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Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), was an Englishmarker 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 Britishmarker society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards Endmarker: "Only connect".

Early years

Forster was born at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London NW1, in a building which no longer exists. His father, an architect, died when Forster was only a year old. Among Forster's ancestors were members of the Clapham Sect. As a boy he inherited £8,000 from his paternal great-aunt Marianne Thornton, daughter of the abolitionist Henry Thornton, which was enough to live on and enabled him to become a writer. He attended Tonbridge Schoolmarker in Kentmarker as a day boy. The theatre at the school is named after him.

At King's College, Cambridgemarker, between 1897 and 1901, 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 Egyptmarker, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson in 1914. 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 Dewasmarker. 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



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 Belfastmarker-based novelist Forrest Reid.

From 1925 until her death in March 1945 the novelist lived with his mother Alice Clare (Lily) in West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammermarker, finally leaving on or around 23 September 1946. His London base was 26 Brunswick Squaremarker from 1930 to 1939, after which he rented 9 Arlington Park Mansions in Chiswick until at least 1961.

Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridgemarker in January 1946, 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. In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit. Forster died in Coventry on 7 June 1970 at the age of 91, at the home of the Buckinghams.

Novels

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 Gimignanomarker). 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 Cambridgemarker, and the wild landscape of Wiltshiremarker. 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, influenced his writing.

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 (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



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, E. M. Forster: A Study (Norfolk: New Directions, 1943).
  • Wilde, Alan, Art and Order. A Study of E.M. Forster (New York, 1967).


References



External links

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