The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham
by Selena Hastings
Random House. 626 pages, $35.
THE PROBLEM with biographies of Somerset Maugham is that the last ten years of his life have always overwhelmed what went before them. Indeed, the man Maugham chose as his literary executor allowed Ted Morgan to write his excellent biography in 1980 in order to dispel the myths that had built up over Maugham’s “final tragic years” in his villa in the south of France. To do this he had to override Maugham’s prohibition against biographers. Maugham, like Henry James, burned his personal correspondence and asked everyone who had letters from him to throw them out, though few did.