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213 GENTLEFOLK IN PHILISTIA: THE INFLUENCE OF MATTHEW ARNOLD ON E. M. FORSTER'S HOWARDS END E. Barry McGurk (Duquesne University) In his recent study of E. M. Forster, The Gave and The Mountain. Wilfred Stone states that Howards End represents "an explicit test of Arnold's notion of our culture."J- Using Arnoldian terms, Robert Langbaum agrees with Stone noting that the conflict in Howards End centers upon the question of who shall "inherit" England! "either the Philistine guardians of England's material wealth or the disinterested guardians of her culture who transcend the clash of class interests by an appeal to principles, to the best that has been thought and said."2 Forster himself has acknowledged the influence of Arnold upon the contemporary scene: "Matthew Arnold is of all the Victorians the most to my taste: A great poet, a civilized citizen, and a prophet who has managed to project himself into our present, so that when we read him now he seems in the room."3 The central conflict in Howards End evolves from an attempt to establish the "inward condition" that represents Arnoldian totality. a problem best viewed in light of Arnold's concept of "harmonious expansion": The idea of perfection as an inward condition of the mind and spirit is at variance with the mechanical and material civilization in esteem with us. . . . The idea of perfection as a general expansion of the human family is at variance with our strong individualism, our hatred of all limits to the unrestrained swing of the individual's personality, our maxim of 'every man for himself.· Above all. the idea of perfection as a harmonious expansion of human nature is at variance with our want of flexibility, with our inaptitude for seeing more than one side of a thing. . . .** The "variance" between the Forsterian "inner life" portrayed by the Schlegels and the outer world of "strong individualism" manifested by the Wilcoxes contributes to the clash of opposites in Howards End. Forster effectively fills in the "social background" while presenting the antithesis in a society that no longer seeks perfection . In Arnold's scheme each class has polarities which he calls the disparity between Hebraism and Hellenism. The difference between these two worlds is the contrast between "sweetness and light" and "insufficiency of light"; Hellenism seeks the perfection of human nature, "desiring to achieve the best of one's self"; Hebraism, on the other hand, worships machinery and seeks material satisfaction. In Howards End this divergence is characterized as the clash between "the prose and the passion." The prosaic businesslike world belongs to the obtuse Wilcoxes who handle human affairs "item by item."5 The world of the Schlegels is the world of the "private life" (p. 81), the Arnoldian world of perfection.6 When Margaret announces to Helen that she plans to marry Henry Wilcox, she tells her that although 214 Helen's life was romance, hers will be one of "prose" albeit "a very good kind of prose" (p. 174). The dialectics of Howards End are illustrated, on the one hand, by the clash between the Hellenizing inner life of imagination and sensitivity and the Hebraizing "outer life of telegrams and anger." Belonging to the "outer world" are the pragmatic, efficiency-oriented Wilcoxes who confidently grip the "important ropes of life" (p. l6l). Conversely, the liberal-intellectual Schlegel sisters, inheritors of an enlightened German culture, uphold the "inner life" in their pursuit of perfection. The Wilcoxes, who "avoided the personal note in life" (p. 92), are the neo-imperialists of the "outer world" who see life in terms of business jargon. They are preoccupied with the world of mortgages, leases, land values, teriffs, and stock ventures. Leonard Bast, the representative from the "abyss" of the populace appears sighing, "Oh, to acquire culture" (p. 40). Desperately seeking a niche in the cultured world of the Schlegels, the "raw, half cultivated" Bast is 111 equipped by virtue of the inherited characteristics of his class to achieve his objective. He not only suffers from insufficiency of light, but like the Wilcoxes. he lacks the gift of German enlightenment which Arnold greatly admired in Heine. Bast, in whom the Schlegels catch a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 213-219
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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