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W. Somerset Maugham

Writer

Born: 25 January 1874
Died: 16 December 1965 (Natural causes)
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: The author of Of Human Bondage

Name at birth: William Somerset Maugham

W. Somerset Maugham's passionate semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage was published in 1915 and remains his most famous book. As a young man Maugham trained to be a doctor and his experiences as an intern in the London slums led him to write Liza of Lambeth (1897). The novel was a success and Maugham quickly traded the surgeon's knife for the writer's pen. Maugham wrote plays, novels, criticism and essays, and soon became one of Britain's most popular authors; in 1908 he had four plays running simultaneously on London stages. In later years Maugham became known as a master of the short story. He travelled extensively and based many of his tales in exotic locales, particularly the South Seas. "Rain," the tale of a straitlaced missionary who becomes obsessed with reforming a prostitute, is probably his best-known short story. His other books include the novels The Magician (1908) and Cakes and Ale (1930) and the essay collection A Writer's Notebook (1949).

Extra credit: Maugham worked in the British intelligence department during World War I, and based his 1928 novel Ashenden on his experiences. The book is considered a forerunner to many later spy novels of the 20th century, including the James Bond stories of Ian Fleming... Maugham's 1919 novel The Moon and Sixpence was based loosely on the life of painter Paul Gauguin... The Razor's Edge was made into a 1984 feature film starring Bill Murray.

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