E. M. Forster: “Madness is Not for Everyone”

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

David Abram: “They Spill Rain Upon the Land”

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“Each thing organizes the space around it, rebuffing or sidling up against other things; each thing calls, gestures, beckons to other beings or battles them for our attention; things expose themselves to the sun or retreat among the shadows, shouting with their loud colors or whispering with their seeds; rocks snag lichen spores from the air and shelter spiders under their flanks; clouds converse with the fathomless blue and metamorphose into one another; they spill rain upon the land, which gathers in rivulets and carves out canyons…” 

—David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

David Abram is an American ecologist and philosopher best known for his work bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology,the study of the structural experiences of the ‘self’, with ecological and environmental issues. 

David Abram introduced the term “the more-than-human-world” in his 1994 book “The Spell of the Sensuous”, which received the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. This term was gradually adopted by other scholars and theorists, and became a key phrase in the broad ecological movement. Abram has also referred to this concept more recently as “the commonwealth of breath”.

Abram advocated a reappraisal of “animism”, the belief system that all objects, places, plants, and creatures possess a distinct spiritual essence, as a complexly nuanced and uniquely viable worldview. He held that this view, a belief system of many indigenous people, is one which roots human cognition in the sentient human body, while affirming the ongoing entanglement of our bodily experience with the remarkable sentience of other animals, each of which perceives the same world that we perceive yet from a different perspective.

David Abram, a student of traditional, indigenous systems of ecological knowledge, gave voice to the entwinement of human subjectivity not only with other animals but also with the varied sensitivities of many plants upon which humans depend and the bioregions that surround and sustain our communities. 

In 2010 Abram published “Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology” which was a finalist for the 2011 Orion Book Award and the runner-up for the PEN America Edward O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing.  Using his knowledge of indigenous cultures, Abram explores our human entanglement with nature and shows that awareness, or the mind, is not an exclusive possession of the human species but a clear aspect of the biosphere itself, one in which we, along with other living things, steadily participate. This book has since become a classic of environmental literature. 

E. E. Cummings, “Miracles Are to Come”

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“Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are by somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being; somebody who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush ‘tie it into my hand’-

nothing proving or sick or partial. Nothing false,nothing difficult or easy or small or colossal. Nothing ordinary or extraordinary,nothing emptied or filled,real or unreal;nothing feeble and known or clumsy and guessed. Everywhere tints childrening, innocent spontaneous,true. Nowhere possibly what flesh and impossibly such a garden,but actually flowers which breasts are among the very mouths of light. Nothing believed or doubted; brain over heart, surface:nowhere hating or to fear;shadow, mind without soul. Only how measureless cool flames of making;only each other building always distinct selves of mutual entirely opening;only alive. Never the murdered finalities of wherewhen and yesno,impotent nongames of wrongright and rightwrong;never to gain or pause,never the soft adventure of undoom,greedy anguishes and cringing ecstasies of inexistence; never to rest and never to have:only to grow.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”

—-E E Cummings, Introduction, Collected Poems

Henry Miller: “We All Derive from the Same Source”

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“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” 

—Henry Miller

Carl Jung: “The Summons of the Voice”

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“The fact that a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing … He must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths … There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. “You are no different from anybody else,” they will chorus or, “there’s no such thing,” and even if there is such a thing, it is immediately branded as “morbid”…He is at once set apart and isolated, as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. “His own law!” everybody will cry. But he knows better: it is the law…The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization — absolute and unconditional— of its own particular law … To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being … he has failed to realize his own life’s meaning.” 

—Carl Jung

Maurice Merieau-Ponty: “Phenomenology of Perception”

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“Everything that I know about the world, even through science, I know from a perspective that is my own or from an experience of the world without which scientific symbols would be meaningless. The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world, and if we wish to think science rigorously, to appreciate precisely its sense and its scope, we must first awaken that experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression. Science neither has, nor ever will have the same ontological sense as the perceived world for the simple reason that science is a determination or an explanation of that world. 

Scientific perspectives … always imply, without mentioning it, that other perspective – the perspective of consciousness – by which a world first arranges itself around me and begins to exist for me. To return to the things themselves is to return to this world prior to knowledge, this world of which knowledge always speaks, and this world with regard to which every scientific determination is abstract, signitive, and dependent, just like geography with regard to the landscape where we first learned what a forest, a meadow, or a river is.” 

—Maurice Merieau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

Jack London: “The Sheer Surging of Life”

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“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
Jack London, The Call of the Wild


A Sweet Whirling of Ecstasy

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“If there exist fortunate people, if from time to time the wild sun of joy soars towards foreign lands in a sweet whirling of ecstasy — then where are the words which might tell of this? And if in the world there exists a beauty for enchantment, then how might one describe it?”
― Valery Bryusov

Images reblogged from a great site: http://davidspb.tumblr.com

Oscar Wilde: “Coloured Like Flame is His Body”


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“Be happy, cried the Nightingale, be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty. Flame-coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.”

–Oscar Wilde, The Nightingale and the Rose

Oacar Wilde: “”Corrupt Without Being Charming”

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“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.… That is all.”

-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Brian Greene: “We Begin Life as Uninhibited Explorers”

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“We begin life as uninhibited explorers with a boundless fascination for the ever growing world to which we have access. And what I find amazing is that if that fascination is fed, and if it’s challenged, and if it’s nurtured, it can grow to an intellect capable of grappling with such marvels.”