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116 RICKIE ELLIOT AND THE COW: THE CAMBRIDGE APOSTLES AND THE LONGEST JOURNEY By Elizabeth Heine (Universiti Pulau Penang) The Langest Journey (I907) is central to understanding E. M. Förster·s ideas and his techniques. It is his most autobiographical novel and the one he is "most glad to have written."! Dedicated Fratrlbus. it pays tribute to the strong influence of his years at Cambridge and his experience as an Apostle; it displays his poetic imagination at its most mystical; and it contains his well-known objection to the uneducated hearts of middle-class Englishmen and his complementary faith in a classical, pagan worship of earth and instinct. Moreover, it does all this in Forster's highly distinctive and typical form, for the entire novel is strictly "patterned" and its philosophy and sociology and poetry are all asserted and reiterated by means of "rhythm" within the pattern, a rhythm created by images and phrases which through repetition become symbolic leitmotifs . 2 It is the purpose of this study to clarify the ways in which the symbols convey the philosophy. The Hegelian pattern of thesisantithesis -synthesis, represented by the moves from Cambridge to suburban Sawston to Wiltshire, has long been recognized as typically Forsterian, as have the English-Greek, conventional-instinctual, puritan-pagan dichotomies that complicate the simple triad. What seems to be less well understood is the fashion in which the Cambridge philosophy and mystical poetry provide the symbols for interpreting the novel. This symbolism is at once the strength and the weakness of The Longest Journey: the strength because the symbols are complex and coherent enough to explain Forster's judgment of the philosophies represented in this novel; the weakness because he allows them to dominate and contain his message so entirely that the lives of his characters are threatened by the allegory. The novel is obviously allegorical. Forster himself tells us what ideas were added to the basic one of brotherhood: There was the metaphysical idea of Reality ("the cow is there"): there was the ethical idea that reality must be faced (Rickie won't face Stephen); there was the idea, or ideal, of the British Public School; there was the title, exhorting us in the words of Shelley not to love one person only; there was Cambridge, there was Wiltshire, (pp. ix-x) Stephen Wonham is the illegitimate son of Rickie's mother, and his allegorical role as the reality that must be faced is perfectly clear. There oan also be no doubt that Rickie's wife, Agnes Pembroke, signifies the hypocritically inhibited life for which Forster despises suburban Sawston, or that Rickie's Wiltshire aunt, Mrs. Failing, becomes the embittered hostess of experience. Her advice to follow conventions and "beware the earth" must be refused. 117 her teacup must be broken if the "wine of life" is to be tasted.3 Less simply, Rickie and Stewart Ansell, his Cambridge "brother," symbolize Forster's attempt to evaluate and reconcile the opposing views of reality, poetic and rational, which his Apostolic experience presented to him. The metaphsics and ethics discussed by the Cambridge Apostles in the early years of the century provide the background for interpreting the allegorical roles Forster intended for Rickie and Ansell, who is in some ways Rlckie's alter ego. That is, if Rickie could be more like Ansell, he could manage his life, or reality, a good deal better. Forster studied at Cambridge as an undergraduate from I897 to I90I, years which straddle both the turn of the century and the beginnings of a major change in the philosophical views current among the Apostles . Included in this secret "Society" were John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart (I866-I925), Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932), Bertrand Russell (I872-I970), G. E. Moore (1873-1958), Forster (1879I97O ), Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Leonard Woolf (I88O-I969), and, by the autumn of 1902, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). The order of this list reflects the shift in philosophies, from McTaggart's Hegelian idealism through Moore's Principia Ethica (1903) to Strachey's psychological probing and Keynes's analytic economics. This shift, in broad terms, is really that from Victorian to Modern; it is particularly easy to discern among this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 116-134
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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