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WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM (1874 -1965)
William Somerset Maugham was an English playwright and author.
W. S. Maugham was born on December 25, 1874 at the British Embassy in Paris, France. He was the fourth son ( of seven children, but only four that survived infancy). His mother was a writer and his father was a lawyer at the British Embassy. His elder brothers Charles, Frederich , and Henry studied at boarding school in England.
William spoke French very well. Their home was a famous salon with many literary and artistic people of the day. But when William was 8 years old, his mother died from tuberculosis, and at the age of 10 he lost his father who died of cancer.
He was sent to live with his aunt Sophia and uncle Henry McDonald Maugham, the Vicar of All Saints in Kent, England.
Maugham attended King’s school in Canterbury.
At the age of sixteen he travelled to Germany to study literature and philosophy at Heidelberg University. After coming back to England, he worked for a short time as an accountant and then studied medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.
Having finished his studies , he qualified as a surgeon and a physician. However, he turned to writing. In 1897 his first novel “Liza of Lambeth” was published. William was off for a year in Spain.
At this time the following works were published: “ The Hero” (1901) “Mrs Craddock”(1902) “ The Merry-Go-Round”(1904) “The Explorer” (1907) “The Magician”(1908) “The Moon and Sixpence”(1919) “The Painted Veil” (1925), etc.
When Maugham returned to London, he began working on novels and plays. He was inspired by the style of Oscar Wilde.
His most famous plays are: “ A Man of Honour”(1903) “ Lady Frederic”(1907) “Jack Straw”(1912) “The Unknown”(1920) “The Circle”(1921) “Our Betters” (1923) “The Constant Wife” (1927) “Sheppey”(1933).
Maugham travelled far and wide during his lifetime to Europe, North America, Far East, the South Seas and beyond.
When World War I broke out, Maugham volunteered with the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps. He met American Gerald Haxton, who became his devoted companion and secretary to Maugham until his death.
While in America Maugham met the wife of Sir Henry Wellcome, Gwendolyn Maude Syrie Barnardo with whom he had a daughter Liza. They married in 1917. His wife was a famous interior decorator.
However, they lived apart and finally were divorced. After that William Somerset Maugham travelled a lot.
In his later years he wrote numerous essays, short stories and novels, including “Cakes and Ale”(1930) “The Narrow Corner”(1932) “Theatre”(1937) “The Summing Up” (1938) “The Razor’s Edge” (1944)
During World War II he worked for some time in Switzerland and Russia as an agent of the British Intelligence Service. This work inspired “Ashenden: Oh, the British Agent”.
Having spent so much time there, Maugham decided to move to the French Riviera in 1928. He bought a villa there and continued to entertain guests and write.
Maugham also explored many professions . He saw numerous television adaptations of his works and enjoyed great financial success. He made generous contributions to the people and institutions who supported him in his life, including building a new library for King’s College, Canterbury, England.
He himself received many honours during his lifetime, including the Queen’s Companion of Honour (1954).
In 1947 Maugham instituted the Somerset Maugham Award to encourage and support young writers.
William Somerset Maugham died in Nice, France, on December 16, 1965.
His ashes were interred in Galpin’s garden, Canterbury, England.