W. Somerset Maugham: Aga Khan III “has been a kind and helpful friend”

W. Somerset Maugham, British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era. (Image: Wikipedia)
W. Somerset Maugham (d. 1965), British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era. (Image: Wikipedia)

“I have known the Aga Khan for many years. He has been a kind and helpful friend. The introductions he gave me when I spent the winter in India enabled me to profit by the rich experience of my sojourn in that wonderful country as otherwise I could never have done….

The Aga Khan has led a full life. He has been a great traveller and there are few parts of the world that he has not visited either for pleasure or because his political and religious interests made it necessary. He has been a great theatregoer; he has loved the opera and the ballet. He is an assiduous reader. He has been occupied in affairs in which the fate of the nations was involved….

His advice was constantly sought, and it was generally sound. He believed in moderation: “Of one fact,” he writes, “my years in public life have  convinced me; that the value of  a compromise is that it can supply a bridge across a difficult period, and later having employed that bridge it is often possible to bring into effect the full-scale measures of reform which, originally, would have been rejected out of hand.”

The Aga Khan, raised to such eminence at so early an age, was fortunate in that his mother was a highly cultivated woman. She was deeply versed in Persian and Arabic poetry, as were several of her ladies in waiting, and at meal times at her table “our conversation was of literature, of poetry….” The Begum was a mystic and habitually spent long hours in prayer for spiritual enlightenment and union with God….

The Aga Khan is a deeply religious man….The Aga Khan says….that we are all composed of diverse and conflicting elements: of few men could this be more truly said than of himself. But he is fortunate in that the elements in him only superficially conflict; they are resolved by the strength and consistency of his character.”
W. Momerset Maugham
Extracts from Forward to The Memoirs of Aga Khan, Cassell and Company Ltd, London, 1954

 

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