An important collection of signed, first edition novels given by W. Somerset Maugham to members of the Maugham family are to be offered by Sloane Street Auctions on 27 April. Including 23 first editions presented to Maugham’s relatives, each signed by the author himself, estimates range from £100-£2,000.
The collection is led by Maugham’s 1905 work, The Land of The Blessed Virgin; Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia, praised by critics as an important example of early travel writing. Containing a number of evocative passages describing the native Andalusians, the work exhibits the cultural essentialism typical of British travellers of the period. The work is dedicated to ‘Mabel’ (Daphne Mabel Maugham), the artist niece of the author, who worked alongside Berthe Morisot, and later emigrated to Italy having married her Italian art teacher Felice Casorati. In its original cover and box, it carries an estimate of £1,000-£2,000. Other titles include The Painted Veil and The Explorer, each with an estimate of £300-£500.
Born at the British Embassy in Paris in January 1874, Maugham came from a family of successful lawyers, and spent the first decade of his life in France. At the age of eight, Maugham’s mother died of tuberculosis, and he soon after developed a stammer and became increasingly shy. Going on to The King’s School, Canterbury, Maugham was teased for his poor English and small stature, which alongside a realisation of his homosexuality would crucially shape the introspective young man. Maugham’s first novel, Liza of Lambeth, was published in 1987 to mixed reviews, but successive publications saw his popularity grow before the outbreak of war, with 13 plays and eight novels completed. By the 1930s, Maugham was reputedly the highest paid English writer, and went on to write 20 novels and over 35 plays before his death in 1965.
The present works remain largely in good condition, and have passed by descent through the Maugham family to the current owners. Other titles belonging to the collection include Cakes and Ale, Ashenden, and Mrs Craddock, each with estimates of £200-£300.
Other books and manuscripts highlights of the sale include:
- Aegidius Sadeler (1570-1629), Vestigi delle Antichita di Roma Tivoli Pozzuolo et Altri Lochi, First Edition, Oblong Folio, 50 engraved plates, all numbered and signed ‘Marco Sadeler excudit’, with descriptive captions in Italian. Estimate: £1,000-£2,000
- Silver Embossed Greek Gospel, 1801. Printed in Venice in the 19th Century, the binding is engraved ‘1812’, with extensive notes and dedication on the inside cover. Estimate: £800-£1,200
- Ian Fleming (1908-64), Octopussy. First edition, with dust jacket. Estimate: £200-£300
- Winston Churchill (1874-1965), A History of English Speaking Peoples (1956). First edition of four volumes, each with original dust jackets. Estimate: £200-£300