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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 52. Joseph Orgel and Neil Miller – Two Takes on Edward “Maurie” Forster

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“Forster’s Ticket”

 

How, James Joyce asked, could Henry James even dare to write novels about [opposite-sex] love without ever having lived with a woman? E. M. Forster apparently succeeded in producing one impressive novel after the other, exploring the exact subject, without having ever submitted to [female] copulation.

Although many of his Bloomsbury friends had come out of the closet, Forster was afraid to risk exposure. “However impressive my desires,” he wrote in his diary, “I find I fear I shall never announce them.”

Forster wavered several times on the brink of coming out, and each time recoiled. In later years, in a rare exchange of views, he told his intimate [and Gay] friend Leonard Woolf about a doctor who claimed he could “convert” people. “And would you like to be converted?” Woolf asked him. “No,” Forster replied unhesitatingly. To Joe Ackerley, a reputable journalist and his out companion, he confided: “I am rather prone to senile lechery . . . want to touch the right person in the right place, in order to shake off bodily loneliness . . . . Licentious scribblings help, and though they are probably fatuous, I am never ashamed of them.” [i]

After Forster, already a celebrated novelist, visited D. H. Lawrence for three days, the latter wrote Bertrand Russell about Forster: “I hope to see him pregnant with his own soul. He sucks his dummy – you know, those child-comforters – long after his age . . . . Why can’t he take a woman and fight clear of his own primal being?” As Lawrence thought he had with himself. [ii]

Forster couldn’t do this while his widowed mother and his doting, priggish aunt were around. His aunt had the money!

It began at prep school, when a classmate remarked, loud enough for “Maurie” to hear, “Have you seen Forster’s cock?” The word was new to him. “A beastly brown thing.” […] Once, when he dutifully reported to his mother his first masturbatory spasm, she told him to call the offending organ “dirty.” Later, home for the holidays, P. M. Furbank tells us, [Forster] volunteered that he now knew what “committing adultery” was: “A man placed his stomach against a woman’s, and it was a crisis when he warmed her.” Lily Forster, startled, ordered him to silence: “You understand now how dreadful it would be to mention it, especially if a gentleman was there.”

During his second term at Kent House, Forster experienced a sexual trauma when he met a man on the downs, urinating in full view, who asked the youth to play with his penis. Forster obeyed, more startled than alarmed by the sight of the man’s inflamed organ. [Fait accompli,] the man quickly lost interest, “asked Morgan where he lived, offered him a shilling, and when Morgan refused it, let him go without much ado.” Next day, Forster wrote obediently to his mother about the incident, and at her insistence, her son’s schoolmaster escorted him to report [it] to the police. No further action was taken by them, and on his diary page for the next day, Forster wrote: “Nothing.” [iii]

If Lily Forster was aware of her son’s [orientation], she never let on. Later, when the rector gave a sharp look at Roger Fry’s portrait of her son and said to her, “I do hope your son isn’t queer?” she took the picture down as soon as he left.

Though Forster customarily read aloud his novels to the ladies at home, he didn’t dare tell them he was also writing about [same-sex love] in Maurice.

[The author was far from physically frustrated] privately. He hung around Hyde Park corner and public lavatories for male pickups. He approached guardsmen and window cleaners, consorted with gamblers and cat burglars, giving them money and clothes. He had picked up a sailor in Toulouse. To his diary, he confided: “I want to love a strong young man, and be loved by him, and ever and ever hurt by him. That is my ticket.”

Forster [saw firsthand just such a] ticket when he visited the Uranian shrine set up by the aging Edward Carpenter, the Gay poet and yogi-Christian socialist. Carpenter had lived decades with [his partner] George Merrill, who had a habit of caressing the behinds of male visitors. The visit gave Forster the enlightenment he’d been seeking for years and spurred him to write Maurice, which he showed to Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, G. Lowes Dickinson, and many others [circa 1914 and later].

Long after he had put the novel aside, Forster wrote in his Terminal Note [circa 1967]: [iv]

 

“It must have been on my first, or second, or third visit to the shrine that the spark was kindled, and he and his comrade George Merrill, combined to make a profound impression on me and to touch a creative spring. George Merrill also touched my backside – gently and just above the buttocks. I believe he touched most people’s. The sensation was unusual, and I still remember it as I remember the position of a long vanished tooth.”

 

In the Terminal Note, written just before his death at ninety-one, he told in Maurice, “I was determined [to write that] two should fall in love and remain in it for the ever-and-ever that fiction allows.”

Forster never set up house with a male partner, as Lytton Strachey and others in Bloomsbury were doing. In other matters he had courage enough; he volunteered in 1960 to come forward in public defense of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and his brief but eloquent testimony in court was highly effective; the consensus was that it [had] disarmed censors of the novel. However, he could not get himself to come out of the closet. […]

[Maurice] was published posthumously [in 1971], when Forster knew he could not hurt his mother, or his aunt, or himself.

—Joseph Orgel,[v]

1985

 

 

 

 

from “Bloomsbury”

 

If E.M. Forster (1879—1970) wasn’t as central to Bloomsbury as Keynes or Strachey, he was nonetheless a member of the Memoir Club and an intimate of Virginia Woolf. His liberal humanism and emphasis on personal relationships exemplified Bloomsbury thinking (as in his memorable line, “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”). Like Keynes or Strachey, Forster showed no hint of interest in the opposite sex.

It was a visit to the bearded Uranian sage Edward Carpenter in 1913 that Forster said provided the inspiration for his novel Maurice. Like many others, Forster fell under the spell of Carpenter’s calm and charisma. To Forster’s attempts at chit-chat and witticisms, Carpenter would simply answer – zen-like – “Oh, do sit quiet.” At one point a kind of epiphany occurred. George Merrill, Carpenter’s partner, pinched Forster on his backside. [vi] “The sensation was unusual,” Forster wrote later, “and I still remember it, as I remember the position of a long vanished tooth. It was as much psychological as physical. It seemed to go straight through the small of my back into my ideas, without involving my thoughts.”[vii] In a state of exaltation, Forster returned to where he was staying and immediately began work on Maurice. […]

In the tolerant sexual atmosphere of World War I Alexandria, where he was working tracing missing British soldiers, Forster had the first relationship of his life, with an Egyptian tram conductor named Mohammed el Adl. Forster, thirty-nine at the time, was ecstatic. “Wish I was writing the latter half of Maurice,” he wrote to his confidant Florence Barger back in England. “I now know so much more. It is awful to think of the thousands who go through youth without ever knowing. I have known in a way before, but never like this. My luck has been amazing.” Later he wrote Barger that, as [a] result of the relationship, he finally felt like “a grown up man . . . ” (His stay in Alexandria also marked the first time that he was freed from his mother’s dominant influence for an extended period.) El Adl, who was 18 when he met Forster, eventually married, and Forster left Egypt at the end of the War. They continued to correspond and, when el Adl was dying of tuberculosis in 1922, Forster stopped in Egypt to visit him on his way home from India.

In 1930, Forster met Robert Buckingham, a 28-year-old policeman, who became his close companion until Forster’s death in 1970. [viii] […]

[Biographer Nicola writes:] “That Morgan and Bob were definitely lovers is clear from the intimacy of their letters, from their loving poses in photographs, and from other details . . . ” His relationship with Buckingham clearly gave Forster a great deal of happiness and satisfaction over the years. In 1932, two years after he had met Buckingham, Forster wrote:

 

Happiness.

 

I have been happy for two years.

It mayn’t be over yet, but I want to write it down before it gets

spoiled by pain . . . .

 

Happiness can come in one’s natural growth, and not queerly,

as religious people think. From 51 to 53 I have been happy, and

would like to remind others that their turn can come too. It is

the only message worth giving.

 

Yet Forster remained closeted over the years. He never permitted Maurice to be published in his lifetime, even after it became legally possible to do so. When his friend J.R. Ackerley urged him to be more open about his orientation, in the manner of André Gide [in the 1930s], Forster is said to have replied, “But Gide hasn’t got my mother!”

—Neil Miller,[ix]

1995

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Although caught in an act of destruction (via bonfire) of all of his correspondence and most of his erotic writings in the late 1960s, a few prose pieces were held back, which Foster knew would be published posthumously.

[ii] As well as thumb, 'dummy' is dated English slang for penis. Lawrence was a connoisseur of sexual slang for this particular article of anatomy, making much of it in a final scene from Lady Chatterley’s Lover where a call goes out for “John Thomas” repeatedly as the couple meet up to make their escape by ship. Incidentally, the happily ever after of this later novel was almost surely inspired by the original climax of Maurice, where the title character races to join his beloved on the ship Scudder is using to escape England, bound for Argentina and a new life of freedom.

[iii] The author here leaves one to consider what the “sexual trauma” he mentions actually was. In other words, the act itself was harmless – witnessed by the fact the boy told Mum all about it – but his mother’s reaction was to force Forster to go to the police and admit he had committed a “crime” by masturbating the man on the moor. Clearly, if any “trauma” resulted from the encounter, it was the one foisted on the innocent youth by making him deathly afraid of the police, the courts, the jails, and the noose for ‘his kind.’ The “Nothing” of his journal entry refers to the police failing to arrest him for “Gross Indecency,” the same bogus charge for which Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years at hard labor, and which greatly shortened his life.

[iv] Orgel’s statement is muddled. Although Forster had set the novel aside for many years – as all of his friends and associates had already read it – he picked it up again in the late 1960s, carefully working with a typist to produce the definitive text for printing himself. (He also wrote two entirely new scenes to end the novel with Scudder firmly in Maurice’s arms.) This is the period when the author created the referenced Terminal Note. It was intended to be published with the first printed edition of the book.

[v] “Forster’s Ticket“ Joseph Orgel Undying Passion: A Book of Anecdotes About Men, Women, Love, Sex and the Literary Life (New York 1985), ps. 253-256

[vi] In typical het-style overstatement (that is, fear mongering of Gay people), the author foists a gross misstatement on the under-educated reader. For, as Forster himself stated it, Merrill had actually touched the depression in the author’s lower back, which is a chakra point for the marriage of mind and body.

[vii] The commentators all seem to be unaware that this is a chakra reference, with that particular touchpoint on the body possessing a strong, directly linked connection between body and mind. This wisdom would not have been lost on Carpenter however.

[viii] Miller wrote “1972,” but this a clear, uncaught mistake on his part.

[ix]from Bloomsbury” Neil Miller Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (New York 1995), ps. 173-175

_

Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

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Scudder and Maurice, from the movie Maurice

 

 

Edited by AC Benus
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I read these accounts and biographical comments and could not help feeling a sort of kinship with a man who came to my awareness some years after his death. I’m grateful to you for this collection of posts, connecting us to people who I can only wish had populated my impressionable youth. 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

I read these accounts and biographical comments and could not help feeling a sort of kinship with a man who came to my awareness some years after his death. I’m grateful to you for this collection of posts, connecting us to people who I can only wish had populated my impressionable youth. 

Thank you, Parker. Hopefully these entries will be a beacon to the younger versions of "us." The ones who so desperately need to know the scope of what's being held back from LGBTQ(uestioning) youth. There is a world of truth concerning same-sex love and Gay History still needing to be talked about. Muah!

Edited by AC Benus
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