'He spent some time at Thomas' Hospital with the idea of practising medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, published in 1897, won him over to letters.' -W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, "The Summing Up", VINTAGE CLASSICS

In the above the sentence, What does 'won him over to letters.' mean?

2 Answers 2


whiskeychief's answer explains what "letters" means in this case. But what about "won him over"?

"To win somebody over" means to persuade them, or to convince them to change their mind.

So, "the success of his novel won him over to letters" means that the success of his novel changed his mind, and convinced him to pursue literature instead of medicine.


“Letters” refers to

3 — letters 

  • plural in form but singular or plural in construction



—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So in the example:

he had a choice between the practice of medicine (being a doctor) and letters (being a writer), and he chose letters (being a writer).

This is a very obscure meaning of the word “letters”. There is a college degree called “Doctor of Letters” or “Doctor of Liberal Letters” but it’s generally only a ceremonial (honorary) one.

Unless you’re a university professor, you’re unlikely to use the word “letters” in this way, ever.

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