CollectionsYour library (1,345), Currently reading (5), Read but unowned (36), All collections (1,381)
TagsNovels (197), French (186), Belles-Lettres (157), Inscribed (142), Philosophy (138), Poetry (123), Short Stories (119), Reviewed (110), HRC (92), History (87) — see all tags
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About meW. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was one of the most prolific, versatile and successful writers in the period between the World wars. Maugham's oeuvre includes short stories, novels, plays, travel books, essays and autobiographical works.
Born in the British Embassy in Paris on January 25, 1874, Maugham lived in the French capital until the age of 10. Having by then lost his parents, he was sent to England to live with his uncle, the Vicar of Whitstable, Kent. In 1897 he graduated as a doctor from the St Thomas's Hospital in London, but decided to become a professional writer on the strength of his first novel's success, Liza of Lambeth, published in the same year. After a decade of struggle and lack of recognition, he achieved success as a dramatist with Lady Frederick in 1907. In 1908 he had four plays running in London at the same time, but a few years later he retired from the stage in order to write Of Human Bondage (1915), the semi-autobiographical novel for which he is best known.
During the First World War, Maugham worked as a spy for the British Intelligence in Switzerland and Russia, travelled to the South Seas, and recuperated from TB in Scotland. In the interwar years, he established himself as a short story writer with the collections The Trembling of a Leaf (1921), The Casuarina Tree (1926), Ashenden (1928), First Person Singular (1931), Ah King (1933) and The Mixture as Before (1940); his novels included The Moon and Sixpence (1919), The Painted Veil (1925), Cakes and Ale (1930), The Narrow Corner (1932), Theatre (1937) and Christmas Holiday (1939); among his plays, The Circle (1921), Our Betters (written 1915, produced in England in 1923), The Constant Wife (1926), The Sacred Flame (1928), The Breadwinner (1930) and For Services Rendered (1932) are notable. Non-fiction writings from this period include more intimate works like Don Fernando (1935) and The Summing Up (1938) as well as two travel books, On a Chinese Screen (1922) and The Gentleman in the Parlour (1930).
Maugham's last major novel was The Razor's Edge (1944). With Creatures of Circumstance (1947) and Catalina (1948), he said farewell to short stories and novels, respectively. Until the end of his life, he wrote only essays: The Vagrant Mood (1952), Ten Novels and Their Authors (1954) and Points of View (1958).
W. Somerset Maugham died in his Villa Mauresque on the French Riviera, between Nice and Monte Carlo, on December 16, 1965, a few weeks before his 92nd birthday. He had been living there since 1928, except during the Second World War which he spent mostly in the US.
Note on Favourite Authors
The list is highly heterogeneous. The aim is to show the full range of Maugham's reactions to his colleagues. Included are writers on whom he wrote lengthy essays (Kipling, Kant, Goethe, Burke, the "Ten Best"), writers whom he discussed several times at some length (Maupassant, Chekhov, Swift, Arnold), and even writers whom he mentioned seldom but always in significant contexts (Shaw, Shakespeare, Bradley). For some he expressed great, if always qualified, admiration (Hazlitt, Spinoza, Dr Johnson, Voltaire), others he all but disliked (Pater, Conrad, James, Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence), third group he regarded with amused indifference (Wharton, Trollope, Eliot). Some were influential in his youth, but later lost their influence (Meredith, Taylor). In some cases (Arnold, Wells, James), his reactions were no doubt coloured by his personal experience, but writers whom he enjoyed mostly as friends (Reggie Turner), talkers (Edmund Gosse) or hosts (Augustus Hare) are not included. Maugham's choice what to include in his anthologies, however, has been taken into account.
About my libraryIt is based on "Books Given by W. Somerset Maugham", a list made by the King's School, Canterbury, undated (Stott F155). A copy can be consulted in the British Library. The information about the contents of the list was kindly provided by the owner of My Maugham Collection blog.
The list is separated into 19 sections which have been used as a foundation of the tag system:
B: Drama (English and English translation)
C: Prose: Literary Criticism, Belles-Lettres
D: The Novel (English and English translation)
E: French literature; works in French
I: The Bible; The Christian Church
J: Philosophy and Logic
L: Anthropology and Comparative Religion
M: History of Civilisation
O: Biography and Autobiography
S: Dictionaries, Encyclopaedias, etc.
All publishers come from another list, largely overlapping but by no means identical with the one mentioned above. It was kindly provided by Mr Peter Henderson, Archivist of the King's School, Canterbury.
"I have some three thousand books in my house", Maugham wrote in 1955, but since he was notoriously careless with numbers, it's anybody's guess how many volumes are missing here.
Some books owned by Maugham currently reside in the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin. These are tagged "HRC". The information about them was also provided by the owner of My Maugham Collection blog, although it can be accessed online as well (thanks, Jeremy).
Favorite authorsAristotle, Matthew Arnold, Jane Austen, St. Teresa of Ávila, Honoré de Balzac, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, James Boswell, Emily Brontë, Sir Thomas Browne, Edmund Burke, Raymond Chandler, Anton Chekhov, Joseph Conrad, Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Dryden, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Henry Fielding, Gustave Flaubert, Edward Gibbon, André Gide, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edmond de Goncourt, Dashiell Hammett, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Hazlitt, Ernest Hemingway, David Hume, Aldous Huxley, Saint Ignatius, of Loyola, Henry James, Samuel Johnson, Immanuel Kant, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Lamb, Luis de León, Desmond MacCarthy, Niccolò Machiavelli, Katherine Mansfield, Herman Melville, George Meredith, Michel de Montaigne, John Henry Newman, Plato, Plotinus, Marcel Proust, Jules Renard, Bertrand Russell, Miguel de Cervantes, Madame de Sévigné, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Benedictus de Spinoza, Stendhal, Jonathan Swift, Jeremy Taylor, John Tillotson, Leo Tolstoy, Anthony Trollope, Ivan Turgenev, Mark Twain, Lope de Vega, Voltaire, H. G. Wells, Edith Wharton, Walt Whitman (Shared favorites)
Real nameWilliam Somerset Maugham
LocationKing's School, Canterbury
Account typepublic, lifetime
Member sinceMay 7, 2015
Currently readingThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
Le rouge et le noir by Stendhal