chapter  47
3 Pages

Sylvia Townsend Warner, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot

Although told in nonsexual terms, and without any suggestion of sexual impropriety, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot (The Viking Press, 1927) is the story of the infatuation of a middle-aged missionary for a young Polynesian male. It might well be compared to Somerset Maugham’s 1921 short story “Miss Thompson” (which became the play and film Rain) in which another missionary in much the same part of the world falls in love with a prostitute, Sadie Thompson. The difference, of course, aside from the change in sex, is that the object of Mr. Fortune’s love is pure and unspoiled. Sadie Thompson seduces the Reverend Alfred Davidson, whereas Mr. Fortune is neither the seduced nor the seducer, but simply the besotted. His affection is returned, but without the returnee being full comprehensive of just what is being asked of him. In a pure, unspoiled society, male-male love is not subject to Christian bigotry. Those who have never been taught wrong cannot commit a wrong.