William Somerset Maugham

the Wanderling

What most people don't realize is that the basic theme of THE RAZOR'S EDGE was at least the THIRD attempt by W. Somerset Maugham using the exact same plot. His first attempt showed up in the third novel he ever wrote titled "The Hero" and published in 1901. It was followed in 1920 by a play version retitled as "The Unknown." In his second attempt Maugham wrote a short story titled "The Fall of Edward Barnard" (1921) and because it is a short story it doesn't allow for much character development, but it too is basically "The Razor's Edge." Barnard, a young man rejects business, career, social life, and marriage is a prototype of Larry. His girlfriend is even named Isabel. Three years later, in 1924, Maugham's third attempt arrived on the scene when he wrote a play, albeit unproduced and unpublished, titled "The Road Uphill" which is an almost exact duplicate of "The Razor's Edge," following the plot line nearly thought for thought, scene for scene.

There isn't a whole lot of information readily available regarding Maugham's unproduced 1923 play "The Road Uphill." However, for those of you who demand more straightforward, solid, and substantiating evidence on how the story line is so similar to "The Razor's Edge," there was a book published, albeit long out of print, titled Theatrical Companion to Maugham, Mander, Raymond & Mitchenson, Joe; Macmillian Company, New York, (1955) which includes information on The Road Uphill. The Theatrical Companion (linked below) was undertaken with the approval of Maugham himself, who allowed quotations to be made from his writings as a commentary on the plays. Hard copies should be available from used book dealers as well as libraries. As you will learn from the book, as well as cited by me below and in referencing my Mentor --- i.e., the actual person in real life Maugham modeled the novel's main character Larry Darrell around --- that the play carries almost 100% verbatim the exact same plot used by Maugham a full 21 years later in "The Razor's Edge." For your reading pleasure I have re-presented below, in a line-by-line format, a comparison of the play and the novel:

  • The play opens in Chicago in 1919 at the home of Mrs. Cornelius Sheridan.

  • The novel opens in Chicago in 1919 and moves quickly to the home of Mrs. Lousia Bradley.

  • Mrs. Sheridan has two sons, both of which have just returned from the war, of which both have unsettled war experiences. One son, Ford, is writing a play, the other, Joe, has done nothing.

  • Mrs. Bradley has two sons, both married, and a daughter, Isabel, age 19, single, living at home. Isabel has a boyfriend, Larry, just returned from the war who has an unsettled war experience, and has done nothing.

  • Mrs. Sheridan's brother, a dilettante visiting from Paris, lives for his clothes, Louis the XV apartment, and dogs.

  • Mrs. Bradley's brother, Elloitt, is a dilettante visiting from Paris, lives for his French paintings, parquet floors, and apartment furnished with objects of value.

  • Joe, unable to adjust, goes to Paris to paint. Two years later Joe's girlfriend shows up and tries to convince him "to settle down and do a man's work." He doesn't. She returns to the states and marries a stockbroker, Howard Green.

  • Larry, unable to adjust, goes to Paris to sort out his life. His girlfriend shows up and tries to convince him "to settle down and do a man's work." He doesn't. She returns to the states and marries a stockbroker, Gray Maturin.

  • Howard is hit with financial ruin speculating with other people's money.

  • Gray is hit with financial ruin during the crash of 1929 and moves to Paris

  • Joe comes back after several years and his ex-girlfriend and Green now have a child, although it is clear she still loves Joe.

  • Larry, comes back after traveling in India several years. His ex-girlfriend and Gray now have two children, although it is clear she still loves Larry.

It should be noted not all are in agreement as to who the real person in real life the Larry Darrell character was modeled after. Some say the role model for Larry Darrell was really a man by the name of Guy Hague that was visiting the ashrama of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi during the same year Maugham visited (Ramana is known to be the real life holy man Maugham calls Sri Ganesha in The Razor's Edge). Maugham was mum on who Darrell might possibly be his whole life and never mentioned Hague or anybody else. However, Mercedes De Acosta, an American author and socialite of some renown, who also visited the ashrama during the same year as Maugham, is one of the people that brought Hague to the attention of the world, adding strength to the rumor that a fellow countryman who had been meditating under Sri Ramana at the ashrama the same time she did could possibly be Darrell. To find out if the conclusion for Hague being Darrell is viable and can even hold water in the long run, please visit: Guy Hague.

To see how it all ties together please see THE RAZOR'S EDGE: True or False? as well as THE MENTOR which explores who Larry Darrell was in real life and follow-ups what happened to him post novel.




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)

The Best of The Maugham Biographies:

Spiritual guides, gurus, and teachers used by Maugham in The Razor's Edge other than the Maharshi:


Authors: Mander, Raymond & Mitchenson, Joe

Publisher: Macmillan, New York

Date Published: 1955

DISCRIPTION: Covers Maugham's 32 plays and the 7 adaptations from stories and novels by other playwrights. Each play is listed with full casts, details of scenes, a synopsis of the plot and contemporary first-night criticisms by such famous critics as James Agate, Desmond MacCarthy, J T Grein, A B Walkley, Brooks Atkinson, among others. Revivals up to the present date are also noted and illustrated, with any relevant notes on each play.

For your own edification, a complete free online version of Theatrical Companion To Maugham can be found by going to the following link. The Road Uphill starts on page 195: