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Forster did not seek to publish it during his lifetime, believing it unpublishable during that period. Forster was close friends with the poet Edward Carpenter, and upon visiting his Derbyshire home in 1912, was motivated to write Maurice. The relationship between Carpenter and his partner, George Merrill, was the inspiration for that between Maurice and Alec Scudder.
Forster resisted publication because of public and legal attitudes to same-sex love – a note found on the manuscript read: “Publishable, but worth it?” Forster was particularly keen that his novel should have a happy ending, but knew that this would make the book too controversial. However, by the time he died, British attitudes, and law, had changed. The novel has been adapted once for film and once for the stage.