Tag Archives: homosexuality

A Working Class Lover: Class and Homosexuality in E.M. Forster’s Maurice

The following article I wrote as a graduate student in 1995. I am posting it here because the Trollope and His Contemporaries online group I belong to is currently reading Forster’s Howards End and have been discussing Forster’s homosexuality and how he depicts homosexuality in his novels. I should note that when this article was published, not much had yet been written about Forster’s gay novel Maurice. The sources about homosexuality also reflect their time and psychological arguments about homosexuality that are no longer in line with more political views on homosexuality and do not necessarily reflect my own views. By why post this article at the Gothic Wanderer’s blog? Of course, while Forster did not use Gothic elements in his novel, homosexuals are often depicted as Gothic wanderers in literature, even if their homosexuality is only hinted at. Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and many other Gothic novels have homosexual overtones to them. For more information on homosexuality and the Gothic, see my post on the Stoker biography Something in the Blood.

A Working Class Lover: Class and Homosexuality in E.M. Forster’s Maurice

E. M. Forster

Because of its posthumous publication in 1971, Maurice is usually criticized as being inferior to E.M. Forster’s other novels. However, it is Forster’s only novel that fully develops his concept of the connection between homosexuality and class structure. If Maurice is not satisfactory in its resolution, this is because Forster found society’s treatment of homosexuals as unsatisfactory; if Forster depicted homosexuals’ lives in any other way, it would have been unrealistic.

E.M. Forster chose the domestic comedy as the form to express his opinions on homosexuality and class relations. Like his predecessor Jane Austen, Forster was concerned with the business of marriage, but while Austen’s novels always end in a happy marriage knot, there are no happy marriages or even successful heterosexual relationships in Forster’s novels (Trilling 115-6). Forster saw marriage as an exclusively economic state rather than the result of love. This theme exists in Forster’s earlier novels and would come to fruition in Maurice. Critics have argued that in Howards End Margaret’s true purpose is to achieve economic stability; because her house is being torn down, Margaret marries Henry Wilcox, not for love, but to have a new home (Born 152-4). Marriage also means economic stability rather than a spiritual union for Jackie Bast. She mistakenly thinks Leonard Bast will marry her and make her life easier (Finkelstein, “Howards End,” 96).

The main theme of Howards End is to connect with others. Forster’s favorite medium for connection is love, but he did not believe that spiritual love could be achieved through marriage (Stone 392). The only true connections in Howards End are between people of the same gender; Margaret connects with both Mrs. Wilcox and with Helen, but no one connects with his or her spouse.

In The Longest Journey, the character Ansell even speaks out against marriage. Ansell and Rickie have a friendship with homosexual overtones. Because Ansell prefers male friendship, he feels Rickie should not get married. Ansell argues that “men and women desire different things. Man wants to love mankind; woman wants to love one man” (Forster 88). Ansell tells Rickie not to marry because, “You are also unfitted in soul: you want and you need to like many people, and a man of that sort ought not to marry” (Forster 87). Of course, Rickie’s marriage is disastrous.

True love between men and women was deemed impossible by E.M. Forster. Instead of heterosexual marriage, Forster believed homosexual love was the highest, most spiritual relationship. Heterosexual love’s purpose is to procreate, and this detracts from its ability to create a spiritual union between two people. In contrast, Forster believed homosexuality’s only purpose is love, so it can result in a spiritual union between two people (Page, “Maurice,” 82).

Although Forster saw male friendship/homosexuality as the highest, most platonic relationship, the homosexual ideal was still difficult to achieve because society disapproved of it (Colmer, “Marriage,” 122). Critics have argued that if Forster believed homosexuality was the highest spiritual ideal, Maurice’s final relationship should be platonic, not sexual. Stone argues that Maurice and Clive’s platonic love is the only normal relationship in Forster’s novels, but it does not last (393). Instead, Maurice ends up with Alec in what critics have considered a lust-based relationship. In the “Terminal Note” to Maurice, Forster remarks that Lytton Strachey was the first to hold this opinion. “He wrote me a delightful and disquieting letter and said that the relationship of the two rested upon curiousity and lust and would only last six weeks” (Forster, Maurice, 252). Stone, in agreement with Strachey, says Forster could not find the “fictional alchemy for transmuting lust into love” (398).

However, Forster felt he must depict a realistic homosexual relationship. To understand why Forster felt it was more likely for Maurice to end up with Alec than Clive, Forster’s own homosexual background and Edwardian England’s views of homosexuality need to be understood.

Although Forster said he tried to create characters unlike himself in Maurice, studies have shown that many homosexuals have similar childhood environments as do Forster and his characters. Often, homosexuals have dominant and over-protective mothers. E.M. Forster’s own mother was controlling as are Forster’s depictions of Clive and Maurice’s mothers (Beauman 94). Freud stated that homosexuals:

“pass through a phase of very intense but short-lived fixation to a woman/(usually their mother), and that, after leaving this behind, they identify themselves with a woman and take themselves as their sexual object. That is to say, they proceed from a narcissistic basis, and look for a young man who resembles themselves and whom they may love as their mother loved them” (Beauman 120-21).

Maurice and Alec in the 1987 Merchant Ivory film. Maurice is played by James Wilby and Alex by Rupert Graves.

Homosexuality is also often a search for the missing father figure, whether the father has died, is absent, or is not accepting of his son. E.M. Forster’s own father died when Forster was twenty-two months old; similarly, Maurice and Clive both have deceased fathers from the time they are children. Beauman writes in her biography of Forster, “It would not be for merely sexual reasons that Morgan’s lovers would be younger than himself, the traditional love of the older man for the younger” (183). Forster’s homosexual relationships were largely a recreation of his own father’s homosexuality (Beauman 183). To make up for the absence of his father during his childhood, Forster tried to copy his father’s past through his homosexuality. Bieber and Bieber, in their study Homosexuality, state that the return of the homosexual’s love by a man acts as a replacement for the missing love of the father. Often in adulthood, the homosexual will be attracted to a man who in some way resembles his father. Acceptance by this other male then allows the homosexual to adjust to the psychological problems that originated in his childhood (Bieber 11).

Although the background of Clive and Maurice’s lives are largely based on Forster’s own background, when Forster wrote the first draft of Maurice between 1913 and 1914, he had not yet experienced a homosexual relationship. His knowledge of homosexual coupling was primarily through his acquaintance with the homosexual couple Edward Carpenter and George Merrill. In the “Terminal Note” to Maurice, Forster states that he first met Carpenter “as one approaches a saviour” (Forster 249). Carpenter and Merrill eventually taught E.M. Forster to accept his homosexuality and consider the possibility of homosexual relationships in his own life. Forster’s first meeting with the couple also inspired him to write Maurice.

Why Forster did not accept his homosexuality sooner lies in the attitudes toward sex in late Victorian and Edwardian England. Young men and women rarely even thought about sex before marriage. Even those who were knowledgeable about sex were often hesitant to engage in it. In the 1860s, Dr. William Acton wrote:

“The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feelings of any kind…. No nervous or feeble young man need, therefore, be deterred from marriage by an exaggerated notion of the duties required from him” (Pool 186).

Forster was also fairly naive about sex, and stated, “not till I was 30 did I know exactly how male and female joined” (Beauman 119). Until adulthood, Forster was not always aware that the stirrings in his body were sexual, much less homosexual (Page “Maurice” 91).

This naivety about sex is expressed in Forster’s novels. Forster admitted the scene in Where Angels Fear to Tread when Gino tortures Philip had “stirred him,” but he “neither knew nor wondered why’” (Page, “Novel: Maurice,” 91). After Gino’s baby dies, Philip claims to feel guilt, but since Philip knows Gino will resort to anger and violence, why does he say, “You are to do what you like with me, Gino” (Forster, Angels, 95) unless he secretly wishes to be physically punished by Gino because he finds Gino sexually attractive? In Maurice, Forster writes of Clive and Anne that, “When he arrived in her room after marriage, she did not know what he wanted. Despite an elaborate education, no one had told her about sex” (164).

Neither does Maurice always understand his homosexual desires. At school, he continually experiences sexual bewilderment. Finkelstein argues that this bewilderment is not a sign of Maurice’s future homosexual behavior, but the lack of girls at school for Maurice to have boyhood crushes on (“Maurice” 143). However, when people are with only members of their own sex, as in ancient Greek society or in modern day prisons, it is not uncommon for an otherwise heterosexual man to engage in homosexual acts. After years at a boys’ school, Maurice has almost no knowledge of women other than those in his family; therefore, it is almost natural for him to find his own sex attractive.

As a child, Maurice does not understand his feelings for the gardener boy, and even after his homosexual relationship with Clive, he still does not fully comprehend his nature. When Maurice finally realizes he has uncontrollable lust for men, then “certain obscurities of the last six months became clear” (Forster, Maurice, 151). Such examples support Norman Page’s statement that “the varieties of sexual impulse and behavior, so prominent in the public and private discourse of our time, would simply not occupy a readily accessible region of the Edwardian bourgeois mind” (“Novel: Maurice” 91).

For a homosexual in Edwardian times, sexual thoughts were also probably repressed. After Oscar Wilde’s trial in 1895, homosexuality became a crime with a penalty of up to two years in prison (Pool 190). Stone sees Maurice as the work of a homosexual who felt like an underground criminal; Forster, like other homosexuals, felt ashamed of himself because society told him he should be ashamed (387-8).

Since homosexuals were criminals, they lived in guilt and fear of exposure. Blackmail was a common occurrence in the lives of homosexuals from the 1760s through Forster’s time (Nadel 183-4). Maurice, however, fears blackmail not only because of his homosexuality but because his fear is a “conditioned, middle-class reflex” (Nadel 184).

Maurice believes that both the discovery of his homosexuality and his sexual relations with one of the lower class would be equally shameful (Finkelstein, “Maurice,” 166). Edwardian society believed a relationship with one’s social equal, even if unsatisfactory, was preferable to a relationship with one of the lower class (Nadel 184). Clive echoes this belief when he warns Maurice that members of the lower class cannot be trusted to be loyal or honest (Forster, “Maurice,” 205). Forster, however, was against the class structure in England. He personally preferred the lower classes, so he felt it necessary for Maurice to end up with Alec who is of the lower class.

Because Forster was from the upper middle class, he could accurately portray it in his fiction, but it is usually not a glowing representation. Forster was greatly disgusted by the false values of his class, values like those of Henry Wilcox in Howards End. Henry is forgiven by his wife Margaret for committing adultery, but he cannot forgive Margaret’s sister Helen when she makes the same mistake. Maurice also feels he is superior to others. He says of the poor, “They haven’t our feelings. They don’t suffer as we should in their place” (168). Only after he becomes involved with Alec does Maurice consider that “servants might be flesh and blood like ourselves” (Finkelstein, “Maurice,” 167).

Forster detested snobbery from childhood. As a boy, he preferred playing with hired garden boys over his own cousin (Olson 390). Neither did he like his fellow schoolmates, of whom he said, “if they were not the sons of gentlemen they would not be so unkind” (Olson 390). For Forster, being upper class meant being materialistic; in contrast, he felt the lower classes were less snobbish and more spiritual.

In his novels, Forster depicts his lower class characters as being wiser and more spiritual because of their association with the land. Jean Olson refers to these characters as “noble peasants.” They have instinctive wisdom because they or their ancestors have used their hands to do physical labor that connects them to the land. This connection to the earth makes the noble peasant morally and spiritually superior (Olson 389). However, when the noble peasant is uprooted from the land to the city and made to serve the rich, he loses touch with the land and begins losing his spirituality (Olson 394).

In Howards End, Leonard Bast is on a quest to regain this spirituality, but his separation from the land makes this difficult for him (395). Similarly, Mrs. Wilcox is a noble peasant; she is descended from the yeoman class and attached to her country home, yet she is forced to live in the city with her family (Olson 393). In Maurice, Alec Scudder is first viewed by Maurice as a type of “noble peasant” because he is a gamekeeper, but later we learn his family are merchants.

Forster’s belief in the spirituality of the “noble peasant” or the lower class connects with his belief that male friendship is a higher spiritual ideal than heterosexual marriage. John Addington Symonds, an early proponent for the homosexual movement, also saw homosexuality as superior to heterosexuality because homosexuals were less bound by material considerations (Summers 147). His contemporary Edward Carpenter, and other homosexual proponents, did not agree with him, yet Symonds’ theory is logical. Marriage can be entered into for romantic or financial reasons. Homosexuality, however, was a crime in Forster’s day. People in homosexual relationships were putting their lives in danger. Therefore, it is more likely that a homosexual would only enter into a relationship if he were in love.

However, Forster has been accused of basing Maurice and Alec’s relationship on lust rather than love. Considering the restraints society placed on the homosexual, Forster may have felt this was the most realistic way to depict homosexuality in his time. Because homosexuality was a crime, many homosexuals probably stayed in the closet. This made it more difficult for homosexuals to find suitable partners. The homosexual may have settled for the first partner willing to stay with him, rather than search for one’s soulmate, meaning many homosexual relationships would have been based on lust and security. Alec, unlike Clive, is willing to stay with Maurice. While Maurice is between relationships, he suffers from great feelings of loneliness and an inability to control his lustful thoughts. Although there are indications that he does love Alec, Maurice seems to be looking for security in a relationship. Forster should not be criticized for concluding the novel with a lust-based homosexual relationship; this was probably the only option for many homosexuals because of the restraints society placed upon them.

Maurice and Clive from the 1987 Merchant-Ivory film. Clive is played by Hugh Grant.

Forster preferred the working class because, as Ackerley said, working class boys were “more unreserved and understanding” (Nadel 187). The working class’s lack of financial power left them without reason to be snobbish. Unreserved could mean more honest, easier to talk with, or less pretentious. Forster’s guilt about sex might have been easier for him to work off on social inferiors simply because they were more understanding (Nadel 187). Probably the direct opposite is true when Maurice says of the poor, “They haven’t our feelings. They don’t suffer as we should in their place” (Forster 168). Servants probably suffered more than their masters because they not only had to care for their masters but also for themselves. Nor did they have the financial power to alleviate their suffering.

Maurice realizes the compassion that one of the working class can have after his second night with Alec. Alec is extremely gentle and soft-spoken with Maurice. After their second night together, Alec says to Maurice, “You comfortable? Rest your head on me more, the way you like more . . . that’s it more, and Don’t You Worry. You’re With Me. Don’t Worry” (228). Then Maurice sees in Alec all the qualities he has sought in a companion. “Scudder had proved honest and kind. He was lovely to be with, a treasure, a charmer, a find in a thousand, the longed-for-dream” (Forster 229).

When Maurice realizes he loves Alec after the first night, he asks Alec, until now simply known as Scudder, what his first name is. This begins the breakdown of class between the lovers. Maurice then tells Alec his own name, but Alec continues to address him as Mr. Hall (195). The distance created by class is also noticeable in the letter Alec sends to Maurice. Alec addresses it to “Mr. Maurice. Dear Sir” and signs it “A. Scudder (gamekeeper to C. Durham Esq.)” (207). However, Alec’s feelings for Maurice are displayed in the postscript when out of concern over the news of Maurice’s illness, Alec addresses Maurice by his first name.

Later when Alec and Maurice meet at the British Museum, and Alec confesses that he does not wish to blackmail Maurice, he again uses Maurice’s first name. Maurice responds, “Maurice am I?” (224) and Alec says, “You called me Alec. . . . I’m as good as you.” (225). Alec has earlier, in his third letter to Maurice, insisted on equality by writing, “I will not be treated as your servant” (216). Nadel argues that this equality can only happen outside of class (Nadel 186); he must now choose between his social position and the man he loves. When Maurice suggests they spend their lives together by escaping into the greenwood, he has finally broken the class barrier between Alec and himself. As earlier stated, Forster’s favorite way to “connect” was through love (Stone 392), and it is Maurice and Alec’s love that allows class boundaries to be overcome so they can connect.

Forster suggests through Maurice and Alec’s love that a good homosexual relationship cannot exist between two members of the same class (Page, “Minor Fiction,” 121); Stone argues that a normal love relationship does exist between Maurice and Clive (393). It is not their membership in the same class that eventually separates Maurice and Clive, but rather Clive’s change to heterosexuality which is brought on by his illness. The relationship is not totally broken down, however, because Maurice still loves Clive. Only when Clive disapproves of Alec does Maurice realize how false are the values of his own class; he then decides one of the lower class would be a preferable lover. By allowing Maurice to end up with Alec, Forster was making an attack against the false values of his class. Disgusted by class snobbery, Forster found it easier to free himself from the bonds of his own class through a relationship with a lower class man; furthermore, because Forster only had homosexual relationships with working class men, he may have felt it safest to write about what he knew.

Yet Forster’s disbelief in the superiority of one class over another is tied, strangely enough, to his belief in the need for one homosexual’s dominance over the other in a mixed class relationship. A working class lover could help boost the middle class homosexual’s self-esteem. Having a working class lover could improve one’s sense of self-worth by placing the upper or middle class homosexual in a dominant position over the working class homosexual. In Forster’s time, men were the heads of heterosexual households, but if two men were lovers, there was the question of who would take on the dominant role. If the lovers were of two separate classes, the working class lover could then be “dominated financially, socially and intellectually” (Nadel 188).

Despite this logic, we still cannot overlook the existence of lust in a homosexual relationship. Forster’s own words prove that he had intense feelings of lust for other men. He may have found working class lovers more desirable simply because they were more sexually attractive. Forster found himself sexually stimulated by violence and expressed this through his characters in Maurice. When Maurice wrestles with him, Clive realizes that “he liked being thrown about by a powerful and handsome boy” (Forster 71). Later, Alec also likes to roughhouse with Maurice. Sexual stimulation from violence is also hinted at in Where Angels Fear to Tread when Philip allows himself to be beaten by Gino. Writing scenes of roughhousing between men may have been Forster’s way of experiencing his own sexual fantasies. In 1935, Forster wrote, “I want to have a strong man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him” (Nadel 187). Forster clearly felt that violence was inseparable from a homosexual relationship (Stone 390).

It is no more strange for a homosexual than for a woman to desire a working class man. Nadel states that the working class lover had a physical beauty that made him attractive to the middle class male (188). Working class men usually have jobs that are stereotyped as more masculine such as construction, carpentry, farming, or other physical labors. In most cases, men who do physical labor are more muscularly developed than others; therefore, an upper or middle class man may simply find a working class man more sexually attractive than one of his own class.

For a homosexual, this desire for a masculine man may also have a basis in most homosexuals’ negative relationships with their fathers. Children are always dominated by their fathers if only because fathers are physically more powerful than their children. The desire for a physically powerful male lover may be the homosexual’s desire to submit to a father figure who will accept and love him unlike how his own father treated him. This concept has been backed up by case studies (Bieber 100).

Homosexuality is often a psychological quest by the homosexual to repair the relationship between the father and son. This can be achieved symbolically by the homosexual’s submission to a masculine authority figure. For the middle or upper class man, then, submission to a man of the working class means being dominated. At the same time, the working class lover finds satisfaction in being “dominated financially, socially and intellectually” (Nadel 188). Therefore, both lovers can be dominated in some way by the other, as if they were submitting to their fathers, and this allows mutual satisfaction and psychological recovery from their negative childhood experiences. For two lovers of the same class, there could be no satisfaction because their equality did not permit either to exert power over the other. In this way, E.M. Forster was probably correct in his belief that only lovers of two different classes could achieve a spiritual union, and this spiritual union was based on the ability to overcome their psychological problems and become emotionally whole.

Howards End continually stresses the idea that people must connect. Jeane Olson, in her article “The ‘Noble Peasant’ in E.M. Forster’s Fiction,” states that there is no perfect noble peasant. Instead, there are pairs of characters who are able to achieve something close to the ideal when they connect (400-1). Howards End is an example of this. Mrs. Wilcox, Margaret, and Leonard Bast all have qualities that make them “noble peasants”; however, none of them achieve the ideal. Only the combination of their characters gives hope for the future. Mrs. Wilcox gives the house to Margaret, Leonard provides the child through his union with Helen, and Margaret intends to leave Howards End to Helen and Leonard’s illegitimate child. Lionel Trilling sees this child as the symbol of the future classless England, and as the only true symbol of the connect theme throughout Howards End (Trilling 135).

In Maurice, Forster again stresses the need for a classless England. Although there is no symbol as powerful as the child at the end of Howards End, Alec and Maurice’s union also represents the future of England. The homosexual relationship achieves the highest spiritual union in Forster’s opinion, and it also creates a union between England’s different classes. Colmer, probably borrowing from Trilling’s ideas, sees Maurice and Alec’s union as the promise of a redeemed classless England (“Maurice” 124). Maurice and Alec’s love may even be Forster’s best symbol of the future classless England because it contains a successful romantic relationship unlike in Howards End. The child in Howards End is not born out of love but rather Helen’s experimental ideas about class (Martin 124). Maurice and Alec’s relationship is based on love so it is more spiritual and may have the power to break down class structure.

However, most critics have been disappointed by the end of Maurice. Cynthia Ozick condemned it as “an infantile book that pretends to be about social justice but is really about wishing” (Grant, “Maurice as Fantasy” 191). E.M. Forster knew that an escape into the Greenwood was not realistic, but he wished it could happen. In the “Terminal Note” to Maurice, Forster himself admitted it was not realistic, especially since the book takes place in approximately 1912, and Maurice and Alec’s life in the Greenwood would have undoubtedly been interrupted by World War I (254). However, some critics have found the end satisfying. Colmer said that Maurice is beautiful because it gives hope to those controlled by laws (“Maurice” 127). This hope is hope for homosexuals, but also for everyone unjustly discriminated against, and in a class structured society there is always prejudice, so the novel may be foretelling a “redeemed, classless England.”

Despite Forster’s marvelous efforts, none of his novels completely succeed in making the union of classes convincing. There is hope in the child of Howards End, but this child is not born of love. In Maurice, there is love, but no child is born. If there was a child of hope born out of love, then the image of England’s classless future would have been stronger. However, because Forster believed no true happiness could exist in a heterosexual marriage, and obviously children are not born of homosexual relationships, he could not produce the image of a child born out of love. Maurice best portrays Forster’s idea that homosexuality is the strongest spiritual union, but the homosexuality in the novel is also what mars Forster’s powerful theme.

Forster wrote one more novel, A Passage to India (1924), a decade later. This novel again deals with connection, though between people of different race as well as class. The novel also contains homosexual overtones in the friendship between the British Cyril Fielding and the Indian Aziz Banerjee. However, Cyril and Aziz’s friendship is affected by the tyranny of the British Empire over India. Cyril, because he is British, is a member of the upper class; Aziz’s Indian blood makes him a lesser class citizen. At the end of A Passage to India, Aziz exclaims to Cyril that the British must clear out of India:

“and then,” he concluded, half kissing him, “you and I shall be friends.”

“Why can’t we be friends now?” said the other, holding him affectionately. “It’s what I want. It’s what you want.” (361-2).

However, the narrator states that the earth and nature do not want it. “They didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, ‘No, not yet,’ and the sky said, ‘No, not there’.” (Forster 362).

These are the last lines to Forster’s last novel. It was his final statement about mankind’s ability to connect, and through the friendship of Aziz and Cyril, it is also his final statement about homosexuality; no matter how beneficial Forster sees homosexuality, the world, and especially society, continually say “not yet.” Maurice and Alec will not be accepted by society, so if they want to be together, they must hide their true feelings. This is the meaning of their disappearance into the greenwood. Forster knew a happy homosexual relationship would always be marred by society’s disapproval.

In writing Maurice, Forster was only wishing for homosexuality’s acceptance. Yet, Colmer is wise to say the novel gives hope for the future and those controlled by the laws (“Posthumous Fiction”127). In this hope, Forster saw the future. Fortunately, he lived to see the repeal of the laws against homosexuality, although he was eighty-one when it finally occurred in 1960. Since then, England has also become more classless. Therefore, in its prophesying of things to come, perhaps Maurice is far more superior than most critics have claimed.

 

Works Cited

Beauman, Nicola. E.M. Forster: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Bieber, Irving et al. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1988.

Born, Daniel. “Private Gardens, Public Swamps: Howards End and the Revaluation of Liberal Guilt.” Novel 25 (1992): 141-59.

Colmer, John. “Marriage and Personal Relations in Forster’s Fiction.” E.M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations. Eds. Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1982. 113-123.

Colmer, John. “Posthumous Fiction.” E.M. Forster: The Personal Voice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975. 109-136.

Finkelstein, Bonnie Blumenthal. “Howards End.” Forster’s Women: Eternal Differences. New York: Columbia U P, 1975. 89-116.

———. “Maurice.” Forster’s Women: Eternal Differences. New York: Columbia U P, 1975. 137-72.

Forster, E.M. Howards End. 1910. In E.M. Forster: Three Complete Novels. New York: Gramercy Books, 1993.

———. The Longest Journey. 1907. New York: Random House, 1993.

———. Maurice. 1971. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987.

———. A Passage to India. 1924. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

———. Where Angels Fear to Tread. 1905. In E.M. Forster: Three Complete Novels. New York: Gramercy Books, 1993.

Grant, Kathleen. “Maurice as Fantasy.” E.M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations. Eds. Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1982. 177-89.

Nadel, Ira Bruce. “Moments in the Greenwood: Maurice in Context.” E.M. Forster: Centenary Revaluations. Eds. Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1982. 113-123.

Olson, Jeane N. “The ‘Noble Peasant’ in E.M. Forster’s Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 20.4 (1988): 389-403.

Page, Norman. “Minor Fiction: Maurice and the Short Stories.” E.M. Forster. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. 117-26.

———. “Novel: Maurice.” E.M. Forster’s Posthumous Fiction. British Columbia: U of Victoria, 1977. 67-102.

Stone, Wilfred. “Overleaping Class: Forster’s Problem in Connection.” Modern Language Quarterly 39.12 (1978): 386-404.

Summers, Claude J. “The Flesh Educating the Spirit: Maurice.” E.M. Forster. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983. 141-180.

Trilling, Lionel. “Howards End.” E.M. Forster. 1943. Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou, 1964. 113-35.

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Tyler Tichelaar, PhD, is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, The Children of Arthur novel series, and Haunted Marquette: Ghost Stories from the Queen City. Visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com.

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Bram Stoker’s ‘The Man’ and His Gothic Literary Ghosts

Bram Stoker’s The Man (1905) has received little attention from readers or literary scholars. However, it is actually a very fascinating work that shows how enmeshed Stoker was in Victorian literary traditions. It also reflects the possibility that he was trying to work out his own feelings about women, or possibly himself as a homosexual man. Some critics have considered the novel sexist, but to some degree, it more likely is subversive, a typical method used by the Gothic to push against society’s boundaries, while ending conservatively to be acceptable to the general reading public. And while not a Gothic novel in itself, The Man draws on many Gothic elements.

A cover for a recent edition of The Man – the image fails to portray the novel’s theme and misrepresents the novel.

The Man, to some degree, might be seen as a revision of a minor scene in Dracula and its results, and the question of its sexism revolves around this revision. In Dracula, Lucy suggests that a woman might propose to a man—critics like David J. Skal in Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, argue that Stoker punishes Lucy for this belief with living death when she becomes a vampiress. In The Man, the main female also makes this proposition, but to understand why she suggests it and how Stoker treats her for it, first we need a little background on the novel’s characters.

The primary female character in The Man is Stephen Norman. She is the daughter of a squire who always wanted a son to succeed him, but his wife dies giving birth to their one child, a girl, whom he promises he will love as much as if she were his son. As a result, he raises up Stephen like a boy, giving her a male name and raising her to run the estate. Note that Stephen also has no mother to soften her nature, although she has an aunt who comes to live with them.

The novel begins with a prologue where Stephen and Harold are in a churchyard together. Harold is the son of Stephen’s father’s friend, a minister. They are sitting on tombstones and arguing about whether women can be just. Stephen wants to attend court sessions so she is prepared to be just in her role when she is the master of the estate.

Harold and Stephen have grown up together and are like brother and sister. When Harold’s parents die, he comes to live with Stephen and her father. At one point, the two of them go to explore a crypt and she wants to enter it, but he tells her not to because he knows her mother is in it and he fears it will upset her. Later, she returns and enters the crypt, which causes her to faint. Harold finds her and carries her out, but Stephen is under the impression a neighbor boy, Leonard Everard, carried her out. Harold does not correct her misbelief, and consequently, Stephen begins to think she can admire and possibly love Leonard.

Soon after, Stephen’s father is in an accident and dies. On his deathbed, he asks Harold always to look after Stephen and love her and stand by her if she loves another. Harold agrees to all this, not yet realizing Stephen loves Leonard, and by now, Harold loves Stephen.

Meanwhile, Stephen wants to go to the court sessions. Her aunt tells her that some things women should not know and refers to the tree of knowledge. This is the Gothic theme of forbidden knowledge, and a reference to Eve’s transgression in eating the forbidden true of the tree of knowledge. Stoker here seems to suggest that women who step out of their traditional roles are committing transgressions. The aunt goes on to discuss fallen women, but Stephen says that if women sin in these cases, so do men. Stephen then goes on to tell her aunt that women have just as much right as men to propose when they are in love. Stoker is setting Stephen up for disaster here. She believes women are the equals of men, and now that she has feelings for Leonard, she decides she will propose to him to put her theory into practice. The narrator then tells us her preparations were like those of the devil when tempting Jesus. Like the devil who takes Jesus to a cliff, Stephen asks Leonard to meet her on a hill where he can see all her property and then realize the wealth he would have should he marry her. Stephen, like Satan, is tempting another with riches and power.

Leonard, however, is shocked by Stephen’s proposal. He finds it abnormal for a woman to propose and quickly refuses her. Stephen then asks him to forget about it. However, Leonard has debts and Stephen is rich, so he begins to reconsider. Soon after, he gets drunk and brags in a tavern to Harold that he is going to marry Stephen. Angered, Harold goes to Stephen and proposes to her before Leonard can get to her. She, however, comes to realize he knows about her proposal to Leonard and that Leonard said no. She suspects Harold pities her or that he thinks she’ll say yes to any man, so she refuses him and tells him she never wants to see him again. Harold then decides to leave England.

Leonard now tries to get Stephen to marry him, but she refuses, although she agrees to pay off his debts. I cannot help being reminded in these scenes of Mrs. Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), in which Emily St. Aubert falls for Valancourt, whom she thinks is perfect, yet we later find out he has made a mess of his life through gambling and getting into debt. Leonard has turned out to be far from Stephen’s equal and she now has a hard time getting rid of him.

Meanwhile, Harold is heartbroken. On the journey to America, he feels tormented. Then a little girl, Pearl, is washed off the ship and he jumps into the sea to rescue her. After that, the little girl is besotted with him and begins referring to him as “The Man.” Her grateful father, Mr. Stonehouse, realizes Harold is tormented and befriends him, suggesting that if Harold is a criminal, he will help him, even offering to adopt him as his son. Harold assures Mr. Stonehouse he is not a criminal, but the idea of changing his identity appeals to him.

Eventually, Harold ends up in Alaska. The author makes it clear he is in the wilderness—this is a time of wandering and being lost, like the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. Harold is undergoing the dark night of his soul and being much the Gothic Wanderer in his torment. However, he ends up becoming wealthy in the mines and adopts for himself the name Robinson, taken from the mine. He now decides to return to England after an absence of a few years.

Meanwhile, Stephen has inherited a castle from a distant relative and become a countess. She also longs for Harold, gradually realizing she wronged him. In her new home, she is gracious and kind to everyone, seeking to redeem herself. She also meets Sister Ruth, a Quaker woman, who dresses in white and gray, causing her be known as the Silver Lady. To Ruth, Stephen confesses she once killed a man—not physically, but she says she killed his soul. It’s important to note also that Stephen decides to be incognito when she meets Sister Ruth, not telling her at first that she’s the countess. She prefers, like Haroun al-Rashid, we are told, to visit incognito those socially beneath her.

Ironically, Harold’s ship now sinks off the shore of England near the castle Stephen inherited. Stephen sees a man (she doesn’t know it’s Harold) valiantly trying to save lives. Eventually, he swims toward shore, and she has a fire lit (by actually setting a house on fire) to warn him of the rocks that he will be dashed upon. At one point, he looks up at her, dressed all in scarlet, and recognizes her before he is rescued. However, during the rescue efforts, he also goes blind. (One wonders whether the sight of Stephen caused his blindness and whether Stoker is implying she’s a scarlet woman.) At the same time, Stephen is far from a scarlet woman—rather she is praying to God for Harold’s rescue, feeling guilt over how she hurt Harold and asking God to let her atone for the man whose soul she killed by letting her save this man, never suspecting the two men are the same. At times, she thinks how she wishes she had the power of God to rescue, which sounds like pride and a longing to be like God (Satan’s crime), but instead, God hears her prayer and allows Harold to be saved.

Harold is brought to the castle to be cared for. Because he has a beard and his eyes are bandaged, Stephen does not recognize him. Harold, however, realizes Stephen is there and he does not want her to pity him so he tries to get away. When Harold questions the doctor about how high up in the castle he is, the doctor thinks he plans to commit suicide by jumping out the window as a way to end his misery over being blind. Harold then confesses to the doctor that he loves Stephen but wishes to keep his identity secret from her, which is why he wishes to escape. The doctor agrees to keep Harold’s secret and tells Stephen that Mr. Robinson doesn’t like visitors. The doctor doesn’t want Harold to leave because he hopes to cure him of his blindness. I can’t help being reminded of Jane Eyre here, where Mr. Rochester is blind and weakened when the now wealthy Jane Eyre finds him. Stoker has put his male hero in an equally weakened state, even though Harold’s bravery has caused him to be referred to as a “giant” more than once in the novel.

Bram Stoker, who was over six feet tall, and might be considered a giant and “a man” in his own right, seemed to prefer being submissive to other males.

These scenes of Harold, his identity unknown, living in Stephen’s house, also remind me of Ellen Wood’s East Lynne (1861), where the adulterous wife returns in disguise as a governess to care for her children, only in this case, it is the future husband, not the wife who is in disguise. Since the wife in East Lynne was adulterous, here we can almost think Stephen was adulterous in propositioning Leonard when Stephen, at least in Harold’s heart, already belonged to Harold. Perhaps a stretch, and Stoker isn’t drawing straight analogies, but the influence seems likely to East Lynne or similar hidden identity cases in Victorian fiction, which are countless.

Of course, Stephen will eventually learn the truth about the blind man’s identity. It comes about when the Stonehouses, hearing of Harold’s bravery when the ship sank, come to visit Stephen, suspecting he is “The Man.” As they tell Stephen about their previous meeting with Mr. Robinson, Stephen realizes that “The Man,” “Mr. Robinson,” and Harold are all one. Eventually, she takes the Stonehouses to him. Once he removes his bandage, all is revealed except the love beating in Stephen and Harold’s hearts. At this point, Pearl tells Stephen that she always wanted to marry “The Man,” but that Stephen should actually do it because while he saved her, Stephen saved him when she lit the fire to rescue him.

Stephen is now older and wiser, but while she realizes now that she loves Harold, she does not dare to propose to him but waits for him to propose to her. When the proposal doesn’t happen, she goes to Sister Ruth, who then arranges for Harold to come to her. Of course, Sister Ruth arranges it so the two can be together. And we learn here that Sister Ruth is a recluse from the world because of a tragedy in her past that she wishes to prevent happening again for Stephen and Harold. (Sister Ruth then might be considered a Gothic wanderer herself, though her redemption is not through love but through helping others.)

The end of the novel may be considered very sexist. We are told that now Stephen knows her “Master” and that when she knows Harold loves her and will come to her, “She was all woman now; all-patient, and all-submissive. She waited the man; and the man was coming.” Of course, submissiveness seems sexist to modern readers, but it was conservative for Stoker’s time, perhaps overly conservative in an age when women had become fighting for their rights.

I am left thinking we can read this novel in various ways. First, as Stoker’s concern that women were getting too much power and stepping out of their bounds, or second, we can read it as his being supportive of women and showing the difficult situations they are in, showing us how Stephen is rejected by her society for her mannish ways and so, ultimately, she has no choice but to submit to a man. And while the novel’s title refers to Harold, it isn’t until nearly two-thirds of the way into the novel when Pearl starts referring to Harold as “The Man” that we even know who the title refers to. Given that Stephen acts like a man and has a man’s name, one might think she is “The Man” for the first part of the novel. So is Stoker being subversive, or sexist and conservative?

And then there is the issue of Stoker’s closeted homosexuality. Countless critics have talked about his working relationship with actor Henry Irving and how Irving was a dominant male who treated Stoker like a toady and how Stoker may well have relished it, having a masochistic side. Stoker was himself a giant of a man like Harold, and yet he acknowledged Irving as his master (boss) and was submissive to him. We are left then wondering whether Stoker was comparing himself to Harold, ultimately submitting to a woman who acted like a man (Stoker may have physically been Irving’s superior yet submitted to a physically weaker man) or does Stoker see himself as like Stephen, feminine in truth despite a masculine appearance and, therefore, ready to submit to his “Master.”

There are no easy answers to these questions. I think much more analysis needs to be done on The Man. It is definitely a fascinating novel of identity issues, gender issues, and Gothic themes that is firmly enmeshed in a Victorian literary tradition.

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD, is the author of The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, a study of nineteenth-century British Gothic literature from 1794 (The Mysteries of Udolpho) to 1897 (Dracula) with a look at twenty and twenty-first century texts like Tarzan of the Apes, Anne Rice’s vampire novels, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Tyler has also written Haunted Marquette, a history of hauntings in his native city of Marquette, Michigan, Spirit of the North: A Paranormal Romance, and the historical fantasy series The Children of Arthur, which details the story of King Arthur and his descendants, beginning with Arthur’s Legacy and including Lilith’s Love, which is largely a sequel to Dracula. You can learn more about Tyler at www.GothicWanderer.com, www.ChildrenofArthur.com, and www.MarquetteFiction.com.

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Romantic Wanderers and Cross-Dressing in Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs

The Scribner’s 1991 reprint of The Scottish Chiefs

The Scottish Chiefs (1809) by Jane Porter (1776-1850) is one of the earliest historical novels and some scholars claim it to be the very first. It tells the story of Sir William Wallace and his efforts to restore Scotland’s freedom after King Edward I of England invaded the country and tried to suppress it to his rule. Porter grew up first in Durham and then in Edinburgh and from early childhood heard tales of Sir William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and other Scottish heroes from a family nurse and many others in her neighborhood. The result was that in 1809, she penned her most famous novel The Scottish Chiefs. The novel would go on to be translated into numerous foreign languages and become a bestseller in Europe. It was so popular that Napoleon had it banned because of its message of revolt against an oppressive tyrant. It is said that US President Andrew Jackson was inspired by it when fighting the British in the War of 1812. It remained popular into the twentieth century, so popular that a comic book version was made of it: http://comicbooksonline.blogspot.com/2007/08/classics-illustrated-067-scottish.html and in 1921 Charles Scribner’s and Sons decided to produce a special illustrated edition of it, complete with a foreword by Kate Douglas Wiggin (author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) and illustrations by N. C. Wyeth, one of the greatest illustrators of the time. A 1991 reprint of that edition is the copy I own and have read.

I first heard of The Scottish Chiefs in 1992 when I found the Scribner’s illustrated edition in a bookstore. I loved the illustrations and loved British literature so I bought and read it. I admit I found it rather dull, and as the years passed, I remembered little of it, but it did make me know the name of Sir William Wallace for the first time, before I traveled to Scotland in 1993 and before the film Braveheart made his name once again famous to a wider audience in 1995.

I recently decided to reread the novel after rewatching Braveheart. I knew the film was grossly historically inaccurate in many ways, and more so, it was a very different story from that which Jane Porter told. I also wanted to reread the novel because of my interest in Gothic and historical fiction and my having recently learned that Sir Walter Scott had known Porter. Scott is, of course, arguably the father of the modern historical novel, so I wondered whether Porter had influenced him. I was also interested in rereading the novel because I had a few years before read Porter’s other well-known novel Thaddeus of Warsaw (1803) and thought it quite interesting.

While Porter does not use Gothic elements in either of her two best-known works, she does rely upon the wanderer theme. Thaddeus of Warsaw is less a historical than contemporary novel since its events take place just over a decade before its publication. Its main character is a Polish refugee. The novel tells the story of how Poland was invaded and divided up between Russia and Prussia. Thaddeus befriends a British officer and also learns he is part-British. He then travels to England where, eventually, he meets his long-lost father. He also falls in love. Once Thaddeus is in England, the novel becomes largely a novel of manners. What is interesting to me as a student of the Gothic wanderer figure is that Porter repeatedly refers to Thaddeus as a wanderer in the novel because he is an exile from his native land.

Sir William Wallace and his wife Marion,, illustrated by N. C. Wyeth.

Porter does not use the term wanderer in The Scottish Chiefs very often, but the novel is not without interest, and her prefaces do play on the wanderer theme. Unfortunately, Porter’s prefaces are hard to come by since they are not always reprinted in copies of the novel. The Scribner’s edition I own does not contain them, and the Wiggin introduction is more focused on how much Kate Douglas Wiggin and her sister enjoyed the novel as children (this edition was, after all, being marketed to children so to have a famous children’s author introduce the novel was, apparently, a better marketing strategy than to have Jane Porter herself introduce it.) I did find the prefaces online at the University of Pennsylvania’s website: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/porter/chiefs/chiefs.html. In fact, it might be said that the prefaces are more interesting than the novel itself.

The 1831 preface contains a lot of insight into Porter’s interest in writing about Sir William Wallace. Porter describes her childhood hearing tales of Wallace from various people she knew, particularly an elderly neighbor named Luckie Forbes. Equally important, she heard from her sister’s nurse, Bel Johnston, about Bonnie Prince Charlie and how his cause was lost at the Battle of Culloden. Porter personally knew many of the widows of men who fought at Culloden. They were venerable old ladies in her childhood.

But the most striking point made in the introduction is when Porter relates how, as a child, she and her siblings were playing outside when a poor gentleman came to their home. The children begged him to come inside and rest, but he refused. He was an elderly man who explained that he had suffered from fighting with Prince Charles. Porter’s mother convinced him to come inside and let her give him something to eat once she explained that war had also made her a widow. He informs her then that he “received a wound worse than death: I shall never recover from it!” and then goes on to say, “I cannot go back…. I ought never to have come back anywhere. Sin should always be an outcast!” Porter’s mother tries to comfort him by saying Prince Charles’ followers were unfortunate, but “their fidelity could not be a sin!” What we have here is a Gothic wanderer figure—someone haunted by the past and past wrongs who has consequently become an outcast. All these widows and those who supported Prince Charles were outcasts in Porter’s childhood, some forty years after the Battle of Culloden, so Porter was very familiar with the outcast theme. Her desire later to write of Scottish history reminds me of Margaret Mitchell’s childhood being raised on stories of the Old South that eventually led to her writing Gone With the Wind (1936)—the Confederate cause was a lost one just like that of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Later, this old soldier leaves the Porter family and is referred to as “wandering along the fields towards the town.”

But what makes this particular soldier even more fascinating is that eventually it is revealed that he is really a she. Porter relates how later the soldier had an accident. Upon a doctor examining him, it’s revealed that not only is a limb fractured but also two ribs broken, and that the soldier is a woman. Knowing she’ll die from her wound, the woman says that if her relatives are contacted, they will “come to lay in a decent grave the last remains of an unhappy wanderer….” Eventually, the woman dies but her relatives reveal her identity as that of Jeannie Cameron, a woman who fought with Prince Charles as if she were a man. Many people considered Jeannie Cameron as possibly Prince Charles’ lover, and in Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones (1749), she is referenced as such. Readers can easily find out more about Jeannie Cameron, although the truth about her age and her role in Prince Charles’ service are somewhat confused. Visit Wikipedia for more information on her, including the fact that she was likely possibly a mix of several women whose identities were confused and melded together: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanie_(Jenny)_Cameron

If Jeannie Cameron is not a historical person, or not the person legend claims she was, it is surprising that Porter mentions her as if she were a real person whom Porter knew personally. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Porter to say whether she is being honest here, or just using what would become a standard device in historical fiction—the revelation of a stranger’s identity as being that of someone famous. (See my blog on James Malcolm Rymer’s The Black Monk, in which King Richard I keeps his identity secret; King Richard does the same thing in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819), posing as the Black Knight.) What I do know is that cross-dressing happens twice in The Scottish Chiefs where women put on men’s clothing, and I suspect these instances were inspired by Jeannie Cameron’s story, whether or not Porter ever really met her.

A comic book version of The Scottish Chiefs

Sadly, a full-length biography of Porter has never been written, nor do there seem to be many scholarly articles about her. Thomas McLean, a scholar in New Zealand, has written a few articles about her and is working on a project about her and her sister and brother. Her sister Anna Marie Porter was also an author and her brother Sir Robert Ker Porter was a noted painter. Porter’s relationship with Sir Walter Scott especially needs more discussion. We know Sir Walter Scott was a regular visitor to the Porters’ home when they lived in Edinburgh. Scott, however, never acknowledged Porter as a source of influence upon his writing historical fiction, but instead said he was influenced by Maria Edgeworth, whose Castle Rackrent (1800) is also a contender for the first historical novel. In her article “Transporting Genres: Jane Porter Delivers the Historical Novel to the Victorians,” (published in Victorian Traffic: Identity, Exchange, Performance, edited by Sue Thomas), Peta Beasley discusses how Scott never acknowledged Porter’s influence on him and even wrote a scathing comment about her portrayal of Wallace in a letter to his friend James Hogg. Beasley also discusses the possible date for the commencement of Scott’s first historical novel, Waverley (1814). Scott said he began it in 1805 but then mislaid the manuscript so he did not appear to resume it until 1810 or later (by which time he had no doubt read The Scottish Chiefs). In any case, it is a shame that more isn’t known about Porter and I believe it’s time for a full-length biography of her, including a more thorough discussion of her relationship with Scott.

It’s also time for a critical edition of The Scottish Chiefs. In her prefaces, Porter insists that she has sources for almost all the incidents in the novel and only a few characters are fictional. (She never says who those fictional characters are). She does have a few notes in her novel but they are meager and just simply tell us what she is writing is true. For example, the most interesting woman in the novel is Joanna, the Countess of Mar. After Wallace rescues her and her husband, she falls madly in love with Wallace and becomes extremely jealous of her stepdaughter Helen, whom she suspects Wallace loves. Joanna professes her love to Wallace, who instantly rejects her, knowing it isn’t honorable since she is a married woman and also he is obviously not attracted to her. Regardless, Joanna persists in believing he can love her, and she dreams and manipulates behind the scenes so that Wallace, rather than Bruce, will be offered the crown and then she can marry him and become a queen. However, even after her husband, Donald, Earl of Mar, dies, Joanna is rejected by Wallace. At one point, she even dresses in men’s clothing so that she can get close to Wallace, but when he rejects her again, she threatens him. At the end of the novel, partially through her treachery, Wallace is captured by the English. When Joanna learns he has been killed, she blames herself and goes mad. Joanna is a true Gothic wanderer figure in the moment she goes mad, finally feeling guilt for her sinful actions.

Once Wallace is in prison in London and sentenced to death, Joanna’s stepdaughter, Helen Mar, travels to be with him. She disguises herself as a man so she can get inside the prison. There she and Wallace are married just before he dies.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the novel, however, is Edwin Ruthven. He is a young boy of fifteen and a relative to Helen. He is completely enamored with Wallace and hero-worships him. Wallace treats him like a little brother, taking him under his wing. Edwin is no coward and repeatedly does brave things to the point where the English he is fighting are amazed that a boy is so strong and brave. All that said, modern readers cannot help but think Edwin is homosexual in the way he is portrayed, constantly professing his devotion to Wallace. At one point, Wallace and he are sleeping and Edwin is resting his head on Wallace’s bosom. In this scene, they are attacked and Wallace is taken prisoner, but not before Edwin tries to protect him by taking an arrow through the heart for him.

Of course, there is a fine line between a boy who worships his hero and being gay, and since Jane Porter, a female author, is writing the novel, she may have oversentimentalized the relationship between two men. Certainly, also, homophobia was not as rampant in 1809 as it has been in more recent years and the definitions of masculinity have changed since Porter’s time. Still, I suspect Porter was doing some literary crossdressing herself, projecting herself into the character of Edwin a bit too much in his speaking his admiration for Wallace. She likely projected herself into Helen as well, but in a more acceptable way because Helen’s romantic feelings for Wallace are heterosexual.

Helen descends the Glen of Stones, a scene that recalls for me the sisters in The Last of the Mohicans being taken along cliffs and forest trails as captives. Helen has just been rescued by a mysterious man in this scene.

I have been unable to find information online about most of these characters in the novel. While obviously Wallace and Robert the Bruce are historical, as is Donald, Earl of Mar, I could not find anything about Joanna Mar or Helen Mar. Helen’s sister Isabella Mar would marry Robert the Bruce so she is historical as well. Joanna’s mother was reputedly a princess of Norway so she must be historical and Porter says she was. As for Edwin, I could find nothing about him either. It is for these reasons that I think a critical edition of The Scottish Chiefs is long overdue so we can get a better sense of where Porter romanticized and where she drew from historical facts or at least from the ballads and stories she heard growing up about Sir William Wallace. Certainly, the Wallace depicted in this novel is a far cry from the one portrayed in Braveheart.

I will admit, despite my interest in the novel, that it is rather dull reading at times. I continually found my thoughts drifting away. I think the primary reason is because the characters are never fully fleshed out. They are more shadows than real people. Porter never really lets us into their minds but stands back and presents them through her sentimental and hero-worship lens. The only ones who really seem to live are Joanna, Helen, and Edwin. The rest show no real emotion. Wallace himself is one of the less memorable characters in the novel. His best scene is when he travels to England and visits Edward’s court disguised as a minstrel. At one point, Queen Margaret is rumored to have had an affair with him, but Wallace writes a letter to King Edward declaring she is virtuous, for which he is later thanked by her brother, the King of France when Wallace goes to France for support in Scotland’s cause. Wallace’s death scene is quickly brushed over—there are no explicit and gruesome details as there are in Braveheart.

The comic book version of Sir William Wallace’s death at a scaffold – no ripping out of entrails like in Braveheart.

One final interesting part of the novel is that the action begins with a box containing a secret that comes into Wallace’s possession and that he protects throughout the novel. In the end, it’s revealed that the regalia of Scotland is contained in the box. One wonders whether this mystery in the novel had any influence on Sir Walter Scott’s desire to find the regalia of Scotland, which he later located hidden away in Edinburgh Castle.

Ultimately, I have read a lot of Sir Walter Scott and I can well believe The Scottish Chiefs inspired him, but it is often as dull as James Fenimore Cooper’s novels and it reminded me a great deal of The Last of the Mohicans—especially in the scene where Helen is abducted and later rescued and led through the forest, including a dangerous journey over a bridge. One has to wonder how our ancestors could have been so taken by this novel, or even those of Scott and Cooper, but historical fiction was new then, and they had no movies to watch and no better historical novelists to read. These authors were pioneers of their time, and while I doubt anyone but literary historians are interested in them now (supposedly The Scottish Chiefs remains popular among Scottish children, but I doubt it’s any more popular than other books like Ivanhoe and The Last of the Mohicans which are also often published in children’s classics editions, but remain largely unread and not enjoyed if read. I read them as a child and found them dull and still do.) Nevertheless, Porter deserves a higher place in the history of historical fiction than she has so far been granted.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, beginning with Arthur’s Legacy and including Lilith’s Love, which is largely a sequel to Dracula. His scholarly nonfiction works include King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com.

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