E. M. Forster


Edward Morgan Forster was brought up by his mother, Alice Clara (Lily) Whichelo, after his architect father died in 1880. Despite his father’s premature death, he was raised in relative affluence, attending Tonbridge School and later King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied classics and history and began to write fiction. After a period of travelling in Europe, in 1904 he settled with his mother in Weybridge where all of his six novels, including Howards End (1910), were completed. In 1906 he began to tutor the young Syed Ross Masood in Latin in preparation for the latter’s Oxford degree. Forster fell in love with Masood; while his feelings were unreciprocated, the two developed a close friendship, and Forster claimed it was through Masood that he developed a lifelong and passionate interest in India, particularly Muslim India. It was also through Masood that he met several other young Indians studying in Britain in the early twentieth century – many of whom went on to assume important professional including governmental positions in India.

Between October 1912 and April 1913, Forster travelled through India, staying initially with Masood and his family in Aligarh before visiting Delhi, Lahore, the Kyber Pass, Simla, Allahabad, Benares and Bankipore, among other places. This trip bore the seeds of his novel A Passage to India which he began to write on his return to Weybridge. From 1915 to 1919, during the First World War, he was based in Alexandria where he served as a Red Cross searcher and continued to write stories and essays. In 1921, Forster returned to India for a short period to take up the position of Private Secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. Back in London, he continued work on A Passage to India. By this time, he enjoyed a considerable literary reputation, reviewing for several magazines and associating with members of the Bloomsbury Group and other renowned writers of the day.

It was arguably with the publication of A Passage to India in 1924 that he can be said to have achieved fame, becoming a commentator and broadcaster, as well as a reviewer and essayist, a spokesperson and figurehead for individual freedoms, liberalism and tolerance, and a critic of the inequalities of race and empire. In 1935 he attended the Paris Congress of International Writers for the Defence of Culture, where his talk, titled ‘Liberty in England’, highlighted the partiality of this notion and the failure to apply it to India. Mulk Raj Anand and Sajjad Zaheer were also present at the Congress, and many of the speeches there were said to be seminal to their subsequent foundation of the Progressive Writers’ Association. In 1945, Forster returned to India to attend the All-India PEN Conference in Jaipur where Sarojini Naidu, Nehru and Radhakrishnan all spoke.

Forster developed friendships with numerous Indian writers, often facilitating their entry into the British literary world by recommending writers to publishers, offering advice to them, writing prefaces to their work, or reviewing it favourably. For example, he praised Iqbal’s Secrets of Self, Tagore’s Chitra and Tambimuttu’s Poetry in Wartime in reviews, and wrote introductions to G. V. Desani’s Hali and – most famously – Mulk Raj Anand’s The Untouchable, which was rejected nineteen times before Wishart accepted the manuscript with Forster’s endorsement. In the 1930s and 1940s, he gave several BBC radio broadcasts, including to Indian audiences in the series ‘We Talk to India: Some Books’. Whether broadcasting to the British or to Indians, he frequently discussed fiction by Indian writers of the time, thereby further legitimizing this work. Forster also agreed to the Indian playwright Santha Rama Rau adapting A Passage to India for the theatre in 1960. He maintained many of these connections through correspondence for much of his life, and several Indian writers marked their appreciation to Forster by contributing to K. Natwar-Singh’s volume of essays in honour of the writer.

On his mother’s death in 1945, Forster moved from their home in Surrey to rooms in King’s College, which granted him an honorary fellowship. He based himself at King’s until his death in 1970, continuing his interest in the Indian subcontinent and his friendship for its people throughout.

Published works: 

Where Angels Fear to Tread (London: Edward Arnold, 1905)

The Longest Journey (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1907)

A Room with a View (London: Edward Arnold, 1908)

Howards End (London: Edward Arnold, 1910)

A Passage to India (London: Edward Arnold, 1924)

Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (London: Edward Arnold, 1934)

Abinger Harvest (London: Edward Arnold, 1936)

Two Cheers for Democracy (London: Edward Arnold, 1951)

The Hills of Devi: Being Letters from Dewas State Senior (London: Edward Arnold, 1953)

Maurice: A Novel (London: Edward Arnold, 1971)

Only Connect: Letters to Indian Friends, ed. by Syed Hamid Husain (London: Arnold-Heinemann, 1979)

(with Mary Lago and P. N. Furbank) Selected Letters of E. M. Forster (London: Collins, 1983)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1879

J. R. Ackerley, Muhammad al-Adl, Syed Ali Akbar, Ahmed Ali, Mulk Raj Anand, Vanessa Bell, Zulfikhar Bokhari, Robert Bridges, Benjamin Britten, May Buckingham, Robert Buckingham, Edward Carpenter, C. Cavafy, Nirad Chaudhury, Hsiao Ch'ien, Eric Crozier, M. V. Desai, G. V. Desani, Mukul Dey, Cedric Dover, T. S. Eliot, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Robert Graves, Christiana Herringham, Aldous Huxley, Akbar Hydari, Lady Hydari, Mohammad Iqbal, K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Amin Jung, John Maynard Keynes, Vilayat Khan, D. H. Lawrence, T. E. Lawrence, John Lehmann, Cecil Day Lewis, Desmond MacCarthy, Walter de la Mare, Akbar Masood, Syed Ross Masood, Sheikh Mohammad Meer, Narayana Menon, Abu Saeed Mirza, Ahmad Mirza, Sajjad Mirza, Naomi Mitchison, Syed Mohiuddin, Ajit Mookerjee, R. K. Narayan, George Orwell, Balachanda Rajan, Abdur Rashid, Raja Rao, Santha Rama Rau, William Rothenstein, Jamini Roy, Siegfried Sassoon, Ranjee Shahani, Haroon Khan Sherwani, K. Natwar-Singh, Stephen Spender, Lytton Strachey, Rabindranath Tagore, M. J. Tambimuttu, S. A. Vahid, H. G. Wells, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Sajjad Zaheer.

National Council for Civil Liberties

Contributions to periodicals: 
Secondary works: 

Ackerley, J. R., E. M. Forster: A Portrait (London: Ian McKelvie, 1970)

Beauman, Nicola, Morgan: A Biography of E. M. Forster (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993)

Copley, Antony, A Spiritual Bloomsbury: Hinduism and Homosexuality in the Lives and Writing of Edward Carpenter, E. M. Forster, and Christopher Isherwood (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006)

Forster, E. M. and Gardner, Philip, Commonplace Book (London: Scolar, 1985)

Furbank, Philip Nicholas, E. M. Forster: A Life, vol. 1: The Growth of the Novelist (1879-1914) (London: Secker & Warburg, 1977)

Furbank, Philip Nicholas, E. M. Forster: A Life, vol. 2: Polycrates' Ring (1914-1970) (London: Secker & Warburg, 1978)

Gardner, Philip and Forster, Edward Morgan, E. M. Forster: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973)

King, Francis Henry, E. M. Forster and His World (London: Thames & Hudson, 1978)

Kirkpatrick, Brownlee Jean and Forster, Edward Morgan, A Bibliography of E. M. Forster...With a Foreword by E. M. Forster (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1965)

Lago, Mary, Calendar of the Letters of E. M. Forster (London: Mansell, 1985)

McDowell, Frederick P. W., E. M. Forster: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him (De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976)

Plomer, William, At Home: Memoirs (London: Jonathan Cape, 1958)

Stape, John Henry, E. M. Forster: Interviews and Recollections (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992)

Stape, John Henry, An E. M. Forster Chronology (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993)

Trilling, Lionel, E. M. Forster: A Study (London: Hogarth Press, 1944)

Woolf, Leonard, Sowing: An Autobiography of the Years, 1880-1904 (London: Hogarth, 1960)

Woolf, Virginia and Bell, Anne Olivier, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, 5 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1977-84)

Archive source: 

Correspondence, literary manuscripts, journals, other papers, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Letters, Historical Manuscripts Commission, National Register of Archives

Letters and literary manuscripts, Richard A. Gleeson Library, University of San Francisco

Letters to S. S. Koteliansky, Add. Ms 48974, British Library, St Pancras 

Correspondence with the Society of Authors, Add. Ms 56704, British Library, St Pancras 

Correspondence with Marie Stopes, Add. Ms 58502, British Library, St Pancras 

Correspondence with Sibyl Colefax, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Letters to E. J. Thompson, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Letters to V. N. Datta, Cambridge University Library

Letters to Lord Kennet and Lady Kennet, Cambridge University Library

Correspondence with Christopher Isherwood, Huntington Library, San Marino, California 

Letters to Sir George Barnes, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge 

Letters to Vanessa Bell, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Correspondence with the Buckingham family, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Correspondence with A. E. Felkin, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge 

Correspondence with J. M. Keynes, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Letters, postcards, and telegram to G. H. W. Rylands, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Letters to W. G. H. Sprott, King's College Archive Centre, Cambridge

Correspondence with Sir B. H. Liddell Hart, Liddell Hart C., King's London

Correspondence with James Hanley, Liverpool Record Office and Local Studies Service

Letters to Naomi Mitchison, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

Letters to Hugh Walpole, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas

Correspondence with Lord Clark, Tate Collection

Letters to Elizabeth Trevelyan, Trinity College, Cambridge

Letters to William Plomer, Durham University

Letters to Kingsley Martin, University of Sussex Special Collections

Correspondence with New Statesman magazine, University of Sussex Special Collections

Correspondence with Leonard Woolf, University of Sussex Special Collections

Correspondence with Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf, University of Sussex Special Collections

Correspondence and statements relating to the trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover, University of Bristol Library

Letters to Sir Alex Randall, McPherson Library, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Performance recordings, National Sound Archive, British Library

Involved in events: 

Congress of International Writers for the Defence of Culture, Paris, 1935

All-India PEN Conference, Jaipur, 1945

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Edward Morgan Forster

Date of death: 
07 Jun 1970
Location of death: 
11 Salisbury Avenue, Coventry

Dryhurst, Dryhill Park Road, Tonbridge; King's College, Cambridge; 11 Drayton Court, South Kensington, London; Weybridge; West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammer, Surrey.

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