C. S. Forester, also known as Cecil Scott Forester, was born Cecil Lewis Troughton Smith on August 27, 1899, the youngest of five children in the family of George Smith, a British official in Cairo, Egypt, and Sarah Troughton Smith. He adopted the pen name when his family strenuously opposed his career change to writing. His mother returned to England with her children when he was two. Young Cecil found Great Britain cold and inhospitable. He was placed in council infants school at the age of three, by which time he was already able to read and write. Although he was an academic prodigy, his education was not without difficulties; he was a slight child who made an easy target for bullying classmates. His older siblings won scholarships, however, and he was expected to do the same.
Denied the usual childhood outlet of street play, Cecil turned to books, starting a lifelong habit of reading at least one a day. During World War I, the seventeen-year-old youth tried to enlist in the British army but failed the physical examination as a result of a heart irregularity. He began medical studies at Guy’s Hospital, where, for the first time, his marks suffered. As a means of escape, he began to write small pieces for the hospital gazette and discovered that he enjoyed writing more than practicing medicine. Despite his parents’ wishes, he made a clean break from medicine to become a full-time author. His first novel, a work he later admitted was “atrociously...
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