'To me,' D. H. Lawerence once wrote to E. M. forster, 'you are the last Englishman.' Indeed, Forster's novels offer contemporary readers clear, vibrant portraits of life in Edwardian England. Published in 1908 to both critical and popular acclaim, A Room with a View is a whimsical comedy of manners that owes more to Jane Austen that perhaps any other of his works. The central character is a muddled young girl named Lucy Honeychurch, who runs away from the man who stirs her emotions, remaining engaged to a rich snob. Forster considered it his 'nicest' novel, and today it remains probably his most well liked. Its moral is utterly simple. Throw away your etiquette book and listen to your heart. But it was Forster's next book, Howards End, a story about who would inhabit a charming old country house (and who, in a larger sense, would inherit England), that earned him recognition as a major writer. Centered around the conflict between the wealthy, materialistic Wilcox family and the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters-and informed by Forester's famous dictum 'Only connect'-it is full of tenderness towards favorite characters.
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September 28, 1993
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Excerpt from A Room with a View and Howard's End by E.M. Forster
'The Signora had no business to do it,' said Miss Bartlett, 'no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!'
'And a Cockney, besides!' said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. 'It might be London.' She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M.A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. 'Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired.'
'This meat has surely been used for soup,' said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.
'I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!'
'Any nook does for me,' Miss Bartlett continued; 'but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view.'
Lucy felt that she had been selfish. 'Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me: of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front--'
'You must have it,' said Miss Bartlett, part of whose travelling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother--a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.
'No, no. You must have it.'
'I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy.'
'She would never forgive me.'
The ladies' voices grew animated, and--if the sad truth be owned--a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbours interchanged glances, and one of them--one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad--leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said: