[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]
The price of the closet
In 1966, Noel Coward wrote a play about Somerset Maugham, called "Just a
Song at Twilight." I saw Coward play Hugo (the Maugham character) in the
West End production soon after it opened in April. In the play Maugham's
first wife (Carlotta in the play) shows up years after their divorce to
ask for permission to publish some of his love letters to her. When he
refuses, she mentions some other letters which she has, revealing to him
that she has known the secret he has long dreaded discovery. To
complicate the matter, even Maugham's current wife reveals that she has
long known too.
HUGO: It is hardly for you to decide whether the course of my life has
been wrong or right.
CARLOTTA: You might have been a great writer instead of merely a
successful one, and you might also have been a far happier man.
HUGO: And what bearing has all of his on that dreadful wound I inflicted
on your feminine vanity in the nineteen-twenties?
CARLOTTA: Because you have consistently, through all your glittering
years, behaved with the same callous cruelty to everyone who has been
foolish enough to put their trust in your heart.
HUGO (near violence again): In what way was I so callous and cruel to
CARLOTTA: You used me. You used me and betrayed me as you've always used
and betrayed every human being who has ever shown you the slightest sign
of true affection.
HUGO: In what way did I use you any more than you used me?
CARLOTTA: You waved me like a flag to prove a fallacy.
HUGO: What fallacy?
CARLOTTA: That you were normal, that your morals were orderly, that you
were, in fact, a "regular guy."
HUGO: Was that so unpardonable? I was young, ambitious and already
almost a public figure. Was it so base of me to try to show to the world
that I was capable of playing the game according to the rules?
CARLOTTA: It wasn't your deception of the world that I found so
unpardonable: it was your betrayal of me and all the love and respect and
admiration I felt for you. If you had had the courage to trust me, to let
me share your uneasy secret, not in the first year perhaps, but later on,
when things were becoming strained and difficult between us, if then you
had told me the truth, I would very possibly have been your loyal and
devoted friend until this very minute. As it was you let me gradually,
bit by bit, discover what my instincts had already half guessed. You
elbowed me out of your life vulgarly and without grace, Hugo, and I can
even now remember the relief in your voice when you said good-bye and
packed me off to America.
Thanks, dear V.K., for finding the playscript for me!
Louie Crew, Box 30, Nwk, NJ 07101 973-485-4503.
http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/lbg_edir.html "The best way to find out
about new research on issues of sexuality"--Chronicle of Higher Education
There are 193 days until the end of the 1900s.