Here is the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf. In April 1937 she participated in a BBC lecture series titled Words Fail Me, giving a talk she called "Craftsmanship." She contemplates using new words in an old language, beginning, "Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations. They've been out and about, on people's lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing today..."
Born in 1882, she published her first novel at 33 and found her real power at 40, with Jacob's Room. Then came a great burst of creativity: Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), and The Waves (1931). Her collected letters fill six volumes, her diaries five volumes, and half her essays (stopping with 1924) are collected in three books. She wrote a play, two biographies, and she finished two more novels before March 28, 1941. Her London home destroyed in the Blitz, her writing in a lull after finishing her last, believing the Nazis would soon invade the countryside, she felt her mental illness was returning and that this time she would not recover. She drowned herself in the river Ouse at 59. Her body was not found for 21 days.
Where would Hollywood be without perennial favorite Somerset Maugham? Just the list of his work that has been adapted into films three or more times each: The Letter, Rain/Sadie Thompson, The Painted Veil, and Of Human Bondage. Beyond that: Secret Agent, Razor's Egde, The Moon and Sixpence, Up at the Villa, and Being Julia, among dozens of others. Rich and randy, Maugham had an affair with a married woman that led to a baby and, later, at 43 in 1917, a marriage he didn't want and grew to despise. Instead, he loved his secretary Gerald Haxton [right], eighteen years his junior, with whom he traveled the world while his wife Syrie stayed home and decorated Cecil Beaton's flat. After ten years he finally got a very expensive divorce and bought twelve acres in Cap Ferrat, called Villa Mauresque, and created "a kind of discreet sexual nirvana for the literary gay man" and one of the great salons of the 1930s. Haxton died in 1944 and was later replaced by a younger version named Alan Searle, whom Maugham's aging friends disliked and distrusted. In old age, Maugham feuded with his daughter, denied paternity, disowned her, adopted Searle, and changed his will. His daughter sued and won, but Searle got the house and copyrights for 30 years. (One of his daughter's grandchildren is the blind, autistic musical prodigy Derek Paravinci.) The only biography you need is Selina Hastings' fantastic The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham [Kindle], a finalist for the NBCC, LA Times, and Lambda awards. It is gay from page one.