portrait of W. Somerset Maugham
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten (26 May 1934)

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Quotes of the Day for 25 January 2004 – W. Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham was born at Paris on this day in 1874. His father was a solicitor at the British embassy, his mother insisted that the delivery be on the grounds of the embassy to ensure the boy's British citizenship. His elder siblings were all in school in England so he was raised as an only child, but his parents both died before he was ten and he was sent to England to live with an uncle who was a priest. He spoke very little English, and that with a pronounced stammer, so he had an unpleasant education. He went on to university at Heidelberg, then back to England for medical school. After serving his residency he began to write, and as soon as he could support himself at that he left medicine. He spent most of his life abroad, including ambulance service in France during World War One, and was a spy in Geneva and Petrograd. He didn't receive critical recognition to match his sales and said he always felt he was "in the first row of the second raters". The book-buying public was correct, he wrote concise stories and plays that clearly portrayed the lives and affairs of his subjects.

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You will find an expanded profile, photo, additional biographical links, and all quotes from this author on the author's Notable Quotable page.


The quotes:

Impropriety is the soul of wit.

Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.

If a nation or an individual values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony is that if it is comfort or money it values more, it will lose that too.

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

It wasn't until late in life that I discovered how easy it is to say 'I don't know.'
     - All from W. Somerset Maugham, 1874 - 1965


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