Somerset Maugham wrote a famous short story once called The Lotus Eater (here‘s an ad-free and almost typo-less version that you can read for nothing), about a 35-year old banker from London who chucked it all one day to go live on Capri on an annuity that would expire in 25 years, at which time he planned to move on to a higher plane of existence by dint of his own hand — having in the long interregnum lived his life exactly as he chose to live it.
As is almost always the case with Maugham, the prose is slightly wooden in places — the infelicitously clumsy, and rather Edwardian usage of repine, for instance, in the opening sentence — lacking the ease and fluidity that is an immediate characteristic of top shelf authors.
But it’s a cracking good yarn, despite taking place a century ago, especially if you know its backstory, and what happened in real life to Wilson, who he really was, and what was his true relationship to Maugham, and, most deliciously from my POV, the true story of his mercenary marriage to a former American starving artiste, who suddenly became an heiress, and for some unfathomable reason — perhaps it was kindred pity? — married him, only to leave him in Capri after a year, and lead a life that was more on the “Venetian” side of things, as Sapphism was then referred to, but not without alimony for the rest of his days, which he spent there until 1929 — thus sparing him the rather “rotten” turn (to use Maugham’s phrase) of Wilson’s fictional fate.
(You can Google it all, if you’re interested; it is fascinating if you are into decadence, which, it goes without saying I am, but only at a safe once remove of course, and have been since I was 20, when I read À rebours before going to France to study for a year — near, coincidentally, where Maugham’s notorious Villa la Mauresque is located.)
I was 49 when I came down to FLA in 2001, right after 9-11. I had worked most of my life on Wall Street, and once had a job on the 77th floor in Tower 2. Things then where much the same as they are today: America was under attack; the only difference is that now the danger is from within, whereas then it was the unknown Other who was breaching the ramparts of our once impregnable republic.
Some people have asked me, why on earth did you stay in a backwater like Florida all this time? Well, below is one passably credible answer: a secret little slice of Paradise that I used to go to with my dog, who died a year ago. It is the only place in the area that has sugary white sand, and it reminds me of Tahiti for some reason. There is wild boar, bobcat, and birds galore here, for it is in the middle of a huge wildlife preserve; and the water is clear and fine for swimming even in January.
After being away for over a year and a half, it’s nice to see my “secret” hiding place still here: and I must start bringing my SUP board, and work on losing that weight if I am to make any serious headway on that 25 lbs I gained since coming back from El Gouna.
The photos below are unretouched and were taken on an old fashioned Samsung Galaxy 5 camera. I didn’t Gimp them in any way, and I kept them heavy, so they will load slow, but you will be able to look at them in near full resolution (given that WP processes pics to make them load faster, especially on mobile devices.)
Maugham later said in his autobio that the character Wilson was based on was the sort of person who spent 20 years thinking about how he was going to write his first book, and the next 20 lamenting how impossible it was now to write it. May that fate not ultimately befall me; but should it, I will, like the Lotus Eater in the story, at least have had a slice of Paradise in my life after a long slog through a certain type of madness.
Enjoy the pics.