The stories published here were largely written in the three decades following the First World War. Although Maugham had written short stories early in his career, preoccupation with his other writing led to a long interval before he next took up the form, on a voyage in the South Seas in 1919, originally as a relief from other work.
Each of these stories can stand on its own. Maugham himself wrote that such a compactness of technique, character and incident may seem disconcerting in a world where at least one loose end is normally left behind; but the compactness is part of the method used by such short story writers as Maugham. As he put it in his own distinctive way, such a writer ‘seeks to prove nothing. He paints a picture and sets it before you. You can take it or leave it.’ Most take it.
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