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Somerset Maugham: Realism of Life Laid on Paper

somerset-maughamThere are many authors who are still popular after their death, there are even fewer who have managed to become well-known during their lives, but there are few who were popular both during their lives and after it. Somerset Maugham is the one who belongs to the last group. He was a playwright, novelist, short story writer and the image of both epochs – Victorian and Edwardian.

         Works of William Somerset Maugham are included in many curricula, his unique style is adored by many readers, but what actually influenced his way of writing? The first major point in his life was the death of both his parents. Later, Somerset wrote that love to his mother was the only real feeling he ever had. His paternal uncle had raised him, but was emotionally cold to young William; he also was teased at school for his bad English (as Maugham was born in France and French was his mother tongue). Such an attitude in childhood always had a great impact on his personality. In Somerset’s case, it was a talent for making humiliating remarks to those displeased him. One even may notice such a trait in his characters.

         After his school years, Somerset started studying medicine at St.Thomas’s Hospital in Lambeth. This period is described very controversially. Critics say that it was a dead end in his creativity, while Somerset himself described it as a time of getting experience. There, he met many people and understood the way they live.That interaction with low-class London dwellers seems to be the reason why realism is threaded through the writing style in all his works. William kept making notes of the ideas for writing in many notebooks and managed to write at nights while studying for the degree. The next major point in his life and career was the year 1897, when his first novel Liza of Lambeth was published. The first print of Liza of Lambeth was sold out in several weeks. It was the first step into a long writer’s career. Such a success enabled Somerset to take trips and live in different countries for a decade. His next popular work was Lady Frederick. Notwithstanding the fact that Somerset Maugham is praised for his writing abilities, he personally thought of himself as a very limited one that lacked imagination. For great Somerset, writing was rather a technical, mechanical process of developing stories that he happened to hear, observe or read about.

         William Somerset Maugham gained the tremendous popularity during his life. His contemporaries were such well-known writers as Galsworthy and MacKenzie. The way Somerset saw the world was still rather Victorian. The way he wrote was quite unusual for that time, but very close to modern readers, though. This is the main reason for his realism and cynicism. The bitterness of his style was very appealing to the readers of the 19th century, and it is still appealing nowadays. He was the one who ended the sweet flavoured perception of the world and replaced it with a naked world of realistic stories and human destinies.


  • Brophy, J. (1969). Somerset Maugham. 1st ed. [Harlow, Eng.]: Published for the British Council and the National Book League, by Longmans, Green.
  • Burt, F. (1985). W. Somerset Maugham. 1st ed. Boston: Twayne.
  • Connon, B. (1997). Somerset Maugham and the Maugham dynasty. 1st ed. London: Sinclair-Stevenson.
  • Costa, R. (1994). An appointment with Somerset Maugham. 1st ed. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.
  • Hastings, S. (2012). The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham. 1st ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
  • Menard, W. (1965). The two worlds of Somerset Maugham. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press.
  • Morgan, T. (1981). Maugham. 1st ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Rogal, S. (1997). A William Somerset Maugham encyclopedia. 1st ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.


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