Maugham, W. (William) Somerset

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Jul-13-1996
  • Last revised: Nov-22-2009


This is a series of vignettes involving a small cluster of patients in an early twentieth century tuberculosis sanatorium located in Scotland. The stories are narrated by one of the patients who makes observations and predictions about his peers in the institution. The lives Maugham chooses to have narrated are those of two men, long-term residents, whose daily entertainment is to irritate one another. There is a mixture of humor and pathos in the dialogue between these two. The second story within a story is that of the developing love between a dying man and a moderately ill woman--and the decision they ultimately make about the importance of their relationship in the face of the man’s impending death.


This short piece could be a synopsis of Mann’s The Magic Mountain (annotated in this database by Felice Aull and also by Pamela Moore) in its presentation of the importance of time in thinking about pre-antimicrobial management of tuberculosis. The character sketches are believable and the vignettes illustrative, although relatively simplistic and predictable. The snapshots of physician/patient interactions create an image that reflects the powerlessness of the profession in dealing with this disease prior to the availability of specific interventions.


First published:1923

Primary Source

The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham: II. The World Over



Place Published

Garden City, N.Y