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E. M. Forster

(1879-1970)

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) was a noted English author and critic and a
member of the Bloomsbury group.

Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on January 1, 1871 as the son
of an architect, who died before his only child was two years old.
Forster’s childhood and much of his adult life was dominated by his
mother and his aunts. Forster’s years at Tonbridge School as a teenager
were difficult — he suffered from the cruelty of his classmates. Forster
attended King’s College, Cambridge (1897-1901), where he met members of
the later formed Bloomsbury group. After graduating he travelled in
Italy and Greece with his mother, and on his return began to write
essays and short stories for the liberal Independent Review. In 1905
Foster spent several months in Germany as tutor to the children of the
Countess von Armin.

His first novel, Where Angels Fear To Tread appeared in 1905. In the
following year he lectured on Italian art and history for the Cambridge
Local Lectures Board. The Longest Journey appeared in 1907 followed by A
Room With A View (1908), based partly on the material from extended
holidays in Italy with his mother. Forster also wrote during the pre-war
years a number of short stories, which were collected in The Celestial
Omnibus (1914). Most of them were symbolic fantasies or fables.

Howards End (1910) was a story that centered on an English country house
and dealt with the clash between two families, one interested in art and
literature, the other only in business. The book brought together the
themes of money, business and culture. Forster then embarked upon a new
novel with a homosexual theme, Maurice which was revised several times
during his life, and finally published posthumously in 1971.

Between the years 1912 and 1913 Forster travelled in India. From 1914 to
1915 he worked for the National Gallery in London. Following the
outbreak of World War I, Forster joined the Red Cross and served in
Alexandria, Egypt. In 1921 Forster returned to India, working as a
private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. India was the scene of his
masterwork A Passage To India (1924), an account of the country under
British rule. It was Forster’s last novel — and for the remaining 46
years of his life he devoted himself to other activities.

Forster wrote two biographies Goldsworthy Lowes Dickenson (1934) and
Marianne Thornton (1956). The essay collections Abinger Harvest and Two
Cheers for Democracy appeared in 1936 and 1951. The Hill of Devi a
portrait of India with commentary appeared in 1953. Another posthumous
publication was the collection of short stories The Life to Come (1972).

Forster contributed reviews and essays to numerous journals, most
notably the Listener and he was an active member of PEN. In 1934 he
became the first president of the National Council for Civil Liberties,
and after his mother’s death in 1945, he was elected an honorary fellow
of King’s and lived there for the remainder of his life. In 1949 Forster
refused a knighthood. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1953 and in
1969 he accepted an Order of Merit. Forster died on June 7, 1970.

*****

Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on 1 January 1879. He was the
only son of Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster and Alice Clara Whichelo.
They were an upper middle class family but unfortuately his father, an
architect, died when of consumption before EM Forster was two years old.
He was raised by his mother and great-aunt Marianne Thornton. It was his
mother (known as Lily to family and friends) that gave him the awareness
of injustice and sense of propriety that is evident in his novels. EM
Forster shared a house with his mother until her death in 1945.

Upper-middle class: The English class system is very deep rooted and
complicated, but essentially follows a feudal system throughout the
ages. The class system in Edwardian England was divided into the working
classes, middle classes and upper classes. It was during this period
that the middle classes truly began to expand. An average household
income of an upper-middle class family has been said to be F750 — F1500
per year. The man of the house is likely to be a professional, such as a
merchant, banker, solicitor, surgeon or manufacturer. The families
Forster writes of in his novels A Room With A View and Howards End are
upper-middle class.

Marianne Thornton: Forster later wrote a biography of his great aunt,
which was published in 1956.

From 1883 to 1893 Forster lived at Rooksnest. He was educated at
Tonbridge in Kent and then Kings College, Cambridge, which he remained
connected with even after his graduation in 1901. He travelled
extensively, living in Italy for several years and also to Greece,
Germany and India. It was now that EM Forster seriously began to start
writing. He had several short stories published in journals such as the
‘Independant Review’ and his first novel — ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’
— was published in 1905 when he was only 26 years old. The «most
brilliant, most dramatic and the most passionate of his works» (Lionel
Trilling) and his most autobiographical novel ‘The Longest Journey’ was
published two years later in 1907. ‘A Room with a View’ followed in
1908, the first part having been written years earlier when the author
was in Italy. When ‘Howards End’ was published in 1910, Forster, at 31
years of age, was established as a respected and economically successful
writer. He became a part of the Bloomsbury Group, «a set of Bohemian
thinkers and doers who revolted against the manners and morals of
Victorian England» (Jerry Carroll). Besides Forster, other members of
the Bloomsbury Group included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Dora
Carrington and Lytton Strachey.

King?s College, Cambridge: The University of Cambridge has thirty-one
separate colleges, each of which is an indepedant insitution. Each
college has their own property and income, each selects their own
students and each college provides their own accomodation for those
students. To all events and purposes, Cambridge students belong to their
colleges, before the university. King?s College was founded by Henry VI
in 1441. It has a liberal tradition and is known for informality and
innovation among it?s members. (see also www.cam.ac.uk)

Virginia Woolf was a famous novelist, a modernist, increasingly seen as
one of the most important feminist writers of the 20th Century.

John Maynard Keynes was an economist who first became famous for his
post WW1 treatise ?Economic Consequences of the Peace? in 1919. He also
gave his name to the economic theory of Keynesianism, taken up after
World War ,Two.

Dora Carrington was an artist. Her life has been the subject of Merchant
Ivory film, entitled ?Carrington?.

Lytton Strachey was a biographer and critic. He has been given credit
for revolutionising the writing of the biography. His most famous work
is perhaps ?Eminent Victorians? from 1918.

EM Forster’s last novel, ‘A Passage to India’ was published in 1924. The
story depicts the complicated reaction to the British Raj and has been
called «a classic on the strange and tragic fact of history and life in
India» (Lowes Dickenson). The book cemented his literary reputation and
despite only writing relatively few novels, EM Forster has been
acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.

The British Raj: The East India Company launched British rule in India
in 1600. This company originated as traders during Elizabethan times,
but following a series of battles and deals, became increasingly
powerful in India, as land owners and as rulers. However, the changes
introduced by the British in India, in administration and way of life,
caused great discontent. This resulted in a grand attempt to overthrow
the British, the so-called Mutiny of 1857. Following this, the East
India Company was indeed overthrow but replaced not by a national
government but by the British Raj. This placed the British crown in
control of the continent, and Queen Victoria was pronounced Empress of
India in 1876. The Raj divided India into two parts, British India
(under the control of the British government) and independent Indian
States (ruled by Indian princes). The British had a pronounced effect on
Indian trade, economy and development, though they were largely
determined by the needs of the British Empire. Discontent towards the
British contined to exist, as did tension between Hindus and Muslims.
Following the second World War, and the emergence of figures such as
Nehru and Ghandi within the National movement, India declared
independence in 1948.(see also http://www.historyofindia.com)

Forster continued to write political essays and biographies and later
became a broadcaster for the BBC. He was known as a great humanist and
frequently spoke out on affairs of the day. He was awarded with
membership in the Order of Companions of Honour in 1953 and he received
the Order of Merit in January 1969. EM Forster died on 7 June 1970 in
Coventry aged 91. His novel ‘Maurice’ written between 1913 and 1914 was
published posthumously in accordance with his wishes.

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