Who said: "I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don't."

BookBrowse's Favorite Quotes

"I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don't." - W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was one of the most popular writers of the early 20th century and is said to have been the highest paid author in the 1930s. Born at the British embassy in Paris, the son and grandson of prominent lawyers, it was assumed that he would follow in the family footsteps. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was eight, and his father died of cancer two years later. Thus the young boy was sent to live with his uncle, a vicar in Kent, in the South East of England.

Unhappy at both his uncle's house and at school in Canterbury, the young Maugham (pronounced Mawn) developed a stutter which would stay with him for life. At sixteen, having refused to return to school, he was allowed to travel to Germany where he studied philosophy and German at Heidelberg University. On his return to England, he was strongly directed into accountancy or the law, both of which Maugham refused. The church was considered a non-starter due to his stammer, and the civil service was rejected as being no longer the career of a gentleman. Thus Maugham ended up studying medicine for five years while secretly continuing to write and nurse his ambition to become an author.

Far from being a literary dead end, his time studying medicine proved fruitful to Maugham who had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. His 1896 book, Lisa of Lambeth, was informed by his experiences as a medical student in Lambeth, then a London slum. It was sufficiently successful that he felt able to leave the medical profession and focus on his writing, which would remain his sole career for the next 65 years. His success grew slowly at first but increased substantially from 1914. During the war he served in the Red Cross, being too old to enlist, where he met Frederick Gerald Haxton, who remained his lover until Haxton's death in 1944. Although Maugham's first sexual experiences were with men (starting with an affair while he was in Germany) he had many relationships with both men and women, including one with Syrie Wellcome, who became his wife in 1917 after her husband, Henry Wellcome (founder of the Wellcome pharmaceutical company), divorced her - two years after Syrie and Maugham's daughter, Liza, had been born.

After spending much of 1916 in the Pacific researching a novel on the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence, in 1917 he was asked by the British Secret Intelligence Service to undertake a mission to Russia. His experiences inspired a collection of short stories, Ashenden, which apparently influenced Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books.

Divorced from his wife in the late 1920s, Maugham moved to the South of France where he spent most of the rest of his life (other than the World War II period which he spent in the USA), continuing to write prodigiously until his death in 1965. He is perhaps best remembered for Of Human Bondage, a semiautobiographical novel written in 1915, which was made into a film in 1934 and again in 1964. There are more than thirty films based on his books and plays.

More Quotes

This quote & biography originally ran in an issue of BookBrowse's membership magazine. Full Membership Features & Benefits.

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Colony
    The Colony
    by Audrey Magee
    The Colony opens with Mr Lloyd, a London artist, being transported to a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) ...
  • Book Jacket: The Return of Faraz Ali
    The Return of Faraz Ali
    by Aamina Ahmad
    In Aamina Ahmad's debut, The Return of Faraz Ali, the eponymous character is a police inspector in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wonders
    The Wonders
    by Elena Medel
    Spanish poet Elena Medel's debut novel The Wonders (translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead) ...
  • Book Jacket: Four Treasures of the Sky
    Four Treasures of the Sky
    by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
    '…when our Chinese customers come asking for millet and green onions, buying licorice and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Shadows of Berlin
by David R. Gillham
A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Metropolis
    by B. A. Shapiro

    "An ingeniously plotted hybrid social/suspense novel. Shapiro hits it out of the park."
    —Shelf Awareness

  • Book Jacket

    The Immortal King Rao
    by Vauhini Vara

    A resonant debut novel obliterating the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction, the historic and the dystopian.

Who Said...

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T S's T Limit

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.