The Verger By W. Somerset Maugham- Summary and Questions Answers

Summary of The Verger

Maugham’s short story “The Verger” is a tale about a simple man Albert Edward Foreman. He has been a verger in St. Peter’s Neville Square Church, doing his duties with great enjoyment and dedication. The new vicar dismisses the verger for being illiterate. While he is roaming around the London street in a distressed mood he tries to buy a cigarette. As there is no tobacco shop nearby, an idea strikes him. He sets up a tobacco shop with the meagre amount he has got in his savings. He develops his business with full dedication which leads to success. Within ten years he opens ten new tobacco shops in London city. He saves 30000 pounds in bank savings account.

When the manager advises Foreman to invest the amount in safe securities he reveals that he does not know how to read and write. When the manager asks in surprise if he were a literate what would be his position. He humbly answers that he would be a verger in St. Peter’s Neville Square church.

Elaboration of points

Maugham’s short story “The Verger” is a tale about a simple man Albert Edward Foreman. He has been a verger in St. Peter’s Neville Square Church, doing his duties with great enjoyment and dedication. His routine work is disturbed with the arrival of new vicar in the church. He wants everything to be perfect and when he comes to know that Foreman is an illiterate he immediately takes action. The vicar feels that things like ability to read and write reflect the good character of St. Peter’s.

Foreman’s impeccable record doesn’t help him to retain his job. The vicar is ready to offer Foreman three month grace period to become a literate. But he refuses the proposal saying that he cannot learn to read and write at this age.

The vicar announces that the parish has decided to quit him from the service because Foreman is not literate. For Foreman, this decision of the priest is a great blow he has never anticipated. After his appointment sixteen years ago as a verger he had thought that the appointment was for life. But suddenly he becomes unemployed after a long service of sixteen years.He doesn’t want to demean himself by accepting any domestic services other than the divine church service.

When Foreman leaves the church he is very much upset and deeply distressed. He, instead of heading towards his home, takes a wrong turning. He walks along the long road deeply thinking about his next move. He has got a meagre amount of money but not enough to meet all his family requirements without doing anything.He is a non-smoker but when he feels distressed and tired, he enjoys a cigarette. He feels like having a cigarette which would comfort him. He cannot find a cigarette shop in the long street. It sounds strange to him. He thinks that a tobacco shop in such a place would be profitable. His plan comes to execution the very next day. He rents a suitable shop and starts his tobacco business. It goes well. He makes profit and within ten years he opens ten branches throughout London. He becomes a great businessman and bank balance rises up to thirty thousand pounds.

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One-day the manager of the bank advises him to invest his amount in some safe securities. Albert says that he does not want to take risk and want his money safe in the bank. Moreover he does not know how and in which securities he can invest. The manager replies that he is there to look after his investment and the only thing he has to do is put his signature. After setting up the business, Albert has learnt to sign. He asks the manager how he could know where he is investing. The manager says that he can read the document and then put his signature on that. Albert confesses that he is an illiterate.

The manager is astonished at his confession. Without knowing how to read or write Albert has amassed a huge sum. What he could have done if he were a literate and educated. But Albert humbly answers him that if he knows to read and write he would bea verger at St. Peter’s Neville Square and nothing more.

Questions and Answers

1. How long had Albert Edward Foreman been verger at St Peter’s when he was asked to step down?
Ans:- Albert Edward Foreman had been a verger at St Peter’s, Neville Square for a great many years. He had been there for sixteen years when he was asked to step down.

2. Why was the verger asked to step down? Do you think this was a fair decision? Give reasons for your answer.

Ans:- The Verger asked to step down because he was illiterate. He could neither read nor write. It was an unfair decision. His sixteen years of services speaks volumes for it. He had served the church sixteen years to the situations of everybody without knowing reading or writing. According to last Vicar, knowing or not knowing these things did not make any difference as far as Verger was concerned.

3. What was Foreman’s reply when the vicar asked him to learn to read and write?

Ans:-When the vicar asked Foreman to learn to read and write, he replied with an apology that it was of no good in learning, reading and writing. He was too old a dog to learn new tricks. He had lived a good many years without knowing to praise himself. He added by saying that self-praise was no recommendation. He further said that he would not mind saying that he had done his duty satisfactorily enough to please the merciful providence and so did not want to learn reading and writing then.

4. Why had Foreman never learnt to read or write? How had he managed in life?
Ans:- Foreman had never learnt to read or write because he thought that he had no knack for it. Since he was busy with one thing and another, he never seemed to have the time. He had never really found the want of it. Also, he thought that learning these things are wasting of time, something useful might be done instead. He man-aged in life with the help of his wife and pictures in the papers. Since his wife was quite a scholar, she wrote his letters and for news, he made out from the pictures in the papers.

5. What did the verger do when he left the church after his meeting with the vicar?
Ans:- When he left the church after his meeting with the vicar, he strolled across the square. Having lost in sad thoughts, he took the wrong turning and walked along slowly. He wanted to smoke but found no shop selling cigarettes. An idea struck him. The next day he found a shop to let in that street and that he took and set up in business as tobacconist and newsagent.

6. What had Foreman done before he became a verger? Why did he not want to go back to that employment?
Ans:-Foreman had been in service in very good houses. Starting as a page-boy in the household of a merchant-price, he had risen by done degrees from the position of fourth to the first footman, for a year he had been single-handed butler to a widowed peeress and, till the vacancy occurred butler with two men at St Peter’s, with two men under him in the house of a retired ambassador. He did not want to go back to domestic service because he had been his own master for so many years in the church. Going back to domestic service was like demeaning himself by accepting a situation.

7. What happened in the course of ten years?
Ans:-In twenty-four hours since his leaving from the St. Peter’s, Neville Square, Albert Edward Foreman set up in business as a tobacconist and newsagent. He moved around looking for streets that hadn’t got tobacconist in them. We have found them he took shops to let to run his business. Thus in the course of ten years, he had acquired no less than ten shops and he was making money hand over first.

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B. Think and answer in 100-150 words.

1. Albert Foreman became rich and successful despite not knowing how to read and write. Does this disprove the importance of reading and writing? Explain with reasons.
Ans:- The story ‘the verger’ ends with a staggering twist. Mr Foreman despite of being illiterate could build up and important business I and amass a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. He said if he knew reading and writing, he would still be a poor verger in a church. When we count Foreman’s success strong we really feel like negating education. But if we analyze how he succeeded, we can very well see that it is situations and circumstances which bring success. Foreman’s ouster saddened him. While walking depressed, he takes the wrong road. That is the turning point. Had he taken his usual road, his condition would change from bad to worse. In the wrong road he takes, he finds the street having no shops selling tobacco. It strikes his mind with, the idea of opening shops selling tobacco and his succeeds in life because they are learned. The other one is just a coincidence. Most people below poverty live in the world are unlearned ones.

2. Write a note on the character and appearance of Albert Foreman.
Ans:-Albert Foreman is a man of self-respect. He has confidence in his capabilities. He is not obsequious. He is honest, truthful and polite but does not allow others to take him for a ride. He is hardworking and true to his job. In any field he worked, that is, from domestic service to church service he did not work appreciatively. He is more practical-minded.

He doesn’t undertake missions which he finds either useless or he cannot do it. His ingenuousness and ingenuity work for his success. He knew how to grab opportunities. He was tall, spare, grave and dignified. He looked, if not like a duke, at least like an actor of the old school who specialized in duke’s parts. He had tack, firmness and self-assurance. His character was unimpeachable.

C. The verger spoke English in the manner of domestics and poorer people of London, that is, with a Cockney accent. Thus he dropped all his ‘Hs. Rewrite these sentences in proper English.

(Cockney accent)

1. ‘Don’t ‘e know I want my tea?’
Ans:-‘Don’t you know I want my tea?’

2. ‘All this ‘ustle. But give ‘im time, he’ll learn.’
Ans:- ‘All this bustle. But give him time, he will learn.’

3. shall be ‘appy to ‘and in my resignation.’
Ans:-‘I shall be happy hand in my resignation.’

4. ‘It didn’t make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for ‘is taste.’
Ans:- ‘It didn’t make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for his taste.’

5. ‘I didn’t seem to ‘ave the knack for it.’

Ans:- ‘I didn’t seem to have the knack for it.’

6. ‘I’d ‘ave to leave it all in your ‘ands.’ Ans:- ‘I have to leave it in your hands.’

7. ‘But ‘ow should I know what I was signing’?
Ans:-‘But how should I know what I was signing?’

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