Places: Maurice

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1971

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Bildungsroman

Time of work: 1903-1913

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*London

*London. MauriceGreat Britain’s capital city, in which Maurice Hall grows up and works. His suburban house is “near London, in a comfortable villa among some pines.” The location may well be southwest of London in Weybridge, in Surrey, where Forster lived with his mother from 1904 to 1924. Surrey is also the location of Windy Corner, the home of the Honeychurches in A Room with a View (1908). London suburbs are growing rapidly in the early twentieth century, particularly in middle-class detached houses. Mr. Hall is able to commute easily by train to his job in the city, as Maurice will do after him. As Forster says, Maurice’s suburban surroundings are exasperating in their very normality. Maurice works in the area of London known simply as the City, which is the oldest part of London and its financial center. The offices of Hill and Hall are here, and this location stands in stark contrast to Cambridge and even suburbia. The values of the City are symbolized by money, and it is no accident that Maurice and Clive’s relationship suffers once they leave Cambridge and that Maurice and Alec have trouble making a connection in the City and in the British Museum, that warehouse of empire.

*Cambridge

*Cambridge. City north of London that is the home of Cambridge University, one of England’s two great “ancient universities.” In the early twentieth century, the city had a mix of medieval and classical architecture. Cambridge was Forster’s alma mater, and he lived there for several years at the end of his life. Maurice attends Cambridge following attendance at his public school, Sunnington. Both Cambridge and Oxford were bastions of middle-and upper-class men, although each had a college for women. Cambridge is located on the River Cam, and the image of male undergraduates punting (propelling a flat-bottomed boat with a long pole) on the Cam is a familiar one in the English academic novel. The surrounding countryside is rural and provides an opportunity for Maurice and Clive to escape from the confines of their rooms within the college walls for their grand day out.

Penge

Penge. Country manor that is the home of the Durham family. Located in the west of England on the border between the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset, the house has been in the family for four generations. Penge is a symbol of the English gentry and their economic situation in the early twentieth century. The Durhams’ fortune has dwindled, needing to be replenished by a wealthy bride, and the estate is in a stage of “immobility” preceding decay. The house itself stands in the midst of a vast park, the former common lands of the village, and a wood. The estate also includes an array of indoor and outdoor servants, tenant farmers, and responsibilities for the squire. It is here that Maurice meets Alec, the estate’s under-gamekeeper.

The Greenwood

The Greenwood. Edenic spot in a mythical England where Maurice believes he and Alec might live together in peace. Maurice connects his classical education, relating to the Greeks, with the English myth of Robin Hood and his merry band of men. Forster explained in his concluding “Terminal Note” that the image of the greenwood is necessary for Maurice and Alec to have a happy ending. The greenwood is a place of liberation, and as such it is related to Forster’s treatment of the English countryside in Howards End (1910) and, especially, the Cadbury Rings in The Longest Journey (1907).

BibliographyColmer, John E. E. M. Forster: The Personal Voice. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. A full, balanced account of Forster’s life and critical assessment of Forster’s major works.Gardner, Philip, ed. E. M. Forster: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. Dealing with contemporaneous views of Forster and his works, the critical assessment of Maurice is balanced and judicious, and includes autobiographical details.McDowell, Frederick P. W., ed. E. M. Forster: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976. A comprehensive bibliography, providing entries on Maurice that demonstrate the critical reception of the novel in 1971 and after.Page, Norman. E. M. Forster. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. This compact resource charts the life and career of Forster. Page ranks Maurice among Forster’s minor fiction and is critical of the work, regarding it as an “experiment that misfired,” too subtle in its handling of homosexuality.
Categories: Places