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W. Somerset Maugham

“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for the people who despise money. They are hypocrites or fools. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without an adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off. The only thing to be careful about is that you do not pay more than a shilling for the shilling you earn.

You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh. They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer. It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent. I pity with all my heart the artist, whether he writes or paints, who is entirely dependent for subsistence upon his art.”


From chapter 51 of W. Somerset Maugham’s magnum opus Of Human Bondage.

More for Maugham fans:

  • Also from OHB, here Maugham reflects on what he calls “patterns” of human life (I also digress on the emotive consolations of literature)
  • Contemporary novelist Julian Barnes ruminates on Maugham’s stark aphorism “Beauty is a bore”
  • In a debate with his brother Christopher, Peter Hitchens cites OHB to affirm a larger claim about why theism must underpin morality

W. Somerset Maugham

Above: Maugham in his study, 1950.