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Edward Morgan Forster

E. M. Forster
Born Edward Morgan Forster
1 January 1879(1879-01-01)
Marylebone, London
Died 7 June 1970 (aged 91)
Coventry, Warwickshire
Occupation Writer (novels, short stories, essays)
Nationality English
Period 1901–70
Genres Realism, Symbolism, modernism
Subjects Class division, gender, homosexuality
Signature

Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy and also the attitudes towards gender and homosexuality in early 20th-century British society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

Contents

Early years

Forster was born into an Anglo-Irish and Welsh middle-class family at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London NW1, in a building which no longer exists. He was the only child of Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster and Alice Clara 'Lily' (nee Whichelo). His father, an architect, died of tuberculosis on 30 October 1880. Among Forster's ancestors were members of the Clapham Sect. He inherited £8,000 from his paternal great-aunt Marianne Thornton (daughter of the abolitionist Henry Thornton), who died on 5 November 1887.[1] The money was enough to live on and enabled him to become a writer. He attended Tonbridge School in Kent as a day boy. The theatre at the school is named after him[1].

At King's College, Cambridge, between 1897 and 1901,[2] he became a member of the Apostles (formally named the Cambridge Conversazione Society), a discussion society. Many of its members went on to constitute what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s. There is a famous recreation of Forster's Cambridge at the beginning of The Longest Journey.

After leaving university he travelled on the continent with his mother. He visited Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in 1914. By that time, Forster had written all but one of his novels.[3] When the First World War broke out, he became a conscientious objector.

Forster spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his non-fictional account of this trip. After returning from India, he completed his last novel, A Passage to India (1924), for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

After A Passage to India

Arlington Park Mansions, Chiswick

In the 1930s and 1940s Forster became a successful broadcaster on BBC Radio and a public figure associated with the British Humanist Association. He was awarded a Benson Medal in 1937.

Forster developed a friendship with Bob Buckingham, a policeman, and his wife, May, and included the couple in his circle, which also included the writer and arts editor of The Listener, J.R. Ackerley, the psychologist W.J.H. Sprott, and, for a time, the composer Benjamin Britten. Other writers with whom Forster associated included the poet Siegfried Sassoon and the Belfast-based novelist Forrest Reid.

From 1925 until her death at age 90 on 11 March 1945 the novelist lived with his mother in West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammer, finally leaving on or around 23 September 1946.[4] His London base was 26 Brunswick Square from 1930 to 1939, after which he rented 9 Arlington Park Mansions in Chiswick until at least 1961.[5][6]

Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge in January 1946,[5] and lived for the most part in the college, doing relatively little. He declined a knighthood in 1949 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1953.[5] In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit. Forster died of a stroke[7] in Coventry on 7 June 1970 at the age of 91, at the home of the Buckinghams.[5] Forster was a humanist, homosexual, lifelong bachelor.[8]

Novels

The monument to Forster in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, near Rooks Nest where Forster grew up and on which he based the setting for his novel Howards End. The area is now known as Forster Country.

Forster had five novels published in his lifetime. Although Maurice appeared shortly after his death, it had been written nearly sixty years earlier. A seventh novel, Arctic Summer, was never finished.

His first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), is the story of Lilia, a young English widow who falls in love with an Italian man, and of the efforts of her bourgeois relatives to get her back from Monteriano (based on San Gimignano). The mission of Philip Herriton to retrieve her from Italy has features in common with that of Lambert Strether in Henry James's The Ambassadors, a work Forster discussed ironically and somewhat disapprovingly in his book Aspects of the Novel (1927). Where Angels Fear to Tread was adapted into a film by Charles Sturridge in 1991.

Next, Forster published The Longest Journey (1907), an inverted bildungsroman following the lame Rickie Elliott from Cambridge to a career as a struggling writer and then to a post as a schoolmaster, married to the unappetising Agnes Pembroke. In a series of scenes on the hills of Wiltshire which introduce Rickie's wild half-brother Stephen Wonham, Forster attempts a kind of sublime related to those of Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence.

Forster's third novel, A Room with a View (1908), is his lightest and most optimistic. It was started before any of his others, as early as 1901, and exists in earlier forms referred to as "Lucy". The book is the story of young Lucy Honeychurch's trip to Italy with her cousin, and the choice she must make between the free-thinking George Emerson and the repressed aesthete Cecil Vyse. George's father Mr Emerson quotes thinkers who influenced Forster, including Samuel Butler. A Room with a View was filmed by Merchant-Ivory in 1985.

Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Room with a View can be seen collectively as Forster's Italian novels. Both include references to the famous Baedeker guidebooks and concern narrow-minded middle-class English tourists abroad. The books share many themes with short stories collected in The Celestial Omnibus and The Eternal Moment.

Howards End (1910) is an ambitious "condition-of-England" novel concerned with different groups within the Edwardian middle classes represented by the Schlegels (bohemian intellectuals), the Wilcoxes (thoughtless plutocrats) and the Basts (struggling lower-middle-class aspirants).

It is frequently observed that characters in Forster's novels die suddenly. This is true of Where Angels Fear to Tread, Howards End and, most particularly, The Longest Journey.

Forster achieved his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924). The novel takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj. Forster connects personal relationships with the politics of colonialism through the story of the Englishwoman Adela Quested, the Indian Dr. Aziz, and the question of what did or did not happen between them in the Marabar Caves.

Maurice (1971) was published posthumously. It is a homosexual love story which also returns to matters familiar from Forster's first three novels, such as the suburbs of London in the English home counties, the experience of attending Cambridge, and the wild landscape of Wiltshire. The novel was controversial, given that Forster's sexuality had not been previously known or widely acknowledged. Today's critics continue to argue over the extent to which Forster's sexuality, even his personal activities,[9] influenced his writing.

Critical reception

In the United States, interest in and appreciation for Forster was spurred by (Trilling 1943) by Lionel Trilling, which began:

E. M. Forster is for me the only living novelist who can be read again and again and who, after each reading, gives me what few writers can give us after our first days of novel-reading, the sensation of having learned something.

Key themes

Forster's views as a humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society. His humanist attitude is expressed in the non-fictional essay What I Believe.

Forster's two best-known works, A Passage to India and Howards End, explore the irreconcilability of class differences. A Room with a View also shows how questions of propriety and class can make connection difficult. The novel is his most widely read and accessible work, remaining popular long after its original publication. His posthumous novel Maurice explores the possibility of class reconciliation as one facet of a homosexual relationship.

Sexuality is another key theme in Forster's works, and it has been argued that a general shift from heterosexual love to homosexual love can be detected over the course of his writing career. The foreword to Maurice describes his struggle with his own homosexuality, while similar issues are explored in several volumes of homosexually charged short stories. Forster's explicitly homosexual writings, the novel Maurice and the short-story collection The Life to Come, were published shortly after his death.

Forster is noted for his use of symbolism as a technique in his novels, and he has been criticised (as by his friend Roger Fry) for his attachment to mysticism. One example of his symbolism is the wych elm tree in Howards End; the characters of Mrs Wilcox in that novel and Mrs Moore in A Passage to India have a mystical link with the past and a striking ability to connect with people from beyond their own circles.

Notable works by Forster

Novels

Short stories

  • The Celestial Omnibus (and other stories) (1911)
  • The Eternal Moment and other stories (1928)
  • Collected Short Stories (1947) a combination of the above two titles, containing:
    • "The Story of a Panic"
    • "The Other Side Of The Hedge"
    • "The Celestial Omnibus"
    • "Other Kingdom"
    • "The Curate's Friend"
    • "The Road from Colonus"
    • "The Machine Stops"
    • "The Point of It"
    • "Mr Andrews"
    • "Co-ordination"
    • "The Story of the Siren"
    • "The Eternal Moment"
  • The Life to Come and other stories (1972) (posthumous) containing the following stories written between approximately 1903 and 1960:
    • "Ansell"
    • "Albergo Empedocle"
    • "The Purple Envelope"
    • "The Helping Hand"
    • "The Rock"
    • "The Life to Come"
    • "Dr Woolacott"
    • "Arthur Snatchfold"
    • "The Obelisk"
    • "What Does It Matter? A Morality"
    • "The Classical Annex"
    • "The Torque"
    • "The Other Boat"
    • "Three Courses and a Dessert: Being a New and Gastronomic Version of the Old Game of Consequences"

Plays and pageants

  • Abinger Pageant (1934)
  • England's Pleasant Land (1940)

Film scripts

Libretto

Collections of essays and broadcasts

  • Abinger Harvest (1936)
  • Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)

Literary criticism

  • Aspects of the Novel (1927)
  • The Feminine Note in Literature (posthumous) (2001)

Biography

  • Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1934)
  • Marianne Thornton, A Domestic Biography (1956)

Travel writing

  • Alexandria: A History and Guide (1922)
  • Pharos and Pharillon (A Novelist's Sketchbook of Alexandria Through the Ages) (1923)
  • The Hill of Devi (1953)

Miscellaneous writings

Notable films based upon novels by Forster

Secondary works on Forster

  • Abrams, M.H. and Stephen Greenblatt, "E.M. Forster." The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2C, 7th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000: 2131–2140.
  • Ackerley, J. R., E. M. Forster: A Portrait (Ian McKelvie, London, 1970)
  • Bakshi, Parminder Kaur, Distant Desire. Homoerotic Codes and the Subversion of the English Novel in E. M. Forster's Fiction (New York, 1996).
  • Beauman, Nicola, Morgan (London, 1993).
  • Brander, Lauwrence, E.M. Forster. A critical study (London, 1968).
  • Cavaliero, Glen, A Reading of E.M. Forster (London, 1979).
  • Colmer, John, E.M. Forster – The personal voice (London, 1975).
  • Crews, Frederick, E. M. Forster: The Perils of Humanism (Textbook Publishers, 2003).
  • E.M. Forster, ed. by Norman Page, Macmillan Modern Novelists (Houndmills, 1987).
  • E.M. Forster: The critical heritage, ed. by Philip Gardner (London, 1973).
  • Forster: A collection of Critical Essays, ed. by Malcolm Bradbury (New Jersey, 1966).
  • Furbank, P.N., E.M. Forster: A Life (London, 1977–78).
  • Haag, Michael, Alexandria: City of Memory (London and New Haven, 2004). This portrait of Alexandria during the first half of the twentieth century includes a biographical account of E.M. Forster, his life in the city, his relationship with Constantine Cavafy, and his influence on Lawrence Durrell.
  • King, Francis, E.M. Forster and his World, (London, 1978).
  • Martin, John Sayre, E.M. Forster. The endless journey (London, 1976).
  • Martin, Robert K. and Piggford, George (eds.) Queer Forster (Chicago, 1997)
  • Mishra, Pankaj (ed.) "E.M. Forster." India in Mind: An Anthology. New York: Vintage Books, 2005: 61–70.
  • Scott, P.J.M., E.M. Forster: Our Permanent Contemporary, Critical Studies Series (London, 1984).
  • Summers, Claude J., E.M. Forster (New York, 1983).
  • Trilling, Lionel (1943), E. M. Forster: A Study, Norfolk: New Directions .
  • Wilde, Alan, Art and Order. A Study of E.M. Forster (New York, 1967).

References

External links

General portals

Sources

LGBT


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.
Only connect! ... Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

Edward Morgan Forster (1879-01-011970-07-07) was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

See also : Maurice

Contents

Sourced

Poetry is a spirit; and they that would worship it must worship in spirit and in truth.
  • There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.
    • A Room with a View (1908) Ch. 2
  • The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but transalate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions.
    • A Room with a View (1908) Ch. 3
  • Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.
    • A Room with a View (1908)
  • It isn’t possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know from experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.
    • A Room with a View (1908) Ch. 19
  • I am the means and not the end. I am the food and not the life. Stand by yourself, as that boy has stood. I cannot save you. For poetry is a spirit; and they that would worship it must worship in spirit and in truth.
    • "The Celestial Omnibus" (1911)

Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905)

Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will ever pull it out of us.
  • Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will ever pull it out of us. But there is a spurious sentiment which cannot resist the unexpected and the incongruous and the grotesque. A touch will loosen it, and the sooner it goes from us the better.
    • Ch. 2
  • A wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and — by some sad, strange irony — it does not bind us children to our parents. For if it did, if we could answer their love not with gratitude but with equal love, life would lose much of its pathos and much of its squalor, and we might be wonderfully happy.
    • Ch. 7
  • I never expect anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now — I don't suppose I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass through the world without colliding with it or moving it — and I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil. I don't die — I don't fall in love. And if other people die or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there. You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle, which — thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you — is now more beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before.
    • Ch. 8
  • This woman was a goddess to the end. For her no love could be degrading: she stood outside all degradation. This episode, which she thought so sordid, and which was so tragic for him, remained supremely beautiful. To such a height was he lifted, that without regret he could now have told her that he was her worshipper too. But what was the use of telling her? For all the wonderful things had happened.
    "Thank you," was all that he permitted himself. "Thank you for everything." ~ Ch. 10

Howards End (1910)

She might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion...
  • There's nothing like a debate to teach one quickness. I often wish I had gone in for them when I was a youngster. It would have helped me no end.
    • Ch. 15
  • She might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the grey, sober against the fire. Happy the man who sees from either aspect the glory of these outspread wings. The roads of his soul lie clear, and he and his friends shall find easy-going.
    • Ch. 22
Connect — connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.
  • Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.
    • Ch. 22
  • In these English farms, if anywhere, one might see life steadily and see it whole, group in one vision its transitoriness and its eternal youth, connect — connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.
    • Ch. 33

A Passage to India (1924)

  • All invitations must proceed from heaven perhaps; perhaps it is futile for men to initiate their own unity, they do but widen the gulfs between them by the attempt.
    • Ch. 4
  • Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talks that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence. Inside its cocoon of work or social obligation, the human spirit slumbers for the most part, registering the distinction between pleasure and pain, but not nearly as alert as we pretend. There are periods in the most thrilling day during which nothing happens, and though we continue to exclaim, “I do enjoy myself", or , “I am horrified,” we are insincere.
    • Ch. 14
  • Pathos, piety, courage, — they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value.
    • Ch. 14
  • 'Why can't we be friends now?' said the other, holding him affectionately. 'It's what I want. It's what you want.' But the horses didn't want it — they swerved apart: the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temple, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they emerged from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices 'No, not yet,' and the sky said 'No, not there.'
    • Ch. 37

Aspects of the Novel (1927)

If God could tell the story of the Universe, the Universe would become fictitious.
  • As long as learning is connected with earning, as long as certain jobs can only be reached through exams, so long must we take the examination system seriously. If another ladder to employment was contrived, much so-called education would disappear, and no one be a penny the stupider.
    • Chapter One: Introductory
  • A mirror does not develop because an historical pageant passes in front of it. It only develops when it gets a fresh coat of quicksilver — in other words, when it acquires new sensitiveness; and the novel's success lies in its own sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject matter.
    • Chapter One: Introductory
  • If God could tell the story of the Universe, the Universe would become fictitious.
    • Chapter Three: People
  • A man does not talk to himself quite truly — not even to himself: the happiness or misery that he secretly feels proceeds from causes that he cannot quite explain, because as soon as he raises them to the level of the explicable they lose their native quality. The novelist has a real pull here. He can show the subconscious short-circuiting straight into action (the dramatist can do this too); he can also show it in its relation to soliloquy. He commands all the secret life, and he must not be robbed of this privilege. "How did the writer know that?" it is sometimes said. "What's his standpoint? He is not being consistent, he's shifting his point of view from the limited to the omniscient, and now he's edging back again." Questions like this have too much the atmosphere of the law courts about them.
    • Chapter Five: The Plot
If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way...
  • How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?
    • Chapter Five: The Plot
  • Most of us will be eclectics to this side or that according to our temperament. The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism. And the only advice I would offer my fellow eclectics is: "Do not be proud of your inconsistency. It is a pity, it is a pity that we should be equipped like this. It is a pity that Man cannot be at the same time impressive and truthful."
    • Chapter Seven: Prophecy
  • If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people — a very few people, but a few novelists are among them — are trying to do this. Every institution and vested interest is against such a search: organized religion, the state, the family in its economic aspect, have nothing to gain, and it is only when outward prohibitions weaken that it can proceed: history conditions it to that extent.
    • Chapter Nine: Conclusion

Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)

  • [Tolerance] is just a makeshift, suitable for an overcrowded and overheated planet. It carries on when love gives out, and love generally gives out as soon as we move away from our home and our friends.
    • "Tolerance"
Think before you speak is criticism's motto; speak before you think is creation's.
  • Love is a great force in private life; it is indeed the greatest of all things; but love in public affairs does not work.
    • "Tolerance"
  • Hardship is vanishing, but so is style, and the two are more closely connected than the present generation supposes.
    • "Cambridge"
  • A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself.
    • "Anonymity: An Enquiry"
  • What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote, and brings to birth in us also the creative impulse.
    • "Anonymity: An Enquiry"
  • Think before you speak is criticism's motto; speak before you think is creation's.
    • "The Raison d'Etre of Criticism in the Arts"
To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.
  • We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.
    • "The Tercentenary of the 'Areopagitica'"
  • To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.
    • "A Book That Influenced Me"
Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.
  • The only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.
    • "A Book That Influenced Me"
  • A humanist has four leading characteristics — curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.
    • "George and Gide"
  • I believe in aristocracy... — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power... but... of the sensitive, the considerate... Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages... there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves... considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure.

What I Believe

First published in The Nation, July 16, 1938
The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society was eternal.
One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life.
  • Two Cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give three.
  • I do not believe in Belief. But this is an Age of Faith, and there are so many militant creeds that, in self defence, one has to formulate a creed of one's own. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world where ignorance rules, and Science, which ought to have ruled, plays the pimp. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.
  • There lies at the back of every creed something terrible and hard for which the worshipper may one day be required to suffer.
  • An efficiency-regime cannot be run without a few heroes stuck about it to carry off the dullness — much as plums have to be put into bad pudding to make it palatable.
  • I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too, and I always feel a little man's pleasure when they come a cropper.
  • Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible.
  • Naked I came into this world, naked I shall go out of it. And a very good thing too, for it reminds me that I am naked under my shirt, whatever its colour.
  • The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society was eternal.
  • If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the decency to betray my country.
  • One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life.

Quotes about E.M. Forster

  • His light blue eyes behind his spectacles were like those of a baby who remembers his previous incarnation and is more amused than dismayed to find himself reborn in new surroundings. He had a baby's vulnerability, which is also the invulnerability of a creature whom one dare not harm.

External links

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