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 into his father's firm. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every wayexcept that his is homosexual.
Written during 1913 and 1914, immediately after 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."
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Edition description:||(A Reissue)|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:January 1, 1879
Date of Death:June 7, 1970
Place of Birth:London
Place of Death:Coventry, England
Education:B. A. in classics, King's College, Cambridge, 1900; B. A. in history, 1901; M.A., 1910
Read an Excerpt
Once a term the whole school went for a walk — that is to say the three masters took part as well as all the boys. It was usually a pleasant outing, and everyone looked forward to it, forgot old scores, and behaved with freedom. Lest discipline should suffer, it took place just before the holidays, when leniency does no harm, and indeed it seemed more like a treat at home than school, for Mrs Abrahams, the Principal's wife, would meet them at the tea place with some lady friends, and be hospitable and motherly.
Mr Abrahams was a preparatory schoolmaster of the old-fashioned sort. He cared neither for work nor games, but fed his boys well and saw that they did not misbehave. The rest he left to the parents, and did not speculate how much the parents were leaving to him. Amid mutual compliments the boys passed out into a public school, healthy but backward, to receive upon undefended flesh the first blows of the world. There is much to be said for apathy in education, and Mr Abrahams's pupils did not do badly in the long run, became parents in their turn, and in some cases sent him their sons. Mr Read, the junior assistant, was a master of the same type, only stupider, while Mr Ducie, the senior, acted as a stimulant, and prevented the whole concern from going to sleep. They did not like him much, but knew that he was necessary. Mr Ducie was an able man, orthodox, but not out of touch with the world, nor incapable of seeing both sides of a question. He was unsuitable for parents and the denser boys, but good for the first form, and had even coached pupils into a scholarship. Nor was he a bad organizer. While affecting to hold the reins and to prefer Mr Read, Mr Abrahams really allowed Mr Ducie a free hand and ended by taking him into partnership.
Mr Ducie always had something on his mind. On this occasion it was Hall, one of the older boys, who was leaving them to go to a public school. He wanted to have a "good talk" with Hall, during the outing. His colleagues objected, since it would leave them more to do, and the Principal remarked that he had already talked to Hall, and that the boy would prefer to take his last walk with his school-fellows. This was probable, but Mr Ducie was never deterred from doing what is right. He smiled and was silent. Mr Read knew what the "good talk" would be, for early in their acquaintance they had touched on a certain theme professionally. Mr Read had disapproved. "Thin ice," he had said. The Principal neither knew nor would have wished to know. Parting from his pupils when they were fourteen, he forgot they had developed into men. They seemed to him a race small but complete, like the New Guinea pygmies, "my boys". And they were even easier to understand than pygmies, because they never married and seldom died. Celibate and immortal, the long procession passed before him, its thickness varying from twenty-five to forty at a time. "I see no use in books on education. Boys began before education was thought of." Mr Ducie would smile, for he was soaked in evolution.
* * *
From this to the boys.
"Sir, may I hold your hand. ... Sir, you promised me. ... Both Mr. Abrahams's hands were bagged and all Mr Read's. ... Oh sir, did you hear that? He thinks Mr Read has three hands! ... I didn't, I said 'fingers'. Green eye! Green eye!"
"When you have quite finished —!"
"I'm going to walk with Hall alone."
There were cries of disappointment. The other masters, seeing that it was no good, called the pack off, and marshalled them along the cliff towards the downs. Hall, triumphant, sprang to Mr Ducie's side, and felt too old to take his hand. He was a plump, pretty lad, not in any way remarkable. In this he resembled his father, who had passed in the procession twenty-five years before, vanished into a public school, married, begotten a son and two daughters, and recently died of pneumonia. Mr Hall had been a good citizen, but lethargic. Mr Ducie had informed himself about him before they began the walk.
"Well, Hall, expecting a pi-jaw, eh?"
"I don't know, sir — Mr Abrahams' given me one with 'Those Holy Fields'. Mrs Abrahams' given me sleeve links. The fellows have given me a set of Guatemalas up to two dollars. Look, sir! The ones with the parrot on the pillar on."
"Splendid, splendid! What did Mr Abrahams say? Told you you were a miserable sinner, I hope."
The boy laughed. He did not understand Mr Ducie, but knew that he was meaning to be funny. He felt at ease because it was his last day at school, and even if he did wrong he would not get into a row. Besides, Mr Abrahams had declared him a success. "We are proud of him; he will do us honour at Sunnington": he had seen the beginning of the letter to his mother. And the boys had showered presents on him, declaring he was brave. A great mistake — he wasn't brave: he was afraid of the dark. But no one knew this.
"Well, what did Mr Abrahams say?" repeated Mr Ducie, when they reached the sands. A long talk threatened, and the boy wished he was up on the cliff with his friends, but he knew that wishing is useless when boy meets man.
"Mr Abrahams told me to copy my father, sir."
"I am never to do anything I should be ashamed to have mother see me do. No one can go wrong then, and the public school will be very different from this."
"Did Mr Abrahams say how?"
"All kinds of difficulties — more like the world."
"Did he tell you what the world is like?"
"Did you ask him?"
"That wasn't very sensible of you, Hall. Clear things up. Mr Abrahams and I are here to answer your questions. What do you suppose the world — the world of grown-up people is like?"
"I can't tell. I'm a boy," he said, very sincerely. "Are they very treacherous, sir?"
Mr Ducie was amused and asked him what examples of treachery he had seen. He replied that grown-up people would not be unkind to boys, but were they not always cheating one another? Losing his schoolboy manner, he began to talk like a child, and became fanciful and amusing. Mr Ducie lay down on the sand to listen to him, lit his pipe, and looked up to the sky. The little watering-place where they lived was now far behind, the rest of the school away in front. The day was gray and windless, with little distinction between clouds and sun.
"You live with your mother, don't you?" he interrupted, seeing that the boy had gained confidence.
"Have you any elder brothers?"
"No, sir — only Ada and Kitty."
"So you don't know many men?"
"Mother keeps a coachman and George in the garden, but of course you mean gentlemen. Mother has three maid-servants to look after the house, but they are so idle that they will not mend Ada's stockings. Ada is my eldest little sister."
"How old are you?"
"Fourteen and three quarters."
"Well, you're an ignorant little beggar." They laughed. After a pause he said, "When I was your age, my father told me something that proved very useful and helped me a good deal." This was untrue: his father had never told him anything. But he needed a prelude to what he was going to say.
"Did he, sir?"
"Shall I tell you what it was?"
"I am going to talk to you for a few moments as if I were your father, Maurice! I shall call you by your real name." Then, very simply and kindly, he approached the mystery of sex. He spoke of male and female, created by God in the beginning in order that the earth might be peopled, and of the period when the male and female receive their powers. "You are just becoming a man now, Maurice; that is why I am telling you about this. It is not a thing that your mother can tell you, and you should not mention it to her nor to any lady, and if at your next school boys mention it to you, just shut them up; tell them you know. Have you heard about it before?"
"Not a word?"
Still smoking his pipe, Mr Ducie got up, and choosing a smooth piece of sand drew diagrams upon it with his walkingstick. "This will make it easier," he said to the boy, who watched dully: it bore no relation to his experiences. He was attentive, as was natural when he was the only one in the class, and he knew that the subject was serious and related to his own body. But he could not himself relate it; it fell to pieces as soon as Mr Ducie put it together, like an impossible sum. In vain he tried. His torpid brain would not awake. Puberty was there, but not intelligence, and manhood was stealing on him, as it always must, in a trance. Useless to break in upon that trance. Useless to describe it, however scientifically and sympathetically. The boy assents and is dragged back into sleep, not to be enticed there before his hour.
Mr Ducie, whatever his science, was sympathetic. Indeed he was too sympathetic; he attributed cultivated feelings to Maurice, and did not realize that he must either understand nothing or be overwhelmed. "All this is rather a bother," he said, "but one must get it over, one mustn't make a mystery of it. Then come the great things — Love, Life." He was fluent, having talked to boys in this way before, and he knew the kind of question they would ask. Maurice would not ask: he only said, "I see, I see, I see," and at first Mr Ducie feared he did not see. He examined him. The replies were satisfactory. They boy's memory was good and — so curious a fabric is the human — he even developed a spurious intelligence, a surface flicker to respond to the beaconing glow of the man's. In the end he did ask one or two questions about sex, and they were to the point. Mr Ducie was much pleased. "That's right," he said. "You need never be puzzled or bothered now."
Love and life still remained, and he touched on them as they strolled forward by the colourless sea. He spoke of the ideal man — chaste with asceticism. He sketched the glory of Woman. Engaged to be married himself, he grew more human, and his eyes coloured up behind the strong spectacles; his cheek flushed. To love a noble woman, to protect and serve her — this, he told the little boy, was the crown of life. "You can't understand now, you will some day, and when you do understand it, remember the poor old pedagogue who put you on the track. It all hangs together — all — and God's in his heaven, All's right with the world. Male and female! Ah wonderful!"
"I think I shall not marry," remarked Maurice.
"This day ten years hence — I invite you and your wife to dinner with my wife and me. Will you accept?"
"Oh sir!" He smiled with pleasure.
"It's a bargain, then!" It was at all events a good joke to end with. Maurice was flattered and began to contemplate marriage. But while they were easing off Mr Ducie stopped, and held his cheek as though every tooth ached. He turned and looked at the long expanse of sand behind.
"I never scratched out those infernal diagrams," he said slowly.
At the further end of the bay some people were following them, also by the edge of the sea. Their course would take them by the very spot where Mr Ducie had illustrated sex, and one of them was a lady. He ran back sweating with fear.
"Sir, won't it be all right?" Maurice cried. "The tide'll have covered them by now."
"Good Heavens ... thank God ... the tide's rising."
And suddenly for an instant of time, the boy despised him. "Liar," he thought. "Liar, coward, he's told me nothing." ... Then darkness rolled up again, the darkness that is primeval but not eternal, and yields to its own painful dawn.CHAPTER 2
Maurice's mother lived near London, in a comfortable villa among some pines. There he and his sisters had been born, and thence his father had gone up to business every day, thither returning. They nearly left when the church was built, but they became accustomed to it, as to everything, and even found it a convenience. Church was the only place Mrs Hall had to go to — the shops delivered. The station was not far either, nor was a tolerable day school for the girls. It was a land of facilities, where nothing had to be striven for, and success was indistinguishable from failure.
Maurice liked his home, and recognized his mother as its presiding genius. Without her there would be no soft chairs or food or easy games, and he was grateful to her for providing so much, and loved her. He liked his sisters also. When he arrived they ran out with cries of joy, took off his greatcoat, and dropped it for the servants on the floor of the hall. It was nice to be the centre of attraction and show off about school. His Guatemala stamps were admired — so were "Those Holy Fields" and a Holbein photograph that Mr Ducie had given him. After tea the weather cleared, and Mrs Hall put on her goloshes and walked with him round the grounds. They went kissing one another and conversing aimlessly.
"Now I must give my Morrie a lovely time."
"Such a splendid report from Mr Abrahams. He says you remind him of your poor father. ... Now what shall we do these holidays?"
"I like here best."
"Darling boy ..." She embraced him, more affectionately than ever.
"There is nothing like home, as everyone finds. Yes, tomatoes —" she liked reciting the names of vegetables. "Tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, onions —"
"Tomatoes, broccoli, onions, purple potatoes, white potatoes," droned the little boy.
"Turnip tops —"
"Mother, where's George?"
"He left last week."
"Why did George leave?" he asked.
"He was getting too old. Howell always changes the boy every two years."
"Turnip tops," she continued, "potatoes again, beetroot — Morrie, how would you like to pay a little visit to grandpapa and Aunt Ida if they ask us? I want you to have a very nice time this holiday, dear — you have been so good, but then Mr Abrahams is such a good man; you see, your father was at his school too, and we are sending you to your father's old public school too — Sunnington — in order that you may grow up like your dear father in every way."
A sob interrupted her.
"Morrie, darling —"
The little boy was in tears.
"My pet, what is it?"
"I don't know ... I don't know ..."
"Why, Maurice ..."
He shook his head. She was grieved at her failure to make him happy, and began to cry too. The girls ran out, exclaiming, "Mother, what's wrong with Maurice?"
"Oh, don't," he wailed. "Kitty, get out —"
"He's overtired," said Mrs Hall — her explanation for everything.
"Come to your room, Morrie — Oh my sweet, this is really too dreadful."
"No — I'm all right." He clenched his teeth, and a great mass of sorrow that had overwhelmed him by rising to the surface began to sink. He could feel it going down into his heart until he was conscious of it no longer. "I'm all right." He looked around him fiercely and dried his eyes. "I'll play Halma, I think." Before the pieces were set, he was talking as before; the childish collapse was over.
He beat Ada, who worshipped him, and Kitty, who did not, and then ran into the garden again to see the coachman. "How d'ye do, Howell. How's Mrs Howell? How d'ye do, Mrs Howell," and so on, speaking in a patronizing voice, different from that he used to gentlefolks. Then altering back, "Isn't it a new garden boy?"
"Yes, Master Maurice."
"Was George too old?"
"No, Master Maurice. He wanted to better himself."
"Oh, you mean he gave notice."
"Mother said he was too old and you gave him notice."
"No, Master Maurice."
"My poor woodstacks'll be glad," said Mrs Howell. Maurice and the late garden boy had been used to play about in them.
"They are Mother's woodstacks, not yours," said Maurice and went indoors. The Howells were not offended, though they pretended to be so to one another. They had been servants all their lives, and liked a gentleman to be a snob. "He has quite a way with him already," they told the cook. "More like his father."
The Barrys, who came to dinner, were of the same opinion. Dr Barry was an old friend, or rather neighbour, of the family, and took a moderate interest in them. No one could be deeply interested in the Halls. Kitty he liked — she had hints of grit in her — but the girls were in bed, and he told his wife afterwards that Maurice ought to have been there too. "And stop there all his life. As he will. Like his father. What is the use of such people?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Maurice"
Copyright © 1994 E.M. Forster.
Excerpted by permission of RosettaBooks.
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