E. M. Forster: Biography Life & Works

Also Read


      Edward Morgan Forster, the doyen of contemporary English novelists, was born in London on January 1, 1879, and educated at Tonbridge School and King's College, Cambridge, where he became friendly with G. Lowes Dickinson. By the time he was twenty, he had worked on a novel, although he never finished it. After graduation, he published stories, some of them appearing in The Independent Review. In 1905 he published his first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, written during his stay in Italy. The setting of the novel is in this country, and its theme is the impact of a foreign culture on provincial personalities. In the next year, Forster prepared a school edition of The Aeneid (1906). Tonbridge School and Cambridge are the settings for Forster's second novel, The Longest Journey, a book dealing with the problem of illusion and reality and the conflict between the people who are upright and honest and those who are false and hypocritical. A Room With a View, published in 1908, may very well have been conceived five years earlier. It is a comedy, and like the first novel its setting is in Italy.

      Forster had returned to England in 1907 and it was there that he finished A Room With a View. He also began at this time to lecture at the Working Men's College. In 1910 Howards End appeared. It was considered by many to be Forster's masterpiece. The essential conflict in this novel is embodied in the Schlegel and Wilcox families, the former representing the inner life, the life of art and thought and generous impulses and the latter representing, the external life of affairs, of telegrams and hurry and anger. Forster here raises the question whether we can reclaim the roots of tradition in the modern world where there is a flux even in the hearts of men. His answer is a qualified 'yes'. If men and women are truly perceptive and they are moved by love, the roots of tradition can be secured.

      In 1911 Forster made his first trip to India, accompanying G. Lowes Dickinson. During the First World War he helped in the civilian war effort in Alexandria and contributed a series of essays to The Egyptian Mail which later appeared under the title Pharos and Pharillon. He also wrote at this time, Alexandria: A History and Guide. Back in London after the war, he engaged in literary journalism briefly and in 1921 returned to India, where he served as Secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. His Indian experience provided the background for A Passage to India, his most celebrated novel and the winner in 1925 of the Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Memorial prizes. The novel is a sensitive rendering of the clash of English and Indian temperaments and cultures. Misunderstanding, prejudice and suspicion poison decent human relationships and work to keep even men of goodwill apart. Only the elderly Mrs. Moore, a mystic, seems able to overcome the barriers.

      In 1927 Forster was invited to deliver the Clark Lectures at King's College, Cambridge. These were published in the same year as Aspects of the Novel, his most substantial and influential volume of criticism. In 1934 he published a life of his friend Dickinson and in 1936 Abinger Harvest appeared, a collection of reviews. The Hill of Devi deals with Indian experiences. Marianne Thornton is a biography of his great aunt. Forster was honored by Queen Elizabeth II, who conferred upon him the Order of Companions of Honour in 1953.


      Novels: Where Angels Fear to Tread, 1905; The Longest Journey, 1907; A Room with a View, 1908; Howards End, 1910; A Passage to India, 1924.

      Short Stories: The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories 1911; The Eternal Moment and Other Stories, 1928; Collected Short Stories, 1948.

      Essays: Abinger Harvest—A Miscellany, 1936; Two Cheers for Democracy, 1951.
Biography: G. Lowes Dickinson, 1934; Marianne Thornton: A Domestic.

      Criticism: Aspects of the Novel, 1927; Virginia Woolf, 1942.

      History and Travel: Alexandria: A History and a Guide, 1922; Pharos and Pharillon, 1923; The Hill of Devi, 1953.

Previous Post Next Post