W. Somerset Maugham Additional Biography


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

When William Somerset Maugham was eight, his mother died, and his father, a solicitor for the British Embassy in Paris, died two years later. Shy and speaking little English, Maugham was sent to Whitstable in Kent to live with an uncle, the Reverend Henry MacDonald Maugham, and his German-born wife, and thence almost immediately to King’s School, Canterbury. These wretched and unhappy years were later detailed in Maugham’s first masterpiece, the novel Of Human Bondage (1915). A stammer which stayed with him for life seems to have originated about this time. At seventeen, Maugham went to Heidelberg and attended lectures at the university. His first play, Schiffbrüchig (Marriages Are Made in Heaven), was written during this year abroad and first performed in Berlin in 1902.

Returning to London, he began the study of medicine at St. Thomas’ Hospital, where the misery of the nearby Lambeth slums profoundly impressed him. He took his medical degree in 1897, the same year Liza of Lambeth, his first novel, was published, then abandoned medicine. By 1908, Maugham had an unprecedented four plays running simultaneously in London, and by 1911, he had become successful enough to buy a fashionable house in Mayfair.

In 1915, he married Syrie Barnardo Wellcome. Divorced in 1927, they had one daughter, Liza, who became Lady Glendevon. During World War I, Maugham served as a medical officer in France and as an agent for the British Secret Service in Switzerland and Russia, where he was to prevent, if possible, the Bolshevik Revolution. During and after the war, he traveled extensively in Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, China, Malaysia, Indochina, Australia, the West Indies, various Central and South American countries, and the United States. In 1928, Maugham settled on the French Riviera, buying Villa Mauresque. Maugham died in Nice, France, on December 16, 1965.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

William Somerset Maugham, son of an English solicitor, was born in the British embassy in Paris and spent his early childhood in France, learning French as his first language. Following the early death of both parents, Maugham went at age ten to England to live with his uncle, the Reverend Henry Maugham, Vicar of Whitstable, and his German-born wife. The rigid routine and disciplined family life of the Whitstable rectory contrasted with the casual, carefree existence and close warmth that Maugham had known in France. He was enrolled in the King’s School, Canterbury, where he spent several unhappy years. A permanent stammer that developed during this period of his life destroyed any possibility of following the profession of his father and two of his brothers. Instead of enrolling in a university, Maugham chose to travel abroad to Germany, where at Heidelberg he saw Henrik Ibsen’s dramas and attended lectures by Kuno Fischer on the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Returning to London, he enrolled in the medical school at St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he received his M.D. in 1897.

Maugham’s stronger interests, however, were literary and aesthetic, and when his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, achieved a modest success, he resolved to enter upon a career as a writer. None of the novels that Maugham wrote during the following decade repeated the success of Liza of Lambeth, yet he achieved sudden and unexpected acclaim through a series of plays, modern comedies of manners, beginning with Lady Frederick (1907). In 1908, four of his plays were running in London simultaneously. During World War I, Maugham served with British Intelligence in Switzerland and Russia. In 1915, he married Syrie Bernardo Wellcome, a marriage that ended in divorce in 1927. Following World War I, Maugham traveled to more remote areas of the world: the South Seas, Southeast Asia, and America, accompanied by his secretary, a gregarious American named Gerald Haxton, who aided the author in finding material for his fiction. Maugham acquired the Villa Mauresque on the French Riviera in 1928, an estate that became his home for the remainder of his life, though he continued his frequent travels and spent several years during World War II living in the United States. Creative work during his later years centered principally on short stories, novels, and autobiography.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

William Somerset Maugham, the fourth son of an English solicitor, was born in the British Embassy in Paris on January 25, 1874. He spent his early childhood in France, but following the deaths of his parents he went to England to live with an uncle, the Reverend Henry Maugham, vicar of Whitstable. In a nearby boarding school, King’s School, Canterbury, Maugham found that the bitterness of his childhood only increased. A permanent stammer that developed at the time prevented his becoming a lawyer like his father and two brothers. Instead of entering an English university after his schooling, he traveled to Heidelberg, where he learned German, attended lectures by Kuno Fischer on the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, and saw the dramas of Henrik Ibsen. On his return to England, he enrolled in the medical school at St. Thomas Hospital in London.

Although Maugham received his doctor of medicine degree in 1897, he found that his interest in writing overshadowed his desire to become a practicing physician. With the publication of Liza of Lambeth (1897), a naturalistic novel, he resolved to devote his career to writing. Although none of the numerous novels he wrote during the next decade approached the success of Liza of Lambeth, Maugham was to become one of the most prolific and successful English authors. He achieved sudden and unexpected fame with drama, producing numerous comedies of manners for the London stage. In 1915, Maugham...

(The entire section is 464 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201563-Maugham.jpg W. Somerset Maugham Published by Salem Press, Inc.

William Somerset Maugham (mawm) was born in the British Embassy in Paris, France, on January 25, 1874, and was therefore a British subject. French was his first language, however, and he spent much of his life in France. His father, Robert Ormond Maugham, an attorney whose firm, Maugham and Sewell, was located in Paris, was married to Edith Mary Snell Maugham, twenty-one years his junior.

Willie, as Maugham was familiarly called, was the family’s fourth son and was reared virtually as an only child. He was six years younger than his next youngest brother Henry Neville, who, with the other two brothers, Frederic Herbert (born in 1866) and Charles Ormond (born in 1865), was sent to the Dover School in England before...

(The entire section is 982 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

W. Somerset Maugham was a highly competent dramatist who succeeded best in his fiction after he had learned to apply the devices he had used successfully in drama to other genres. His novels prior to Of Human Bondage lacked the dramatic tension and thematic intensity of such works as that autobiographical novel and of such later novels as The Moon and Sixpence, Cakes and Ale, and The Razor’s Edge. If sophisticated literary scholars found his work disappointing, the general readers whom he defined as his audience read his novels and short stories with considerable appreciation and enthusiasm. In their eyes, he was a highly successful author who entertained them genially and who, in novels like those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, caused them to think.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

William Somerset Maugham (mawm) was among England’s most versatile, prolific, and successful authors of the twentieth century. He was born in the British embassy in Paris on January 25, 1874, the fourth son of a British solicitor and his socialite wife. By age ten he had suffered the loss of both parents and was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, the Reverend Henry Macdonald Maugham, vicar of Whitstable, a childless man in his fifties with a German-born wife. At the lonely vicarage Maugham experienced an unhappy childhood; his only solace was found in reading his uncle’s books. Enrolled in the nearby King’s School, Canterbury, Maugham experienced further unhappiness despite his academic success. A permanent stammer...

(The entire section is 809 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

William Somerset Maugham was born at the British Embassy in Paris on January 25, 1874. His mother died when he was eight and his father, an...

(The entire section is 482 words.)


(Drama for Students)

William Somerset Maugham was born on January 25, 1874, in Paris, France. Maugham’s father, Robert, worked for the British Embassy as a...

(The entire section is 408 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Playwright, short story writer, and novelist William Somerset Maugham was one of Britain's finest twentieth-century writers. He was born in...

(The entire section is 461 words.)