E.M. Forster quotes

E.M. Forster photo
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E.M. Forster

Birthdate: 1. January 1879
Date of death: 7. June 1970
Other names: Е. М. Форстер

Edward Morgan Forster , known as E. M. Forster, was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. Many of his novels examined class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society, notably A Room with a View , Howards End , and A Passage to India , which brought him his greatest success. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 16 different years.

Works

A Room with a View
A Room with a View
E.M. Forster
Howards End
Howards End
E.M. Forster
Maurice
Maurice
E.M. Forster

„I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet.“

—  E.M. Forster

What I Believe (1938)
Context: I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.

„You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know from experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.“

—  E.M. Forster, book A Room with a View

Source: A Room with a View (1908), Ch. 19
Context: It isn’t possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know from experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

„How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?“

—  E.M. Forster, book Aspects of the Novel

Source: Aspects of the Novel (1927), Chapter Five: The Plot

„A mirror does not develop because an historical pageant passes in front of it. It only develops when it gets a fresh coat of quicksilver“

—  E.M. Forster, book Aspects of the Novel

in other words, when it acquires new sensitiveness; and the novel's success lies in its own sensitiveness, not in the success of its subject matter.
Source: Aspects of the Novel (1927), Chapter One: Introductory

„I haven't made my point yet, which is that it is right to be kind and even sacrifice ourselves to people who need kindness and lie in our way — otherwise, besides failing to help them, we run into the aridity of self-development.“

—  E.M. Forster

Source: Commonplace Book (1985), p. 243 (1963)
Context: I haven't made my point yet, which is that it is right to be kind and even sacrifice ourselves to people who need kindness and lie in our way — otherwise, besides failing to help them, we run into the aridity of self-development. To seek for recipients of one's goodness, to play the Potted Jesus leads to the contrary the Christian danger.

„You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle, which — thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you — is now more beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Where Angels Fear to Tread

Source: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), Ch. 8
Context: I never expect anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now — I don't suppose I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass through the world without colliding with it or moving it — and I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil. I don't die — I don't fall in love. And if other people die or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there. You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle, which — thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you — is now more beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before.

„With this type of person knocking about, and constantly crossing one's path if one has eyes to see or hands to feel, the experiment of earthly life cannot be dismissed as a failure.“

—  E.M. Forster

What I Believe (1938)
Context: On they go — an invincible army, yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen, the Best People — all the words that describe them are false, and all attempts to organize them fail. Again and again Authority, seeing their value, has tried to net them and to utilize them as the Egyptian Priesthood or the Christian Church or the Chinese Civil Service or the Group Movement, or some other worthy stunt. But they slip through the net and are gone; when the door is shut, they are no longer in the room; their temple, as one of them remarked, is the holiness of the Heart's affections, and their kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide-open world.
With this type of person knocking about, and constantly crossing one's path if one has eyes to see or hands to feel, the experiment of earthly life cannot be dismissed as a failure. But it may well be hailed as a tragedy, the tragedy being that no device has been found by which these private decencies can be transmitted to public affairs. As soon as people have power they go crooked and sometimes dotty as well, because the possession of power lifts them into a region where normal honesty never pays.

„The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere.“

—  E.M. Forster

What I Believe (1938)
Context: Democracy is not a beloved Republic really, and never will be. But it is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent it deserves our support. It does start from the assumption that the individual is important, and that all types are needed to make a civilization. It does not divide its citizens into the bossers and the bossed — as an efficiency-regime tends to do. The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere. They found religions, great or small, or they produce literature and art, or they do disinterested scientific research, or they may be what is called "ordinary people", who are creative in their private lives, bring up their children decently, for instance, or help their neighbours. All these people need to express themselves; they cannot do so unless society allows them liberty to do so, and the society which allows them most liberty is a democracy.

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„There's nothing like a debate to teach one quickness.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Howards End

Source: Howards End (1910), Ch. 15
Context: There's nothing like a debate to teach one quickness. I often wish I had gone in for them when I was a youngster. It would have helped me no end.

„Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will ever pull it out of us.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Where Angels Fear to Tread

Source: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), Ch. 2
Context: Romance only dies with life. No pair of pincers will ever pull it out of us. But there is a spurious sentiment which cannot resist the unexpected and the incongruous and the grotesque. A touch will loosen it, and the sooner it goes from us the better.

„Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talks that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence.“

—  E.M. Forster, book A Passage to India

Source: A Passage to India (1924), Ch. 14
Context: Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talks that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence. Inside its cocoon of work or social obligation, the human spirit slumbers for the most part, registering the distinction between pleasure and pain, but not nearly as alert as we pretend. There are periods in the most thrilling day during which nothing happens, and though we continue to exclaim, “I do enjoy myself", or, “I am horrified,” we are insincere.

„So two cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give three.“

—  E.M. Forster

What I Believe (1938)
Context: Whether Parliament is either a representative body or an efficient one is questionable, but I value it because it criticizes and talks, and because its chatter gets widely reported. So two cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give three.

„This woman was a goddess to the end. For her no love could be degrading: she stood outside all degradation.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Where Angels Fear to Tread

Source: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), Ch. 10
Context: This woman was a goddess to the end. For her no love could be degrading: she stood outside all degradation. This episode, which she thought so sordid, and which was so tragic for him, remained supremely beautiful. To such a height was he lifted, that without regret he could now have told her that he was her worshipper too. But what was the use of telling her? For all the wonderful things had happened.
"Thank you," was all that he permitted himself. "Thank you for everything."

„It looks as if there is a physical as well as a moral break in the orders I send out. I have plenty of interesting thoughts but keep losing them like the post cards I have written, or like my cap.“

—  E.M. Forster

Source: Commonplace Book (1985), p. 224
Context: Going to Bits. This phrase me to day and is indeed the one I have been looking for; not tragic, not mortal disintegration; only a central weakness which prevents me from concentrating or settling down I have so wanted to write and write ahead. The phrase "obligatory creation" has haunted me. I have so wanted to get out of my morning bath promptly: have decided to do so beforehand, and have then lain in it as usual and watched myself not getting out. It looks as if there is a physical as well as a moral break in the orders I send out. I have plenty of interesting thoughts but keep losing them like the post cards I have written, or like my cap. I can't clear anything up yet interrupt a 'good read' in order to clear up. I hope tomorrow to copy out a piece of someone else's pose: it is the best device known to me for taking one out of inself, Plunge into anothers minutiae.' 31-1-61

„Her idea of business — "Henry, why do people who have enough money try to get more money?" Her idea of politics — "I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars," Her idea of religion — ah, this had been a cloud, but a cloud that passed.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Howards End

Source: Howards End (1910), Ch. 11
Context: He remembered his wife's even goodness during thirty years. Not anything in detail — not courtship or early raptures —but just the unvarying virtue, that seemed to him a woman's noblest quality. So many women are capricious, breaking into odd flaws of passion or frivolity. Not so his wife. Year after year, summer and winter, as bride and mother, she had been the same, he had always trusted her. Her tenderness! Her innocence! The wonderful innocence that was hers by the gift of God. Ruth knew no more of worldly wickedness and wisdom than did the flowers in her garden, or the grass in her field. Her idea of business — "Henry, why do people who have enough money try to get more money?" Her idea of politics — "I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars," Her idea of religion — ah, this had been a cloud, but a cloud that passed. She came of Quaker stock, and he and his family, formerly Dissenters, were now members of the Church of England. The rector's sermons had at first repelled her, and she had expressed a desire for "a more inward light," adding, "not so much for myself as for baby" (Charles). Inward light must have been granted, for he heard no complaints in later years. They brought up their three children without dispute. They had never disputed.
She lay under the earth now. She had gone, and as if to make her going the more bitter, had gone with a touch of mystery that was all unlike her.

„I never expect anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now — I don't suppose I shall ever meet anything greater.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Where Angels Fear to Tread

Source: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), Ch. 8
Context: I never expect anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now — I don't suppose I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass through the world without colliding with it or moving it — and I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil. I don't die — I don't fall in love. And if other people die or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there. You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle, which — thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you — is now more beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before.

„Most of us will be eclectics to this side or that according to our temperament. The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism.“

—  E.M. Forster, book Aspects of the Novel

Source: Aspects of the Novel (1927), Chapter Seven: Prophecy
Context: Most of us will be eclectics to this side or that according to our temperament. The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism. And the only advice I would offer my fellow eclectics is: "Do not be proud of your inconsistency. It is a pity, it is a pity that we should be equipped like this. It is a pity that Man cannot be at the same time impressive and truthful."

„The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.“

—  E.M. Forster, book A Room with a View

Source: A Room with a View (1908), Ch. 3
Context: The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marvelling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but transalate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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