W.S. Maugham

William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. His parents died when he was very little and the boy was brought up by his uncle, a clergyman. The boy must have taken after his father, who had been fond of travelling. It was William's cherished dream to see different continents. As soon as he got the opportunity he set out to realize his dream.
After his parents’ death the boy was taken away from the French school which he had attended, and went daily for his lessons to the apartment of the English clergyman attached to the Embassy.
At the age often the boy was sent to England to attend school. In 1890 he went abroad and studied at the University of Heidelberg, from which he returned in 1892. As his parents had destined him for the medical profession, he became a medical student at St. Thomas's hospital in London, it was a valuable experience to him, because he was sure that there was no better training for a writer than to spend some years in the medical profession.
His experience in treating the sick in the slums of the working class areas gave Maugham material for his first work, "Liza of Lambeth" (1897), a realistic novel characterized by a powerful photographic portraiture of life, which shocked the conventional tastes of philistine bourgeois readers After that, though he had taken his degree in medicine and had become a fully qualified doctor, he decided to devote himself to literature.
Soon after the publication of his first novel Maugham went to Spain and then travelled to all pans of the world. He visited Russia, America, Africa, Asia and the Polynesian Islands, and wherever he was, he always sought material for his books. He was a keen observer of life and individuals.
Somerset Maugham has written twenty-four plays, nineteen novels and a large number of short stories, in addition to travel works and an autobiography.
Few of his plays have stood the test of time. He is primarily a short -story writer and a novelist. The most mature period of Maugham's literary career began in 1915, when he published one of his most popular novels, "Of Human Bondage".
The revolt of the individual against the accepted conventions of society is a theme which has always fascinated Somerset Maugham. It inspired his next novel "The Moon and Sixpence" (1919), which makes use of some outstanding episodes in the life of the artist Paul Gauguin (though it cannot be regarded as his biography). The hero of the novel, Charles Strickland, is a prosperous stockbroker. At the beginning of the book the reader sees him with the eyes of a young writer, the narrator of the novel:
"He looked commonplace... he was just a good, dull honest, plain man. One would admire his excellent qualities, but avoid his company. He was null. He was probably a worthy member of society, a good husband and father, an honest broker; but there was no reason to waste one's time over him."
"The Stricklands were an average family in the middle class. A pleasant, hospitable woman, with a harmless craze for the small lions of literary society; a rather dull man, doing his duty in that state of life in which a merciful Providence had placed him; two nice-looking, healthy children. Nothing could be more ordinary, I do not know that there was anything about them to excite the attention of the curious." All those who came in touch with the Stricklands were taken by surprise and puzzled when they learned that Charles Strickland, at the age of forty, had given up his wife and children and gone to Paris to study art. Strickland was aware of the hardships in store for him, but his desire to paint was so strong that no arguments were convincing enough to make him alter his decision to devote his life to art: "I tell you I've got to paint I can't help myself."
Strickland's life in Paris was "a bitter struggle against every sort of difficulty, but the hardships did not affect him. He was indifferent to comfort. Canvas and paints were the only things he needed. Strickland did not care for fame. Nor did he care for wealth. He never sold his pictures. He lived in a dream, and reality meant nothing to him.
His only aim in life was to create beauty. Finally he left France for Tahiti, where he lived up to his death from leprosy. Not long before his terrible death he realized his lifelong dream.
The pictures on the walls of his house were his masterpiece. "He had achieved what he wanted. His life was complete. He had made a world and saw that it was good. Then in pride and contempt, he destroyed it."
Maugham is impartial to his characters. They are neither all good nor ail bad. People, in Maugham's opinion, "are all a hotchpotch of greatness and littleness, of virtue and vice, of nobility and baseness... Selfishness and kindness, idealism and sensuality, vanity, shyness, disinterestedness, courage, laziness, nervousness, obstinacy and diffidence; they can all exist in a single person and form a plausible harmony."
The reader dislikes Strickland as a human being: he is selfish, cruel, pitiless and cynical. He loves no one. He does not care for his wife and children, and brings misfortune to all the people he conies in touch with. But, on the other hand, the reader appreciates him as a talented artist, a creator of beauty. His passionate devotion to art arouses our admiration.
Other most prominent works by Somerset Maugham are the novels: "Cakes and Ale" (1930), "Theatre" (1937) and "The Razor's Edge" (1944). Somerset Maugham was a success not only as a novelist but as a short-story writer as well. He produced some of the finest stories in modern English literature. They are usually very sincere, interesting, well-constructed and logically developed ("Rain and Other Stories").
Many of Maugham's stones are set in foreign lands where the author was as easily at home as he was in his native England. They were inspired by his travels in China, Malaya, Borneo, Siam and many other countries.
His rich experience in life and deep insight into human nature gave Maugham an analytical and critical quality which found its expression in the vivid depictions of characters and situations. Maugham believes that the charm of the story lies in its interesting plot and exciting situation. His own stones convey deep thought, keen observation and sharpness of characterization. Maugham was strongly influenced by De Maupassant and Chekhov in his story- writing. Like his great predecessors, he shows us people of various occupations and belonging to different social groups.
His sympathy invariably lies with common people.
Though Somerset Maugham does not give a broad panorama of contemporary society and does not go deep into social problems, he shows many different aspects of life.
Every story and novel by Maugham is a piece of vivid realism, original and exciting.

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