Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879, attended Tonbridge School as a day boy, and went on to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1897. With King’s he had a lifelong connection and was elected to an Honorary Fellowship in 1946. He declared that his life as a whole had not been dramatic, and he was unfailingly modest about his achievements. Interviewed by the BBC on his eightieth birthday, he said: ‘I have not written as much as I’d like to… I write for two reasons: partly to make money and partly to win the respect of people whom I respect… I had better add that I am quite sure I am not a great novelist.’ Eminent critics and the general public have judged otherwise and in his obituary The Times called him ‘one of the most esteemed English novelists of his time’.
He wrote six novels, four of which appeared before the First World War, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908), and Howard’s End (1910). An interval of fourteen years elapsed before he published A Passage to India. It won both the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Maurice, his novel on a homosexual theme, finished in 1914, was published posthumously in 1971. He also published two volumes of short stories; two collections of essays; a critical work, Aspects of the Novel; The Hill of Devi, a fascinating record of two visits Forster made to the Indian State of Dewas Senior; two biographies; two books about Alexandria (where he worked for the Red Cross in the First World War); and, with Eric Crozier, the libretto for Britten’s opera Billy Budd. He died in June 1970.
A PASSAGE TO INDIA
Exploring issues of colonialism, faith and the limits of comprehension, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India is edited by Oliver Stallybrass, with an introduction by Pankaj Mishra.
When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced ‘Anglo-Indian’ community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the ‘real India’, they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
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PUBLISHER: Penguin Classics, July 2005
An astonishingly frank and deeply autobiographical account of homosexual relationships in an era when love between men was not only stigmatised, but also illegal.
Maurice Hall is a young man who grows up confident in his privileged status and well aware of his role in society. Modest and generally conformist, he nevertheless finds himself increasingly attracted to his own sex. Through Clive, whom he encounters at Cambridge, and through Alec, the gamekeeper on Clive’s country estate, Maurice gradually experiences a profound emotional and sexual awakening. A tale of passion, bravery and defiance, this intensely personal novel was completed in 1914 but remained unpublished until after Forster’s death in 1970. Compellingly honest and beautifully written, it offers a powerful condemnation of the repressive attitudes of British society, and is at once a moving love story and an intimate tale of one man’s erotic and political self-discovery.
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PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics, July 2005
THE LONGEST JOURNEY
Rickie Elliot, a sensitive and intelligent young man with an intense imagination and a certain amount of literary talent, sets out from Cambridge full of hopes to become a writer. But when his stories are not successful he decides instead to marry the beautiful but shallow Agnes, agreeing to abandon his writing and become a schoolmaster at a second-rate public school. Giving up his hopes and values for those of the conventional world, he sinks into a world of petty conformity and bitter disappointments.
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PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics, July 2006
A meticulously-observed drama of class warfare, E.M. Forster’s Howards End explores the conflict inherent within English society, unveiling the character of a nation as never before.
A chance acquaintance brings together the preposterous bourgeois Wilcox family and the clever, cultured and idealistic Schlegel sisters. As clear-eyed Margaret develops a friendship with Mrs Wilcox, the impetuous Helen brings into their midst a young bank clerk named Leonard Bast, who lives at the edge of poverty and ruin. When Mrs Wilcox dies, her family discovers that she wants to leave her country home, Howards End, to Margaret. Thus as Forster sets in motion a chain of events that will entangle three different families, he brilliantly portrays their aspirations to personal and social harmony.
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PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics, April 2000
WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD
E.M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread is amongst the greatest twentieth-century literary explorations of vice, virtue and the nature of prejudice.
On travelling to Italy with her friend Caroline Abbott, the impulsive English widow Lilia Herriton outrages her dead husband’s family by meeting and quickly becoming engaged to Gino, a dashing but deeply unsuitable Italian man twelve years her junior. Infuriated, her ex-brother-in-law Philip sets off from England to her new home in the Tuscan town of Monteriano – but, finding himself unable to persuade Lilia to leave her handsome, uncouth new lover, returns to England without her. When Lilia’s marriage leads to sudden tragedy, however, Philip and Caroline feel compelled to return once more to Italy, where they are forced to examine their own lives.
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PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics, May 2007
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
E.M. Forster’s vision of love struggling to assert itself in spite of the rigid class boundaries of Edwardian England.
Visiting Florence with her prim and proper cousin Charlotte as a chaperone, Lucy Honeychurch meets the unconventional, lower-class Mr Emerson and his son, George. Upon her return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to the supercilious Cecil Vyse, but she finds herself increasingly torn between the expectations of the world in which she moves and the passionate yearnings of her heart. More than a love story, A Room with a View(1908) is a penetrating social comedy and a brilliant study of contrasts – in values, social class, and cultural perspectives – and the ingenuity of fate.
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PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics, August 2006
A powerful exploration of the clash between two opposing worlds, Forster’s ‘Arctic Summer’ posits the instinctive bravery of the traditional hero alongside the tolerance of the modern man, calling into question the very essence of the gentlemanly code. Embarking on a tour of Italy with his wife and mother-in-law, Martin Whitby slips and falls under a train. Owing his rescue to the quick thinking of a young soldier, he feels obliged to thank the youth, and so pursues the acquaintance. The two men differ sharply in outlook and opinion, however, and part rudely. But once back in England, Martin finds himself called upon by the soldier with an urgent request for help.
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PUBLICATIONS: Hesperus Classics, August 2003