Somerset Maugham was born in the British Embassy in Paris to English parents, and thus his multicultural status was ensured from his earliest moments of life. After the death of his father, a legal attaché, and his mother, the daughter of a writer of French novels, the French-speaking, ten-year-old Maugham was removed to his alien, yet paradoxically native, England. Marginalized by both his manifest foreignness and the debilitating stammer that was perhaps exacerbated by the demands of his new language, English, Maugham commenced an unhappy stay in his uncle's Kent vicarage, and his misery eventually found articulation in his most famous novel, Of Human Bondage (1915). The adolescent Maugham found escape in travel and in 1890 moved to Heidelberg, where he spent over a year, learning German and falling under the influence of Schopenhauer's bleakly atheistic philosophy and Ibsen's stagecraft. Returning to London, Maugham was unable to reveal his literary ambitions, but his new experiences in the London slums as an obstetric clerk proved invaluable as source material for his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), written in the naturalistic tradition of slum writing. While he was still a medical student at St. Thomas's Hospital, he found time for a six-week visit to Italy in 1894, and he was to put his Italian research to use in his second novel, The Making of a Saint (1898). This novel is based, like Then and Now (1946), on aspects of the biography and writings of Machiavelli. In 1897 Maugham visited Spain for the first time, and the visit inspired a lifelong passion for the country: its people, its landscapes, and its artistic achievements.
The first decade of the new century was punctuated by European travels, and Italy received particular attention, not least because the Italian island of Capri was swiftly proving a welcome sanctuary for rich British homosexuals, for whom the scandalous trial of Oscar Wilde had provided a harsh reminder of