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W Somerset Maugham's Biography

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William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris on 25 January 1874.

He was orphaned at 10, and was brought up by strangers in Kent, otherwise referred to as his uncle, the Rev. Henry Maugham.

Somerset Maugham was educated at King's School in Canterbury and read philosophy and literature at Heidelberg in Germany.

He qualified as a doctor at St Thomas's Hospital in London in 1897, but never practised medicine.

Somerset Maugham's first novel was Liza of Lambeth, which was published in 1897.

In the first world war he served with the Red Cross and then worked as a secret agent.

W. Somerset Maugham continued to write short stories, novels and plays, for example, Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence, Ashenden, East of Suez, and Cakes and Ale.

He also wrote travel books and critical works such as Ten Novels & Their Authors.

In 1929 he settled in the south of France.

He worked as a secret agent again in World War II, but left for the USA where he wrote The Razor's Edge.

He returned to the south of France and died in Nice on 15 December 1965.

In justifying his suggestion to readers to learn the 'art of skipping' when reading novels, Somerset Maugham stated:

"A sensible person does not read a novel as a task. He reads it as a diversion."

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: "Though primarily homosexual Maugham reluctantly married a divorcee, Syrie Wellcome ... in America in 1917, ostensibly to give his name to her daughter Liza, born in Rome in 1915 ... they divorced in France in 1929 he denied that Liza was his natural daughter."

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