SELECTED LETTERS OF E. M. FORSTER, VOL. II: 1921-1970 by E. M. Forster


Email this review


Again, as in the first volume of Forster's Selected Letters (1983), there are no surprises here, few flashes of drama, and only sporadic rewards for connoisseurs of Forster's prose. The selection begins with Forster's second visit to India in 1921, his curious secretary-ship to the Maharajah of Dewas: the letters home include some amused, amusing descriptions of local culture, some foreshadowings of Passage to India. Back home in 1922, there's a wry visit to Thomas Hardy (""Such a dolorous muddle""), tortured work on Passage till its 1924 publication. (""Publishers fall into ecstacies! But I know about publishers. . . and sent them those chapters that are likely to make them ecstatic, concealing the residue in the W.C. until the contracts are signed."") The following decades include correspondence with T. E. Lawrence, poet Constantine Cavafy (Forster was a generous mentor), and the problematic Bloomsbury crowd--warm towards Leonard Woolf, ""bored by Virginia's superciliousness and maliciousness,"" repelled by the Bells. (""If to become anti-Bloomsbury were not to become Bloomsbury, how I would become it!"") Forster writes to Christopher Isherwood about Maurice, about Isherwood's problems with a German lover. As for his own love-life, there is one short letter about his momentary hurt reaction to the marriage of policeman/friend Bob Buckingham--followed by increasingly avuncular, protective letters to Bob and wife May. The WW II years bring a few dark broodings, always redeemed by firm resolve: ""This England within whose suety walls we are all immured. . . . What a fortress of boredom and edification--lashed at by what a sea of blood! . . . I have myself to face a world which is tragic without becoming tragic myself. That is my job."" And the liveliest of the postwar letters relate to the crafting of the libretto for Benjamin Britten's opera Billy Budd. (""I want passion--love constricted, perverted, poisoned, but nevertheless flowing. . . ."") Some humor, great decency, specks of passion and venom amid much bland cheerfulness: an uncompelling but gently impressive reflection of Forster's latter 50 years.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press