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E. M. Forster

Born on New Year's Day 1871 in London, Henry Morgan was mistakenly christened Edward Morgan Forster, and the name stuck.  Today, he is best remembered for his novels, A Room with a View (1908), Howard's End (1910), and A Passage to India (1924).  His father, an architect, died before his only child was two years old, and Forster suffered from the loss for the rest of his life. 

His childhood, which was dominated by his aunts and his mother, Alice Lily Whichelo, was particularly traumatic.  His years at Tonbridge School as a teenager were miserable.  Because of his small size and meek demeanor, he was constantly being picked upon and made the butt of cruel jokes by his classmates.

When he came of age, Forster enrolled in King's College, Cambridge (1897-1901), where he met others with whom he would later form the Bloomsbury group, which eventually included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Dora Carrington, and Lytton Strachey.  After college, he traveled through Italy and Greece with his mother. 

The trip provided him with material for his early novels, which satirize the attitudes of English tourists abroad, scepters in hand and clinging to their pension dollars, suspicious of anything and anyone foreign.  On his return to England, he began writing essays and short stories for the liberal Independent Review, which was founded in 1903 by a group of Cambridge friends led by G. M. Trevelyan.  It published Forster's first short story, The Story of a Panic, in 1904.  The following year, he published his first novel, Where Angels Fear To Tread

Thanks in part to legacies left to himself and his family, Forster was able to travel the world in relative comfort.  Moving with his mother to Weybridge in 1906, he became tutor to colonial Indian Muslim patriot Syed Ross Masood, for whom he developed an intense affection.  He published The Longest Journey in 1907, A Room with a View in 1908, and Howard's End, which established the author as a literary figure of substantial prominence, in 1910.  The following year, he published a collection of short stories, mostly pastoral and whimsical in both subject and tone, called The Celestial Omnibus

During 1912-13, Forster toured India, meeting Masood in Aligarh and traveling with him throughout his native land.  He also took time to visit the home of Edward Carpenter near Chesterfield and, as a result, wrote Maurice, a novel with a blatantly homosexual theme.  Forster circulated the book privately.  It wasn't released to the public, at the author's request, until after his death in 1971, when it was published posthumously.

"It was the direct result of a visit to Edward Carpenter at Millthorpe.  Carpenter...was a socialist who ignored industrialism and a simple-lifer with an independent income and a...believer in the love of comrades, whom he sometimes called Uranians.  I t was this last aspect of him that attracted me in my loneliness.... I approached him...as one approaches a savior.  It must have been on my second or third visit to the shrine that the spark was kindled as he and his comrade George Merrill combined to make a profound impression on me and to touch a creative spring.  George Merrill also touched my backside—gently and just above the buttocks.... The sensation was unusual and I still remember it.... It was as much psychological as physical.  It seemed to go straight through the small of my back into my ideas, without involving my thoughts." - from Maurice

Forster's writing was interrupted by World War I, when he joined the Red Cross, serving in Alexandria, Egypt.  There he met Greek poet, C. P. Cavafy, whose work he helped to introduce in England.  He devoted an essay to Cavafy in his collection of short pieces, Pharoas and Pharillon

Forster returned to India in 1921, where he worked as a private secretary to the Maharajah in the state of Dewas.  The land was the scene of his most highly regarded work, A Passage to India (1924), an account of India under British rule.  His fears that the book would be his last novel came true.  He spent the remainder of his life devoted to a wide range of literary endeavors that included two biographies, several volumes of poetry, and numerous essays.  He joined in several protests against governmental censorship, involved himself in the work of PEN and the NCCL, and campaigned in 1928 against the suppression of R. Hall's The Well of Loneliness.  He also appeared as a witness for the defense in the notorious 1960 obscenity trial of the publishers of Lady Chatterley's Lover. 

E. M. Forster died in Coventry on June 7, 1970, at the age of 91.

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