest way – by hard work and forthright attention to important matters. He thinks she is silly. And she is!
This book reminded me of a triptych. We have three characters: Bertha (the Mrs.) Craddock, Mr. Edward Craddock, and Bertha’s Aunt Miss Ley. Miss Ley is sharp and observant and quite interesting. Edward is TOO good. And Bertha is wearying but she has a few interesting thoughts and adventures.
The story arc (?) is a triptych of how the marriage plays out: the romance newlywed phase, the attempts at running away and realization of reality, and third is a settling in to what it is. Not necessarily a happy book but it is not unhappily portrayed, either. OH, I go back and forth on this – maybe because I had so much to fault Bertha and her ideas on what should make her happy. Much could be said to be profoundly sad and yet, it had many amusing parts and certainly MUCH drama. It was the author’s look at the beginning of the end of the English class system, specifically the landed gentry in the last decade of the 19th century.
Finally, my favorite part was the Introduction itself, written by the author 50 years later as if the original author was dead and he had to edit the manuscript. It was funny. For example,
I omitted the rows of dots with which he sought to draw the reader’s attention to the elegance of a sentiment or the subtleties of an observation and I replace with a full stop the marks of exclamation that stood all over the page, like telegraph poles, apparently to emphasize the author’s astonishment at his own acumen.
He is aghast at how the author actually takes a step out of the story to talk to the reader; he goes on to question his youth and ego at the time he wrote it. He even claims if he had met the man, he would have taken an instant dislike.
A little observation on my part: Something bothered (intrigued?) me about how inconsequential the idea of legacy and having children was explored, or not explored. Truthfully, the descriptions of her pain of childbirth was amazing — especially for being written in 1900, or my ideas of propriety then? — but how the question of how having or not having children weighed on the marriage was barely touched on. I thought this odd.
I bookmooched this and it arrived as a copy printed by Penguin books in the late 70s. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
Extemely daring was the publisher’s verdict in 1900. Today’s readers, though they are unlikely to share that opinion, will certainly find Somerset Maugham’s story of a woman who ‘marries beneath her’ still has the power to move and surprise. ..
Rating: Four slice of Apple Pie since it is that season and he mentions apple pie on page 150.
LOTS of great words and quotes, too!
Otiose, Intro – serving no practical purpose.
Emendations, Intro – make corrections and improvements to.
Transpontine, p.153 – on or from the other side of an ocean, in particular the Atlantic or on or from the other side of a bridge. “… the pathos of transpontine melodrama made him cough and blow his nose.”
Offtish, p.198 – “It’s no good scrapping with the governor, he’s got the ooftish.” (assuming WSM’s variation of OOFISH – unfriendly.)
p.194 – “Death is hideous, but life is always triumphant.”
p.196 – “Be not deceived gentle reader, no self-respecting writer cares a twopenny damn for you.”
Do you want a copy that has the Author’s Intro?
I am willing to send my copy to the first person who tells me YES YES, they would indeed like me to send them my copy of my battered, somewhat torn and yellowed paperback… Leave a comment, I’ll find you and we can exchange deets (if I don’t already have.)
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