William Somerset Maugham was an outstanding British novelist, playwright and short-story writer. Somerset Maugham was born in Paris and he spoke French as his mother tongue. In 1897 he graduated from St. Thomas’ medical school but abandoned medicine after the success of his first novels and plays. His first novel was Liza of Lambeth, which drew on his experiences of attending women in childbirth. His first play, A Man of Honour, was produced in 1903. Maugham’s breakthrough novel was the semi-autobiographical Of Human Bondage (1915), which is usually considered his outstanding achievement. During World War I Maugham was in the British Intelligence Service. His work there is described in a collection of short stories under the title of Ashenden, or the British Agent, published in 1928. Maugham’s other works include the plays Rain, The Circle, Our Betters, The Constant Wife, novels The Moon and the Sixpence, Cakes and Ale, The Razor’s Edge and many others.
Maugham collected his literary experiences inThe Summing Up (1938), which has been used as a guidebook for creative writing. Maugham’s skill in handling plot has been compared by critics in the manner of Guy de Maupassant. In many novels the surroundings are international and the stories are told in clear, economical, exact and expressive style with cynical or resigned undertone. In his literary works Maugham gave a realistic picture of the English bourgeois society – its egoism and false democracy. Yet he never tried to tackle a root problem, to look into the very heart of the matter, of the situation that he could describe so skillfully. Maugham once said, “Most people cannot see anything, but I can see what is in front of my nose with extreme clearness; the greatest writers can see through a brick wall. My vision is not so penetrating.” Maugham died in Nice on December 16, 1965.