E. M. Forster (1879–1970) is the author of two important modern novels—Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924)—as well as Aspects of the Novel (1927), a major study of the form. Forster was born in London. His father, an architect, died before he reached the age of 2, and he was raised chiefly by his mother, who sometimes referred to him (only half-jokingly) as “the Important One.” He attended Cambridge and joined some of his classmates as a member of the Bloomsbury Group. He traveled widely as a young man, visiting Italy, India, and Egypt. Though not as formally innovative as the novels of Joyce or Woolf, Forster’s books should be credited with updating the tradition of the novel of manners. In Howards End, he explores the relationship among artists, intellectuals, and businessmen, looking for connections among these apparently separate groups. In A Passage to India, he takes on the even more difficult subject of imperialism, suggesting that colonial rule has had dire effects on both Indian and English people alike.Forster wrote the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s opera of Billy Budd (1951) and appeared as a witness for the defense in the 1960 censorship trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Because he refused to allow his books to be made into movies, film versions of A Passage to India (1984), A Room with a View (1985), and Howards End (1992) would have to wait until after his death. Published posthumously was his novel Maurice (written 1910–1913), one of the earliest sympathetic treatments of gay characters and themes.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]