Photographers Unknown, Beguiling the Senses and Enchanting the Mind: Photo Set Fourteen
“Madness is not for everyone, but Maurice’s proved the thunderbolt that dispels the clouds. The storm had been working up not for three days as he supposed, but for six years. It had brewed in the insecurities of being where no eye pierces, his surroundings had thickened it. It had burst and he had not died. The brilliancy of day was around him, he stood upon the mountain range that overshadows youth, he saw.”
—E. M. Forster, Maurice
Born on the first of January, 1879 in London, Edward Morgan Forster was a fiction writer and essayist. After his father’s death of tuberculosis in 1890, he and his mother moved to Rooks Nest in Hertfordshire until 1893. This house would serve as the inspiration for his future novel, the 1910 “Howard’s End”. An inheritance from his great-aunt Marianne Thornton in 1887 would enable Forster to live comfortably and pursue a career as a writer.
E. M. Forster attended King’s College Cambridge between 1897 and 1901. There he joined the discussion group known as the Apostles, whose members later constituted the Bloomsbury Group which included Leonard and Virginia Wolff, Giles Lytton Strachey, Clive and Venessa Bell, and artist Duncan Grant. After graduation Forster traveled through continental Europe, visiting Greece and Italy before returning to Surrey, England.
In 1914, by which time he had written all but one of his novels, E. M. Forster visited Egypt, Germany and India with fellow Bloomsbury Group member Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, the British political scientist and philosopher. During the First World War, Forster, a conscientious objector, served in the British Red Cross in Egypt as a Chief Searcher for missing men. Returning again to India in the early 1920s, he became the private secretary to Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of the state of Dewas; the story of which was told in his 1953 non-fiction work “The Hill of Devi”.
After his return to London from India, Forster completed the last of his novels published in his lifetime, the 1924 “A Passage to India”, for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. During the 1930s and 1940s, Forster became a notable broadcaster on BBC Radio and became associated with the British Humanist Association,which opposed censorship and advocated for penal reform and individual liberty.For his published work, he was awarded a Benson Medal by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Literature in 1937.
E. M. Forster was open about his homosexuality to his close friends, but not to the public. He had a number of male lovers during his adult life; but he was at his happiest during a two-year relationship with the young policeman Bob Buckingham, who later married. After Buckingham’s marriage, both Buckingham and his wife continued to be included in Forster’s social circle. Others in his social circle included writer Christopher Isherwood, the poet Siegfried Sassoon, composer Benjamin Britten, Belfast-novleist Forrest Reid, writer and editor of “The Listener” J. R. Ackerley, and socialist poet Edward Carpenter and Edward’s lover George Merrill.
Forster’s “Maurice” was written between 1913 to 1914, revised twice in 1932 and 1959, and finally published posthumously in 1971. A tale of gay love in early twentieth-century England, it follows the protagonist Maurice Hall from his school days into a relationship in his older years. The novel was inspired by the cross-class relationship between poet Edward Carpenter and his working-class partner George Merrill, both of whom served as the models for Forster’s gay characters, Maurice Hall and Alec Scudder.
After completing a first draft by 1914, Forster tentatively showed the novel to select friends, and continued to do so over the forthcoming decades, reworking it as time passed. The openly gay novelist Christopher Isherwood saw the draft in its various revisions on a few occasions, and repeatedly implored Forster to publish it. However, Forster continued to insist on it not being published.
Despite the passing of time and of individuals, to whom he felt the revelation of his homosexuality would hurt most, Forster believed there had been no profound progression since the days of Oscar Wilde’s conviction, an incident that flooded the papers when he was sixteen, and thought that public attitudes had only incrementally shifted, from, in his words, ‘ignorance and terror to familiarity and contempt’. Instead, he bequeathed the manuscript of “Maurice” to Isherwood, and, a year after Forster’s death, the novel was finally published.
E. M. Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King’s College Cambridge in January of 1946. He declined a knighthood in 1949 and was made a Companion of Honor in 1953. Forster was honored in 1969 with membership in England’s Order of Merit, and, through his lifetime, received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature in sixteen separate years. E. M. Forster died at the age of ninety-one of a stroke on June 7th, 1970 in Coventry, Warwickshire. His ashes were scattered in the rose garden of Coventry’s crematorium, near Warwick University.
Note: E. M. Forster had five books published in his lifetime, one published posthumously, and one, “Arctic Summer”, never finished. His work included “Where Angels Fear to Tread”. published in 1905; the 1907 “The Longest Journey”; “A Room with a View”, published in 1908; the 1910 “Howard’s End”; “Passage to India” published in 1924; and his “Maurice” published in 1971. Although Forster was against having his work presented in any form other than literature, all his books, with the exception of “The Longest Journey”, his personal favorite and most autobiographical, have been made into either plays, films, or both.
An article by Professor Kate Symondson on E. M. Forster’s gay fiction can be found at the British Library’s site located at: https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/e-m-forsters-gay-fiction