Short summary - Theatre - William Somerset Maugham

British literature summaries -

Short summary - Theatre
William Somerset Maugham

Julia Lambert is the best actress in England. She is forty-six years old; she is beautiful, rich, famous; She is busy with her favorite thing in the most favorable conditions for this, that is, she plays in her own theater; her marriage is considered ideal; she has an adult son ...

Thomas Fennel is a young accountant hired by her husband to clean up the theater’s account books. In gratitude that Tom taught him to reduce income tax without breaking the law, Michael, Julia's husband, introduces him to his famous wife. The poor accountant is incredibly embarrassed, blushes, turns pale, and Julia is pleased - because she lives with the delight of the public; to finally make the young man happy, she gives him her picture. Going through old pictures, Julia recalls her life ...

She was born on the island of Jersey in the family of a veterinarian. Aunt, a former actress, gave her the first acting lessons. At sixteen, she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but the director of Middlepool Jimmy Langton made her a real actress.

Playing in the troupe of Jimmy, she met Michael. He was divinely beautiful. Julia fell in love with him at first sight, but could not achieve reciprocal love - perhaps because Michael was completely devoid of temperament both on stage and in life; but he admired her game. Michael was the son of a colonel, graduated from Cambridge, and his family did not greatly approve of his chosen theatrical career. Julia sensitively grasped all this and managed to create and play the role of a girl who could please his parents. She reached the goal - Michael made her an offer. But even after the betrothal, nothing has changed in their relationship; it seemed that Michael was not in love with her at all. When Michael was offered a lucrative contract in America, Julia was beside herself - how could he leave, leaving her? However, Michael left. He returned with money and without illusions about his acting abilities.

The first year of their life together would have been very stormy, if not for Michael’s even character. Unable to turn his practical mind to love, Julia was madly jealous, arranged scenes ...

When the First World War began, Michael went to the front. The military uniform was very suitable for him. Julia was eager for him, but he did not allow it - you must not allow the public to forget themselves. She continued to play and was recognized as the best actress of the younger generation. Her fame became so strong that you could afford to leave the stage for several months and give birth to a child.

Shortly before the end of the war, she suddenly fell out of love with Michael and, together with longing, felt a triumph, as if avenging him for her past torments - now she is free, now they will be on equal footing!

After the war, having received a small inheritance from Michael's parents, they opened their own theater - with the financial support of the "rich old woman" Dolly de Vries, who had been in love with Julia since Jimmy Langton. Michael began to engage in administrative activities and directing, and he does it much better than playing on stage. Remembering the past, Julia is sad: life has deceived her, her love has died. But she left her art - every night she goes on stage, from the world of pretense to the world of reality.

In the evening, in the theater, they bring her flowers from Thomas Fennel. Having automatically written a thank-you note, for «it is impossible to offend the public,» she immediately forgets about it. But the next morning, Thomas Fennel calls her (he turns out to be the same blushing accountant, whose name Julia does not remember) and invites to tea. Julia agrees to make the poor clerk happy with her visit.

His poor apartment reminded Julia of the time when she was a budding actress, the time of her youth ... Suddenly, a young man begins to kiss her passionately, and Julia, surprised at herself, gives way.

Inwardly laughing at what she had done utterly stupid, Julia nonetheless feels twenty years younger.

And suddenly, with horror, she realizes that she is in love.

Without revealing her feelings to Tom, she tries by all means to tie him to herself. Tom is a snob - and she introduces him into high society. Tom is poor - she showers him with expensive gifts and pays his debts.

Julia forgets about age - but alas! On vacation, Tom so clearly and naturally prefers her company to the company of her son Roger, his peer ... Her sophistication is sophisticated: knowing how to prick his pride more painfully, she reminds me of the need to leave a tip to the servant and puts the money in an envelope.

The next day he returns all her gifts - she managed to offend him. But she did not calculate the force of the blow - the thought of a final break with Tom terrifies her. She spends the scene of explanation brilliantly - Tom stays with her.

She moved Tom closer to her and furnished his apartment - he did not resist; they appear three times a week in restaurants and nightclubs; it seems to her that she completely subdued Tom herself, and she is happy. It does not occur to her that bad rumors can go about her.

Julia learns about this from Michael, whom Dolly de Vries, overwhelmed by jealousy, opened her eyes. Julia, referring to the original source, tries to find out from Dolly who is judging her and how, and during the conversation she learns that Tom promised a certain Evis Crichton role in their theater, because Julia, according to him, dances to his tune. Julia barely manages to restrain her emotions. So Tom does not love her. Even worse, he considers a rich old woman, from whom you can twist the rope. And the most heinous - he preferred a third-rate actress to her!

Indeed, soon Tom invites Julia to see the young actress Evis Crichton, who, in his opinion, is very talented and could play in the Siddons Theater. It is painful for Julia to see how much Tom is in love with Evis. She promises Tom to give Evis a role - it will be her revenge; You can compete with her anywhere, but not on stage ...

But, realizing that Tom and this novel are unworthy of her and offensive, Julia still can not get rid of love for him. To get rid of this obsession, she leaves London for her mother, to stay and relax, habitually thinking that she will make the old woman happy and decorate her hopelessly boring life. To her surprise, the old woman does not feel happy - she is completely uninterested in the glory of her daughter and really likes the hopelessly boring life.

Returning to London, Julia wants to make happy her longtime admirer, Lord Charles Tamerly, a relationship with whom she was credited so long ago that she became quite respectable for the world. But Charles does not want her body (or cannot use it).

Her belief in herself was shaken. Has she lost her appeal? Julia goes so far as to walk in the «dangerous» quarter, wearing makeup more than usual, but the only man who paid attention to her asks for an autograph.

Son Roger also makes Julia think. He says that he does not know what his mother really is, for she plays always and everywhere, she is her countless roles; and sometimes he is afraid to look into the empty room where she just entered - and suddenly there is nobody there ... Julia does not quite understand what he means, but she becomes scared: it seems that Roger is close to the truth.

On the day of the premiere of the play, in which Avis Crichton got the role, Julia accidentally encounters Tom and enjoys the fact that Tom no longer causes her any feelings. But Evis will be destroyed.


And now comes the finest hour of Julia. Having played at rehearsals half-heartedly, at the premiere, she unfolds at the full power of her talent and skill, and the only large stage play Evis turns into the triumphal performance of the great Julia Lambert. She was called ten times; at the service exit a crowd of three hundred people rages; Dolly hosts a magnificent reception in her honor; Tom, forgetting Evis, is again at her feet; Michael sincerely admires - Julia is pleased with herself. «I will never have that moment in my life. I don’t intend to share it with anyone, »she says, and slipping away from everyone, she goes to a restaurant and orders a beer, a steak with onions and fried potatoes, which she has not eaten for ten years. What is love compared to a steak? How wonderful that her heart belongs to her alone! Unrecognized from under the fields of a hat hiding her face, Julia looks at the restaurant visitors and thinks that Roger is wrong, because the actors and their roles are symbols of the erratic, aimless struggle that is called life, but only the symbol is real. Her "pretense" is the only reality ...

She is happy. She found herself and gained freedom.