Tag Archives: Maurice

LGBT LIT: An Exhibition for LGBT+ History Month

The special collections at King’s include rare editions of literary output of some noteworthy LGBT 20th-century writers—Kingsman E.M. Forster and war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen—and one surprise, Alan Turing. King’s Archives and Library were pleased to mark LGBT+ History Month by showcasing this material, along with a display of borrowable LGBT-themed books, in an exhibition in King’s Library. We are delighted to be able to share the exhibition here.

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Alan Turing (1912–54) came up to King’s in 1931. (Reference: AMT/K/7/4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably while undergoing therapy in the 1950s, Turing began a near-autobiographical short story called ‘Pryce’s Buoy’. The story is about an interplanetary travel scientist, Alec Pryce, who resembles Alan in several ways. Just as Alan devised the idea that came to be known as the Turing machine, Alec, at the same age, comes up with ‘the idea which is now commonly known as ‘Pryce’s buoy’. ‘Alec always felt a glow of pride when this phrase was used. The rather obvious double-entendre rather pleased him too. He always liked to parade his homosexuality…’

The love interest in ‘Pryce’s Buoy’ is called Ron[ald] Miller, not a million miles from Arnold Murray, the other party involved when Alan was prosecuted for homosexuality.

A page from Alan Turing’s autograph manuscript of ‘Pryce’s Buoy’. (Reference: AMT/A/13)

A Trinity physicist named Maurice Pryce (1913–2003) was a Cambridge colleague of Turing. Maurice Pryce and Turing seem to have met at Cambridge but would no doubt quickly have discovered they shared a history in Guildford. Turing visited his parents there during school holidays from 1927, even into his College days, and in Guildford he indulged his interest in astronomy. Maurice Pryce attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford from 1923 to 1929. The fictional Alec Pryce was an astronomical scientist.

E.M. Forster (1879–1970) came up to King’s in 1897. (Reference: EMF/27/319)

‘Pryce’s Buoy’ describes Alec picking up Ron, a small-time criminal (including male prostitution), while Christmas shopping. The notion of the bourgeois professional picking up a working-class man was common in the years before homosexuality was partially legalised in Britain in 1967. It is one of the similarities between ‘Pryce’s Buoy’ and E.M. Forster’s posthumously published novel of homosexual love Maurice, first drafted in 1913.

P.N. Furbank (1920–1914). (Reference: KCPH/3/5)

It is possible that Turing learned of the Maurice manuscript from P.N. Furbank, a good friend of both Forster and Turing. He was Forster’s authorised biographer and one of Turing’s executors. Furbank came up to Emmanuel College in 1939.

If Turing had seen or heard of the Maurice manuscript, that might subconsciously have informed the choice of his hero’s name: Pryce for the real-life Maurice Pryce and Alec because in Forster’s novel the second of Maurice’s lovers is a working-class gamekeeper called Alec.

 

Another parallel between the fictional stories and real life was the threat of blackmail faced by gay men. Turing met Murray outside a cinema in 1952, took him to lunch (just as Alec took Ron to lunch in Turing’s story), eventually entertained him at home and loaned him money. They wrangled over the money with Murray threatening to ‘do his worst’. In Maurice, Alec tells Maurice ‘you reckernize it wouldn’t very well suit you if certain things came out’.

A page from Forster’s typescript of his novel Maurice. (Reference: EMF/1/5/9C)

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) in 1928 at Versailles (Reference: RNL/2/533)

Siegfried Sassoon came up to Clare College in 1905, a few years after Forster had left King’s. They knew of each other, had several aborted attempts at meeting and finally did so in 1919, soon after which Sassoon declared his homosexuality to Forster. Sassoon was one of the first people with whom Forster shared his short story ‘The Life to Come’, also published posthumously.

The story begins with Paul Pinmay, a missionary, going to bed with a great South Seas prince, Vithobai. For this he carries a great deal of guilt. Vithobai becomes Christian, taking the name Barnabas, and on the eve of both their weddings comes to Paul with a gift and confession of love.

A page from Forster’s typescript of ‘The Life to Come’. (Reference: EMF/3/13/2 vol 4/3)

Sassoon gave Forster several inscribed copies of his books of poetry and prose which are now in the Forster collection at King’s. The most affectionate inscription is on his 1950 book of poems, Common Chords, one of 107 copies printed on hand-made paper.

Sassoon’s inscription to Forster on his copy of Common Chords (Stanford Dingley: The Mill House Press, 1950). (Shelfmark: Forster.SAS.Com.1950)

Title page of Common Chords (Stanford Dingley: The Mill House Press, 1950).

One cannot skip past Sassoon without mentioning his protégé Wilfred Owen (1893–1918) who died in World War I.

Photograph of Wilfred Owen printed in Wilfred Owen, Poems (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920). (Shelfmark: N.32.16)

Owen and Sassoon met at Craiglockhart, a military psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh for the treatment of shell-shocked officers. It is believed that Owen, like Sassoon and other literary friends such as Robert Ross (Oscar Wilde’s literary executor, who was briefly a student at King’s), was also homosexual. As the Dictionary of National Biography says: ‘What is certain, however, is that Owen and Sassoon wrote more eloquently than other poets of the tragedy of boys killed in battle because they felt that tragedy more acutely, more personally.’ This year is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of this early edition of Owen’s poems, which includes an introduction by Sassoon.

Dustjacket from Owen’s Poems (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920). (Shelfmark: N.32.16)

Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Greater Love’, in Poems (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920). (Shelfmark: N.32.16)

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LGBT History Month in King’s Library

King’s Library and Archives were pleased to join the rest of the College in marking the start of LGBT history month by putting on an exhibition in the Library featuring items written by and relating to prominent LGBT King’s figures, including the novelist E.M. Forster and codebreaker Alan Turing, along with a display of borrowable LGBT-themed books. We are delighted to be able to share the exhibition here.

One of the earliest books about sexual practices to cover the subject of homosexuality, albeit in a negative way, was Psychopathia sexualis (1886), written by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902). Here we see an English translation, by Kingsman Arthur Vivian Burbury (1896–1959).

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Aberrations of sexual life (London, 1951) (Shelfmark: Store K Burb)

It was nearly thirty years later, in 1913, that novelist and Kingsman E.M. Forster (1879–1970) began his novel Maurice, which was ‘dedicated to a happier year’. He shared drafts with close friends and revised it throughout his life, taking their suggestions into account. It was published in 1971, shortly after he died. The 1987 Merchant Ivory adaptation of Maurice was partially filmed on location at King’s, and a number of Porters and Fellows appeared as extras in an early dining scene.

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Penultimate page. (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Final page (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Opening (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

Among E.M. Forster’s collection of books held in King’s College Library there is a copy of the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s fictional biography Orlando, given to him by the author herself. At the midpoint of the book the male Orlando goes to bed for several days and on awaking finds himself changed into a woman, remaining so for the rest of the book. Woolf dedicated Orlando to her great friend and lover Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962), who was the inspiration for the central character.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: a biography (London, 1928) (Shelfmark: Forster.WOO.Orl.1928)

Some two decades later the now famous ‘Kinsey scale’ was created in order to demonstrate that sexuality does not fit into two discrete categories of homosexual and heterosexual. Instead, Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956) believed that sexuality was fluid and subject to change over time. The scale first appeared in his very influential work Sexual behaviour in the human male in 1948.

Alfred C. Kinsey [et al.], Sexual behaviour in the human male (Philadelphia, 1949) and Sexual behaviour in the human female (Philadelphia, 1953) (Shelfmarks: IKS Kin/1 and IKS Kin/2)

Famous WW2 codebreaker and Kingsman Alan Turing (1912–1954) sent this poignant letter to his friend Norman Routledge (1928-2013), also a Kingsman, shortly before his trial for gross indecency in 1952. To avoid prison Turing had to agree to hormonal treatment that amounted to chemical castration.

Letter from Alan Turing to Norman Routledge, February 1952 (Reference: AMT/D/14a)

                        Turing believes machines think
                        Turing lies with men
                        Therefore machines do not think
                                    Yours in distress

                                                                     Alan

This is E.M. Forster’s copy of a 1954 report by the Church of England issued for private circulation which advocated the legalisation of homosexual acts in private and the creation of a government commission on the subject. This appeared just two years after Turing’s tragically early death.

The problem of homosexuality: an interim report (London, 1954) (Shelfmark: Forster.CHU.Pro.1954)

In the same year Peter Wildeblood (1923–1999) was sent to prison for homosexuality along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Pitt-Rivers. He wrote an account of the infamous and high-profile trial and his time in prison which was published in 1955. He later gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee. This is E.M. Forster’s copy of the book, showing Wildeblood’s description of what happened to him immediately after sentencing at the Winchester Assize Court.

Peter Wildeblood, Against the law (London, 1955) (Shelfmark: Forster.WILD.Aga.1955)

The ‘Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’, chaired by John Wolfenden (1906–1985), first met in September 1954. Its report, published in 1957, recommended that homosexuality should be legalised, but it was not until 1967 that this became law. This is E.M. Forster’s copy.

Parliamentary debates (Hansard), House of Commons, official report, 596/22 (26 November 1958) (Shelfmark: Forster.PAR.1958)

In addition to our exhibition of rare materials we also displayed a sample of modern books from the holdings of King’s Library which can be borrowed by members of College.

On the day of the exhibition launch, King’s College, along with many other Cambridge Colleges, the University Library and the Guildhall, flew the rainbow flag which has been the symbol of LGBT pride for some four decades.

The rainbow flag being flown from the Gibbs building in King’s College.

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