Maurice by E.M. Forster

Maurice cover

Maurice by E.M. Forster was written way back in 1913 and 1914 but it wasn’t actually published until 1971, the year after the author died. The reason for that is the subject matter as no publisher would have dared to publish it when it was written. The blurb on the back says: Maurice is perhaps E.M. Forster’s most poignant exploration of a theme evident in nearly all of his novels, the eternal struggle between passion and convention.

The book begins with Maurice just about to leave his prep school which is set in England in the Edwardian period. As Maurice grows up and goes to Cambridge he realises that he’s attracted to other males and specifically an older student Clive Durham. On the surface Clive is a bit of a maverick, but it only goes so far and having spoken to Maurice about ‘the Greeks’ and having a bit of a crush on each other Clive subsequently pulls away from any physical relationship and seems to grow out of his homosexual tendencies – or just conforms to what is expected of him.

Poor Maurice is bereft, he doesn’t really have any other friends and when he does eventually ‘share’ with a man it’s with a servant that he meets at a country house weekend. Almost immediately Maurice is appalled at the danger that he has put himself in, leaving himself open to blackmail by someone from a lower class. Presumably he thought that as his new friend isn’t a ‘gentleman’ he can’t be trusted.

Visits to a doctor ensue with Maurice hoping for some sort of cure, but the doctor ends up advising him to go and live in France or Italy where they don’t have a law against homosexuality.

This is a good read and I can only think that the people on various places on the internet who complain that Forster should have been brave and published it when he wrote it back in 1913-14 have no idea what life was like for homosexual men back then and don’t know what happened to Oscar Wilde.

It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith

I was really surprised when I saw It Ends with Revelations in an Edinburgh bookshop, because I had never heard of it before. In fact I think I had got it into my head that Dodie Smith had only ever written I Capture the Castle and 101 Dalmatians. Anyway, obviously I had to buy it and I’m glad that I did because I really enjoyed it.

Miles Quentin is a well known and successful actor and he is performing in a play at an English spa town during a summer festival. Quentin’s wife finds herself ‘taken up’ by the young motherless daughters of the local M.P.

I don’t want to say much more about the storyline. I had a quick squint at Goodreads to see what other people thought of the book, something which I don’t often bother to do, and it seems that a lot of people really didn’t like it. I think that that probably says more about them than about the book. Suffice to say that I’ve known of a few women in the past who put themselves in the position that the main female character is in. When homosexuality was illegal in the UK some men did choose to marry women as a sort of protection, as I recall, the women were generally called ‘beards’ and typically the men involved were wealthy and able to give the women a good lifestyle. A friend of mine turned a very wealthy man down because he said there could never be any children, I suppose they hadn’t heard of turkey basters in the early 1960s!

The book was certainly topical when it was published in 1967 as at that time in England and Wales (in Scotland it was 1980, and in Northern Ireland, 1982) homosexuality was being decriminalised. You can read about it here.