Maugham, W. Somerset

Maugham, W. Somerset

▪ British writer
in full  William Somerset Maugham  
born Jan. 25, 1874, Paris, Fr.
died Dec. 16, 1965, Nice
 English novelist, playwright, and short-story writer whose work is characterized by a clear unadorned style, cosmopolitan settings, and a shrewd understanding of human nature.

      Maugham was orphaned at the age of 10; he was brought up by an uncle and educated at King's School, Canterbury. After a year at Heidelberg, he entered St. Thomas' medical school, London, and qualified as a doctor in 1897. He drew upon his experiences as an obstetrician in his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), and its success, though small, encouraged him to abandon medicine. He traveled in Spain and Italy and in 1908 achieved a theatrical triumph—four plays running in London at once—that brought him financial security. During World War I he worked as a secret agent. After the war he resumed his interrupted travels and, in 1928, bought a villa on Cape Ferrat in the south of France, which became his permanent home.

      His reputation as a novelist rests primarily on four books: Of Human Bondage (1915), a semi-autobiographical account of a young medical student's painful progress toward maturity; The Moon and Sixpence (1919), an account of an unconventional artist, suggested by the life of Paul Gauguin; Cakes and Ale (1930), the story of a famous novelist, which is thought to contain caricatures of Thomas Hardy and Hugh Walpole; and The Razor's Edge (1944), the story of a young American war veteran's quest for a satisfying way of life. Maugham's plays, mainly Edwardian social comedies, soon became dated, but his short stories have increased in popularity. Many portray the conflict of Europeans in alien surroundings that provoke strong emotions, and Maugham's skill in handling plot, in the manner of Guy de Maupassant, is distinguished by economy and suspense. In The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer's Notebook (1949) Maugham explains his philosophy of life as a resigned atheism and a certain skepticism about the extent of man's innate goodness and intelligence; it is this that gives his work its astringent cynicism.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Maugham, W. Somerset — (1874 1965)    Born William Somerset Maugham in Paris, this distinguished British novelist also wrote several plays. Jack Straw (1908), the first of his sophisticated comedies produced in New York, starred John Drew. Charles Frohman s productions …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

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  • Somerset Maugham — William Somerset Maugham 1934 Fotograf: Carl van Vechten William Somerset Maugham [ˈsʌməsɪt mɔːm] (* 25. Januar 1874 in Paris; † 16. Dezember 1965 in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat bei Nizza) war ein …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Somerset Maugham — William Somerset Maugham Pour les articles homonymes, voir William Somerset. William Somerset Maugham William Somerset Maugham [ˈsʌməsɪt mɔːm] OCE ( …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Somerset Maugham Award — The Somerset Maugham Award is a British literary prize given each May by the Society of Authors. It is awarded to who they judge to be the best writer or writers under the age of thirty five of a book published in the past year. The prize was… …   Wikipedia

  • Somerset Maugham — noun English writer (born in France) of novels and short stories (1874 1965) • Syn: ↑Maugham, ↑W. Somerset Maugham, ↑William Somerset Maugham • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author * * * Somerset …   Useful english dictionary

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