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Bernard Harrison FORSTER AND MOORE I The influence of moore on the young Forster is vouched for by Leonard Woolf: "That is the point: under the surface all six of us, Desmond, Lytton, Saxon, Morgan, Maynard and I, had been permanently inoculated with Moore and Moorism. . . ." ' The search for traces of Moorism in the novels, however, has turned up relatively little. P. N. Furbank in his Life (1977) is skeptical about even the likelihood ofliterary gold in these bleak philosophical uplands: "Too much has been made of the influence of G. E. Moore on him, for he never read Moore; but the epigraph to Moore's Principia Etílica, 'Everything is what it is, and not another thing' hits off his own idea of the Cambridge 'truth'."2 Respect for truth and for Reality—for the hardness and solidity of the actual—are certainly to be gained from reading Moore, and no doubt these things are part ofwhat Forster and his friends did gain from him. Woolf again: "The main things which Moore instilled deep into our minds and characters were his peculiar passion for truth, for clarity and common sense, and a passionate beliefin certain values."3 But these admirable if rather generalized virtues might be imbibed from any number of philosophers of stature. Did none of Moore's peculiar and characteristic doctrines exert any permanent influence on those "inoculated with Moore and Moorism"? S. P. Rosenbaum, in an interesting and ingenious article,4 argues for the direct influence on The Longestfourney of some of Moore's epistemological doctrines—those expressed in his famous article "The Refutation of Idealism." Moore claims there inter alia that there is an irreducible difference between what is perceived and the perceiving of it, and Rosenbaum connects this kind of Realism with the ethical kind which consists in distinguishing carefully between the ideas we are 2 Philosophy and Literature tempted to form of others and what they are, and are like really. There is something in this, and Rosenbaum is sustained not only by the fact that Realism was ofthe essence of the revolution in philosophy wrought by Moore and Russell in the Cambridge of Forster's youth, but by Forster's own account of the influences that went into the novel: "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)____"5 But the connection thus established between metaphysical and ethical Realism seems more curious than fruitful; it is not clear in the end how much it can be made to contribute to our reading of the novel. Rosenbaum himself sees the problem: "It is, ofcourse, not necessary to know anything about Moore's 'The Refutation of Idealism' to see that The LongestJourney is a novel about appearance and reality. What an awareness of Moore's philosophy can do for criticism of the novel is to help it avoid misinterpretations."6 Unfortunately the "misinterpretation" which Rosenbaum offers as a test ofhis reading is the generally accepted reading which makes Ansell as nearly the embodiment of truth as critical rigor, force of intellect and sound human sympathies can make a man. If Forster was at the time ofwriting the novel the consistent Moorean Realist that Rosenbaum wishes to make of him, then this cannot be, for Ansell fails to get his fellowship because he has read too much Hegel, and is in other ways tainted with Idealism. Rosenbaum's way around this is to treat Ansell as a flawed character whose "sense of reality" needs to be "corrected and completed by Stephen Wonham." I find this unconvincing, as does Furbank: "the trouble with this is that, whenever Ansell's philosophical inconsistencies are noted in the novel, Forster's tone suggests that they do not matter in the least—Ansell's position, humanly speaking, is absolutely sound."7 The effect of this is to relegate "the metaphysical idea of Reality" to Forster's "quarry": to the status of an idea which influenced the shape of the novel rather than one which figures in it. What matters in the novel is merely that "sense ofreality" ofwhich, as Russell once...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 1-26
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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