Sunday, 18 November 2007

Maugham on his Character

From chapter twenty of his The Summing Up, here's why Somerset Maugham has always seemed to me a dear old friend:
I have no natural trust in others. I am more inclined to expect them to do ill than to do good. That is the price one has to pay for having a sense of humour. A sense of humour leads you to take pleasure in the discrepancies of human nature; it leads you to mistrust great professions and look for the unworthy motive that they conceal; the disparity between appearance and reality diverts you and you are apt when you cannot find it to create it. You tend to close you eyes to truth, beauty and goodness because they give no scope to your sense of the ridiculous. The humorist has a quick eye for the humbug; he does not always recognise the saint. But if to see men one-sidedly is a heavy price to pay for a sense of humour there is a compensation that has a value too. You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humour teaches tolerance, and the humorist, with a smile and perhaps a sigh, is more likely to shrug his shoulders than to condemn. He does not moralise, he is content to understand; and it is true that to understand is to pity and forgive.

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