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Forster, E(dward) M(organ)

FORSTER, E(dward) M(organ)

Nationality: English. Born: London, 1 January 1879. Education: Kent House, Eastbourne, Sussex, 1890-93; Tonbridge School, Kent, 1893-97; King's College, Cambridge (exhibitioner), 1897-1901, B.A. 1901, M.A. 1910. Career: Traveled in Italy, 1901-02, and in Greece and Italy, 1903. Lecturer, Working Men's College, London, 1902-07; contributor, and a founder, Independent Review, London, 1903; tutor to the children of Countess von Amim (the writer Elizabeth), Nassenheide, Germany, 1905. Lived in India, 1912-13. Cataloguer, National Gallery, London, 1914-15; Red Cross volunteer worker, Alexandria, Egypt, 1915-18; literary editor, London Daily Herald, 1920; private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas, India, 1921. Fellow of King's College, Cambridge; Clark lecturer, Trinity College, Cambridge, 1927; honorary fellow of King's College, 1946-70. President, National Council for Civil Liberties, 1934-35, 1944; vice-president, London Library; president, Cambridge Humanists. Awards: James Tait Black Memorial prize, 1925; Femina Vie Heureuse prize, 1925; Benson medal, 1937; Companion of Literature, Royal Society of Literature, 1961. LL.D.: University of Aberdeen, 1931. Litt.D.: University of Liverpool, 1947; Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, 1949; Cambridge University, 1950; University of Nottingham, 1951; University of Manchester, 1954; Leyden University, Holland, 1954; University of Leicester, 1958. Companion of Honour, 1953; Order of Merit, 1969. Member: BBC General Advisory Council; American Academy (honorary member); Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Died: 7 June 1970.

Publications

Collections

Works (Abinger Edition), edited by Oliver Stallybrass and Elizabeth Heine. 1972—.

The New Collected Short Stories, edited by P. N. Furbank. 1985.

Three Complete Novels (Where Angels Fear to Tread, A Room with a View, Howard's End). 1993.

E. M. Forster: Stories. 1994.

Short Stories

The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories. 1911.

The Eternal Moment and Other Stories. 1928.

The Collected Tales. 1947; as The Collected Short Stories, 1948.

The Life to Come and Other Stories. 1972.

Arctic Summer and Other Fiction. 1980.

The Machine Stops and Other Stories. 1997.

Novels

Where Angels Fear to Tread. 1905.

The Longest Journey. 1907.

A Room with a View. 1908.

Howards End. 1910; manuscripts edited by Oliver Stallybrass, 1973.

The Story of the Siren. 1920.

A Passage to India. 1924; manuscripts edited by Oliver Stallybrass, 1978.

Maurice. 1971.

Plays

Pageant of Abinger, music by Ralph Vaughan Williams (produced 1934). 1934.

England's Pleasant Land: A Pageant Play (produced 1938). 1940.

Billy Budd, with Eric Crozier, music by Benjamin Britten, from the story by Herman Melville (produced 1952). 1951; revised version (produced 1964), 1961.

Screenplay:

A Diary for Timothy (documentary), 1945.

Other

Egypt. 1920.

Alexandria: A History and a Guide. 1922; revised edition, 1938.

Pharos and Pharillon. 1923.

Anonymity: An Enquiry. 1925.

Aspects of the Novel. 1927.

A Letter to Madan Blanchard. 1932.

Sinclair Lewis Interprets America. 1932.

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (biography). 1934.

Abinger Harvest. 1936.

What I Believe. 1939.

Nordic Twilight. 1940.

The New Disorder. 1949.

The Hill of Devi, Being Letters from Dewas State Senior. 1953.

Two Cheers for Democracy. 1951.

Desmond MacCarthy. 1952.

I Assert That There Is an Alternative to Humanism. 1955.

Battersea Rise. 1955.

Marianne Thornton 1797-1887: A Domestic Biography. 1956.

Albergo Empedocle and Other Writings, edited by George H. Thomson. 1971.

A View Without a Room. 1973.

Aspects of the Novel and Related Writings, edited by Oliver Stallybrass. 1974.

Letters to Donald Windham. 1976.

Commonplace Book (manuscript facsimile). 1978; edited Philip Gardner, 1985.

Only Connect: Letters to Indian Friends, edited by Syed Hamid Husain. 1979.

Selected Letters, edited by P. N. Furbank and Mary Lago. 2 vols., 1983-85.

Editor, Original Letters from India 1779-1815, by Eliza Fay. 1925.

*

Bibliography:

A Bibliography of Forster by B.J. Kirkpatrick, 1965, revised edition, 1985; Forster: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Materials by Albert Borrello, 1973; Forster: An Annotated Bibliography of Writing about Him edited by Frederick P. W. McDowell, 1976.

Critical Studies:

Forster by Lionel Trilling, 1943, revised edition, 1965; The Novels of Forster by James McConkey, 1957; The Art of Forster by H. J. Oliver, 1960; The Achievement of Forster by John Beer, 1962, and A Passage to India: Essays in Interpretation edited by Beer, 1985; Forster: The Perils of Humanism by Frederick Crews, 1962; Art and Order: A Study of Forster by Alan Wilde, 1964; Forster: A Collection of Critical Essays edited by Malcolm Bradbury, 1966; The Cave and the Mountain: A Study of Forster by Wilfred Stone, 1966; Forster: A Passage to India, 1967, and Forster: The Personal Voice, 1975, both by John Colmer; Forster by Frederick P. W. McDowell, 1969, revised edition, 1982; Forster: The Critical Heritage edited by Philip Gardner, 1973, and Forster by Gardner, 1977; Forster: A Study in Double Vision by Vasant A. Shahane, 1975, and Approaches to Forster edited by Shahane, 1981; Forster's Women: Eternal Differences by Bonnie Finkelstein, 1975; Forster: The Endless Journey by J. S. Martin, 1976; Forster's Howards End: Fiction as History by Peter Widdowson, 1977; Forster's Posthumous Fiction, 1977, and Forster, 1987, both by Norman Page; Alexandria Still: Forster, Durrell, and Cavafy by Jane Lagoudis Pinchin, 1977; Forster: A Life by P. N. Furbank, 2 vols., 1977-78; Forster's India by G.K. Das, 1977; Forster and His World by Francis King, 1978, as Forster, 1988; Forster: A Human Exploration: Centenary Essays edited by G. K. Das and John Beer, 1979; A Reading of Forster by Glen Cavaliero, 1979; Forster's Passages to India by Robin Jared Lewis, 1979; Forster's A Passage to India: The Religious Dimension by Chaman L. Sahni, 1981; Forster's Narrative Vision by Barbara Rosecrance, 1982; Forster: Centenary Revaluations edited by Judith Scherer Herz and Robert K. Martin, 1982; Forster by Claude J. Summers, 1983; A Preface to Forster by Christopher Gillie, 1983; Forster as Critic by Rukun Advani, 1984; Forster: Our Permanent Contemporary by P. J. M. Scott, 1984; Critical Essays on Forster edited by Alan Wilde, 1985; The Short Narratives of Forster by Judith Scherer Herz, 1988; Challenge and Conventionality in the Fiction of Forster by Stephen K. Land, 1990; The Prose and the Passion: Anthropology, Literature, and the Writing of E. M. Forster by Nigel Rapport, 1994; E. M. Forster: A Critical Linguistic Approach by Surabhi Bandyopadhyaya, 1995; E. M. Forster: A Literary Life by Mary Lago, 1995; The Modernist as Pragmatist: E. M. Forster and the Fate of Liberalism by Brian May, 1997; Sisters in Literature: Female Sexuality in Antigone, Middlemarch, Howard's End and Women in Love by Masako Hirai, 1998.

* * *

E. M. Forster wrote short stories over a period of more than half a century, the earliest belonging to the opening years of the twentieth century, the latest to the closing years of his very long life. Their publication, too, extends over a very long period: a number of stories appeared in Edwardian magazines and were collected in the 1911 and 1928 volumes, while others appeared only after his death. Together the stories constitute a significant body of work, though there is evidence that Forster destroyed a number of stories, circulated among his friends but never published, on at least two occasions (the first in about 1922, when he noted in his diary that he had "burnt my indecent writings," the second in the last decade of his life, when he was presumably tidying up his papers in anticipation of his death).

The contents of his first two volumes, brought together in the The Collected Short Stories, share certain features with Forster's full-length novels of the Edwardian period, especially the two Italian novels and The Longest Journey. In particular they dramatize the disruptive power of the emotions on a highly organized and rigidly conventional society. They differ from the novels, however, in making more overt use of the supernatural and the whimsical. The title story of The Celestial Omnibus, for instance, is a fantasy or parable that has its starting point in a realistic setting but soon moves into sentimentalized Wellsian science fiction. Elsewhere Forster's classical education leads him to use the Greek mythological figure of Pan to symbolize nature, and especially the anarchic effects of sexuality, as opposed to civilization, as represented by English bourgeois life. Pan's influence is explicit in the title of "The Story of a Panic," which Forster referred to as the first story he ever wrote.

These early stories are characterized by the economy, wit, and irony that are familiar to readers of his novels, as well as by his moral commitment in offering a critique of contemporary English attitudes, particularly with regard to sexuality and social class. There is no doubt, however, that their impact is somewhat diminished by an archness or sentimentality that are now recognizable as a period flavor and are no doubt the result of the original appearance of nearly all these stories in magazines intended for a popular readership. Editorial constraints must have compelled Forster to modify the sharpness of his criticism and to encode issues that he would have preferred to deal with more frankly.

This is all the more evident when one compares these early stories with some of those published posthumously. The Life to Come contains stories written over a period of more than 50 years, for instance, from "Albergo Empedocle," published in Temple Bar in December 1903 but omitted from the 1911 volume at his publisher's request, to "The Other Boat," written in 1957 and 1958. Not surprisingly, the contents of this volume are very diverse and not all reviewers regarded it as a justifiable addition to Forster's published writings. To any student of Forster, however, many of the stories are of great interest. "Ansell," one of his earliest stories and one that had to wait some 70 years for publication, questions the value of the scholarly and intellectual life as against the life of nature and impulse, and finds its climax in a symbolic incident that recalls the use of symbolism in the full-length fiction. Several of the other stories in the volume belong to the Edwardian period.

Most of the other stories belong to the interwar period, and this group includes several examples of the type of homosexual short story that Forster wrote for his own pleasure and for the entertainment of his friends; as already indicated, most of Forster's work in this genre was destroyed by him, hence the surviving examples are of particular interest. "The Obelisk" (1939) is an extended indecent joke, its seaside setting giving it something of the quality of the traditional English comic postcard analyzed by George Orwell in "The Art of Donald McGill." "Arthur Snatchfold" (1928), on the other hand, is a more serious, even tragic, handling of the same theme of a casual homosexual encounter that in this case goes wrong. "The Classical Annex" (1930-31) is another story based on a phallic joke. It introduces a vein of fantasy that recalls the Edwardian stories while contrasting, in its comic explicitness, with their careful concern not to give offense.

As these comments suggest, Forster's stories cover a wide range in subject matter and treatment. They also differ markedly in the audiences for which they were intended: while some were tailored for a middle-class magazine readership, others were restricted to private circulation and hence set the author free from official or unofficial censorship—an issue to which he devoted much thought and energy. Forster's statement in the introduction to the The Collected Short Stories that the volume includes "all that I have accomplished in a particular line" is misleading, as Forster must have been well aware; on the other hand, the social climate changed dramatically in England between 1947 and 1972, and he would probably be gratified that the stories written for private circulation eventually found a wider audience.

Forster thought highly of his stories, declaring on one occasion in a letter to Edward Garnett that "I think them better than my long books." But he was also aware that in some of the stories he had been unable to speak out as boldly as he might have wished. In another letter, to T. E. Lawrence, he remarked that "one of the stories [in The Eternal Moment] is a feeble timid premonition of the one which is with you"—the reference being, presumably, to one of the homosexual stories subsequently destroyed. Critics have noted the relationship of the stories to the major fiction: in her early study, The Writings of E. M. Forster, for instance, Rose Macaulay describes them as "abstracts and brief chronicles of the earlier novels" (she was not, of course, including the contents of The Life to Come in this comment). Forster did not produce as substantial a body of material in the short story form as James or Hardy, for example, nor did he write as many first-rate examples of the genre as Conrad or Kipling; but his best stories—"The Road from Colonus" and "The Other Boat"—are of very high quality and have an unusual interest in covering such a wide chronological span. Though few of Forster's critics have given the stories extended attention, they ought not to be overlooked by any serious student of his fiction.

—Norman Page

See the essays on "The Other Boat" and "The Road from Colonus."

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