The Summing Up, VII

This chapter is again frustratingly short. In it, Maugham discusses his parents. His mother died when he was eight, his father when he was ten. He doesn’t relate any specific memories of his mother, but does offer some information about her from third parties. It’s a tragic, cautiously sentimental remembrance. Maugham appears not to be quite sure of his memories—he “must have” not known something, based on his knowledge but not a specific memory. Maugham’s relating events from the late nineteenth century—his mother would’ve died in 1882—and he allows himself the briefest condemnation of the medical thinking at that time. He offers it without sentimentality, very matter-of-factly, but it’s impossible not to sense the lunacy of it. The doctors recommended his mother cure her consumption by having another child. She died in childbirth. No mention of what happened to the baby. Maugham closes the chapter with a bit about his father and the house his father threw himself into setting up after his wife’s death. It’s more writerly and constructed than the writing about his mother. Maybe because Maugham remembers more—it’s a list of events and activities, plainly listed, without emotion. Though Maugham does say he’s included a symbol his father had engraved into the windows of the house. It’s supposed to be on the cover. Instead, Penguin chose to use a painted portrait of Maugham from eleven years after the publication of The Summing Up, which is rather annoying.

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