William Somerset Maugham was born at the British Embassy in Paris in 1874 into a family of lawyers. Orphaned at ten and exiled to an indifferent uncle and hated boarding school in Kent, he escaped briefly to Heidelberg university where he discovered literature, love and his urge to write, he qualified as a doctor in London, exploiting his medical experiences not to practice but to pen a sensational novel, Liza of Lambeth, that launched his career. There followed a long and extraordinary life in which Maugham produced many hit plays and bestselling novels, took lovers of both sexes, spied in two world wars for Britain, travelled the world and became enormously rich. Along the way, based entirely on his own acquaintances and adventures, he compiled the greatest collection of short stories ever written. He lived his last 40 years in an extravagant art-filled villa in the Riviera and died in 1965, aged 91.
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