Biography

Edward Morgan Forster was born in London on 1 January 1879. He was the only son of Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster and Alice Clara Whichelo. They were an upper middle class family but unfortuately his father, an architect, died when of consumption before EM Forster was two years old. He was raised by his mother and great-aunt Marianne Thornton. It was his mother (known as Lily to family and friends) that gave him the awareness of injustice and sense of propriety that is evident in his novels. EM Forster shared a house with his mother until her death in 1945.

Upper-middle class: The English class system is very deep rooted and complicated, but essentially follows a feudal system throughout the ages. The class system in Edwardian England was divided into the working classes, middle classes and upper classes. It was during this period that the middle classes truly began to expand. An average household income of an upper-middle class family has been said to be 750 - 1500 per year. The man of the house is likely to be a professional, such as a merchant, banker, solicitor, surgeon or manufacturer. The families Forster writes of in his novels A Room With A View and Howards End are upper-middle class.

Marianne Thornton: Forster later wrote a biography of his great aunt, which was published in 1956.

From 1883 to 1893 Forster lived at Rooksnest. He was educated at Tonbridge in Kent and then Kings College, Cambridge, which he remained connected with even after his graduation in 1901. He travelled extensively, living in Italy for several years and also to Greece, Germany and India. It was now that EM Forster seriously began to start writing. He had several short stories published in journals such as the 'Independant Review' and his first novel - 'Where Angels Fear to Tread' - was published in 1905 when he was only 26 years old. The "most brilliant, most dramatic and the most passionate of his works" (Lionel Trilling) and his most autobiographical novel 'The Longest Journey' was published two years later in 1907. 'A Room with a View' followed in 1908, the first part having been written years earlier when the author was in Italy. When 'Howards End' was published in 1910, Forster, at 31 years of age, was established as a respected and economically successful writer. He became a part of the Bloomsbury Group, "a set of Bohemian thinkers and doers who revolted against the manners and morals of Victorian England" (Jerry Carroll). Besides Forster, other members of the Bloomsbury Group included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey.

King?s College, Cambridge: The University of Cambridge has thirty-one separate colleges, each of which is an indepedant insitution. Each college has their own property and income, each selects their own students and each college provides their own accomodation for those students. To all events and purposes, Cambridge students belong to their colleges, before the university. King?s College was founded by Henry VI in 1441. It has a liberal tradition and is known for informality and innovation among it?s members. (see also www.cam.ac.uk)

Virginia Woolf was a famous novelist, a modernist, increasingly seen as one of the most important feminist writers of the 20th Century.

John Maynard Keynes was an economist who first became famous for his post WW1 treatise ?Economic Consequences of the Peace? in 1919. He also gave his name to the economic theory of Keynesianism, taken up after World War ,Two.

Dora Carrington was an artist. Her life has been the subject of Merchant Ivory film, entitled ?Carrington?.

Lytton Strachey was a biographer and critic. He has been given credit for revolutionising the writing of the biography. His most famous work is perhaps ?Eminent Victorians? from 1918.

EM Forster's last novel, 'A Passage to India' was published in 1924. The story depicts the complicated reaction to the British Raj and has been called "a classic on the strange and tragic fact of history and life in India" (Lowes Dickenson). The book cemented his literary reputation and despite only writing relatively few novels, EM Forster has been acknowledged as one of the 20th century's greatest writers.

The British Raj: The East India Company launched British rule in India in 1600. This company originated as traders during Elizabethan times, but following a series of battles and deals, became increasingly powerful in India, as land owners and as rulers. However, the changes introduced by the British in India, in administration and way of life, caused great discontent. This resulted in a grand attempt to overthrow the British, the so-called Mutiny of 1857. Following this, the East India Company was indeed overthrow but replaced not by a national government but by the British Raj. This placed the British crown in control of the continent, and Queen Victoria was pronounced Empress of India in 1876. The Raj divided India into two parts, British India (under the control of the British government) and independent Indian States (ruled by Indian princes). The British had a pronounced effect on Indian trade, economy and development, though they were largely determined by the needs of the British Empire. Discontent towards the British contined to exist, as did tension between Hindus and Muslims. Following the second World War, and the emergence of figures such as Nehru and Ghandi within the National movement, India declared independence in 1948.(see also http://www.historyofindia.com)

Forster continued to write political essays and biographies and later became a broadcaster for the BBC. He was known as a great humanist and frequently spoke out on affairs of the day. He was awarded with membership in the Order of Companions of Honour in 1953 and he received the Order of Merit in January 1969. EM Forster died on 7 June 1970 in Coventry aged 91. His novel 'Maurice' written between 1913 and 1914 was published posthumously in accordance with his wishes.

BBC: The British Broadcasting Corporation was first formed in 1922. It has pioneered communications in the UK in the realm of radio, television and online technology. It still exists today, in all four media. (see also www.bbc.co.uk)

Order of Companion of Honour/Order of Merit: The British sovereign is a ?fountain of honour?, i.e. they value and reward honours as a mark of distinction. The Companion of Honour was instituted in 1917 by George V, and is given to those who are believed the have given recognised services of national importance. The are often seen as a junior version of the Order of Merit. The Order of Merit was founded in 1902 by Edward VII. It can be given as a reward for services to the advancement of the Arts, Learning or Literature. Some other holders of the Order of Merit include the composer (and Forster-collaborator) Benjamin Britten, the author Thomas Hardy, the composer Sir Edward Elgar, and super-nurse Florence Nightingale. (http://www.royal.gov.uk)

Read an account by EM Forster of his childhood home:

Rooksnest