From Playwright to Novelist: The Story of Somerset Maugham


Somerset Maugham is widely recognized as one of the most accomplished and influential British writers of the 20th century. He is most popularly known for his masterful plays and novels, which have captured the hearts and minds of readers worldwide. However, Maugham’s journey to becoming a celebrated author was not without its hurdles and struggles.

Born in 1874 in Paris, Maugham spent his early childhood in France before moving to England to attend King’s School in Canterbury. It was during his time at school that he developed a love for literature and began writing his own plays and short stories.

After completing his education, Maugham embarked on a career in medicine but continued to write on the side. However, it wasn’t until the success of his first play, “Lady Frederick,” in 1907 that he decided to pursue writing full-time.

Maugham’s writing style was heavily influenced by his medical background, and his work often featured complex and flawed characters with intricate psychological profiles. His plays, such as “Mrs. Dot,” “Our Betters,” and “The Constant Wife,” were critically acclaimed and commercially successful, solidifying his reputation as a talented playwright.

However, it was his transition to novel writing in the early 1900s that truly propelled Maugham to literary stardom. His first novel, “Liza of Lambeth,” published in 1897, was a semi-autobiographical work and marked a significant shift in his writing career.

Maugham’s early novels were known for their raw realism and explored the darker side of human nature. “Of Human Bondage,” published in 1915, was a literary masterpiece that delved into the complexities of the human psyche and is considered one of the greatest works of literature in the English language.

As Maugham’s popularity grew, he traveled extensively, drawing inspiration for his works from his experiences in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe. These travels not only provided material for his writing but also allowed him to observe and understand different cultures, bringing depth and authenticity to his storytelling.

Maugham’s writing continued to evolve, and he became known for his skillful use of irony and satire in his later works. Some of his most famous novels, including “The Razor’s Edge,” “Cakes and Ale,” and “The Moon and Sixpence,” were all published in the 1920s and 1930s, cementing his place as one of the greatest writers of the time.

In addition to his success as a writer, Maugham was also a prolific and sought-after playwright, often adapting his novels for the stage. His works were not only popular in England but also gained widespread acclaim in America, where he spent a considerable amount of time.

Despite his immense popularity, Maugham faced criticism for his blunt and honest portrayal of society, which often courted controversy. However, he continued to write fearlessly, unafraid to challenge societal norms and conventions.

Maugham’s career spanned over six decades, during which he wrote more than 30 plays and 20 novels, along with numerous short stories and essays. He also published an autobiography, “The Summing Up,” which gave readers a glimpse into his life and writing process.

Somerset Maugham’s work continues to be celebrated and studied to this day, with many of his books adapted into films and stage productions. His influence can be seen in the works of many contemporary authors, making him a literary icon whose legacy will live on for generations to come.

In conclusion, Somerset Maugham’s journey from playwright to novelist was a remarkable one, filled with determination, passion, and sheer talent. He was a true master of his craft, and his works continue to inspire and captivate readers, making him an enduring figure in the world of literature.