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Possibilities of Completion: The Endings of A Passage to India and Women in Love MARGARET PROCTER University of Toronto IN THE WEALTH of recent analysis of E. M. Forster, one arresting fact has not yet been adequately interpreted. As Forster was struggling to complete A Passage to India, he copied out onto a sheet of his manuscript the whole concluding passage from Lawrence's Women in Love, the dialogue where Ursula challenges Birkin about his need to love Gerald. It ends: "But to make it complete, really happy, I wanted eternal union with a man too: another kind of love," he said. "I don't believe it," she said. "It's an obstinacy, a theory, a perversity." "Well," he said. "You can't have two kinds of love. Why should you?" "It seems as if I can't," he said. "Yet I wanted it." "You can't have it, because it's false, impossible," she said. "I don't believe that," he answered.1 Although we have no explicit comment by Forster about this copying, the event can be clearly dated. Necessarily it is after 1920, when Women in Love was privately printed in New York. The word "false" in Ursula's last sentence shows that Forster was using the 1921 London edition (the New York edition has "wrong"). The other side of Forster's sheet of paper contains a draft of the witty philosophizing paragraphs on the return of the hot weather to India which later became Chapter 10 of A Passage to India—one of the chapters interpolated by Forster when he first set himself to finish the novel in 1922. A biographical fact confirms Forster's resurgence of interest in Lawrence at this stage: in the late summer of 1922 he took the step of writing to the other novelist after a gap of six years, asking if Lawrence still thought of him.2 261 ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 Oddly, this contact between the two authors' work at a crucial stage of Forster's writing has received no critical attention. Robert L. Harrison transcribes the quotation and identifies its source in his 1964 doctoral dissertation, but does not discuss its significance. Oliver Stallybrass in his 1978 Abinger edition of the manuscripts for A Passage to India notes in an Appendix that the closing paragraphs of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love occupy the verso of B15, but he nowhere speculates on the role this copying played in Forster's process of composition.3 June Perry Levine and John Colmer, among others, perceptively study the manuscript of the novel, but do not comment on the copying.4 Even P. N. Furbank, though he begins the second volume of his biography by outlining the 1915 contact with Lawrence as a crisis of identity in Forster's life, remains silent on Forster's initiative in the 1922 communication , and seems unaware of the manuscript passage.5 Yet the critical questions are rife. They extend to the nature of influence in general as well as to the particular relationship between these two writers. Here is intertextuality in the most physical sense: a passage from one novel being written into the manuscript of another. What kind of "copying" is really going on? The similarities in subject and tone between the two passages are notable, and have often been discussed. Alan Friedman, for instance, in his chapter on Forster in The Turn of the Novel, quotes the passages consecutively as examples of the modernist "open" ending; John Beer writes eloquently about their similarities; and David Dowling calls on the Lawrence ending to define the focus of Forster's novel.6 Yet none of these critics mentions the manuscript copying or ventures any suggestion of allusion or influence. It is certainly time to ask what Forster saw in this passage, and why he copied it out. How did the experience of reading and transcribing it affect his own work? What did Lawrence have to teach Forster as a novelist, especially about endings in fiction? And just how does reading become writing? Many resources are now available to map some routes through these questions. The detailed editions and biographical publications about Forster since...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 261-280
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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