the Wanderling

"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

Many people have read the paperback Penguin Classic edition of the The Razor's Edge that in the preface mentions a man by the name of Guy Hague (sometimes spelled 'Hauge') that has been suggested as possibly being the model for Maugham's main character Larry Darrell. In the same paragraph as the above quote Maugham writes:

"I have invented nothing. To save embarrassment to people still living I have given to the persons who play a part in this story names of my own contriving, and I have in other ways taken pains to make sure that no one should recognize them."

Maugham then goes on to say:

"I think my book, within its acknowledged limitations, will be a useful source of information for my friend's biographers."

As a fairly high profile biographer of sorts regarding Maugham's "friend" as he calls the Darrell character in the above sentence, the question of Guy Hague being Larry Darrell has been brought up to me on many occasions. The question is asked of me sometimes for clarification, sometimes for accuracy, sometimes in seeking the truth, and sometimes in an effort to make the case that if the model for Maugham's novel was Hague, or anybody else they can name for that matter, then the man in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds that I claim to be the actual real life role model for Darrell, could not be. However, any speculation that it was Hague that Maugham used as his model is incorrect. Nor was anybody else the factual Darrell in real life other than the person I outline below.

Now it is true Maugham was a writer, and as a writer he had a literary license to create, mix, match, invent or use whatever was at his disposal, and I would not be surprised if Hague-like concepts were interjected to make the novel and Darrell's character possibly somewhat more viable. As Maugham writes:

"I have done this for the same reasons as the historians have, to give liveliness and verisimilitude to scenes that would have been ineffective if they had been merely recounted."

However, again, Hague was not the role model for Darrell.

How can I be so sure? There are a number of things, but the most blaring is the literary license --- or as Maugham calls it on the very first page of his book, the novelist's privilege. In that Maugham was writing a novel, he was able to make up just about anything he liked. He didn't. Matter of fact he stuck to a fairly interesting set of facts, facts that as an author, if he were just making up the story out of whole cloth, could have been written or rewritten in another way if he had so chose. Again, he didn't.

To start with, the story is about a young man, Larry Darrell, in search of spiritual awakening following World War I. The most critical factor in his quest was seeing his best friend die in front of his eyes. His best friend, like Darrell, was a pilot flying for the British against the Germans. In the novel Maugham has him say, speaking of his friend, "We were due for a spot of leave early in March, in 'eighteen,'" (1918) and, "The day before we were to go we were sent up over enemy lines..." When Darrell gets back following a dogfight he finds his friend laying on the ground waiting for an ambulance and "looking deathly white." In front of Darrell's eyes he dies. Darrell tells Maugham in the narrative of the story his friend was age twenty-two, that is, twenty-two in 1918. Earlier in the novel Maugham had written, speaking of Darrell's girlfriend Isabel in Chicago following the war, that "She's nineteen and he's (Darrell) only just twenty." Maugham states Darrell was flying at the time of the armistice, which he doesn't write, but is quite well known as being on November 11, 1918. Maugham, after writing earlier that he was "in Chicago in the autumn of 1919," speaking to Darrell about not wanting to go to college says "...after being in the war for two years..." which, when all the facts above are taken together (i.e., he's only just twenty following the war, being in the war two years, etc.), it comes out to Darrell being born in 1899.

So what? Well, it's very critical. Why? Because of the chronology of it all is very important. To have fought in World War I the Darrell character was just about at the lower limits of age that would allow him to participate. After all his best friend was twenty-two, Darrell being nearly four years younger or so in 1918. Darrell's age plays no part in the novel except that he had to be the right age to be in the war to see his best friend die, so in turn, he would go on his spiritual quest. He could have been twenty-two like his best friend, or even twenty-five, but he wasn't. Why? Because it was the actual age of the person Maugham used as his model --- the same person from here on out that I call "my mentor" or sometimes "the man next door," although it must be said, with the coming of my mentor into my life, in an incredible set of coincidences, it wasn't the first time World War I pilots had a significant impact on my growing up and childhood.(see)

My mentor was born in 1899. I remember the year specifically. He never gave me his actual birthdate, but he did tell me he was born in the fall of 1899. Again, as mentioned above, Maugham was in Chicago in the autumn (fall) of 1919, and he writes that Darrell is just twenty. The reason the year so impressed me was when he mentioned it I was a teenage boy growing up in the 1950s. I mean, born in the old could a guy be?

It is no secret that that Maugham visited the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the person he used as a model for the holy man in his novel, and met the Bhagavan sometime toward the end of the 1930s. It was also around that time period that Guy Hauge was there. In the article by feminine seductress Mercedes De Acosta "My Meeting With Ramana Maharshi" as well as her book "Here Lies the Heart" it is stated she was at the ashrama in 1938 for three days. She writes of meeting Hague during that time and that he "...originally came from Long Beach, California, had been honorably discharged from the American Navy, and had been at the ashrama for a year." In the ashrama publication "Talks With Sri Ramana" #594 dated December 15, 1938, Hague is mentioned as "a temporary resident (at the ashrama) for the last two months," and that "he was an American mining engineer."

My mentor told me he had arrived in India a year after his to be teacher (the Maharshi) had been accosted by ruffians in his ashrama. That has been dated at June 26, 1924, which would make his arrival in India at least mid-1925. He traveled in "China, Burma, India" according to Maugham.(see) Darrell says, " Two years later I was in a place down south called Madura."(see) He also mentions he stayed at Madura for sometime "because it was the only temple in India a white man can walk about freely." I have him arriving at the ashrama in the fall of 1928. It was on his birthday two years later Maugham quotes Darrell as saying, "When I had been at the ashrama just two years I went up to my forest retreat for a reason that'll make you smile. I wanted to spend my birthday there." It was his thirty-first birthday and in the fall of the year 1930. De Acosta writes she visited the ashrama in 1938 and that Hague had been there for a year. "Talks With Sri Ramana" #594 dated December 15, 1938 relates that Hague had been a temporary resident for at least two months. In either case it puts Hague's arrival at the ashrama a minimum of six and possibly eight years after not only Darrell's Awakening-experience, but his departure from India as well.

In the continuing theme that the chronology is wrong, Hague is said to have been variously "a mining engineer" or "an aeronautical engineer," as well as having "...been discharged from the American Navy." Maugham has Darrell on record as saying, "...they all wanted me to go to college. I couldn't." Typically engineers require some sort of degree. The timing for Darrell to go to war and India, getting a degree and to have been in the American Navy, especially after having been an aviator in World War I is all wrong.

The final problem is could have Maugham and Hague even met in India prior to the writing of the novel the first place? Again, "Talks With Sri Ramana" #594 dated December 15, 1938 mentions Hague was "a temporary resident for the last two months." De Acosta was there at the end of November, 1938, which makes Hague's stay at the ashrama having started sometime after late September, 1938. Maugham was in India only three months arriving by ship in January, 1938 and departing by ship March 31, 1938 (see WSM Travels In India link above). If such was the case then they missed even crossing paths with each other by nearly six months.

In so saying then, what is right? Well, there are a half a dozen or more major universities that have rather large Somerset Maugham Archives and research collections, including Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell. Combined they have hundreds of volumes, manuscripts, originals, and handwritten notes, letters, and pieces of correspondence composed by Maugham and either submitted by himself or by the recipients or others. There are probably close to two dozen biographies available as well, some written by people that knew Maugham personally, some researched from the above mentioned university collections, and some from personal interviews with family and friends. Some biographies simply used each other as sources. In all that material nowhere has anyone come up with a specific "real person" said to be such by Maugham himself to "be" Larry Darrell. True, for most people researching and focusing on Maugham and his works, the Darrell character is minor at best amongst all that there is. However, for our purposes here the focus is Larry Darrell.

There has been speculations on many of the characters in the novel, including for example, the Elliott Templeton character, who has been pinpointed quite accurately, as has the holy man, Shri Ganesha, who everybody knows is Sri Ramana. However the Larry Darrell character has remained elusive. As mentioned previously, Guy Hague among others, have been suggested many times.

In 1959 one of the first Maugham biographies showed up. Penned by a friend of Maugham's, Karl Pfeiffer, titled "W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A Candid Portrait," it was met with strong disapproval by Maugham, still alive at the time. Pfeiffer and Maugham met in 1923 and by 1946 Pfeiffer had tacit approval to write a biography. By 1954 Maugham had changed his mind and when Pfeiffer continued, their friendship soured.

If you go through the various Maugham biographies, and even semi-autobiographies such as Maugham's "A Writer's Notebook" many discrepancies show up and are often cited by each other as proof that "their" version is correct, hence the others are wrong. In that Pfeiffer's came first it has been true grist for the mill. To me it is neither here nor there. What matters is Darrell. Pieffer writes:

"The germ of 'The Razor's Edge' was a chance meeting at a dinner party in Chicago in 1919, just as Maugham states in his first chapter. Larry's prototype was a young man at the dinner party, and Maugham never saw him again. He remembered just one remark the young man made, to the effect that he didn't want to go into the family business and hoped instead to make something interesting of his life."

However, the very last creative work written by Maugham designed for the general reading public quite clearly proves otherwise. Titled "Looking Back," it was published in three successive issues of the monthly periodical. SHOW, The Magazine of the Arts Volumes Nos. 6-8: June-July-August, 1962. At the time Maugham was age 88, and making an attempt at wrapping up his life in his own words before all the vultures, both literary and real, did. In Part III of "Looking Back" Maugham brings up his travels in India in 1938, writing the following:

"I had hesitated to go there because I thought that Kipling had written all the stories with an Indian background that could be written. When at last I went, I found that he had only dealt with one aspect of that vast country and that there was still much that an author could profitably make use of. But alas, it came too late for me. I was growing old and I no longer had the faculty of inventing a story out of a stray remark or a casual encounter."

People said to be in he know go on and on that "The Razor's Edge" main character Lawrence Darrell, wasn't based on a real life person, constantly citing "a stray remark or a casual encounter." Karl Pieffer says that the germ of "The Razor's Edge" was a chance meeting at a dinner party in Chicago in 1919, others say it stemmed from a casual remark Maugham heard from a taxi driver in New York. Knowing full well himself, Maugham in his own words, as cited above, writes that his going to India came too late, he was growing old and no longer had the faculty of inventing a story out of a stray remark or a casual encounter.(see)

The thing is, with "The Razor's Edge" he didn't have to invent a story out of whole cloth or puff one up from a stray remark. What most people don't realize is that the basic theme of "The Razor's Edge" was at least the third attempt by Maugham using basically the exact same plot. The first time occurred well before the aforementioned 1919 dinner party in Chicago cited above by Pieffer, showing up in his third novel "The Hero" published in 1901. It was followed by a play version retitled as "The Unknown" in 1920.

In 1924 Maugham wrote an unproduced and unpublished play 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. The play opens in Chicago in 1919 at the home of Mrs. Cornelius Sheridan. She 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. Sheridan's brother, a dilettante visiting from Paris, lives for his clothes, Louis the XV apartment, and dogs. Ford stops writing and goes into the bond business with a multi-millionaire named Howard Green. 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 Howard Green. Joe comes back after several years and his ex-girlfriend and Green now have a child, although it is clear she still loves Joe. Howard is hit with financial ruin speculating with other people's money, etc., etc. It is fairly clear that Mrs. Sheridan's brother is Elliott Templeton, Howard Green is Gray Maturin (note the names are "colors" in both cases), the ex-girlfriend is Isabel.(see)

Similar close patterns and character names, places, etc. show up in the aforementioned "The Hero" and "The Unknown." A short story "The Fall of Edward Barnard" (1921) predates "The Road Uphill" by a few years and doesn't allow for much character development because of its short length, 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.

Interestingly enough, in "The Road Uphill," as mentioned above, the Templeton-like person is in Chicago visiting his sister in 1919 and is said to "live for his dogs." It should be noted Maugham was in Hollywood in the 1940-45 period working on the screenplay for the 1946 movie version of "The Razor's Edge" among other things. Although no mention of dogs is made in the book, in the movie version a black Standard Poodle, apparently belonging to Elliott Templeton is seen very briefly twice. The dog is first seen in Chicago while Elliott is visiting his sister Louisa and again at his house in Paris. Although the case could be made that both he and his sister own black Standard Poodles with short cropped tails, it seems clearer it is one dog and owned by Elliott. Maugham refused any payment for his work on the screenplay. Instead, studio heads learning Maugham was an avid art collector, compensated him for his work by giving him an Impressionist painting. When word came to him for such an arrangement he selected a painting by Pissarro, but the studio head, through advice of those close to Maugham gave him a Matisse. Maugham immediately traded the Matisse for the Pissarro he wanted. It should be noted his screenplay was not used, but he did keep the painting. The studio said Maugham's version had too much talking. Maugham, although generally satisfied with the final result, thought the movie had too much dancing. The Pissarro Maugham kept was titled The Quai Saint-Sever, Rouen, shown below:

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So, now the question arises, how does all of this fit together? It's fairly simple. In the 1920's a woman living in South Pasadena named Carrie Mead Wyckoff became acquainted with a young monk sent to America by the Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Order of India. In 1929 he established what he called the Vedanta Society of Southern California in a house in the Hollywood hills given to the Order as a gift by Mrs. Wyckoff. By the 1940's the Society had attracted a number of noted writers and intellectuals that had been showing up in the general Hollywood area about that time. It was in 1940 as well that Maugham sought refuge as the Nazi military machine plunged through Europe, forcing him to flee his villa in the south of France aboard one of two coal barges on what turned out to be a horrific twenty-day voyage to England crammed together with 500 other British refugees. He ended up in the United States for the duration, first settling in South Carolina at a former plantation called Parker's Ferry owned by his publisher Nelson Doubleday. There he started, or continued work on, The Razor's Edge. Doubleday had refurbished a somewhat secluded place called Bonny Hall along the banks of the Combahee River so Maugham could write undisturbed. Shortly after that he moved into the Hollywood milieu to work on the screenplay for the novel.

It has been stated many times by many people that it was Paul Brunton and his book A Search in Secret India (1934) that inspired Maugham to visit Sri Ramana in India and write The Razor's Edge. It could have had some influence to visit India as it was a major influence on scores of people. However, in no sense of the word did it have any influence on writing The Razor's Edge, especially considering the timing. Brunton's book didn't come out until after the Maugham Darrell meeting. So said, it remains my contention that, just as presented in the novel, sometime between the time my Mentor left India, but prior to his departure from Europe for the United States, he and Maugham somehow crossed paths, formally or informally, albeit for the first time, instilling in Maugham the need or desire to meet with the Maharshi. Reams of people in The Razor's Edge isn't true camp insist Maugham just stumbled upon Sri Ramana without a clue after he arrived in India, which would, of course, undermine or negate any meeting of any type with Darrell at any time. Brunton notwithstanding, the high priority question arises then is, did William Somerset Maugham ever hear about or know about Sri Ramana Maharshi before he left for India and if so did he intend to visit him? To find out click HERE.

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Their first encounter probably unfolded very similar to how Maugham describes it in the novel when he meets Darrell in Paris following the spiritual traveler's Awakening experience in India. His Enlightenment transpired on his birthday during the fall of 1930 and the Paris meeting some six months later, in the spring of 1931. The novel has Darrell being in Paris about a month when he and Maugham meet inadvertently at a sidewalk cafe, which in real life is most likely a fairly close portrayal of actual events. Maugham had been there only half the amount of that time himself, having arrived in Paris barely two weeks before. He was sitting outdoors one evening in the front row of the Cafe Du' Dome having a drink when a man walking by stopped at his table displaying, as Maugham notes, "a grin with a set of very white teeth." He wore no hat, had unkempt, uncut hair, his face was concealed by a thick brown beard. He wore a frayed shirt, threadbare coat with holes in the elbows and shabby grey slacks. His forehead and neck was deeply tanned.

Following a short salutation Maugham writes that to the best of his belief he had never seen the man before and, in the course of the rather brief interlude, even goes so far as to quote himself as saying, "I've never set eyes on you in my life." In the novel, of course, Maugham quickly reneges on his assumption, as the man turns out to be Darrell. Of course, having met before was not the case in real life --- that is, unlike as portrayed by Maugham in the novel, they had not met before. This was their first time encounter. The "I've never set eyes on you in my life," statement was true.

Refocusing the flow of the novel's timeline from how Maugham has presented it to how it actually unfolded in real life, without eliminating any of the key elements to make the story work, opens up a whole series of questions. However, it does so only because the narrative as presented by Maugham is the one we the reader has taken to be true.

If in fact the 1931 Cafe Du Dome meeting between Maugham and Darrell was the first time Maugham and Darrell ever met, and it is most likely true with Maugham so adamantly stating that up to that time in his life he had never set eyes on Darrell, then how did Maugham know all of the rest of what he wrote that encompassed a full ten or twelve years plus before? For one thing, "The Razor's Edge," as written by Maugham is not done in straight linear time, meaning as he presents things in his book he jumps back and forth, sometimes telling the reader something that actually happened after a given event before the event The very best example is Maugham telling about Darrell's World War I flying experiences in Chapter One (x) page 48 where he says:

"I do not want the reader to think I am making a mystery of whatever it was that happened to Larry during the war that so profoundly affected him, a mystery that I shall disclose at a convenient moment. I don't think he ever told anybody. He did, however, many years later tell a woman, Suzanne Rouvier' whom Larry and I both knew, about the young airman who had met his death saving his life. She repeated it to me and so I can only relate it at second hand. I have translated it from her French. Larry had apparently struck up a great friendship with another boy in his squadron. Suzanne knew him only by the ironical nickname by which Larry spoke of him."

Maugham pulls Suzanne Rouvier clear out of events in the back of the book and inserts her into events found in Chapter One in the beginning of the book and does so because the information she has is tantamount to the story's overall integrity. Her importance and background doesn't show up after that until halfway into the book when in Chapter Four (xii) page 152 Maugham writes:

"I mentioned Suzanne Rouvier at the beginning of this book. I had known her for ten or twelve years and at the date which I have now reached she must have been not far from forty."

Maugham has written that his book would be a useful source of information for "my friend's biographers." The date "he has now reached" that he speaks of in the above quote regarding Suzanne Rouvier as being ten or twelve years later, is the ten or twelve years later when he was working on the novel in South Carolina in 1943 and not 1931 in Paris. Telling us ten or twelve years later is either a major clue or a major foo pah. Maugham lays it all down for all his readers and Darrell biographers when in Chapter Four he says he had known Suzanne for ten or twelve years. Then in Chapter Six, after he met Darrell at the Cafe Du Dome that led to their talks a year later at the Brasserie Graff, where Darrell lays out his life, Maugham began researching backwards in time everybody that was involved so he could fill in the gaps, meeting and talking with everybody or anybody of note, even going as far as India to visit all the locations Darrell mentions. However, regardless of what happens below that I write in the next few paragraphs about Somerset Maugham, Suzanne Rouvier, and Larry Darrell, none of it, not one thing in all of their conversations meant anything to Maugham relative to "The Razor's Edge" until he himself visited with and sat before the Maharshi. He did that visit last and it was after that when all of the below came together.(see)

Previously in the above Maugham says he had known Suzanne for ten or twelve years, that is, at the date which he had now reached, which was 1943. He knew her because a friend of his, an artist, that Maugham visited on occasion used her as a model and there was something about her that intrigued him. In the haunts he traveled in he ran into her often and over time they became friends. Interestingly enough, because of that friendship, in Chapter Four (ix) page 160 the following, as Maugham writes it, happened:

"A week or so after I had so unexpectedly run into Larry, Suzanne and I one night, having dined together and gone to a movie, were sitting in the Select on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, having a glass of beer, when he strolled in.

"She gave a gasp and to my surprise called out to him. He came up to the table, kissed her and shook hands with me. I could see that she could hardly believe her eyes.

"May I sit down?" he said. "I haven't had any dinner and I'm going to have something to eat."

"Oh, but it's good to see you, mon petit" she said, her eyes sparkling. "Where have you sprung from?"

"You never told me you knew Larry," I said to her.

"Why should I? I never knew you knew him. We're old friends."

The week or so after Maugham unexpectedly ran into Darrell that he writes about above, was the same meeting at Cafe Du Dome that I write about. During the above meeting between Maugham and Suzanne, which happened a couple of weeks later at the Select on the Boulevard du Montparnasse is when, right after Darrell left, Suzanne tells Maugham that they had been lovers and about Darrell's war experiences. She also mentions her daughter, and Maugham, although considering himself as a friend for years is apparently unaware Suzanne even had a daughter. She tells him she is twelve years old and that at the time of her relationship with Darrell her daughter was five, making it seven years before, just prior to Darrell leaving Europe for India. Darrell has said he arrived in India one year after his teacher was robbed at his ashram. That date has been recorded as being June 26, 1924, making Darrell's arrival in India June of 1925. Maugham had no way of reaching Darrell after his meeting with Suzanne, but it just so happened about a year later both were attending a play at the same time and bumped into each other during intermission, which led to their meeting over eggs and bacon at the Brasserie Graff and all that happened afterwards.

At the moment here, the unknown is, if the above events are laid out as I have suggested, how in such a simple interaction did this destitute vagabond sort of a fellow in a "threadbare coat with holes in the elbows" and the well dressed sophisticated playwright and author strike up a conversation at a sidewalk cafe that eventually led to further talks and a best selling novel --- especially if, as Maugham says and I contend, he had never set eyes on him before in his life? Even with Suzanne Rouvier's input, what's the big deal? He was a fighter pilot and saw his best friend die. So what?

The connection is multifold. Later on I write that sometime in the early-mid 1940s my mentor had a vague association of sorts with the Pasadena Playhouse. He also told me in passing, although not claiming to be any sort of an actor, that at one time he had been in at least one play. He said he had a role as a spear bearer and even had a single speaking line that went something like "Caesar waits without, sire." I think my mentor had an interest in plays and the theater and may have even traveled somewhat in those circles, where a playwright of Maugham's stature would be, if not revered, at least known.

At the moment my mentor being an "actor" or in plays is not important, but the fact that he had an interest in plays, the theater, and such is. It is my position that my mentor recognized Maugham for who he was, a playwright and author of some renown, stepped up to his table, and was politely rebuffed, not only because Maugham did not know him, but also in a big part it would seem, because of his scruffy appearance. Two other additional contributions happen as well. First, in the novel, a few days later Darrell shows up after flying to London for new clothes from Maugham's own tailor, and is all clean shaven and well dressed. I think my mentor did the same thing, then he and Maugham either crossed paths again in Paris and/or he re-presented himself, which, seeing the once disheveled young man now all cleaned up, is exactly the type thing that would intrigue Maugham, especially so if he was all suited up in clothes from Maugham's own tailor.(see)

Secondly, Maugham goes on and on intermittently over several pages about the man's eyes, how his eyes came from the black of the iris being as black as that of the pupil which gave them at once intensity and opaqueness. Continuing with how they seem to express something within, saying for example how "his eyes fixed on my face in a meditative unblinking gaze," and "he was listening to me not with his ears, but with some inner more sensitive organ of hearing." Maugham also states that whatever it was about the man it was "not very comfortable," a sort of unknown that Maugham just didn't have the full fund of understanding to grasp during those early stages. Later he writes, "I felt that there was something within him, I don't know whether to call it awareness or a sensibility or a force, that remained strangely aloof." Now true, although it is presented to the reader as though Maugham has no knowledge of the Maharshi, it was really written by him after the fact, that is, after Maugham had gone to India and met the Maharshi --- but, I think before the fact, the 1931 meeting we are talking about here in Paris, the man's eyes DID play a big role. A role big enough that a much longer second encounter ensued, because, after all, if you remember, my mentor, six months fresh from India, paralleling Darrell's experiences as Maugham writes them, is now Enlightened. Even after the man goes to London, cleans himself up, and re-presents himself in expensive clothes, Maugham was still able to recognize him. I think it was because of his eyes. Maugham senses some kind of something, but is unable to quite put his finger on it. The experience impacted him so strongly however, it became a must write for the reader.(see)

The eye contact may not seem like much to the casual observer and is never brought up or thought of as being any sort of an important event by most readers and reviewers, however I consider it a major tangent point because of my own personal experience.* Twenty- five years later, in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds in regards to our own first encounter I write: "When we made eye contact for the first time I was set aback, almost stunned, by the overwhelming calmness and serenity that seemed to abide in his presence." I think Maugham was equally as stunned. Following those minor early and possibly awkward initial contacts, there grew a more in depth interest. Maugham's highly honed wiles as an author and writer were enough that the man was willing to talk and Maugham was willing to listen. By the time the meeting at the Brasserie Graf described below ensued, Maugham was driven to go to India, meet the Maharshi himself, and eventually write The Razor's Edge.(see)

We know from the novel, as cited above, that Darrell returned from India, showing up in Paris in the spring of 1931. However there are no clear dates saying specifically when Darrell, thus then, that is, my mentor, left Europe for the U.S. Nor is there anything in the novel indicating how long he was on the continent following his sojourn to India, but it could have been as late as 1936, maybe even 1938. However, we do know that Darrell had his Enlightenment experience in the fall of 1930 and sometime thereafter, after some travels in India where he paid homage to Swami Ramdas and met Shunyata, and possibly even traveling with Shunyata, left for Europe, eventually showing up in Paris six months later. Maugham writes that a full year and a half after their initial meeting at the Dome, in the Autumn of 1932, he and Darrell met for "eggs and bacon" during the early morning hours at the Brasserie Graff in Paris, a date you will notice that precedes the publication of Brunton's book by nearly two years.(see) It was during that 1932 meeting at the Brasserie Graff between Darrell and Maugham that I speculate Darrell either gave Maugham a copy of the 1931 biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi by B.V. Narasimha Swami, SELF REALIZATION: The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi or made him aware of it that in turn contributed to Maugham's knowledge of the Maharshi and his desire to go to India and meet him personally.(see)

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During conversation Darrell lays out his whole India itinerary, including meeting his holy man and his Awakening experience. I think a similar conversation actually took place. When and where, if it was actually in Paris or not, or even in 1931 or not, is not known. The possibility even exists that it may have not been just one specific meeting, but perhaps a series of impromptu and/or scheduled meetings over a period of months. In the novel Darrell does mention to Maugham at the aforementioned 1931 meeting that he was not going back to America until after the following spring, which would be the spring of 1933, saying he had a cottage in Sanary and was going to spend the winter there. However, after mulling over the bits and pieces of the conversation, for me at least, it doesn't seem that in reality a whole lot of time elapsed between the meeting at the Brasserie Graff and the time Maugham left for India, where he sought out and personally met with the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi --- fainting, by the way, in the process the first time he saw him. Maugham's meeting with the Maharshi has been dated as February, 1938, which entertains the possibility of a much later departure from Europe for the Darrell character than the spring of 1933. In Travels In India it is cited that Maugham went to Bombay during his trip to visit with two disciples of Sadguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj. One of the disciples, Sri Ranjit Maharaj, he heard knew of a connection "that existed between Siddharameshwar and the person Maugham was to write about in his novel The Razor's Edge," a connection known as Vihangam Marg (the birds' way). Although the information on Sri Ranjit and "the birds' way" could have been passed on to him by someone at the Ramana ashrama, it seems most likely Maugham had knowledge of both prior to his departure for India. If such was the case, although it doesn't substantiate Darrell's departure time for America, it does substantiate the meeting between Darrell and Maugham, or a similar one or ones as mentioned above, at the Brasserie Graff, the Dome, or elsewhere in Paris, prior to Maugham's departure for India.(see)

When I first started trying to make sense of the Maugham-Darrell puzzle with the facts I had, I thought the two of them had actually met during the war. Although nowhere in the book is his knowledge of wartime ambulance drivers used, Maugham, like many authors and writers of the time, had been a volunteer ambulance driver in France during the war, one of the so-called Literary Ambulance Drivers of the day. In The Razor's Edge Maugham outlines the death of Darrell's best friend Patsy in "eighteen" and has Darrell say, "He was lying on the ground and they were waiting for the ambulance to come up." Thinking the ambulance driver might have been Maugham in real life proved not to be so. Research revealed the U.S. Army took over the volunteer ambulance corps in August, 1917. Patsy was killed in 1918. Up to the time of the army takeover the volunteers had been treated like officers. Under the army's umbrella they would be no more than privates, so everybody left, including Maugham. An interesting sidelight to all of this, of course, is that Maugham had the personal experience of being an ambulance driver himself and COULD have drawn on that experience to make the Darrell character an ambulance driver, a la the way Hemingway did with his character Frederic Henry in A Farwell to Arms. But he didn't. Instead, just like the person in real life, he wrote about a young American pilot.

There is a possible interesting twist to this Literary Ambulance thing, although based on pure speculation or an inner gut feeling rather than fact. In Razor's Edge Notes as well as found in the novel, it is stated that Darrell was wounded twice. The nature of those wounds are not discussed, and only a few times did my mentor ever mention any such wounds. However I came across him meditating nearly nude in the living room of his house one afternoon and I noticed his left front chest shoulder area was covered by scar tissue as large as a man's hand that looked as though it had healed from a burn. Since the dates or timing of those wounds are not part of the story, it could be that the Darrell character, in the process of one or the other or both wounds was picked up by Maugham prior to his departure from the ambulance service. Now Maugham might not have remembered Darrell, but from my own experience, Darrell might have remembered him. Any army medic, or Maugham as an ambulance driver, could have assisted hundreds of wounded, and in turn, most of those wounded would eventually become not much more than just a blur to him. The opposite would happen to the person wounded. I say so because of my own experience being found in a ditch unconscious with my stomach ripped open. The very second I saw the staff sergeant that found me for the first time after recovering from the incident, even though I knew I didn't "know" him, I "recognized" him instantly.(see) * Not to discard or play down my thesis above about the theater contributing to the meeting along the sidewalk in Paris, such a scenario surrounding the wounds, albeit unproven, may have played a role --- and could have been an initiating co-factor for the Darrell character to step up to Maugham in the first place. When I asked my mentor about his shoulder one day, he simply replied, "Jousting with dragons." Later, after meeting the virtually unknown and somewhat obscure American Zen master Alfred Pulyan, I would figure out my mentor meant pulling the giant hydrogen filled airships called Zeppelins out of the sky in air to air combat.

Maugham makes it clear almost from the first that Darrell, seeing his best friend die right in front of his eyes and having done so to save Darrell's life, was the most crucial point in Darrell's young life, the turning point that divided him from his past and sent him on his quest for the meaning of life.

Maugham writes that Darrell was wounded twice. He dosen't make issue with either, simply citing them, then moving on, neither being life altering as Maugham seems to view it. However, as it was told to me by my mentor, and left out of the narrative by Maugham either because he didn't know it or he didn't want to get into it, one of those two wounds was so serious that following hospitalization he was required to take two weeks mandatory leave in order to recuperate. It was what happened during those two weeks that an issue should have been raised but wasn't, a never reported issue that involved Our Lady of Fatima. Actually, Darrell returned from Fatima filled with enthusiasm, overwhelmed with a positive feeling for the future. He hadn't lost the lust to fly, he just couldn't engage the enemy like he did before. His friend said he lost his edge, letting unflinching adversaries get through. On practically the last day of the war and almost the last hour that's what happened. His best friend doubled back to cover him from German fighters coming up on his tail and lost his life doing so. When Darrell saw his friend die right in front of his eyes on the tarmac he said being hit in the face by a sledge hammer couldn't have hurt worse. He had returned from Fatima with a whole renewed outlook, feeling for the first time a possibility of God only to see his best friend die. He became so overwhelmed with grief he just didn't feel the exchange was worth it. In response to it all, early in the book, Darrell in conversation with Isabel says:

"I don't think I shall ever find peace till I make up my mind about things," he said gravely. He hesitated. "It's very difficult to put into words. The moment you try you feel embarrassed. You say to yourself; 'Who am I that I should bother my head about this, that and the other? Perhaps it's only because I'm a conceited prig. Wouldn't it be better to follow the beaten track and let what's coming to you come?' And then you think of a fellow who an hour before was full of life and fun, and he's lying dead; it's all so cruel and so meaningless. It's hard not to ask yourself what life is all about and whether there's any sense to it or whether it's all a tragic blunder of blind fate."

In mid-plus 1940's, Maugham arrived in Hollywood working on The Razor's Edge, the movie script for the novel, and various war-related propaganda efforts for England. He found Hollywood an "intellectual wasteland" and was "bored to tears." He missed the gathering and parties filled with his friends and acquaintances he was used to where those in attendance were carefully selected with intellectuals and those of culture. If they didn't circulate around him he was at least a center of attention. Careful with his words in Hollywood he was much different with those "back home" with letters of complaints. He wrote most ferociously so of his feelings to his closest female confidant Barbara Back who would, after the war, become the head hostess of his gatherings at Mauresque, his compound on the Riviera.

Soon he found himself seeking out the writers in the Vedanta movement, some of whom he knew personally, and one of which he approached to translate the Katha Upanishad where the title The Razor's Edge came from. Around the same time my "to-be-mentor" showed up from the east coast attracted to the possibilities of what he heard was unfolding on on the west coast. What he found he wasn't too impressed with. He had experienced Awakening years before under the grace of Maharshi Ramana and when he came west for what he thought would be a spiritual atmosphere similar to Ramana's offerings he was highly disappointed. He knew Ramakrishna had initially been a devotee to Kali-ma, but attained Enlightenment under the auspices of the mysterious wandering monk Totapuri, so the followers of Ramakrishna should have been familiar with Enlightenment. They talked the Absolute, Awakening, and Enlightenment, but that was about it, talk. They were so wrapped up in themselves that, like the wandering ascetic, Upaka, on the road to Benares that met the Buddha during his post Enlightenment pause and didn't realize he was Awakened --- they didn't or wouldn't know Enlightenment when or if they saw it --- continually going on and on about Samadhi and not much else.

The dowager (see page two) lived in Sierra Madre, a community adjacent to Pasadena and South Pasadena where Mrs. Wyckoff lived. As a patron of the arts the dowager traveled in the same general circles, bringing my Mentor into those same circles. Mixed into the milieu comes Maugham. Maugham, being familiar with but not as swept up in mysticism as the other writers, crosses paths a second time with my-to-be-mentor within the milieu, and immediately becomes aware of something "different," something he sensed in Paris, but couldn't put his finger on. That difference being something ungraspable, but close to or akin to the same serenity, aura, influence, or presence he had experienced or felt, and caused him to faint, under the presence of the Maharshi. Apparently, even though Maugham listened intently to Darrell's story in Paris initially, perhaps because he was a westerner and everything being so out of context and all, Maugham was not fully able to grasp what Darrell was saying about his Enlightenment experience until after he himself actually came within the presence of the Maharshi.

It should be noted the possibility exists that my Mentor and Maugham MAY have met at Bonny Hall in South Carolina under Maugham's invitation following the Paris meeting and after Maugham's trip to India. I have heard rumors of such a meeting and it may be so, however, the events following Maugham visiting the Maharshi THEN meeting my Mentor again stateside still stand rather it unfolded in South Carolina, California, or both. In conversation it is brought up that they BOTH have met Ramana NOW, and, coupled with his experience with the Maharshi and what he knew about my Mentor's World War I experiences, Maugham instantly has the key he needed to make his "three time tried template" work. The missing key: my Mentor. Like Karma the exact same theme Maugham had been trying to make work since 1901 fit my Mentor like a glove and the result was Maugham's novel "The Razor's Edge."

Even though The Razor's Edge is a book and a movie and a great number of people simply take it for that, as the above main text and page two attests to, the story is based on real life and real life people. I met and knew the actual person the Larry Darrell character is based on. Maugham wrote down what he learned from the person he calls Larry Darrell and turned it into a book which was made into a movie.

There is a massive 1749 page two volume book set titled "Ashrams of India" that explores over 500 ashrams, temples, and other significant sites of eastern religious and spiritual interest located throughout the Indian sub-continent. The compilers have backed up their explorations with reems of classical, historical, and recent background information. In a section regarding westerners known to have historically visited the ashram of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi the following is presented:

"(S)ometime in the late 1920s a young traveller from America bumped into Swami Ramdas one night at the Meenakshi Temple in Madura, the two of them had previously met in the caves of Elephanta three years earlier. The young American would eventually gain fame, albeit anonymously, in W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel The Razor's Edge. Given the name Larry Darrell by Maugham in the book, that same American, in real life following the advice of Ramdas, went to see Ramana Maharshi. Through the grace and light of the Maharshi, the anonymous American awakened to the absolute."

Barbara Back was Maugham's closest female confidant during his most powerful years. She rose to be the head hostess and gatekeeper of his all important gatherings at his compound on the Riviera. Maugham always had the last word, but who came and went and who was there or not there were almost always funneled through her and by her decisions.

Although incidents that I write about on the Barbara Back page, previously cited and so linked below, happened during the same period of time I write about on this page regarding my mentor, the Barbara Back page itself is much newer in time. That is to say, the thoughts, but not the incidents, were conjured up in written form by me quite a few years after the mentor page was written. What that means for the reader is that what is written is done so in a sort of an already know about my mentor fashion. Although you are brought up to date on the Barbara Back pages, bringing some of those later written in the future thoughts relative to this page back to this page, kind of inserts a stronger confirmation on my mentor being the Larry Darrell character, but almost too advanced if one is not already familiar to the contents of the mentor or the Barbara Back pages. Re the following:

"If my mentor wasn't acquainted with Maugham at the level as I have indicated throughout my works, traveling with or in the same circles, bumping into Maugham's in-crowd group, and/or other such things, there isn't much of a chance Barbara Back would have reason to be corresponding with him by letter let alone knowing him enough in the first place to do so. So too, if she spent an inordinate of time or any at all corresponding or meeting with any of the other potential Larry Darrell candidates I'm not aware of it. While it is true I would have no reason to be privy to such information, when my mentor met with Maugham at Lake Tahoe right after World War II to discuss a possible sequel as reported by the dowager, none of the others to my knowledge were there or consulted. Considering a certain high level of existence for each of them in their own way it is unlikely any meeting would have gone unnoticed or not surfaced."

Barbara Back



Quotes, page references, and chapters so cited in the above main text are from a PDF scanned version of the special Vanguard Library Edition of "The Razor's Edge" just as it was when first published. The version has been scanned directly from the original pages and, by using the buttons along the bottom of the screen can be made to show one page on the screen, two pages, or even more. The pages can be expanded or increased in size and as well, by using the search function on the sidebar to the left, the book is fully searchable by typing in any word, name, or phrase.


The graphic below, 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 short 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 graphic below:


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The graphic below will take you to the complete Razor's Edge movie including how Darrell was led to the point where he met the holy man and what happened after. To watch is free with no sign ups and is expandable to full screen size. It is well worth watching:

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Regarding the page titled THE RAZOR'S EDGE: W. Somerset Maugham, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guy Hague, and Zen:

For your own edification, this page, appearing under the title THE MENTOR and written by me, the Wanderling, has been on the internet for many, many years under it's previous title THE RAZOR'S EDGE: W. Somerset Maugham, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guy Hague, and Zen. Except for updates now and then the two are the same with the same content and covering the same material, just with different titles. The reason for the title change is primarily because during searches for information regarding The Razor's Edge, for whatever reason the Google search engine blurb about the page was always changed to being called The Mentor. Since it was much shorter and still served the same purpose I just went with it.


It should be brought to the attention of the reader that the meeting of my mentor was not the first time I came to know of World War I pilots that in one way or the other became important to me. In an incredible set of coincidences two of my primary childhood heroes, taken from the pages of comic books and serials and albeit fiction, Captain Midnight and Buck Rogers are both written by their creator-authors as having been pilots in World War One and from there gone off to great and daring feats and grand adventures. Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs and Buck Rogers' U-235 Atomic Pistol, collected and saved from my childhood played significant roles in life long before ever meeting my mentor, and even after.

For example, a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph played an ever larger continuing role throughout my life, from childhood right on into adulthood, especially so after my brother inadvertently sent the one I owned as a kid to me while I was in the Army. See:



Me? Comic Books? Matisse paintings? William Somerset Maugham and novels like The Razor's Edge?



The following is found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, page two:

"In his novel Maugham pretty much focuses on 'Larry's' travels in Europe and India. However, in the spring of 1931 'Larry's' former fiancee' 'Isabel' mentions she knew the bank manager in Chicago that handled his account and he told her '...that every now and then he got a draft from some queer place. China, Burma, India.' My mentor told me he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines, even mentioning he had a son in the Philippines. Also, when I was at the house of the dowager I saw an intricately hand carved glass-covered wood coffee table he brought back from Japan that he gave her, that had been at one time, a lid to a trunk. It is my belief it was during his travels to Japan in his continuing search for the truth that the then twenty-three year-old met the thirty-eight year-old Yasutani Hakuun Roshi.

The page on Father Ensheim, the Benedictine monk Darrell met in Europe and who inturn, suggested Darrell go to India to find what he was seeking, goes into some depth as to Darrell's travels during the three year or so period he was in Asia before he showed up at the ashram of the Maharshi. There is a footnote on the bottom of the page titled The Missing Years of The Razor's Edge that explores even further how long Darrell actually went missing.

I never met Somerset Maugham in person nor did I ever talk or communicate with him regarding The Razor's Edge. However, over time I have met and known many people either peripheral to or central to the story and the story behind the story. In discussions regarding some of the issues, the spring of 1931 meeting between Maugham and Isabel and how it relates to Darrell has come up.

Like shuffling a deck of cards and out of the random shuffled cards getting the winning hand, so too if you shuffle what Maugham writes, what I write and what was brought up in the discussions, a plausible explanation, of which I am willing to embrace, emerges.

Again, Isabel was Templeton's neice. By the spring of 1931 she had been in Paris for sometime. During that 1931 spring Darrell showed up in Paris and had been in Paris about a month when he met up with Maugham, who had been in Paris the latter half of that time, or about two weeks. In the book Darrell inadvertently runs into Maugham at the Cafe Du' Dome and at the time of that meeting Darrell does not know Isabel is in Paris. How it really happened, according to my aforementioned discussions, is that in real life Darrell DID meet up with Isabel during the early part of that one month period he was in Paris, having done so prior to Maugham's arrival. Maugham writes Darrell as not knowing Isabel is in Paris, but actually he did as he went to see her almost immediately. Isabel was aghast at what she saw during their encounter, completely overiding any saintly persona Darrell may have projected following his Enlightenment. All she sees is her former fiancee' going from a dashing clean cut young man in a officers uniform with a chest full of shiny medals to some guy with unkempt, uncut hair, with a wind-burned dark face concealed by a thick brown beard. Instead of a dashing uniform, he shows up at her door in a frayed shirt, threadbare coat with holes in the elbows and shabby slacks. A few weeks later Maugham arrives in Paris and visits Templeton. There he meets Isabel who, in the course of conversation, tells Maugham about her fiancee' and how he had disintegrated from how she remembered him to becoming nothing but a bum after being in China, Burma, and India for ten years. Maugham, intrigued, has Isabel, Templeton, or both arrange a meeting, the same meeting that comes off at Cafe Du' Dome. So said, if thus done in such a manner, the meeting would not have happened as inadvertently as I have suggested or how it comes across in the book, but actually prearranged, possibly even done covertly by Maugham in collusion with Templeton and Isabel, leaving Darrell not knowing it was a set up.

As mentioned above, in The Razor's Edge Notes as well as found in the novel, it is stated that my mentor, that is, Larry Darrell, was wounded twice. The nature of those wounds are not discussed in Maugham's book, nor did my mentor ever mention any such wounds. Like I say I did come across him meditating in the living room of his house one afternoon and noticed that his left front chest shoulder area was covered by scar tissue as large as a man's hand that looked as though it had healed from a burn. When I inquired about the scar he simply replied, "Jousting with dragons." Later I figured out, in that he had been a pilot in World War I, he meant doing battle with the giant hydrogen filled German airships called Zeppelins.

When Britain declared war on Germany at the start of World War I, Maugham joined a Red Cross unit in France and served as an ambulance driver, becoming one of what later became to be known as the Literary Ambulance Drivers. In August of 1917 the U. S. Army absorbed the ambulance units. Up to that time the volunteers had been treated like officers. Under the army's umbrella they would be no more than privates, so a good portion of volunteers either left or transfered out, including Maugham.

I have speculated previously in the above main text that, in the process of one or the other or both wounds, my mentor could have possibly been picked up by Maugham PRIOR to Maugham's departure from the ambulance service. I write that Maugham might not have remembered him, but my mentor most likely would have "remembered" Maugham --- at least enough to recognize him on sight. Any army medic, or Maugham as an ambulance driver, could have, in the process of their duties, assisted hundreds if not thousands of wounded, and in turn, most of those wounded would eventually become not much more than just a blur. The opposite would happen to the person wounded, as found in the above:

"I say so because of my own experience being found in a ditch unconscious with my stomach ripped open. The very second I saw the staff sergeant that found me for the first time after recovering from the incident, even though I knew I didn't 'know' him, I 'recognized' him instantly."

When the gist of the above paragraph was discussed in conversation between my mentor and me one day, neither Maugham nor The Razor's Edge came up. However, without elaborating the extent of his wounds or how bad he was hurt he did mention a medical orderly in his recovery he remembered quite well, a man by the name of William Rothenstein. Rothenstein was an official war artist for the British Government War Propaganda Bureau. He was in the Somme in France covering a good part of the British Expeditionary Force's bloody eight-and-a-half month battle to make it over the 19 kilometers (12 miles) between the French town of Albert and it's objective Bapaume. He then moved to the British Fifth Army during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. It was during the Spring Offensive he was recruited as an unofficial medical orderly, and most likely when he and my mentor crossed paths.

In the main text I have also presented:

"Interestingly enough, my uncle --- who was highly prominent in my own life prior to meeting my mentor --- had also, at one time, met Alexander, the only known connection between my uncle and my mentor except for possibly the artist and onetime wartime medical orderly William Rothenstein and one Robert Adams, mentioned to me by both at one time or the other briefly in passing for reasons I am unable to recall at the moment."

Although my Uncle and I first met when I was a toddler, I really don't recall a whole lot about him until he came to help my grandmother oversee me after my mother died. Even then it was mostly after my father remarried several years later and my Stepmother asked him, because I was showing a fairly high level of artistic ability at the time for a young boy, to come oversee me that I remember him the most. So, him being in my life started off sort of intermittently at first, turning into more full time when I was around eight years old or so and continuing on and off up through the end of the summer just before the start of my freshman year of high school. It was two years later, the summer between my sophmore year and junior year of high school that I met my mentor. The male adult figure that fulfilled a father role for me the most during the years between my uncle and my mentor was the person I call My Merchant Marine Friend. It was through his auspices that I met Guy Hague.

In 1927, nine years after the war and many years before I was born, William Rothenstein, the medical orderly my mentor recalled, showed up in the United States for a short period teaching art history for a semester or two at the University of Pittsburgh. A few years before that time my uncle had met the artist John Sloan and had started following him back and forth to Santa Fe, New Mexico before finally deciding to stay permanently. My uncle had attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh studying art on the studio side of things and somewhere along the line he heard about Rothenstein, an accomplished portrait artist teaching art history at the University of Pittsburgh --- two areas my uncle felt he was weak in. Liking the idea of a studio artist teaching art history my uncle began sitting in or auditing Rothenstein's classes whenever the chance arose. During that period he heard about Rothenstein's friendship with Rabindranath Tagore and that he knew Albert Einstein.

Unlike my mentor, my uncle never served in uniform. However, like my mentor, even though he was a non-combatant he was shot nonetheless. In the early years of World War II he inadvertently stumbled upon some alarming fifth column activities and was shot by clandestine foreign operatives and left to die because of it. In 1970 he related to me how those events unfolded:

In 1943 he was a civilian and like I say, a non-combatant, actually falling more into a role of a conscientious objector type than anything else. He had long been established as an artist in the Santa Fe, Taos area, but he was as well what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989 he had, as a biosearcher, more than a half dozen plant species named after him following years of trekking, searching, and discovering previously unknown and unnamed plants all over mostly remote and hidden areas and sections of the desert southwest. In 1943 he was biosearching alone in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east.

In the process of his biosearching he came across two men, and unusually so, both Asian. One of men was flat on his back all but unconscious and visibly quite ill after apparently having been bitten by a rattlesnake with the bite being left untreated. My uncle, after using the healing properties of indigenous plants he gathered up, soon found the man up and around. One of the men who had a rudimentary use of English told my uncle they were Japanese, were testing soil samples for radioactivity, and had been left off in Mexico by a submarine. By then my uncle was wanting to beat a hasty retreat but before he could one of the men shot him. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed out he survived. In 1985 a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book Wilcox writes about the two Japanese men my uncle encountered and the U-boat they arrived in, of which I turn around and write about as found in the sourced link below the quote so cited:

"Wilcox's book that, for the first time brought to the public's attention Japanese agents having been in the desert southwest during World War II specifically tasked with testing soil samples for radiation, was published in 1985. It was in 1970, fifteen years before Wilcox's book was published that my uncle told me about his 1943 encounter with Japanese spies soil testing deep into state of New Mexico and the fact that according to their own testimony, they had initially been brought to Mexico via German U-boat from Europe. "



There is a cavate to all of this Brunton stuff --- that is, all the discussion about when this happened or that happened relative to Brunton's book being published in 1934 and/or Maugham knowing about it or not.

In 1911 an Englishman by the name of Frank H. Humphreys visited Ramana while he was still living in the caves on the holy hill, Arunachala. In so doing, Humphreys became the Maharshi's first western disciple.

When Humphreys returned to his native England he came into contact with the editor or the International Psychic Gazette, Felicia Scatcherd, telling her of his experiences with Ramana. Inturn, in three issues of the Gazette, May, June, and July 1913, she printed Humphreys impressions describing Ramana and his instructions. In 1925 the articles from the three issues were compiled into a limited run, limited release booklet. In 1931 the articles found their way into two chapters of Ramana's early biography by B.V. Narasimha Swami, SELF REALIZATION: The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Eventually they were put into a stand alone book titled Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi listing Humphreys as the sole author.

Now, none of the above is meant to add strength to the fact that Maugham may have learned about the Maharshi BEFORE he met my mentor --- however, as you can see, EVEN prior to Brunton's book, there were inklings of Ramana's existence lurking in and around the English speaking world, most notedly so England where Maugham and Brunton operated out of. So, who influenced who and when could be up for debate especially IF one takes the view that Maugham's main character Larry Darrell wasn't in the picture at all. See:


Early on in the 1960s Maugham decided to sell his rather extensive art collection. In conjunction with that thought he put together a book of his collection containing background stories or snippets surrounding each if not all of the paintings titled Purely For My Pleasure, published in 1962. In his book, when Maugham discusses the painting he received for his work on the screenplay for his novel The Razor's Edge in lieu of being paid, Maugham tells how he received a telegram from Darryl Zanuck, the Vice-President in charge of production at Twentieth Century Fox, telling him that the script they had was not satisfactory and asked Maugham to go to Hollywood to work on it, telling him he could name his own price. Maugham wired back that he would be happy to come to Hollywood, but did not want to be paid for any work he might do, he just wanted to ensure that the best possible movie that could be made on his book would be. In Purely For My Pleasure Maugham sums up the results of his not wanting to be paid:

"When Darryl Zanuck had got over his astonishment he suggested that George Cukor should bring me to see him. On the following day I was ushered into the presence and Darryl Zanuck told me that in return for the work I had done (none of which, incidentally, was ever made use of) he would be glad if I would buy myself a picture at the expense of Twentieth Century Fox. I told him that I would like it very much. 'You can't buy a picture for nothing,' I added. 'What would Twentieth Century Fox be prepared to pay?' 'Anything up to fifteen thousand dollars,' Darryl Zanuck replied. I had never bought a picture at such a price before and I was thrilled. I thanked the Vice-President effusively and a day or two later set out for New York.

"I hesitated to go round the picture dealers by myself. I did not think they would trouble to show their best pictures to a rather shabby old party who did not look at all like a purchaser; so I asked a friend of mine, a director of the Museum for Modern Art, to come with me and advise me. We spent several delightful mornings looking at one picture after another. There was one picture that particularly attracted me. It was a scene of the harbour at Rouen by Pissarro. It may not have been such a fine picture as others I saw, but it pleased me. After all, Flaubert was born at Rouen and, when he was writing Madame Bovary he must often have paused to look at the lively view. It existed no longer, for Rouen had been badly bombed during the war. Finally, however, on the advice of my friend, whose judgment was sounder than mine, I bought a snow scene by Matisse. But I could not get the Pissarro out of my mind; I thought I should always regret it if I did not have it, so I exchanged the Matisse for it."



In the main text above, immediately under the photo of the Cafe du' Dome the following caption is found: Cafe du' Dome, Paris. The man just to the left of the waiter is thought to be Maugham.

In the two side-by-side photographs above, the one on the right shows a facial close up of Maugham in a similar or like fedora, i.e., light in color with a dark or black broad hat band, the same as seen worn by the man designated as being Maugham in the du' Dome photo. In that photo, the du' Dome one, on the upper right hand side there is seen a poster mounted on a pole or lamp post of some kind. That poster, shown much more clearly and up-close below, is of an exhibition called 17e Salon des Artistes D'corateurs held at the Grand Palace May through July 1927.

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In 1927 Maugham settled in the south of France and, except for intermittent and numerous travels abroad such as the U.S. as well as a forced resettlement during the Nazi occupation in World War II, lived in France until his death in 1965. It was not unusual for Maugham to be in Paris on and off for a variety of reasons, especially so during his early "move in" period in 1927, with the Cafe du Dome being one of his favorite hangouts. The history behind the poster clearly shows and aligns time-wise with the same period.

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The Brasserie Graff came up inadvertently between Maugham and Darrell after meeting during the intermission of a play both just happened to be attending. Maugham suggests drinks afterwards, Darrell suggested breakfast. Hence, within walking distance along the Avenue de Clichy, they go to the Brasserie Graff. The timing was not long after midnight and although the room was crowded with other after play people and the like, they were still able to find a table and order bacon and eggs. Talking way into the early morning hours, Maugham, in so many words and possibly playing devil's advocate, implies that Darrell's spiritual quest if fulfilled at the level he seeks, becomes impracticable because sitting all day and all night long in a cave day-after-day, month-after-month doesn't seem to provide much to anybody or anything else. Semi-paralleling the yet to be discovered Butterfly Effect Darrell, using his intuition as much as anything, responds with:

"Nothing that happens is without effect. If you throw a stone in a pond the universe isn't quite the same as it was before. . . It may be that if I lead the life I've planned for myself it may affect others; the effect may be no greater than a ripple caused by a stone thrown in a pond, but one ripple causes another, and that one a third; it's just possible that a few people will see that my way of life offers happiness and peace, and the they in turn will teach what they have learnt to others."


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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 to 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 1928, 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.



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