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73 îng his audience should appear in his correspondence so defensive, so unsure, so maddeningly discreet, and even, in a couple of instances , a bit underhanded. Of course it is impossible not to •wonder what different picture might have emerged had not Hardy's correspondence been so thoroughly winnowed by those bonfires at Max Gate; but it is not true, as is sometimes claimed, that such lettters as we have are not revealing. It is, rather, that what they reveal is not at all what the novels and poems would lead us to expect, and that, of course, is precisely why their publication is of such importance. State University of New York Robert C. Schweik 4. New and Standard Life of E. M. Forster; II P. N. Furbank. E. M. Forster; A Life, Volume Two. Polycrates' Ring (1914-1970) (Lond; Seeker & Warburg, 1978). f. 7.50 [In America , Volume I, The_ Growth of the Novelist (1879-1914) , 1977, published together with Volume II, as E. M. Forsters A Life (NYs Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978). $19·95] In his second volume, Mr. Furbank has continued his sensitive and imaginative reconstruction of Forster's life. The great value of the biography, it seems to me, is this! it fills in the lacunae that existed previously concerning Forster's life. We were aware of a surprising number of facts concerning Forster before Furbank'Îμ book appeared. We knew that Forster had had a decisive homosexual love affair in Alexandria, we knew that there was a continuing friendship with J. R. Ackerley, we knew that Forster had been intimate with the Robert Buckinghams in the last part of his life, and we knew that Forster was important for the literary generation of Auden, Isherwood, and Spender. But we did not know the exact details of Forster's relationships with all of these people nor how all these people fitted into - and helped construct - the pattern of his life. And we also needed to know - at a less intimate level - Forster's exact activities in, and contributions to, various censorship cases, the B. B. C, and the national Council for Civil Liberties. In short, we needed to know more about Forster 's· public life in the 1930s and in World War II. Furbank has fleshed out the record admirably and fully. He has shown remarkable tact and discrimination in what he presents from the welter of material at his disposal, so that the biography, it is safe to say, will remain standard. As the Archive at King's College is searched, as the correspondence is gathered and edited, and as the fugitive pieces and unpublished writings are made available, the record will be amplified, though its essential contours will, I am convinced, remain unaltered. My only cavil would be that I wish for a still longer book, a book that would relate Forster's writings more closely to the event and the people in his life. Thus I would have welcomed either fact 74 or speculation concerning the originals of the characters in Forster's great novel, A Passage to India. And since this work is the jewel in Forster's crown, more interpretive comment would have been of immeasurable value, as the book would be illuminated by the facts that Mr. Furbank has newly made available. The decision not to discuss the contents of Abinger Harvest and Two Cheers for Democracy, it seems to me, has had somewhat the effect of devaluing Forster, of making him seem more intellectually parochial than he in fact was, of making him seem more of a determined hedonist (he was that, to some degree, in his sexual life) than he was. At the same time, the full record of Forster's public life, especially during the 1930s and 1940s as Furbank presents it in detail , establishes Forster's firm commitment to humanist values and to civilization in an era of world crises - though he became discouraged , too, by the lack of tangible results from his efforts. Forster probably delineated his own contribution clearly when, in writing for Time and Tide, he speculated about the role of the intellectual in forming a climate of opinion for current issues, such as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 73-76
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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