‘The Unspeakable Vice of the Greeks’

From E.M. Forster’s Maurice, Chp. 7:

“Towards the end of the term they touched upon a yet more delicate subject. They attended the Dean’s translation class, and when one of the men was forging quietly ahead Mr. Cornwallis observed in a flat toneless voice: ‘Omit: a reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks.’ Durham observed afterwards that he ought to lose his fellowship for such hypocrisy.

Maurice laughed.

‘I regard it as a point of pure scholarship. The Greeks, or most of them, were that way inclined, and to omit it is to omit the mainstay of Athenian society.’

‘Is that so?’

‘You’ve read the Symposium?’

Maurice had not, and did not add that he had explored Martial.

‘It’s all in there – not meat for babes, of course, but you ought to read it. Read it this vac.’

No more was said at the time, but he was free of another subject, and one that he had never mentioned to any living soul. He hadn’t known it could be mentioned, and when Durham did so in the middle of the sunlit court a breath of liberty touched him.”

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