RAZOR'S EDGE NOTES



ISABEL BRADLEY, LARRY DARRELL, SOMERSET MAUGHAM, ELLIOTT TEMPLETON, SOPHIE MaCDONALD, MRS BRADLEY

IF YOU HAVE EVER WANTED TO COMPARE LARRY DARRELL WITH ELLIOTT TEMPLETON, OR SOPHIE MACDONALD WITH ISABEL BRADLEY, OR ANY ONE ELSE THAT SHOWS UP IN W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM'S THE RAZOR'S EDGE, THIS IS THE SITE TO DO SO. COMPARING ONE WITH THE OTHER FROM BIRTH TO DEATH --- FOLLOWING THE BRIEF INTRODUCTION REMARKS BELOW --- IS RELATIVELY EASY USING THE QUICK, CONCISE NOTE FORMAT AND ATTENDING LINKS:


PRESENTED BY
the Wanderling


INTRODUCTION:

William Somerset Maugham's novel THE RAZOR'S EDGE has been counted among one of the Bestselling Novels of the 20th Century almost from the first day of publication. Panned by the critics, it has been loved by the public. The novel has been serialized, made into motion pictures, and published in hardback or paperback continuously every year since 1944.

The story follows a young American, Larry Darrell, as he searches for the meaning of life and Spiritual Enlightenment after seeing his best friend die in front of his eyes during World War I. Even though the plot is set in those years so many years ago Maugham's theme stands the test of time. Our lives or the clothes we wear may vary from the characters as Maugham writes them, but, for the most part, we remain pretty much the same. Maugham's understanding of vanity, disappointment, ambition and love, weaved into the novel's sex, drugs and violence continue to give the novel a feel of being thoroughly modern.


Many people question if THE RAZOR'S EDGE: Is True or False?. However, it is said by Maugham to be based on a true account and is discussed most thoroughly at the above link. So saying, there are four major tangent points, each as important as the other, in both Darrell's life AND Maugham's that had to come together in order for The Razor's Edge to be:

  • First the Darrell character HAD to be the right chronological age to participate in the war.

  • Second, he HAD to see his best friend die so he would be driven to go on his spiritual quest.

  • Third, he HAD to meet that specific holy man in the temple at Madura so he could be sent to see the Maharshi inorder that his Enlightenment would transpire.

  • Fourth, Darrell HAD to cross paths with Maugham at the Cafe Du' Dome along the sidewalk in Paris following his Enlightenment experience in order to tell his story.


Before you go on to the list of notes below, it should be brought to your attention that even though The Razor's Edge was one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century it was NOT Maugham's first attempt using the exact same plot. Maugham had used the exact plot three previous times, but was unable to make it work until he turned his efforts to writing The Razor's Edge. His third and final attempt before the success of The Razor's Edge was done in 1924 --- a full twenty years before The Razor's Edge was published --- and found in The Road Uphill. Now, on to the NOTES:




William Somerset Maugham:

NOTE: Underlined Red are Click-through Links

  • Born in Paris in 1874

  • Saw very little of his mother who died when he was eight

  • Always kept pictures of his mother

  • His father died when Maugham was ten

  • Was the youngest of four children

  • Eventually left in the care of an older uncle who was an Anglican reverend who sent him to Canterbury College, an extremely unhappy time for him
  • Almost went on to become a reverend

  • Elected to attend Heidelburg University

  • Eventually chose medicine as a career. Studied and qualified as a doctor at St Thomas Hospital in London

  • Served as an ambulance driver during WWI. One of the so-called Literary Ambulance Drivers of the day.

  • Later served as an intelligence officer

  • Left medicine after publishing his first novel

  • Seemed to have some shame as he stammered and was short

  • Though remembered as a novelist was perhaps more famous as a playwright in his lifetime

  • Published his greatest work Of Human Bondage in 1911

  • Married in 1916 but was eventually divorced

  • Wrote several hours every morning

  • Traveled extensively throughout India and the far east

  • Fainted in front of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the first time they met

  • Had many enemies because he included so much of his true life in his novels

  • His reputation was often protected, fine tuned and honed to the finest point by his closest female friend and confidant the British socialite and gossip columnist Barbara Back.


Larry Darrell:

  • Born in Connecticut in 1899

  • Father was a Professor of romance languages at an eastern university

  • Mother died in childbirth during his delivery. He was around eight years old when his father died

  • Double first names, good for an orphan like Maugham

  • Seems disconnected from everything

  • Has an interest in aviation, a innate drive to be closer to God

  • An American, in WWI he flew with the British RAF against the Germans through Canada

  • Wounded twice, but not severely

  • He seems rather emotionally empty

  • Reads William James' Principles of Psychology along with volumes of other books to learn about himself

  • Doesn't want to go to university but later in the novel talks about someone he knew or didn't know in college

  • Seems to escape all modernity

  • Escapes to Europe after the war, perhaps to make some sense of the place where he experienced so many horrors

  • Escapes from materialism by traveling to Asia

  • After the war he ceases to live by Christian virtues adhering closer to Buddhism and Hinduism values.

  • After returning to France from India he strangely goes to England to purchase new clothes prior to visiting his old friends in Paris

  • Is loath to reveal where he lives

  • "Larry is a deeply religious person who does not believe in God"

  • Learns that salvation is not the answer but that the renunciation of the Self is

  • Has his epiphany on a mountain top on his birthday, it is in a sense his second birthday when he is reborn into his new self

  • No ambition, tells friends he plans to become a cab driver - but doesn't

  • Although not so, thought by some to be based on the life of a man named Guy Hague while others offer up almost as voraciously a man named Ronald Nixon he knew during the war.


Elliott Templeton

  • Born in 1861 of an old Virginia family just at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War with the first battle being in South Carolina in April of1861

  • By 1919 Maugham had known Elliott 15 years having met in 1904, although how they met is not made clear

  • Name is suggestive of a place of worship

  • He does go on to build a church in his later years when society does not provide him with the personal nourishment that he had chased all his life

  • Is the most developed character in the novel though he is not the focus of the story

  • Snob

  • The root of his trouble is his romanticism

  • He is reminiscent of Henry James, American Victorian author

  • He is gracious and generous to friends and family

  • Is eventually rejected by the society he seeks when he becomes old

  • Somerset fixes the final invitation to a party in order to allow him to die happy

  • His story seems to be the glue that holds all the other plots together

  • Both Larry and Elliott search for answers to a psychic emptiness and in the end find a degree of solace in religion

  • At the end the Bishop pronounces Elliott a good though flawed man

  • During World War I, like Maugham, was a volunteer in the Ambulance Corps. Served in Flanders and the Argonne.(see)




Hollywood's version of the Ashram. Larry Darrell is
shown standing on the left,- the Maharshi is on the
right holding walking stick. See their meeting below.

Click to see what the holy man told Darrell

(please click image)

Shri Ganesha:

  • Neither thin nor fat

  • Palish brown color and clean shaven with close-cropped white hair

  • Lived in a cave in the hills for many years

  • Sat in the attitude of meditation on a raised dais covered with a tiger skin

  • He said, "Silence is also conversation"

  • Said to be based on the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi


MAP AND HISTORY OF THE RAMANA ASHRAM



Isabel Bradley:

  • Born in 1900, most likely Chicago, Illinois -- although could have been born abroad as her father was a foreign diplomat and traveled extensively. Spent some part of her childhood in a rural area 60 miles from Chicago where she met Sophie and Larry

  • Name a version of "Elizabeth" which means "God's protection"

  • Embodies the quest for money

  • Initially inclined to fat as a young woman

  • Good skin - essentially very attractive

  • Was happier when involved with Larry

  • Larry says he will marry her - but money is too important to her to give it up

  • Doesn't really love Gray, he merely provides her with economic security

  • Gray is Larry's best friend

  • Has two daughters with Gray, Joan and Priscilla, born 1923 and 1925 respectively

  • The daughters admire her but love Gray

  • She grows more chic during her hiatus in Paris after the crash

  • She enjoys the power that Gray has

  • Larry is the one for whom she feels the strongest attraction but she gives him up because he hasn't much money and little interest in obtaining more

  • The narrator seems drawn to her attractiveness, perhaps there is some symbolism in this?

  • Is responsible for Sophie's death

  • She lacks sympathy and is hollow at the core

  • Maugham says that she lacks "tenderness"

  • Might be motivated by Larry's lack of interest in her

  • Ultimately she loves herself most of all

  • She has charm and style


Gray Maturin:

  • Maugham writes Larry is one year younger than Gray, making Gray's birth year 1898

  • The name is suggestive of a bland colourlessness

  • He speaks in banalities at best and cliche at worst

  • Interested in sports and the making of money

  • Close relationship with his father

  • Works hard and takes his responsibilities seriously

  • Loves Isabel desperately

  • His mother is a upper class snob and very much like Isabel

  • He loves his family because he hopes to find happiness in them because his work is meaningless beyond the creation of wealth

  • Like his father he is an honorable man

  • He never really recovers from the stock crash

  • His very nature was wrapped up in his job

  • He felt shame for all the money that he lost

  • He knew that he had been married for his money and so he was worried that he might lose his family if he continued to be poor

  • Larry cured him of his headaches

  • Eventually they will move to Texas even though, through Isabel, they own a huge once highly successful plantation in South Carolina they were unable to sell during the depression


Sophie Nelson MacDonald:

  • Lost her husband and child in a meaningless random accident with a drunk driver

  • Doesn't cope well with the sense of meaningless, for her there is no purpose and this renders her will to live moribund

  • She wants to die because there is no reason to live "Good riddance to bad garbage" is her response to a warning from Maugham about where her wildness might lead her

  • Found in the water in the end a baptism of sorts

  • Larry has known her since she was a young girl

  • She was initially rather tomboyish and a fresh young poetic soul whom Larry had really taken to

  • Her happy marriage to Bob MacDonald makes Isabel's accommodation for personal comfort look pretty shallow

  • When she appears the second time she very much changed, promiscuous and drugged but there is something sexy about her for the author

  • Isabel believes she is bad but what has turned her bad have been circumstances beyond her control

  • This is meant to cause the reader to wonder about the nature of evil

  • Is it a real moral condition or a reaction to circumstance that in some cases might be described as bad luck, the bad are merely the less fortunate and deserving of our assistance rather than punishment

  • Isabel is jealous of Larry's interest in her

  • Perhaps Larry is more interested in saving her than loving her

  • She is lured back to alcoholism and eventually drugs again by Isabel's trap (see)




Larry,- in the black beret,- seen here from the 1946 movie version of "The Razor's Edge,"
played by Tyrone Power, enters the opium den in Paris in search of Sophie. Sophie (Ann
Baxter) is shown passed out on the sofa with one of the den's denizens. The 1946 black
and white movie holds fairly close to W. S. Maugham's novel in plot, story line and intent.



Father Ensheim

  • The name means "a home/house"

  • Benedictine Monk

  • He seems a deep and mystical man

  • Feels that God created the world for his own glorification which does not sit well with Larry

  • Larry feels that children expect safety and protection from their parents and should not have to beg for it, as Christians must with Yahweh.

  • His notions of eternal damnation seem unjust to Larry

  • Larry neither likes the notion that the focus of religion is the cultivation of a faith that permits personal salvation - seems to reflect insecurity on God's behalf

  • At this point in the story Larry expresses Maugham's doubts

  • The cruelty of his and Larry's life had caused him to doubt the value of Christianity

  • "He couldn't believe in a God that wasn't as good as an ordinary man."

  • It was Father Ensheim that first suggested to Darrell to go to India for his answers


Kosti:

  • Larry meets him as a fluke

  • "Kosti" in Slavic languages seems to mean "bone"

  • Larry meets him after Isabel refuses to wait for him

  • They both work in a mine as a ritual purification or even a decent into hell

  • Polish, huge, fleshy and ugly but the possessor of blue eyes.

  • Former cavalry officer

  • He has rejected his past just as Larry has done

  • Covered in coal dust almost like makeup

  • Very educated and well read but he hides this from others

  • Seems to remain a bit of a snob.

  • He had been removed from the Army because he had cheated at cards

  • Larry and Kosti are parallels, they both seek a meaning to life, are cut off from their roots and are interested in mystical things

  • Was Catholic and philosophical when drunk

  • Larry leaves Kosti because there is no more to learn from him

  • Person most responsible for Larry seeking the answer in things spiritual rather than books



POLISH COAL MINER AND MYSTIC KOSTI
PLAYED BY FRITZ KORTNER SEEN WITH
LARRY DARRELL,-- PLAYED BY TYRONE
POWER IN- "THE RAZOR'S EDGE"- (1946).


Mrs. Bradley:

  • "Bradley" means "broad clearing"

  • Was very handsome when younger

  • Has good eyes

  • She's a widow with three sons and a daughter

  • Her husband had been a diplomat

  • Left her much money

  • Had come from a Virginian family

  • Owns a huge one time highly successful plantation in South Carolina she leaves to Isabel

  • She was out of touch with fashion

  • Was not impressed with Brabazon because, as a woman of character, she isn't influenced by fashion

  • She never changed despite her travels around the world, she wasn't all that impressed with them really

  • She had common sense, made accommodations to obtain security, in common with Suzanne Rouvier and her daughter

  • They met Larry at the family farm come summer home outside Chicago

  • She doesn't want Isabel to marry until Larry has found steady work, perhaps because she knows her daughter's predilections

  • Was a bit of a snob, seems concerned with traditional stability, has what she wants but does not seem all that happy


Suzanne Rouvier:

  • Suzanne was the only person Larry told about the wartime carnage he experienced. She in turn told Maugham, otherwise no one would have known

  • Suzanne means Lilly in Hebrew, a woman who had been falsely accused of adultery

  • Became the mistress of an artist after having been seduced at age 15

  • Her mother was a widow

  • She had a child with the Scandinavian

  • She suffered from typhus at one point and seems almost to have died, saved in a way by Larry taking her in

  • She was M. Achilles mistress every so often to make a little extra money to pay for her daughter's upkeep

  • She eventually learns to paint, though not well

  • Came close to falling in love with Larry though not he with her

  • Had a practical approach to life, seems in control

  • Seems mostly to be enjoying herself

  • She seeks security

  • She has large blue eyes

  • Thought to be possibly based on the life of the French artist Suzanne Valadon They both have practically the same biography

  • Maugham bought a painting from Suzanne Rouvier but none show up in his collection, although one by Suzanne Valadon's son does (see)


Gregory Brabazon:

  • The decorator

  • Was not thought to be a gentleman but was believed to have taste

  • Short, fat and bald with quick gray eyes< English

  • Noisy but astute man of business.

  • One of the most successful decorators in London

  • Thought Mrs. Bradley's rooms were too dark - he matches the rooms to the owners

  • He is a litmus test for personal security, think of the story of the "Emperor's New clothes"


America and Chicago:

  • A vibrant American city

  • Incorporated in the 1830's

  • One of the most cultured of American cities

  • Third largest in the union

  • Has it's own stock market which is an artificial way to make money

  • Not as extravagant as New York

  • Fairly hierarchy free, money is the gage of status

  • Perhaps too much emphasis on greed and gain

  • New Yorkers have forgotten their roots

  • Europe is somehow described as being dead

  • America doesn't provide Elliott with the culture he wishes to experience, it doesn't have the aristocracy he wishes to experience, he senses that there is more to life than money

  • Perhaps he longs for that southern aristocracy that his family left behind in Virginia

  • Isabel and Gray leave Chicago for Paris when the market collapses - they regroup in France

  • Larry finds no initial solace in America so he too leaves, but he eventually returns to share his newfound wisdom with America (see)


Paris:

  • A place that is more concerned with status than wealth

  • Opposite of the Americans to whom wealth is all

  • Society is cliquey

  • A city concerned with style and hence superficial things, therefore it can never really reward someone with security of place, family or mind.

  • Had been a centre of European Christianity until fairly recent times when France ultimately lost its faith as a nation

  • Larry goes to Paris, the city of light (reason), hoping to find answers to questions but doesn't find the hoped for Enlightenment

  • Maturins don't take all of their French possessions to Texas thereby making a break with France

  • Larry had passed time in Paris during the war

  • Larry and Elliott reject Paris in the end and immerse themselves in religion, but Isabel loves it

  • It is here that Gray is cured, but does Paris or Larry cure him?


Premature Death:

  • More difficult to deal with than other forms of death

  • Symbolic of lost potential

  • Renders life meaningless as it occurs contrary to the normal life cycle

  • Larry lost both of his parents and his friend Patsy, the Irishman

  • "I'll be jiggered;" Patsy's last words on the revelation that he was about to die, it was a terrible shock for him to know that he would die so young

  • Starts out having a childlike sense of being immortal

  • Feels shame for the lack of respect he has for the dead, "They looked so terribly dead."

  • Because it makes no sense he then seeks a reason for what happens in this world, the old Why do bad things happen to good people?" question


Hinduism - The Problem with Evil:

  • Hinduism is a religion without a single starting point

  • Its goal of life is release from this world and spiritual linkage with the creator Brahma

  • Only consciousness is real and all things of this world are distractions

  • The goal of life is achieved not through action but through knowledge

  • Larry is concerned too much psychic energy in religion is wasted on the insecurity of belief


The Novel's Construction:

  • A traditional pattern is revealed, Hero Quest

  • This is not a linear novel

  • The beginning seems odd

  • Reads more like a stream of consciousness journal

  • A very personal feeling sort of document

  • Narrator is a character and author of the story

  • Sometimes he turns from the narrative and speaks directly to the reader

  • Continues to disclaim his expertise in certain topics such as American dialect and philosophy and then goes on to demonstrate a certain facility with them, a disarming technique that puts the reader at ease


Society:

  • People are products of the societies they inhabit

  • Brits seem to think of Americans as inferior

  • Americans are generally viewed as self absorbed or involved

  • People laughed at Elliott and yet they continued to attend his parties because they were snobs too

  • Ultimately connection to society is presented almost as a false promise, the connection with society is secondary to the connection with the absolute

  • Elliott rejects America because its values are organized around wealth

  • Elliott seems to think that marriage will provide with stability and a lover


SEE:
THE RAZOR'S EDGE: TRUE OR FALSE?


The "Razor's Edge Notes," above, are just that, notes, with the individuals presented in a brief, short, list type manner, albeit with each individual having easy to click through links for a deeper analysis. For those who would like a fuller version there is available online a more in depth, well done page that explores each individual more thoroughly as well as having breakdown synopsis' of each individual chapter. If you choose to go to the site please observe the access bar at the top citing each chapter. All the pages have series of comments by the authors of the site as well. It is also completely searchable. Please see:


THE RAZOR'S EDGE BLOG


There is a free, full and complete online PDF version of The Razor's Edge book available at the link below as well as, for those who would rather not read the book but rather watch the movie (or do both), a full version of the black and white 1946 movie by clicking the graphic below:



(for full length movie please click image)

THE RAZOR'S EDGE PDF


(please click image)


Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.


(PLEASE CLICK)


ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL


30 MINUTES TO ENLIGHTENMENT


CLICK
HERE FOR
ENLIGHTENMENT

ON THE RAZOR'S
EDGE


E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

(please click)


THE WANDERLING: TAKING HIM WITH A GRAIN OF SALT




WITH THANKS TO: Desmond T. Burke


















THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:


SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN DARRELL'S LIFE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI:


SRI RAMANA AND W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
THE HOLY MAN, LARRY DARRELL, INDIA, AND THE RAZOR'S EDGE

















Just beneath the graphic of the holy man and Darrell below are pictures of three gurus, who, in their own respective worlds would be or were/are considered to be major teachers of sort. The picture on the far left is what the writer Bill Parker and artist C. C. Beck that wrote and drew the Captain Marvel respectively thought Billy Batson's ancient, wise, and mysterious wizard Zhazam should look like. Older, white beard, white robe, aquiline-like nose. In the middle picture the person depicted on the left is the Hollywood version of what the venerated Indian holy man in the William Somerset Maugham novel The Razor's Edge was conceived to look like --- and how he was presented to the movie-going audience in the black and white 1946 movie based on the Maugham novel. Again, older, white beard, white robe, aquiline-like nose. The picture on the far right is what the in-real-life venerated Indian holy man the movie version is based on actually looked like, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.


WHAT THE HOLY MAN TOLD DARRELL, IT IS HIGHLY RELEVANT

(please click image)


ZHAZAM-----THE RAZOR'S EDGE-----SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI

------
(select and click graphics or use links above)

The center graphic above, from the black and white 1946 movie version of The Razor's Edge, shows Larry Darrell, the central character in the story, meeting with the holy man for the very first time. To see a video excerpt from the movie of that meeting and what Maugham reported the holy man had to say to Darrell that changed his life, and possibly could yours, please click the following graphic:


THE COWBOY CODE OF THE WEST
































STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
THE WANDERLING AND JAMES JOYCE'S ULYSSES

THE SAME OR DIFFERENT?

(please click image)


There is William James and James Joyce. Two different people. William James is credited with the term stream of of consciousness. James Joyce is known for his stream of consciousness style of writing.

William James, in the first volume of in his two volume set, "The Principles of Psychology," is the first person to bring up the term "Stream of Consciousness," a term that was eventually applied to a style of writing used by a variety of authors of fiction, most notedly James Joyce in his novel Ulysses. The term first shows up in "The Principles of Psychology" on Page 239 of Volume I, and reads thus:


"Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as chain or train do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A river or a stream are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life."


PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY VOLUME I

PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY VOLUME II

THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE


Of all the books that Darrell reads in The Razor's Edge, Maugham specifically cites Principles of Psychology by William James. Not mentioned specifically, but serendipitously seeping in through subterfuge is another work by James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, wherein James mentions the qualities required for a religious experience similar to Darrell's to be legitimate.

Although I am not fully in agreement with James, and most especially so with his third quality transiency, I present the four below for your own edification. Starting on page 380 of Lectures XVI and XVII James lists four qualities that differentiate such an experience followed by an explanation as:

  • Ineffability

  • Noetic Quality

  • Transiency

  • Passivity

Shirly Galloway, former instructor of English Literature at the College of San Mateo, California, writes in her essay on The Razor's Edge that the first, a sense of ineffability, is expressed in Larry's statement that "No words can tell the ecstasy of my bliss." The second, a noetic quality, is attested to by Larry's "sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me." It is obvious Larry's experience did not last more than an hour or two, satisfying James' third characteristic of transiency, and the verbs Larry uses in his description, 'ravished,' 'possessed,' and 'released,' indicate Larry's sense of passivity. James also includes under this fourth characteristic of passivity the idea that "Some memory of their content always remains, and a profound sense of their importance." As Larry says years after the experience, "that moment of rapture abides with me still."


Anybody who has done any amount of serious or in-depth research into the novel "The Razor's Edge," William Somerset Maugham, and or both, have invariably run into the Wandering, primarily because of his own in depth work on who Larry Darrell is/was and what happened to him post novel as well as his works on Guy Hague, oft time said to be the role model used by Maugham for Darrell, albeit proven wrong through the Wanderling's research.

For those who may be so interested and even those who may be not so interested, the Wanderling started his research long before the rise of the internet and search engines. In a number of places in his writings he makes reference to having done research on Maugham and The Razor's Edge by having gone directly to a number of university owned Maugham archives, reviewing on the spot, often in Maugham's own hand, letters, notes, and such related to Darrell, the novel, et al.

What upsets most people, not so much the regular folk, but mostly the literati and sometimes the Maharshi in-crowd, is that the Larry Darrell character ended up not being "someone." They don't like the idea that Maugham would have used somebody that was a nobody. However, all anyone with any amount of acumen has to do --- lay-person, fan, critic, or intelligentsia alike --- is just sit down and read what Maugham has to say and the whole thing becomes clear. It would defeat his purpose and overall thesis if Darrell was in real life a major personage of sorts. In the very beginning on the very first page of the novel Maugham writes "The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be." Then, after the whole novel unfolds, all the trials and tribulations and all the adventures and misadventures are over, in the closing pages of the book Maugham solidifies his whole thesis and writes of Darrell and his Awakened state, presenting to reader and critic alike, the following:


He has no desire for fame. To become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, and that by himself following with selflessness and renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes."


THE MENTOR

FROM WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM'S
THE RAZOR'S EDGE
WHO WAS LARRY DARRELL IN REAL LIFE AND WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?
















---RONALD NIXON


When it comes to possible role models for Larry Darrell in Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge two people rise to the top, Guy Hague and Ronald Nixon. Hague is delt with quite extensively elsewhere leaving us, for those who may be so interested, Nixon to discuss.

Nixon is often confused with my mentor because of a number of similarities, especially the early years. Although my mentor and Nixon knew each other because they flew together during World War I they were two widely separate people. Nixon's nationality, life before the war, and his years relative to India after the war are just too different too reconcile.

During the four years I was in high school the president of the United States was Dwight D. Eisenhower. Just as I was graduating Eisenhower ran for a second term and won. Both times his vice presidential running mate was Richard Nixon. Just before the start of my junior year I met my mentor, with the following junior year then my senior year paralleling the last two years of the first Eisenhower-Nixon administration. Those two years, and especially the last was filled with an ever continuous onslaught of Eisenhower-Nixon re-election hoopla.

My mentor never expressed himself politically one way or the other. However, one day when we were walking together he saw a newspaper headline related to Richard Nixon and out of the blue told me that during the war he flew with a man named Nixon. Since it was always hard to get anything out of him about the war I pressed him on it.

He told me the man was named Ronald Nixon. They were both fairly young to be aviators, with my mentor the youngest of the two 16 when he joined age 17 by the time they began flying with Nixon one year older. They had similar experiences in the war, ending with similar yet different outcomes, both involving India.

My mentor was an American and had never been to college, Nixon was British and right after the war ended he entered one of the colleges of Cambridge University, studying English literature and philosophy. During that period my mentor traveled and learned on his own throughout Europe and into Asia, with both he and Nixon eventually ending up in India.

Nixon graduated in 1921 and after going to India was offered and accepted a lecturer position teaching literature at the University of Lucknow, located in northern India, eventually taking a high paying professorship at Banaras Hindu University, In 1925 my mentor arrived in Bombay by ship. Not long after seeing the city sights and visiting the Caves of Elephanta he took a train third-class to Benares. He used Benares as a home base, operating in and around the general area for about six months. I know he went to Japur on the way to see the Hemis Manuscripts and Lucknow. In Benares he was able to see his former flying buddy on regular occasion, then well established as a professor at the university while seeking an ever deepening spiritual awareness.

In 1928, Sri Yashoda Mai, the wife of the university vice-chancellor, initiated Nixon into the Gaudiya Vaishnavite, a religious movement within Vaishnavism, one of the main Hindu schools of thought, after which he adopted Krishna Prem as his monastic name. Two years later, in 1930, Sri Yashoda Mai and Krishna Prem founded an ashram at Mirtola, near Almora, in north-central India.

Two years earlier, in i928, after traveling throughout India and Asia my mentor showed up at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai south India. Two years later, in the fall of 1930, he experienced Absolute Awakening at the same level as the ancient classical masters.

There is nothing anywhere that indicates Maugham ever met, knew, or knew of Ronald Nixon other than the possibilities of my mentor mentioning him. If you remember Nixion joined the military at age 16 or 17 only to return after the war and attend college which straightforward thereafter he immediately left for India never to leave. People continue to go on-and-on about Darrell but always forget the obvious that Maugham himself said in connection to him:


"The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be. It may be that when his life at last comes to an end he will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But it may be that the way of life that he has chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow men so that, long after his death perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable creature."

W. Somerset Maugham, THE RAZOR'S EDGE


In 1948, twenty years after my mentor first visited Sri Ramana, Krishna Prem, aka Ronald Nixon, traveled to his ashram in Tiruvannamalai to meet with the Bhagavan. That meeting is fully recorded in "FACE TO FACE WITH SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: Enchanting and Uplifting Reminiscences of 202 Persons" Number 117, accessible by clicking HERE.


GUY HAGUE