Maurice (novel)

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E. M. Forster's Maurice

Maurice is a novel by E. M. Forster. A tale of same-sex love in early 20th-century England, it follows Maurice Hall from his schooldays, through university and beyond. It was written in 1913–1914, and revised in 1932 and 1959–1960.[1][2] Although it was shown to selected friends, such as Christopher Isherwood, it was only published in 1971 after Forster's death. Forster did not seek to publish it during his lifetime, believing it unpublishable during that period.

Forster was close friends with the poet Edward Carpenter, and upon visiting his Derbyshire home in 1912, was motivated to write Maurice. The relationship between Carpenter and his partner, George Merrill, was the inspiration for that between Maurice and Alec Scudder.[3]

Forster resisted publication because of public and legal attitudes to same-sex love – a note found on the manuscript read: "Publishable, but worth it?". Forster was particularly keen that his novel should have a happy ending, but knew that this would make the book too controversial.[4] However, by the time he died, British attitudes, and law, had changed.

The novel has been adapted once for film and once for the stage.

Plot summary[edit]

We first encounter Maurice Hall (pronounced "Morris") aged fourteen having a discussion about sex and women with his prep-school teacher, Ben Ducie, which takes place just before he progresses to his public school. This sets the tone for the rest of the novel, as Maurice feels removed from the depiction of marriage with a woman as the goal of life.

When Maurice enters university, he soon makes friends with fellow student Clive Durham, who introduces him to the ancient Greek writings about same-sex love. For two years they have a committed partnership, which they keep hidden from everyone they know. Maurice hopes for more from their attachment, but it becomes clear that Clive intends to marry, even though Forster's prose leaves no doubts that his marriage will probably entail a mostly joyless union.

Maurice is devastated, and gets a good job as a stockbroker. In his spare time, he helps to run a Christian mission's boxing gym for working class boys in the East End, although under Clive's influence he has long since abandoned his Christian beliefs.

He makes an appointment with a hypnotist, Mr. Lasker Jones, in an attempt to "cure" himself. Lasker Jones refers to his condition as "congenital homosexuality" and claims a 50 per cent success rate in "curing" this "condition." After the first appointment it is clear that the therapy has failed.

Maurice's unfulfilled emotional longings come closer to being resolved when he is invited to stay at Penge with the Durhams. There, at first unnoticed by him, is the young under-gamekeeper Alec Scudder (called just Scudder for large passages of the book, to emphasise the class difference), who has noticed Maurice. One night he uses a ladder to climb into Maurice's bedroom, answering Maurice's call unheard by anyone else.

After their first night together, Maurice panics and, because of his treatment of Alec, the latter threatens to blackmail Maurice. Maurice goes to Lasker Jones one more time. Knowing that the therapy is failing, he tells Maurice to consider relocating to a country that has adopted the Code Napoleon, meaning one in which same-sex affectional expression is not the state's concern, such as France or Italy. Maurice wonders if same-sex relationships will ever be acceptable in England, to which Lasker Jones replies "I doubt it. England has always been disinclined to accept human nature."

Maurice and Alec meet at the British Museum in London to discuss the supposed blackmail. It becomes clear that they are in love with each other, and Maurice calls him Alec for the first time.

After another night together, it becomes clear that Alec has a ticket for a trip to Argentina, and will not return. Maurice asks Alec to stay with him, and indicates that he knows he has to give up his social and financial position, even his class status. Alec does not accept the offer. After initial resentment Maurice decides to give Alec a sendoff. He is taken aback when Alec is not at the harbour. In a hurry, he makes for Penge, where the two lovers were supposed to have met before at a boathouse. He finds there Alec, who tells him that he had sent a telegram stating that he was to come to the boathouse. Alec had changed his mind, and intends to stay with Maurice, telling him that they "shan't be parted no more".

Maurice visits Clive and outlines what has happened with Alec. Clive is left speechless and unable to comprehend. Maurice goes to the boathouse where he hopes Alec is waiting for him. He is, and they plan a future life together, in happiness.

Original ending[edit]

In the original manuscripts, Forster wrote an epilogue concerning the post-novel fate of Maurice and Alec that he later discarded, because it was unpopular among those to whom he showed it. This epilogue can still be found in the Abinger edition of the novel. This edition also contains a summary of the differences between various versions of the novel.

The Abinger reprint of the Epilogue retains Maurice's original surname of Hill. (Although this surname had been chosen for the character before Maurice Hill (geophysicist) was even born, it certainly could not be retained once the latter had become a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, Forster's own College. It might, of course, have been changed before that time.) The epilogue contains a meeting between Maurice and his sister Kitty some years later. Alec and Maurice have by now become woodcutters. It dawns upon Kitty why her brother disappeared. This portion of the novel underlines the extreme dislike that Kitty feels for her brother. The epilogue ends with Maurice and Alec in each other's arms at the end of the day discussing seeing Kitty and resolving that they must move on to avoid detection or a further meeting.

Adaptations[edit]

The novel was made into a film Maurice (1987), directed by James Ivory and starring James Wilby as Maurice, Hugh Grant as Clive and Rupert Graves as Alec.

A stage adaptation, written by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham, was produced by SNAP Theatre Company in 1998 and toured the UK, culminating with a brief run at London's Bloomsbury Theatre. Shameless Theatre Company staged another production in 2010 at the Above The Stag Theatre in London.[5] The US premiere opened on 24 February 2012 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco, CA.[6]

References[edit]

  • Forster, E.M. Maurice. London: Edward Arnold, 1971.
  • Pastore, Stephen R. "E.M. Forster: A Study of His Major Novels." Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press, 2001.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Miracky, James J. (2003). Regenerating the Novel: Gender and Genre in Woolf, Forster, Sinclair and Lawrence. New York City: Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 0-4159-4205-5. 
  2. ^ Isherwood, Christopher (2010). Katherine Bucknell, ed. The Sixties: Diaries, Volume Two 1960–1969. New York City: HarperCollins. p. 631. ISBN 978-0-06-118019-4. 
  3. ^ Rowse, A. L. (1977). Homosexuals in History: A Study of Ambivalence in Society, Literature, and the Arts. New York City: Macmillan. pp. 282–283. ISBN 0-88029-011-0. 
  4. ^ Forster 1971, p. 236.
  5. ^ "ATS Theatre: Maurice". Retrieved 10 October 2010. 
  6. ^ "NCTC – Maurice". Retrieved 19 February 2012. 

External links[edit]