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Biography of William Somerset Maugham

Photo of William Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham was a nineteenth/twentieth century novelist and dramatist.

When and Where was he Born?

25th January 1874, Paris, France. Christened William Somerset Maugham.

Family Background:

William Somerset Maugham was of Irish origin. He was the sixth and youngest son to the Solicitor at the British Embassy.


King’s School, Canterbury. Heidelberg, Germany where he read philosophy and literature. St. Thomas’s Medical School, London.

Timeline of William Somerset-Maugham:

1882: Death of his beloved mother of Tuberculosis.

1886: He is orphaned at the age of 12 and goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Whitstable Kent. This sudden change brings a stammer which was to cause him much grief at school.

1891: Somerset-Maugham spends nine months in Heidelberg attending lectures.

1897: He qualifies as a Doctor. He works in a medical practice in the London slums which gave him material for “Liza of Lambeth” which was graphic in its detail. He never practiced medicine after that and relied on his income of £150 left to him by his father. He travels to Seville for nine months and writes a travel book.

1903: “A Man of Honour” is performed by the Stage Society in London.

1907: His fortunes turn upwards when his play “Lady Frederick” becomes a huge success at the Royal Court Theatre despite it being a last minute inclusion in their programme.

1908: Although Somerset-Maugham’s initial attempts to get his plays published failed he has four works running simultaneously on the London stage by 1908.

1911: He begins writing “Of Human Bondage”.

1914: During the first year of the First world War he serves with a Red Cross unit in Northern France. He then becomes an agent in Military Intelligence and moves to Geneva.

1915: Publication of his autobiographical novel “Of Human Bondage”. He travels to the USA and Tahiti in the company of his boyfriend Gerald Haxton but marries Syrie Wellcome on his return.

1917: By now Somerset-Maugham has moved on to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in Russia attempting to stop the outbreak of the Russian Revolution.

1919: Publication of “The Moon and Sixpence” based on his earlier visits to Tahiti and the Far East.

1927: After his divorce he settles in the south of France at the Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat, near Nice. He filled the house with antiques and it becomes a centre for visiting by the great and the good.

1928: “Ashenden” is based on his experiences in Russia.

1930: He writes what is considered his masterpiece “Cakes and Ale”.

1939: Somerset-Maugham becomes a British Agent again during the Second World War.

1940: He flees to the United States where he stays until 1946 where he was much taken with mysticism.

1944: Death of Gerald Haxton.

1946: He returns to the Villa Mauresque in France where he lives with Alan Searle.

1950: A film version of “Encore” is produced with an introduction by the author himself. He has by now become one of the best read and loved writers but still does not receive great critical acclaim as he was accused of being predictable and shallow in his work.

1954: Somerset-Maugham is made a Companion of Honour.

1962: His book “Looking Back” contains an attack on his ex-wife, now deceased, which lost him a lot of friends.

When and Where Did he Die?

16th December 1965, Nice, France of a stroke.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1897: “Liza of Lambeth.”
1907: “Lady Frederick.”
1915: “Of Human Bondage.”
1919: “The Moon and Sixpence”, “Caesar’s Wife”, “Home and Beauty.”
1921: “The Trembling of a Leaf.”
1925: “The Painted Veil.”
1926: “The Constant Wife.”
1927: “The Letter.”
1928: “The Sacred Flame.”
1930: “Cakes and Ale. “The Breadwinner.”
1938: “The Summing Up.”
1944: “The Razor’s Edge.”


1915 to Syrie Wellcome (divorced 1927).

Site of Grave:

His ashes were scattered near the Maugham Library, King’s School, Canterbury, Kent, England.

Places of Interest:


British Library.
Imperial War Museum.