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William Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris on 25th January, 1874. William's father, Robert Ormond Maugham, a wealthy solicitor, worked for the Embassy in France. By the time he was ten, both William's parents were dead and he was sent to live with his uncle, the Rev. Henry Maugham, in Whitstable, Kent.


After an education at King's School, Canterbury, and Heildelberg University in Germany, Maugham became a medical student at St. Thomas Hospital, London. While training to be a doctor Maugham worked as an obstetric clerk in the slums of Lambeth. He used these experiences to help him write his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897).

The book sold well and he decided to abandon medicine and become a full-time writer. Maugham achieved fame with his play Lady Frederick (1907), a comedy about money and marriage. By 1908 Maugham had four plays running simultaneously in London.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Maugham, now aged forty, joined a Red Cross ambulance unit in France. While serving on the Western Front he met the 22 year old American, Gerald Haxton. The two men became lovers and lived together for the next thirty years. During the war Maugham was invited by Sir John Wallinger, head of Britain's Military Intelligence (MI6) in France, to act as a secret service agent. Maugham agreed and over the next few years acted as a link between MI6 in London and its agents working in Europe.

Maugham had sexual relationships with both men and women and in 1915, Syrie Wellcome, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Barnardo, gave birth to his child. Her husband, Henry Wellcome, cited Maugham as co-respondent in divorce proceedings. After the divorce in 1916, Maugham married Syrie but continued to live with Gerald Haxton.

During the war, Maugham's best-known novel, Of Human Bondage (1915) was published. This was followed by another successful book, The Moon and Sixpence (1919). Maugham also developed a reputation as a fine short-story writer, one story, Rain, which appeared in The Trembling of a Leaf (1921), was also turned into a successful feature film. Popular plays written by Maugham include The Circle (1921), East of Suez (1922), The Constant Wife (1926) and the anti-war play, For Services Rendered (1932).

In his later years Maugham wrote his autobiography, Summing Up (1938) and works of fiction such as The Razor's Edge (1945), Catalina (1948) and Quartet (1949). William Somerset Maugham died in 1965.


Date: 2015-12-18; view: 1785

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