William Somerset Maugham, 1874 - 1965

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

Born: 25 January 1874, Paris, France
Died: 16 December 1965, Nice, France

Maugham was born at the British embassy at Paris where his father was the attorney for the embassy. 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, an Anglican vicar who was cold toward his charge. Maugham spoke very little English, and that with a pronounced stammer, so his years at The King's School, Canterbury were unpleasant. At sixtenn he refused to continue at the boarding school and 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 possible he left medicine although seeing patients of all social strata under stressful situations helped create characters in his writing. He spent most of his life abroad, including ambulance service in France and spying for England at Geneva and Petrograd during World War One. He was permanently living in France from 1928, although he spent the years of WW II in the US, including a period of script writing in Hollywood. He didn't receive critical recognition to match his sales and 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.

Biography from Wikipedia and Authors' Calendar

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