Somerset Maugham: a Life Under Cover

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Saturday 17 July 4pm £7 (£5)

Selina Hastings, author of acclaimed biographies of Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Rosamond Lehmann, and, most recently, W Somerset Maugham, (‘A magnificent, gripping account’ Neel Mukherjee, TIME), explores Maugham’s secret lives. For nearly sixty years William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was one of the most famous writers in the world, and yet his personal life was largely kept hidden. An enormously successful playwright and the author of over a hundred short stories and twenty-one novels – several of which, Of Human Bondage, Cakes and Ale and The Razor’s Edge, are now established classics – Maugham early became an expert at concealment. Predominantly homosexual, Maugham made a disastrous marriage, although deeply in love with a charming but dissolute young American. It was partly to escape his wife that Maugham undertook the extensive journeys in the Far East that inspired so many of his memorable short stories. A talented linguist, Maugham during both world wars worked for British Intelligence. In between he moved in literary and theatrical circles in London, New York and Hollywood and entertained lavishly at his luxurious villa in the south of France. Always elegantly dressed, he looked every inch the conventional English gentleman. And yet conventional he was not, and in Maugham’s outwardly respectable existence there was a great deal he was determined to keep hidden.

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