W. Somerset


William Somerset Maugham was one of the most popular writers of the early 20th Century. Writing across six decades, the enormous commercial success of his novels, plays and short stories afforded him an infamously lavish lifestyle. Maugham described himself as “three quarters normal, one quarter queer,” and he was often as well known for his romantic exploits as he was for his writing.

Maugham was born in Paris, France but was orphaned at a young age. He was schooled and brought up by an uncle in England, attended university in Germany and then medical school in London, where he qualified as a doctor in 1897. However, he abandoned medicine after the success of his first novels and plays.

Maugham’s writing is characterised by his clear and direct style, acerbic wit, skill in handling plot and a shrewd understanding of human nature. His most well known novels are Of Human Bondage (1915), a semi-autobiographical account of a young medical student’s painful progress toward maturity; The Moon and Sixpence (1919), a story of an unconventional artist, inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin; Cakes and Ale (1930), a delicious satire of London literary society between the Wars; and The Razor’s Edge (1944), the story of a young American war veteran’s quest for the meaning of life.