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HUMANITIES 115 inventory of the ideas and imagery that inform Viriginia Woolfs later writings. Any reservations concerning the literary merit of these works are far outweighed by the revelations they afford. (c. RUTH MILLER) E.M. Forster. Commonplace Book. Edited by Philip Gardner Stanford University Press. xxvi, 372. $35.00 Since his death in June 1970, E.M. Forster's stocks, to borrow Eliot's metaphor, have fluctuated - mostly downwards. This despite unabated specialist activity - the editing and publication of Maurice and The Life to Come and Other Stories, the appearance of P.N. Furbank's authorized biography, the (now aborted) Abinger Edition, Mary Lago's Calendar of Letters, and the unstinting flow of articles in learned journals, to say nothing of monographs and theses. The fascination with Bloomsbury during the early and mid-1970S and the continued presence of at least A Passage to India on undergraduate reading lists also assured that whatever the downward pressure Forster was hardly neglected. Although some revaluation typically occurs after a writer's death, the attack on Forster's work and values seems to have been prolonged, the tone at times virulent, thevoices comingfrom a number ofquarters. One writerhas dismissed his work as the'casual snobberies of a Cambridge don: while no less a voice than Angus Wilson's has joined the chorus of objections to Howards End. It may well be that 'Forster' bears the brunt of a disenchantment with liberal humanist values. But whatever the cause for his declining reputation, Philip Gardner's meticulously edited tranScription of his Commonplace Book offers a welcome corrective. It reveals an intense, amiable man quite differently than do the recently published Selected Letters. Originally issued by the Scolar Press in an expensive facsimile edition limited to 350 copies, Forster's Commonplace Book, the repository of forty years' casual jottings, rightly deserves a larger audience. The entries record wide and acutely perceptive reading - in French tragedy, the Church Fathers, the classics. Generous quotations from scores of writers collide against and mingle with Forster's observations on himself and friends, with impressions, dissatisfactions, desires, irritations, and shifting opinions - in short, the book catches the flotsam and jetsam of an intensely lived yet outwardly undramatic existence. More clearly and loudly than the writer the individual speaks here, and the Commonplace Bookmaybeseenas the idiosyncraticautobiography ofa temperamentand sensibility by turns Edwardian and contemporary. The book's first entry is dated 1925, the last November 1968. There is, of course, no unity of subject, but a common outlook and an expressive prose style. Certain themes reappear and disappear mole-like throughout a long life: an affection for the English countryside doomed by modern commercial development, a growing awareness of mortality, a consciousness of some potential not wholly fulfilled, and the affirmation of friendship. Particularly interesting is the emphasis on sensations and sense impression: a moment is vividly recreated, its emotional contours and colouring intact, the central intensity and blurred edges faithfully got down as the novelist steps forward for a handful of sentences or a paragraph before he retreats into some even more private world. Inevitably not all the entries are compelling; there are few bans mots, there is occasionally patchy perception and patchy prose, but readers of Forster will welcome this book's publication for the considerable light it throws on its author's personality. Philip Gardner's elegant introduction serves the reader well in its sharp and illuminating focus on major themes and in its justification ofeditorial practice. Gardner's annotations are informative, and a name and title index further assists the reader. In every sense this is a handsome production. And if, indeed, books have their fates, Forster's Commonplace Book has met with a happy one in being carefully printed and learnedly annotated. (r.H. STAPE) Averil Gardner. Angus Wilson Twayne. x, '40. $15.95 Averil Gardner's account of Angus Wilson's short stories cites a New Statesman recipe competition for 'Trifle Angus Wilson' that cleverly catches the essence of his early work. In contrast, the recipe followed by the Twayne series, while incorporating the essential ingredients of a writer's career, all too often has the consistency of an unevenly baked school pudding with too...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 115-116
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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