Maurice, by E.M. Forster
A timeless classic.
Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father’s firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, “stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him”: except that his is homosexual.
Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer’s block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. “Happiness,” Forster wrote, “is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him.”
Review by Gerry Burnie
I chose this timeless classic to emphasize that a story does not lose its enjoyment factor with old age. Moreover, it does not lose its genuine respect or literary value because it deals with adolescent youth; at least to start.
Maurice, by E.M. Forster [W. W. Norton & Company, 2005 (first published 1971)] has been reviewed from every angle imaginable, and yet one can still find interesting things to say about it: The adherence to time and place (Edwardian England), the depth of the characters, the subtle genius of the plot, and the smoothness of line and phrase. It is all there like a textbook for the young –or old- author to follow.
Regarding the time and place, it is very Edwardian: Stolid, staid, regimented, and a bit pompous – A place for everyone, and everyone in their place.
This describes Maurice as well. He’s conservative, a bit of a snob, not very interested in the muses and rather dull. Indeed, he’s ‘every man’ except that he’s living with a secret that affects his entire life. And the story is how he deals with it in his secretive relationship with his Cambridge friend Clive Durham.
That relationship stalls at intimacy – a wall that says “no further.” Instead, Clive chooses a ‘respectable’ marriage – albeit, somewhat loveless – leaving Maurice even more confused regarding the secret he harbours inside him.
It is perhaps for this reason that he finds himself in the arms of Scudder, the gamekeeper. A crossing of social class lines, for certain, but Scudder’s simple acceptance of his homosexuality is a revelation to Maurice – one he needs to experience – but before he can reach that point he goes through a personal hell, looking at his sexual orientation as an abomination, a disease that has no cure. This would be all quite normal for the day and age, including the angst of class difference, but Forester ingeniously works the plot around to achieve a happy ending.
This was a book written well before its time. The style of English is so refreshing: A style and mastery that has been long since forgotten. It flows and melts coming from an era where every word was carefully picked and every sentence construction built with precision.
There are, of course, no explicit sex scenes, but the artistry of words more than makes up for it. Highly recommended: Five bees.
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