Who is E. M. Forster?


Who is Forster?

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Ah, that is the question you ask, hmm?

E. M. Forster is probably best known in recent days, ironically, through the film adaptations of his novels. I say ironically, because during his life, he abhorred the idea of someone film-ifying what he'd intended for print. He refused to let anyone adapt his novels for the screen; and I think his adamance at this made a lot of sense. (If you were an author, would you trust someone else taking what you'd written for a book and making it into something other than a book? Sometimes it just doesn't work out the way you expect.)

Yet I myself was introduced to his work through film, and as a Forster enthusiast, I fully applaud the efforts of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala in keeping a very loyal adaptation, for Howards End in particular. The Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala team also did "A Room with a View" and "Maurice"; David Lean tackled A Passage to India, and Charles Sturridge, along with Derek Granger and Tim Sullivan, adapted Where Angels Fear to Tread. The only novel that remains is The Longest Journey, and then there are the many short stories EMF wrote that still enjoy 'singularity.'

Brief biography

I'm working on a much more extensive biography on EMF, but of course it will always be modified, so I might as well present it now anyway, right? Maybe later. :-) My satisfaction doesn't quite reach high enough to warrant putting it up here. As for a brief bio, here's something I have ready now (all based on the "extensive" bio marked work-in-progress):

E. M. Forster was born on 1 January 1879 in London, to parents Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster and Alice Clara ("Lily") Whichelo. Actually, he had been originally named Henry Morgan (after his late paternal uncle, Henry Thornton Forster), but was accidentally baptized as Edward Morgan, after his father. Imagine...he might have been named Henry! "Only connect" indeed.

Edward (the father), who had become ill soon after his son's birth, died a little over a year and a half later of consumption, ultimately leaving Forster to be brought up by two women: his mother Lily and his paternal great-aunt Marianne Thornton. Forster spent his early childhood years (1883 to 1893) at Rooksnest, which he grew to love dearly. Rooksnest was the house that would later provide the inspiration for an estate in one of his novels -- a house called Howards End. (There is a committee trying to preserve the Hertfordshire countryside -- the land where Forster grew up and loved so dearly. Learn more about The Friends of Forster Country.)

(Okay, here's where it gets less detailed.)

Forster's life was one of studies and travels. He attended Tonbridge School, and throughout his life remained connected with King's College, Cambridge, even after he graduated (he became a Fellow and lived on college grounds in his later years). He travelled to Italy, Germany, Egypt and India, becoming very acquainted with India in particular. These travels provided many of the settings and situations for his novels and stories.

Queen Elizabeth II awarded Forster with membership in the Order of Companions of Honour in 1953, and on 1 January 1969 (his ninetieth birthday) he received the Order of Merit. With failing health in old age, he experienced a number of strokes toward the end of his life.

Forster died on 7 June 1970, at the Coventry home of his good friends Bob and May Buckingham, where he wished to spend his last moments. His ashes were scattered over the Buckinghams' rose garden.

Yes, one of these days I will get around to updating this section. :-)

Site disclaimer

Created 6 November 1995. Last modified 16 December 2002, 20:43 PST.
'Only Connect': The Unofficial E. M. Forster Site <http://www.musicandmeaning.com/forster/whois.html>