William Somerset Maugham is one of the best known English writers of the 20th century. He was not only a novelist, but also a one of the most successful dramatist and short-story writers.
He was born in Paris in 1874. His parents died when he was very little and the boy was brought up by his uncle, clergyman. After his parents' death the boy was taken away from the French school which he had attended, and went for his lessons daily to the apartment of the English clergyman at the church.
At the age of ten 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 to England in 1892 and as his parents had destined him for the medical profession, he became a medical student at St. Thomas’s hospital in London.
His experience in treating the sick gave Maugham material for his first work "Lisa of Lambeth". After that, although he became a fully qualified doctor, Somerset decided to devote his life to literature. "I didn’t want to be a doctor. I didn’t want to be anything but a writer".
Soon after the publication of his first novel Maugham went to Spain and travelled widely to all parts of the world. He visited Russia, America, Africa, Asia. The technique of the short story had always interested Maugham. De Maupassant and Chekhov influenced him but he developed a form of a story that has unmistakable Maugham’s flavor.
Somerset Maugham has written 24 plays, 19 novels and a large number of short stories. The most mature period of his life began in 1915, when he published one of his most popular novels.
Maugham wants the readers to draw his own conclusion about the characters and events described in his novels. The most prominent works by Somerset Maugham are: "Cakes and Ale", "Theatre", and "The Razor’s Edge".
Realistic portrayal of life, keen character observation, and interesting plots coupled with beautiful, expressive language, simple and lucid style, place Somerset Maugham on a level with the greatest English writers of the 20th century.