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203 ALL'S WELL WITH FORSTERt A REVIEW ESSAY By Frederick P. W. McDowell (University of Iowa) P. N. Furbank, E. M. Forster·, A Life, Volume One, The Growth of .the Novelist ( 1^79^T9~T4"T~(Lond: Seeker & Warburg, 1977) . Õ 6\50; E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread (Lond: Edward Arnold, The Abinger Edition, ed by Oliver Stallybrass, Vol 1, 1975)· f5.95 ; E. M. Forster, A Room with a View (Lond: Edward Arnold, The Abinger Edition, ed by Oliver Stallybrass, Vol 3, 1977). £7-95; E. M. Forster, The Lucy Novels: Early Sketches for "A Room with a View" (Lond: Edward Arnold, The Abinger Edition, ed by Oliver Stallybrass, Vol 3A, 1977)· Õ 12.50; G. K. Das, E. M. Forster's India (Lond: Macmillan, 1977; Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1978). $15-00. P. N. Furbank's E. M. Forster is the official biography, a fascinating, informative, and definitive work within the limits set by its author. It is as informed as one had been led to expect from Furbank's shorter pieces, "Tribute to Forster" (Times, 28 Dec I968) and "The Personality of E. M. Forster" (Encounter. XXV, Nov 197°). Making use of unpublished materials at King's College in the E. M. Forster Archive, Furbank has been able to give exact data concerning many facets of Förster ' s life: his early discovery of his homosexual inclinations, his realization in 19II that he could no longer write about conventional subjects in fiction, his long and ultimately wearing relationship with H. 0. Meredith with whom he had some sexual contact in I909, his intense and liberating but sexually frustrating friendship with Syed Ross Masood (who was heterosexual ) , his "love affair" with his mother but her disheartening pressures on him in his middle years, his abundant friendships with elderly women but his limited contact with younger ones, his expression of passion in his books as contrasted with his outwardly pallid existence, his relatively long career as extension lecturer, his difficulties with his writing after he had acknowledged his homosexuality, and his first Indian visit in I913 presented in full detail. Furbank also gives sharper focus to other facets of Forster's life and work that were previously somewhat vague; the early influence upon him of Roger Fry who counteracted Förster's aesthetic conservatism, Nathaniel Wedd's distrust of the aesthetic attitude toward life (an attitude exhibited by Philip Herriton, Cecil Vyse, and Rickie Elliot in the fiction), the personality of G. M. Trevelyan and his liberalizing effect on Forster, the role of H. 0. Meredith in Forster's own life transliterated into the deliverer figure in the early fiction, the experiences at the Working Men's College as contributing to the Leonard Bast sequences in Howards End, the extent of the friendship with the Anglo-Indian civil servant Malcolm Darling, the friendship with Florence Barger, the great hold on his mind and spirit of A. E. Housman, his friendship With the poet-intellectual R. C. Trevelyan, and his contact in India with Masood, Masood"s younger brother, and the Maharajah of 204 Dewas State Senior who were all so important in the inception of Passage. Furbank also comments perceptively upon Forster's abortive fiction (Arctic Summer) and his unpublished or unfinished plays, and he gives some of Forster's romanticist poems. The volume ends with Forster's ritualistic farewell to his earlier career with the writing of Maurice, which, if it provided him with some kind of therapy, did not enable him (as Furbank observes) to compose a publishable novel. This biography lacks some of the excitement that Quentin Bell manages to convey in the official biography of Virginia Woolf. I am sure that the reason for this is that the excitement in Forster's existence before the first war lay in the work rather than in the life. An except for some remarks on the gestation of each novel and its reception when published, there is scarcely any analysis of Förster's novels and short stories as art. Since in Forster's case the work was so much the early life, one can only regret the decision not to deal with the work at...


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pp. 203-206
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