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E.M. Forster | Biography

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Edward Morgan (E.M.) Forster was born into a middle-class London family on January 1, 1879, and lost his father at age two. He grew up at Rooksnest, an estate in the southern English county of Hertfordshire, where he enjoyed a happy childhood. Fond memories of this time likely inspired his description of Windy Corner in A Room with a View. Raised by his mother and aunt, Forster was surrounded by strong female role models, which likely influenced his development of female characters in his novels.

As a young man, Forster attended Tonbridge School, followed by university studies at King's College, Cambridge. There he found intellectual freedom and began to explore the ideas that would eventually surface in his novels. Forster considered himself a humanist, valuing the characteristics of "curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race." Forster graduated with degrees in classics in 1900 and history in 1901.

After graduating from King's College, Forster became a full-time writer—an occupation made possible in part by an inheritance from a relative—and produced several novels, plays, short stories, literary criticism, and other works. Forster was greatly interested in the differences between traditional English society and the cultures of other regions around the world. He traveled to Italy, Greece, Germany, South Africa, Egypt, the United States, and India. These trips abroad provided plentiful material for his writing. His novels set outside of England feature detailed descriptions of places, people, and cultures, as well as English tourists and expatriates that drew heavily on his personal experiences overseas. This approach can readily be seen in A Room with a View, through Forster's acute observations on day-to-day Italian life as seen through the eyes of an Englishman and his barbed portrayal of stereotypical tourists clinging to their Baedeker guidebooks. These guidebooks were first published in 1832 by Karl Baedeker to give English tourists detailed descriptions of what they might encounter when they traveled to other nations; they were popular well into the 20th century.

One of his earlier works, A Room with a View (1908) received modest praise when it was initially published but was not considered a major literary success. That distinction would have to wait until 1910 with his publication of Howard's End. Forster's greatest success, though, was his 1924 novel A Passage to India, which explored various themes, including colonialism, race, and friendship. His 1927 book Aspects of the Novel was compiled from a series of lectures delivered at Cambridge University and continues to be a widely influential analysis of basic aspects of the novel such as plot and character. Forster died on June 7, 1970. Maurice, a novel about a romantic relationship between two men, was published in 1971 after his death.

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