What is a summary of "The Luncheon" by W. Somerset Maugham? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A most delightfully humorous narrative, "The Luncheon" is a slice of life story about Maugham's luncheon date proposed to him by a woman whom he hopes is a supporter of his art. Having only communicated with her through the mail, the author is rather surprised to meet a woman of forty who gives him "the impression of having more teeth, white and large and even, than were necessary for any practical purpose."

Since the author has only eighty francs to last him the rest of the month, he is anxious about eating at the restaurant where French senators dine that she suggests. However, his lady friend reassures him, "I never eat anything for luncheon," adding that she never eats more than one thing. What she should have said is that she never eats more than one thing at a time because she orders several things, but each one individually, and sometimes they are not even à la carte: salmon, caviar, champagne, giant asparagus that has just arrived, a peach from Italy, and coffee and ice-cream. All the time that she is consuming such rich foods and drink, she scolds Maugham for eating red meat, as he has ordered mutton:

"You see, you've filled your stomach with a lot of meat"—my one miserable little chop—"and you can't eat any more. But I've just had a snack and I shall enjoy a peach."

When the bill for the "light lunch" comes, Maugham has only three francs left to leave a meager tip for the "false-faced" waiter. Now, Maugham has the rest of the month ahead of him and he is penurious. The supporter offers him nothing; instead she jumps into a cab and calls happily to him.

At the end, the author explains that he is not a vindictive man, but "when the immortal gods take a hand in the matter, it is pardonable to observe the result with complacency," he remarks. Now this woman, who only eats light lunches and only one thing at a time, "weighs twenty-one stones" (nearly 295 pounds).