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Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was born on January 1st, 1879 into an Anglo-Irish and Welsh middle-class family at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London NW1. Among Forster's ancestors were members of the Clapham Sect, a social reform group within the Church of England.
The only child of Alice Clara "Lily" (née Whichelo) and Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect. He was registered as Henry Morgan Forster, but he was mistakenly named at his baptism as Edward Morgan Forster.
His father died of tuberculosis on October 30th, 1880, before Morgan's was two.
Forster inherited £8,000 (a sum just shy of a million in today’s money) from his paternal great-aunt Marianne Thornton (daughter of the abolitionist Henry Thornton), who died on Guy Fawkes day, November 5th, 1887. This bequest would later enable him to become a writer. During this time he attended Tonbridge School in Kent, as a day boy.
For his University days he was at King's College, Cambridge, between 1897 and 1901, and became a member of a discussion society known as the Apostles (formally named the Cambridge Conversazione Society). Many of its members went on to form the Bloomsbury Group, of which Forster was a peripheral member in the 1910s and 1920s.
After leaving university, he travelled throughout continental Europe with his mother.
His first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, published in 1905, is the story of Lilia, a young English widow who falls in love with an Italian man, and of the efforts of her bourgeois relatives to get her back from Monteriano.
Next, Forster published The Longest Journey, in 1907, an inverted bildungsroman following the lame Rickie Elliott from Cambridge to a career as a struggling writer and then to a post as a schoolmaster, married to the unappealing Agnes Pembroke.
Early in his writing career, Forster also attempted a historical novel on the Byzantine scholar Gemistus Pletho and the Italian condottiero Sigismondo de Malatesta. Unsatisfied with the work it was never published though Forster did keep the manuscript.
Forster's third novel is A Room with a View, published in 1908, and probably his lightest and most optimistic work. Its origins start from as early as 1901, placing it as his first writing in terms of chronology. The earliest versions are entitled Lucy. The book explores the young Lucy Honeychurch's trip to Italy with her cousin, and the choice she must make between the free-thinking George Emerson and the repressed aesthete Cecil Vyse. George's father Mr Emerson quotes thinkers who influenced Forster, including Samuel Butler.
In 1910 Forster published Howards End, an ambitious "condition-of-England" novel concerned with different groups within the Edwardian middle classes, represented by the Schlegels (bohemian intellectuals), the Wilcoxes (thoughtless plutocrats) and the Basts (struggling lower-middle-class aspirants).
As the shadow of war began to gather over Europe In 1914, Forster visited Egypt, Germany and India with the classicist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, by this time the majority of his literary canon had been written.
In the First World War, as a conscientious objector, Forster volunteered for the International Red Cross, and served in Alexandria, Egypt.
Forster spent a second spell in India in the early 1920s as the private secretary to Tukojirao III, the Maharajah of Dewas. The Hill of Devi is his account of his time here. After returning to London from India, he completed his last novel, A Passage to India, which was published in 1924, and for which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.
It was also his greatest success. The subject matter is the relationship between East and West, seen through the prism of India in the waning days of the British Raj. Forster combines personal relationships with the politics of colonialism through the story of the Englishwoman Adela Quested, the Indian Dr. Aziz, and the question of what did or did not happen between them in the Marabar Caves.
He also edited Eliza Fay's (1756–1816) Letters from India, in an edition first published the following year, in 1925.
In the 1930s and 1940s Forster became a successful broadcaster on BBC Radio and a public figure associated with the Union of Ethical Societies. His weekly book review during the war was commissioned by George Orwell, who was the producer at the Indian Section of the BBC from 1941 to 1943. He was awarded a Benson Medal in 1937.
Forster was homosexual, which was openly known to his closest friends but not to the public and a lifelong bachelor. He developed a long-term, loving relationship with Bob Buckingham, a married policeman. Forster included Buckingham and his wife May in his circle, which included J. R. Ackerley, a writer and literary editor of The Listener, the psychologist W. J. H. Sprott and, for a time, the composer Benjamin Britten. He also associated with Christopher Isherwood and the poet Siegfried Sassoon.
From 1925 until his mother's death at age 90 on 11 March 1945, Forster lived with her at West Hackhurst, Abinger Hammer, finally 18 months after her death in September 1946.
Forster was elected an honorary fellow of King's College, Cambridge, in January 1946, and lived for the most part in the college, doing relatively little. He declined a knighthood in 1949 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1953. In 1969 he was made a member of the Order of Merit.
Forster was President of the Cambridge Humanists from 1959 until his death and a member of the Advisory Council of the British Humanist Association from 1963 until his death. His views as a humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society. His humanist attitude is expressed in the non-fictional essay What I Believe. When Forster's cousin, Philip Whichelo, donated a portrait of Forster to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GLHA), Jim Herrick, the founder, quoted Forster's words: "The humanist has four leading characteristics – curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race."
Edward Morgan Forster died of a stroke on 7 June 1970 at the age of 91, at the Buckinghams' home in Coventry.
His sixth novel, Maurice, was published posthumously in 1971. It is a homosexual love story which also returns to the familiar territory of Forster's earlier novels, which shouldn’t be surprising as it was written shortly before World War I, he continues his literary journey through the suburbs of London and the English home counties, the experience of attending Cambridge, and the wild landscape of Wiltshire.
It was controversial nonetheless, given that Forster's homosexuality had not been previously known or widely acknowledged. Sexuality is another key theme in Forster's works. The foreword to Maurice describes his struggle with his homosexuality. Although he explored similar issues in several volumes of short stories it was only after his death that his explicitly homosexual writings, the novel Maurice and the short story collection The Life to Come, were published.
He never finished a seventh novel, Arctic Summer.
Forster was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 13 different years.