E.M. [Edward Morgan] Forster

Member of The Hundred

Name
E.M. [Edward Morgan] Forster
Birth and death
1879 - 1970
Occupation
Profession details
Novelist, Essayist
Related place
Author
Rosie Knott

Life in Elmbridge

Edward Morgan Forster lived in Weybridge with his mother from 1904 to 1925. All six of his novels were completed or written at 19 Monument Green, including the first seven chapters of 'A Passage to India'. Small-town life with its intrigues and propriety had a large influence on his writing.

For many years the exact location of Forster's residence remained mistaken, with academics and fans alike believing 20 Monument Green, rather than 19, to be Forster's abode. A plaque was erected outside number 20 (partly at the insistence of a visiting Japanese professor, who though it outrageous that it was not marked) and the BBC had even filmed there! Only in the 1980s was this mystery resolved. The owner of number 19 discovered that his deeds included the name of Alice Clara Forster, the novelist's mother. After this discovery the plaque was taken down and moved next door, where it remains today.

Life beyond Elmbridge

Forster was born at the family home in Dorset Square, London. He attended King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1901. Whilst at university he joined a discussion society called the Apostles. The core of this society went on to provide many of the founders of the influential Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a prominent member in the early twentieth century. From 1914 he visited Egypt, Germany and India with Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, by which point he had written all but one of his novels.

As well as novels, Forster wrote many short stories and essays. He is perhaps most famous for his strong use of irony, deployed to great effect when examining class differences, hypocrisy and attitudes towards both gender and homosexuality in early 20th century Britain. When the First World War broke out he became a conscientious objector and, instead of fighting, volunteered with the International Red Cross in Egypt.

Forster made another trip back to India in the 1920s and upon his return completed his novel 'A Passage to India' (1924) for which he was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. During the 1930s and 1940s he became a successful BBC radio broadcaster and a public figure connected with the British Humanist Association. Forster declined the offer of a knighthood in 1949 but was made a Companion of Honour in 1953 and a member of the Order of Merit in 1969.

Forster never married and is seen now as one of the most prominent homosexual British writers of the 20th century. Five novels by Forster were published during his lifetime with 'Maurice' published shortly after his death. Forster's strongly humanist views are evident in all his works, highlighted by the epigraph to his 1910 novel 'Howards End' which simply stated "Only Connect". He died after a stroke at the age of 91. Today, lavish Merchant-Ivory films and a place on the A-level syllabus ensure his continued fame.

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