Maurice was published in 1971, a year after E M Forster’s death. Forster began writing his ‘gay novel’ following a visit to fellow writer and homosexual, Edward Carpenter and his younger, working-class partner, George Merrill. Forster had already published four novels to great critical and popular acclaim, but privately professed himself weary of writing about ‘the only subject I can and may treat’ – heterosexual love. Holding Carpenter’s uninhibited attitude towards being gay in saviour-like reverie, he was inspired by this visit to write about the subject closer to his own heart. Forster wrote and rewrote Maurice between 1913 and the 1960s, showing it only to select friends. Growing up in the long shadow cast by Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment, and in a society where homosexuality remained illegal until 1967, Forster was adamant that this novel could and would not be published during his lifetime. The novel was, in part, wish fulfilment for him, and it was crucial, therefore, that it should have a happy ending. It was this happy ending, however, that precluded him from publishing it. To condemn Maurice and Alec’s love would have resolved the novel in a way that suited society; to celebrate it, however, rendered it taboo.

Related articles

E M Forster’s gay fiction

Article by:
Kate Symondson
Literature 1900–1950, Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity

A year after E M Forster's death, his novel about a relationship between two men, Maurice, was published. Kate Symondson explores how Forster's sexuality shaped his writing and the long period during which he didn't publish anything at all.

LGBTQ themes in the British Library collections

Article by:
Hannah Gabrielle

Hannah Gabrielle takes a look at how LGBTQ people, narratives and interpretations cut through the British Library’s vast collections.

Related collection items

Related people

Related teachers' notes

School students at the British Library

E M Forster's A Room with a View: The question of view and viewpoint

Draw on drafts, letters and other source material to reflect on the values and attitudes within the novel.

PDF Download Available