Monday, January 25, 2016

1/25/1874 W. Somerset Maugham arrives

January 25, 1874.  W. Somerset Maugham was born today and began leading a very interesting life.  He studied to be a doctor but when his first novel was a hit he dropped medicine immediately.  During World War I he was one of the "literary ambulance drivers," along with Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings, among others.  Between ambulance runs he proofread his novel Of Human Bondage.

Later he was recruited as a British spy, working in Switzerland and in Russia, just before the Bolshevik conquest.  He also lived for a while in the Pacific, writing about the British and their conflicts with the residents of their empire.

But the main reason he appears on this page is a novel-in-stories called Ashenden, or the British Agent (1928), which is considered a classic of spy fiction.  Some of the stories served as the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's movie Secret Agent.

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