1934 photo by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress public domain. Born: January 25, 1874, in the British Embassy in Paris

Died: December 16, 1965, in Nice, France.

Married: Gwendoline Maud Syrie Barnardo Wellcome

Children: Mary Elizabeth

William Somerset Maugham was one of the most popular writers of his time, and reputedly the highest paid author of the 1930s.

Maugham's mother Edith Mary Snell had tuberculosis, and died of the disease when he was eight; his father died two years later, of cancer. Raised by an uncle, the remainder of his childhood was unhappy. He studied medicine, which proved a useful background for his career as an author as it put him into close contact with people of a social class he would otherwise have been unlikely to encounter. Although he qualified as a doctor, he had a critical and popular success with his first book, and promptly gave up his medical career; by the time he was forty, he had published ten novels and ten of his plays had been produced.

During World War I, he volunteered as an ambulance driver in France; it was during this time that he finished Of Human Bondage. He also became involved in British intelligence work at this time, and he was able to use his career as a writer as a cover for travel that was useful for gathering information, and later provided material for his fiction. A collection of short stories that he wrote about a British spy influenced Ian Fleming in writing the James Bond novels. Maugham was diagnosed with TB after his service as an ambulance driver, and spent two years curing in Scotland.

Maugham stayed in Saranac Lake for a period of time in 1944, accompanying his secretary/companion of thirty years, Gerald Haxton, who cured briefly at the Alta Vista Lodge. Although Haxton improved for a few weeks in Saranac Lake, he died shortly thereafter.

While staying in Saranac Lake, Maugham judged a local short story contest, the Blanchet Memorial Contest. But he did not enjoy his time here, disliking his hotel [the Hotel Saranac] and the food intensely. According to Joan Siedenburg, he became friends with Albert Charles Bagdasarian during his stay in Saranac Lake and they played cards together at the Hotel Saranac.

The Adirondack Research Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library has on file a transcript of Maugham's Radio Address on WNBZ, July 30, 1944.

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