It is also the work of a writer who had the knack for creating a vivid character in few words, and then allowing that character to reveal his storyand usually more of himself than he would wishto the attentive reader. It is also the work of a writer who had the knack for creating a vivid character in few words, and then allowing that character to reveal his story—and usually more of himself than he would wish—to the attentive reader. Maugham—both in this book and in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of his short stories—was a great influence on spy novelists in general and on Eric Ambler in particular, whose masterpiece A Coffin for Dimitrios would not have been the same without Maugham. Harrington, the forthright and foolhardy American seeking business contacts within the new revolutionary Russian government.
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He wrote only one book that was not of this character. It was a collection of essays that he had contributed to the solid magazines of the day and he issued it, as became his sense of decorum, anonymously. I once had the book in my hands, a handsome volume bound in calf, but I never read it and I have not been able to get hold of a copy since.
I wish I had, for I might have learnt from it something of the kind of man he was. His elder brother, Viscount Maugham , did become a lawyer, enjoying a distinguished legal career and serving as Lord Chancellor from to By the time Maugham was three, his older brothers were all away at boarding school.
Edith died of tuberculosis six days later on 31 January at the age of The move was damaging. Henry Maugham was cold and emotionally cruel. He was teased for his bad English French had been his first language and his short stature, which he inherited from his father. Maugham developed a stammer that stayed with him all his life. It was sporadic, being subject to his moods and circumstances. His uncle allowed him to travel to Germany, where he studied literature, philosophy and German at Heidelberg University.
During his year in Heidelberg, Maugham met and had a sexual affair with John Ellingham Brooks , an Englishman ten years his senior. After a month Maugham gave it up and returned to Whitstable. His uncle tried to find Maugham a new profession. He rejected a career in the Church because of his stutter. His uncle rejected the Civil Service, believing that it was no longer a career for gentlemen after a new law requiring applicants to pass an entrance examination.
Maugham had been writing steadily since he was 15, and wanted to be an author, but he did not tell his guardian. Early works[ edit ] W. Somerset Maugham Maugham was living in the great city of London, meeting people of a "low" sort whom he would never have met otherwise, and seeing them at a time of heightened anxiety and meaning in their lives.
In maturity, he recalled the value of his experience as a medical student: "I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief In , he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth , a tale of working-class adultery and its consequences. Maugham wrote near the opening of the novel: " Maugham, who had qualified as a medic, dropped medicine and embarked on his year career as a man of letters. He later said, "I took to it as a duck takes to water.
This changed in with the success of his play Lady Frederick. By the next year, he had four plays running simultaneously in London, and Punch published a cartoon of Shakespeare biting his fingernails nervously as he looked at the billboards.
Crowley took some offence at the treatment of the protagonist, Oliver Haddo. He wrote a critique of the novel, charging Maugham with plagiarism, in a review published in Vanity Fair. Popular success, —39[ edit ] By , Maugham was famous, with 10 plays produced and 10 novels published.
Cummings , and Ernest Hemingway. He proofread Of Human Bondage at a location near Dunkirk during a lull in his ambulance duties. The influential American novelist and critic Theodore Dreiser rescued the novel, referring to it as a work of genius and comparing it to a Beethoven symphony. His review gave the book a lift, and it has never been out of print since. Maugham gave Philip Carey a club foot rather than his stammer ; the vicar of Blackstable appears derived from the vicar of Whitstable; and Carey is a medic.
Maugham insisted the book was more invention than fact. He wrote in "Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other. They had a daughter named Mary Elizabeth — Syrie Maugham became a noted interior decorator who in the s popularized "the all-white room". She was familiarly called Liza and her surname was changed to Maugham.
The marriage was unhappy, and the couple separated. He next lived with Alan Searle until his own death in He considered the notions of future punishment or reward to be outrageous. With that completed, he was eager to assist the war effort again.
As he was unable to return to his ambulance unit, Syrie arranged for him to be introduced to a high-ranking intelligence officer known as "R"; he was recruited by John Wallinger.
Maugham lived in Switzerland as a writer. Maugham subsequently said that if he had been able to get there six months earlier, he might have succeeded. Quiet and observant, Maugham had a good temperament for intelligence work; he believed he had inherited from his lawyer father a gift for cool judgment and the ability to avoid being deceived by facile appearances.
This was a collection of 58 ultra-short story sketches, which he had written during his travels through China and Hong Kong, intending to expand the sketches later as a book. This was the first of his journeys through the late-Imperial world of the s and s that inspired his novels. He became known as a writer who portrayed the last days of European colonialism in India, Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific, although the books on which this reputation rests represent only a fraction of his output.
On this and all subsequent journeys, he was accompanied by Haxton, whom he regarded as indispensable to his success as a writer. Maugham was painfully shy, and Haxton the extrovert gathered human material which the author drew from for his fiction. Later, he asked that Katharine Cornell play the lead in the Broadway version. The play was adapted as a film by the same name in Jeanne Eagels had the lead. A second film adaptation was released in , starring American actress Bette Davis , who was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress for her performance.
It was his home for most of the rest of his life. There he hosted one of the great literary and social salons of the s and 30s.
He continued to be highly productive, writing plays, short stories, novels, essays and travel books. By , when the collapse of France and its occupation by the German Third Reich forced Maugham to leave the French Riviera, he was a refugee—but one of the wealthiest and most famous writers in the English-speaking world.
Grand old man of letters[ edit ] In his sixties, Maugham lived for most of the Second World War in the United States, first in Los Angeles , where he worked on many screenplays, and was one of the first authors to make significant money from film adaptations. He later lived in the South. After his companion Gerald Haxton died in , Maugham returned to England. In private, Maugham espoused antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish refugees, noting that "the Gestapo is known to have had spies among refugees, and these have not seldom been Jews".
He lived there until his death, with time away for frequent and long travels. In that period, Maugham began a relationship with Alan Searle, whom he had first met in A younger man from the London slum area of Bermondsey , Searle had already been kept, or supported by older men.
He proved a devoted if not a stimulating companion. He once confessed: "I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me and when people have loved me I have been embarrassed In order not to hurt their feelings, I have often acted a passion I did not feel.
Maugham publicly disowned her and claimed she was not his biological daughter. He adopted Searle as his son and heir, but the adoption was annulled. In his volume of memoirs, Looking Back, he attacked the late Syrie Maugham and wrote that Liza had been born before they married.
The memoir cost him several friends and exposed him to much public ridicule. Thereafter the copyrights passed to the Royal Literary Fund. There is no grave for Maugham. Among her grandchildren is Derek Paravicini , who is a musical prodigy and autistic savant. Small and weak as a boy, Maugham had been proud even then of his stamina, and as an adult he kept churning out the books, proud that he could. Yet, despite his triumphs, he never attracted the highest respect from the critics or his peers.
Maugham attributed this to his lack of "lyrical quality", his small vocabulary, and failure to make expert use of metaphor in his work. In the American journalist and radio personality Alexander Woollcott offered Maugham some language advice: "The female implies, and from that the male infers. Whether his own orientation disgusted him as it did many at a time when homosexuality was widely considered a moral failing as well as illegal or whether he was trying to disguise his leanings, Maugham wrote disparagingly of the gay artist.
In Don Fernando, a non-fiction book about his years living in Spain, Maugham pondered a perhaps fanciful suggestion that the painter El Greco was homosexual: It cannot be denied that the homosexual has a narrower outlook on the world than the normal man. In certain respects the natural responses of the species are denied to him. Some at least of the broad and typical human emotions he can never experience. However subtly he sees life he cannot see it whole Since he tended to see attractive women as sexual rivals, he often gave his women characters sexual needs and appetites, in a way quite unusual for authors of his time.
Maugham replied: "It must be a fault in me that I am not gravely shocked at the sins of others unless they personally affect me. Toward the end of his career he described himself as "in the very first row of the second-raters".
Maugham had begun collecting theatrical paintings before the First World War; he continued to the point where his collection was second only to that of the Garrick Club. From , some 14 years before his death, his paintings began their exhibition life. In they were placed on loan to the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.
W. Somerset Maugham
He wrote only one book that was not of this character. It was a collection of essays that he had contributed to the solid magazines of the day and he issued it, as became his sense of decorum, anonymously. I once had the book in my hands, a handsome volume bound in calf, but I never read it and I have not been able to get hold of a copy since. I wish I had, for I might have learnt from it something of the kind of man he was.
Ashenden – Book Review