FROM HEGEL TO HINDUISM:
THE DIALECTIC OF E. M. FORSTER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I wish to express my appreciation for the help and understanding
I have received at the University of Florida from both professors and
staff. I especially want to thank Professor John Tyree Fain for his
patience and excellent scholarship, and Professors Gordon E. Bigelow
and A. L. Lewis, Jr.,for their advice and encouragement. I am espe-
cially indebted to Mr. Ray Jones and Mr. Sherman L. Butler and their
staffs at the Graduate Research Library for obtaining material for me,
and to the Harvard Theological School for lending me a rare first volume
of McTaggart's Nature of Existence. Without all their help, and the in-
exhaustible patience and understanding of my husband, Stanley A. Rising,
and of my children, this study could not have been completed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . .
I THE INNER WAR . . . . . .
II GREECE . . . . . . .
III ITALY . . . . . . . .
IV ENGLAND PAST: THE LONGEST JOURNEY.
V ENGLAND PRESENT: HOWARDS END . .
VI INDIA . . . . . . . .
Mosque . . . . . . .
Caves. . . . . . . .
Temple . . . . . . .
VII BHAKTI IN BLOOMSBURY: THE LEGACY .
BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . . .
APPENDICES. . . . . . . . . .
1. The Dialectic. . . . .
2. The Glossary . . . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . .
THE INNER WAR
0 born in days when wits were fresh and clear,
And life ran gayly as the sparkling Thames;
Before this strange disease of modern life,
With its sick hurry, its divided aims,
Its heads o'ertaxed, its palsied hearts, was rife--
Matthew Arnold, The Scholar Gypsy
It has become a commonplace in literary criticism to say that most
writers have one thing to say and when they have said that they become
either repetitive or silent. To no other twentieth-century writer has
this platitude been applied more often than to E. M. Forster. In his
case the remark takes on overtones of irritation modulated into envy:
he has gained fame, the critics say, by not writing novels. Although
vociferous enough in articles and essays since 1924--the date of his last-
published novel, A Passage to India--Forster has produced only five novels
and one collection of short stories. Yet his work persists in nagging
the imagination and puzzling the critical sensitivity of his detractors
and admirers alike. The first group have seen him as a disillusioned
Edwardian too genteel to be angry, or an effete hothouse plant snuggling,
under glass, in the corner of an undusted Georgian drawing room. The
second group have seen him as the champion of pale but inwardly audacious
anti-heroes, or have tried to justify his fictional silence as a twenti-
eth-century Weltschmerz, in which his India becomes a Bloomsburyian
wasteland, a bog of intellectual--and hence acceptable--disillusionment.
The problem for both groups might be solved by shifting the focus from
Forster to his work. Biography can never be severed from creative ef-
fort, and it is certainly not my intention to do so here. To the con-
trary, Forster's biography contains those frustrations, fears and doubts
which motivated and articulated his themes, but it should be seen as an
ingredient rather than as the whole of the motivating force directing
his productivity. In 1940, a year ripe with the frustrations of World
War II, he wrote in "The Individual and His God": "Besides our war
against totaliarianism, we have also an inner war, a struggle for truer
values, a struggle of the individual towards the dark, secret place where
he may find reality." It was this search for an inner reality impelled
by struggle which, I believe, contains the clue to his fictional method
and which, if understood, can clarify his message, the "thing" he has
"said." That method uses struggle as its fuel. One cannot have struggle
without two opposing forces. One cannot have two opposing forces without
some form of resolution--even impasse is resolution of a sort. One can
not have resolution between deadly enemies that does not demand, eventu-
ally, fresh struggle, fresh resolution. Forster's method, based on his
inner war between the self and everything--nature, the state, other
people--which constitute the Not-Self, became, I believe, his own brand
of the Hegelian dialectic.
Dialectic is a term one should use with caution and some hesita-
tion. It has been applied with equal authority to Socratic cross-exami-
nation (elenchus), Platonic dialogue, Aristotelian syllogism (categorical
demonstration), Kantian transcendentalism (the second division of his
Transcendental Logic Kant entitled "Transcendental Dialectic"), and to
the so-called Hegelian triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis
(Dreischritt). I say "so-called" because Hegel never used the terms
"thesis, antithesis, synthesis." His method was much more spiritual
than is generally supposed.2 The central idea which dictated the con-
tent and form of his Phenomenology of Mind is aufheben, the annihilation
of, but at the same time the preservation of, each preceding step into a
new metamorphosis which in turn demands its own annihilation and preser-
vation, ad infinitum until one reaches Absolute Reality, Absolute Truth,
Absolute Spirit. This is precisely Forster's method. Again and again,
in story after story, in novel after novel, his characters, by annihilat-
ing and yet preserving previous concepts of themselves, through their ex-
periences, through their knowledge gained in visionary moments--moments
almost interchangeable with Hegel's description of self-consciousness--
attain new levels of awareness which, depending on the intensity and
quality of their experience, reach or fall short of that inner reality
which is Forster's Holy Grail.3 Forster, like Hegel, refuses a synthesis,
even when the last step--acceptance of all things through the subconscious--
is taken. He is closer to Hegel than the others because Forster, like
Hegel, carries his view of man beyond Aristotle's categories; both
Forster and Hegel see the Absolute, unlike Plato, as a pervasive spirit-
ual possibility rather than as a goal to be "reached"; both see the self,
unlike Kant, as a substance capable of assimilating the Not-Self rather
than as an autonomous entity retaining a dichotomy with the Ding an
Sicht. With both it is the connection of contraries rather than the
separation that is important. "Only connect" is Forster's cry through-
out his work. We must, he believes, connect with nature, with other
people,with ourselves, before reality and peace can be found. When such
total connection occurs, it may cause death or disintegration of the
character, but still this is not a synthesis, a closing in, so much as
it is an opening out, the first step in a new dialectic of the spirit
where the soul rises to ever widening experiences. Thus Mrs. Wilcox's
ancestors, in Howards End, can communicate with her; Mrs. Moore can"con-
nect" with Aziz, Fielding, and Adela after her death in A Passage to
India. The learning and assimilating process for Forster does not end
with death, but often begins when the objects of this world--including
other people--are assimilated into the self to be transmuted into a new
metamorphosis capable of further learning, further assimilating. There
is no "next" world: all is one, for those of us able to operate on the
subconscious level of cognition, which is, for Forster, uncluttered by
reason, education, or convention, and constitutes true understanding.
Because he refuses synthesis, none of Forster's stories or novels
have a "last" chapter or scene. "Expansion," he wrote in Aspects of the
Novel, "That is the idea the novelist must cling to. Not completion.
Not rounding off but opening out."5 All Forster's stories, as Alan
Friedman insists, open outward rather than end.6 Schiller's pun, that
Hegel's dialectic was really a "Trialectic," a "Try-it-on," might, with
justification, be applicable to Forster. Forster's Cambridge friend
Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson defined the "Trialectic" as an insistence
upon the tentative and experimental character, not merely of human life,
but of the universe as a whole.7 Human life is experimental for Forster;
the universe is tentative. His search is a "Try-it-on." First with
fantasy and myth, then with impulse, emotion, intuition and mysticism
characters try to reconcile the contradictions between themselves and
nature, themselves and other people. Yet those contradictions are not
self-cancelling but form fulcrums for uplift onto other levels of explora-
tion, to be examined in the next short story, the next novel. Thus his
canon assumes a directed vacillation which, once understood, is not
vacillation at all but a controlled thrust toward the final step, a
mystical awareness of the Absolute through love. Forster travels up by
going down into that "lower personality" where, "unless a man dips a
bucket down into it occasionally he cannot produce first-class work."
Forster dips and his subconscious produces, but such a psychic activity
disconcerts those who would like to read his work by daylight. Forster
will not accommodate them. He shies constantly away from a static,-fac-
tual, scientific approach; his method is introspective, intuitive, in-
stinctual, and in its last stages occult. Although based on experience,
his search is not empirical so much as it is spiritual. Sidney Hook, in
"What is Dialectic?" might have been writing of Forster when he made the
distinction between scientific thinking and the dialectical process:
"The fundamental difference between dialectic and science is that sci-
entific thinking is controlled at some point by the facts it seeks to
explain, while dialectic thinking, seeking to clarify and not to explain,
is autonomous, is always on the wing; the introduction of a fact spells
its death."9 It is so with Forster. His search is "always on the wing."
From each new position on his dialectical chart, Forster views his char-
acters through the transparent shadows of his own chiaroscuro. Once we
learn to "see" with him--"seeing" and "having a view" are two of his
favorite yardsticks for characters--we realize that Forster, through his
dialectical method, displays a more unified effort than his canon would
at first disclose.
Where did he get such a method, and did he use it consciously or
unconsciously? The answers to such questions must always remain conjec-
ture, although efforts toward answers must be attempted if deeper under-
standings are to be achieved. Certainly biography and the milieu of the
1890's enters here. Forster first went up to Cambridge in 1897 and left
in 1901. He could not have gone to Cambridge at a more exciting time.
His fellow-students, Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, considered them-
selves iconoclasts rebelling against the Hegelian idealism taught by John
McTaggart Ellis McTaggart. But Moore with his non-natural quality of
Absolute Good (Summum Bonum) and Russell with his "neutral monism," a
oneness of mind and matter, were both searching for an unchanging essence
beyond the reach of time and change.10 Both made their way eventually,
although by different routes, back to the mysticism inherent in McTag-
gart's teaching. Their colleague, Alfred North Whitehead, would write
later in Modes of Thought that "the purpose of philosophy is to ration-
alize mysticism!"' Such a definition could easily be applied to McTag-
gart, Moore, Russell, and Forster. The 1890's interest in the occult--
whether such an interest was a reaction to nineteenth-century industri-
alism, a residue of self-examination left over from Evangelical
Protestanism, or just another form of Romantic malaise--is an influence
which cannot be ignored.12 One fact which emerges from the last years
of the century is the power of this interest in the inexplicable. Her-
metic, Cabalist, Alchemist and Astrological Societies appeared. Under
the influence of Mme. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society,
Yeats joined the Order of the Golden Dawn. Dickinson, Forster's friend
who would go with him on his first voyage to India and whose biography
Forster would write, belonged to the Society for Psychical Research.
McTaggart published "The Further Determination of the Absolute," an es-
say which would expand into the mysticism of his The Nature of Existence
in the 1920's.13 Dowson's "Out of a misty dream / Our path emerges for a
while, then closes / Within a dream" expressed the bittersweet reverence
for the brevity of life inherited from Marvell and Herrick, but also con-
tained not only a new emphasis on the mystery of life but a new juxtapo-
sition of that mystery with an industrialized Victorianism, its religion
bent on control, its science based on the expendability of man. Others
would kick against the shins of the Archbishop of Canterbury and of
Darwin: Hardy with meliorism, Shaw with creative will, Swinburne
with a Hellenic revolt, William James with an investigation of psychic
experience, McTaggart with a spiritual universe held together by love,
Roger Fry with "Art for Art's Sake." And Forster? Forster seems to
partake of and assimilate all these. There are elements of meliorism
at the end of A Passage to India, of creative will in The Longest Journey,
of Hellenic revolt in the short stories, of interest in psychic experi-
ence, a spiritual universe and art for art's sake throughout his work. His
championing of each in its turn illumines "the dark, secret place where
he may find reality."
Forster's interest in Hinduism hinges, it seems to me, on the
importance it gives to the unseen. In "The Gods of India," he wrote:
The Hindu is concerned not with conduct, but with vision.
To realize what God is seems more important than to do
what God wants. He has a constant sense of the unseen--of
the powers around if he is a peasant, of the power behind
if he is a philosopher, and he feels that this tangible
world, with its chatter of right and wrong, subserves the
intangible. . And the promise is not that a man shall
see God, but that he shall be God. . He will realise the
universe as soon as he realises himself. . .14
This is precisely what happens in the last chapters of Hegel's Phenome-
nology. Self-consciousness, through deeper and deeper awareness, becomes
God, the Absolute, by realizing (i.e., assimilating) the universe. It is
also what happens in the last stage of Forster's dialectic, in which his
character (Mrs. Moore of A Passage to India) mystically "connects" with
the Absolute through an unqualified acceptance (love) of the universe in
her subconscious. Such a process is synonymous with the Hindu idea of
bhakti, the complete love and acceptance of all things, animate and in-
animate, on the subconscious level of awareness. Although Forster did
not espouse Hinduism as his final answer--no creed could have satisfied
him completely--his emphasis on the subconscious and his distrust of cog-
nition as an inadequate fetish of the West made Hinduism congenial to
him. It was perhaps an acceptable--some critics say for him the most
acceptable--approach to the Unseen.16 He was, as he describes the Hindu
worshipper in "The Gods of India," athirstt for the inconceivable."
Much deeper and closer to the bone of his thought than either
Cambridge or his interest in Hinduism were his early loss of a sense of
place and his conviction that personal relations in the West were becom-
ing increasingly difficult after World War I. To David Jones he admitted,
"I think that one of the reasons why I stopped writing novels is that the
social aspect of the world changed so much. I had been accustomed to
write about the old-fashioned world with its homes and its family life
and its comparative peace. All that went, and though I can think about
the new world I cannot put it into fiction."17 The mixture of resent-
ment and nostalgia in such remarks is obvious. Homes and family life--
a sense of place and personal relations--were his two persistent themes.
Forster's deep conviction that people must "connect" with the earth and
with each other for inward peace, that they must reject industrialism's
demands that such connection be severed in the interest of "progress"
hints at a personal anxiety close to neurosis. Besides regretting his
family's loss of Battersea Rise, an ancestral home in Clapham razed by
the encroaching industrialism of London, Forster was plagued by the
thought that the same industrialism provided him with an inheritance
through his great-aunt, Marianne Thornton, which sent him to Cambridge
and allowed him to travel and write. "In came the nice fat dividends,"
he wrote in "The Challenge of Our Time," "up rose the lofty thoughts,
and we did not realize that all the time we were exploiting the poor of
our own country and the backward races abroad, and getting bigger profits
from our investments than we should. We refused to face this unpalatable
truth." He read Shaw's Widowers' Houses and felt so guilty that he
sold some of his South African mining stock and some shares in Imperial
Chemicals, Ltd. ("'70 ordinary and 50 preferred").19 He wrote in Time
and Tide, "It is impossible for any one to have clean hands. I will wash
my hands in innocency and so will I go to thine altar? Impossible.
There's nowhere to wash. We are all messed up together in a civilization
which is going badly askew. Yet resignation is a mistake. .. "
Money, which had robbed thousands of the contemplative life, gave him
time for contemplation about personal relationships; industrialism, which
had destroyed rural England, allowed him to live comfortably in Cambridge
and write about the loss of a sense of place. And yet he felt deeply
that it is necessary to connect with the earth in order to attain peace;
it is necessary to connect with one another in order to become human. His
faith in personal relations, which should have been killed by World War I
and the hopeless debacle of Europe in the 1920's and its aftermath, the
Walpurgisnacht of Hitler, seemed to reinforce his faith that people could--
indeed must--connect. His almost perverse individualism ("I hate the idea
of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and be-
traying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.")
put him on Goebbels' list of Englishmen scheduled for execution after the
German invasion of Britain.21 He could confront the Germans, sell a few
stocks, even contemplate the possibility of betraying his country, but
somehow, none of these sufficed. When he fought his own battle for re-
ality, it had to be on the inside. For that war, there was nowhere else
It is one thing to speak of biography, with its frustrations, its
guilts and its commitments, and another to get those across to a reader
in fiction. One way out--for the sense of place, at least--was myth,
particularly Greek myth. In his 1957 introduction to Goldsworthy Lowes
Dickinson's The Greek View of Life, Forster wrote that the Greeks "are
modern because many of their problems are ours, and have been expressed,
particularly in Athens, with a lucidity beyond our power. We cannot be
lucid, we are too much involved."22 His assumption, that man can "con-
nect" with nature, is too important to him. He fails most obviously
when he embodies the possibility of such connection too concretely, as
he does in the short stories, in mythological fauns and Pans. The reader
is liable to feel, with Dickinson, a cleft between Forster's use of myth
and real life. Of the short stories Dickinson wrote: "I am not well
satisfied with them. Your constant preoccupation to bring realistic
life into contact with the background of values (or whatever it is) is
very difficult to bring off, and I am apt to feel the cleft." Even
when Forster transferred his mythic creatures into the "elemental"
characters of the novels, those close-to-nature Demeter figures and Pan-
like young men (Ruth Wilcox of Howards End, Stephen Wonham of The Longest
Journey) who could "connect" both with nature and with others, there is
still the problem of the tangible assimilating the intangible. Forster's
friend Virginia Woolf explained his problem as one of connecting "the
actual thing with the meaning of the thing," of carrying "the reader's
mind across the chasm which divides the two without spilling a single
drop of its belief." For Woolf, his vision was peculiar and his message
was elusive; he was, she wrote, "an uneasy truant in fairyland."24
Her judgment echoes the central problem of Forster's critics.
Because he gives equivocal answers Forster has been seen as an equiv-
ocal figure. I. A. Richards has called him "the most comforting of
modern writers, and at the same time one of the most uncomfortable."
F. R. Leavis speaks of his spinsterishh inadequacy," C. B. Cox of his
"weak values." Dickinson complained that his "double vision squints,"
and James McConkey that the Forsterian hero is incomplete. Forster's
Indian friend Raja Rao described him as a "Dostoyevsky without faith"
and Malcolm Bradbury as "not a novelist of solutions . his visions
. . are defined in terms of the anarchy that they must comprehend, and
therefore they are never fully redemptive; there is always something they
may not account for." Yet Rose Macaulay, who wrote the first book-length
study of Forster in 1938, found that "it is this vision of reality, this
passionate antithesis between the real and the unreal, the true and the
false, being and not-being, that gives the whole body of E. M. Forster's
work, in whatever genre, its unity."25 The juxtaposition of positive
and negative elements which Macaulay noticed is, I suggest, Forster's use
of the dialectic. The inadequacy, incompleteness and lack of resolution
which Cox, McConkey, Bradbury and the others found in Forster's work is
precisely his rejection of synthesis, a rejection which is necessary for
the dialectical process. The cleft Dickinson felt motivates the dialec-
tical movement. Forster's refusal to formulate or to postulate was a
necessary corollary to that movement, which had to be left open-ended in
order to operate. His habit of thought ends his sentences with semi-
colons rather than with periods, but only to allow enough freedom for
further readjustment, further development. It is my contention that he
knew exactly what he was doing: his hesitations and cautious qualifica-
tions may have within them, to use Lionel Trilling's term, a "whim of
iron."27 His characters, once on the road to reality, move toward a
fulfillment of self with the propulsion of necessity. He saw them caught
between the polarities of being and becoming, struggling to experience a
reality which in turn would demand new efforts, new struggles. His char-
acter, Margaret Schlegel, from Howards End, gives a good definition of
her creator's dialectic when she thinks, "No, truth, being alive, was not
halfway between anything. It was only to be found by continuous excur-
sions into either realm, and though proportion is the final secret, to
espouse it at the outset is to insure sterility."2 If we are to be
alive, we cannot rest between, but must be swept through moments of self-
consciousness into ever deeper--i.e., higher, more spiritual--realities.
We cannot formulate or postulate or state. We must be and become at the
same time. We must, in a word, move. Proportion (arrival) must not, as
Margaret says, be too easily obtained, nor too soon. The propelling,
see-sawing motion of the dialectic almost becomes a character to the
reader aware of its existence. It creates a centrifugal force which
swirls themes and characters into a unity, an order which is a result
but also a cause, a message but also a promise, a statement but also a
question. Because Forster's "Try-it-on" method constitutes a philosophy
of "as if," his characters act as if rapport with nature will comfort
them, as if personal relations can attain to spiritual fulfillment, as
if love (bhakti), through the subconscious, can discover inner reality
and a mystical connection with the Absolute.29 It is with this view of
Forster's method, "as if" it were a dialectic spiralling upward from the
earth to the Absolute, that I should like to investigate his fiction.
IE. M. Forster, "The Individual and His God," The Listener, XXIII
(December 5, 1940), 802.
2The terms "thesis, antithesis and synthesis" were coined by
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in his Grundlage der gesamten Wissenchaftslehre
(Jena and Leipzig, 1794). For a discussion of the origin of the terms
see "Dialectic," The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards, II
(New York, 1967), 385-389. The chief exponent of Hegel's method as
spiritual has been John N. Findlay, Hegel: a Re-examination (London, 1958).
See also his "Some Merits of Hegelianism," Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society, LVI (1955-1956), 1-24, and his chapter on Hegel in D. J. O'Connor,
A Critical History of Western Philosophy (London, 1964), pp. 319-340.
3For a discussion of Hegel's moments of self-consciousness, see
Findlay, "Some Merits of Hegelianism," p. 21, and Hegel, The Phenomenol-
ogy of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie (New York, 1967), pp. 215-267. (First
published London, 1910.) See also "aufheben" and "Dialectic" in the
Appendix of the present study.
A word must be said here concerning Plato's and Kant's use of the
term "dialectic." I do not believe Forster's is related to Plato's because
Plato's idea of Pure Form excluded opposites (i.e., Beauty would not in-
clude Ugliness, although a particular beautiful object could be ugly in
certain aspects. See The Republic, Part III, Chapter XIX, trans. Francis
M.Cornford [New York, 1964], pp. 179-189). Hegel's idea of the Absolute
on the other hand, would correspond Pure Being to Negation, or Nothing-
ness, according to John McTaggart's interpretation in his A Commentary
on Hegel's Logic (Cambridge, 1931), p. 20. My interpretation of Forster's
message in Passage to India, that Absolute Reality and Truth can contain
their opposites (Good-Evil, Beauty-Ugliness, Pure Being-Nothingness) is
opposed to Plato's idea and closer to Hegel's. The Marabar Caves, for
instance, are Jain, the Hindu sect which saw the universe as "Yes-and-
No." In the caves, I believe, Forster's dialectic assimilated all as-
pects of reality and pushed the process of Hegel's aufheben to its ulti-
mate end, an Absolute which is Everything. See Chapter Six, "India," of
the present study. Kant's use of the term "dialectic" also differs from
Forster's because Kant not only retains the separation of mind and matter
but emphasizes the transcendent quality of the dialectical movement
rather than its assimilating function, as Hegel and Forster do. Hegel
refutes "Thinghood" (Kant's Ding an Sicht) as "a simple togetherness of
many Heres and Nows," a combination of qualities impossible to describe
because "here" and "now" are constantly changing. See Hegel's chapter,
"Perception, of Things and Their Deceptiveness," in The Phenomenology,
especially pp. 164-165. The Ding an Sicht would not allow the self to
assimilate the Not-Self, as it does for Hegel and Forster. Indeed, for
them, it must assimilate in order to reach that final stage in which the
self can realize the universe.
5E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (New York, 1954), p. 169.
(First published London, 1927.)
Alan Friedman, "E. M. Forster: Expansion, Not Completion," The
Turn of the Novel (New York, 1966), pp. 106-129.
7Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, "Newest Philosophy," Independent
Review, VI, No. 23 (April-May, 1905), 190.
E. M. Forster, "Anonymity: An Enquiry," Two Cheers for Democracy
(New York, 1951), p. 83.
9Sidney Hook, "What is Dialectic?" Journal of Philosophy, XXVI, No.
4 (February 14, 1929), 86.
10See the appendix of the present study for an explanation of
Moore's "Absolute Good" and Russell's "neutral monism."
11Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (New York, 1958), p. 237.
(First published New York, 1938.)
1For a detailed discussion of the 1890's interest in the occult,
see John Senior, The Way Down and Out: The Occult in Symbolist Litera-
ture (Ithaca, New York, 1959).
131 have saved a fuller discussion of the milieu of the 1890's for
my chapter which deals with Forster's Cambridge and Bloomsbury years,
"Bhakti in Bloomsbury: The Legacy." See Chapter VII, the present
1E. M. Forster, "The Gods of India," The New Weekly (May 30, 1914),
15Forster speaks out against all creeds in "Does Culture Matter?"
There he writes that "It is impossible to be fair-minded when one has
faith--religious creeds have shown this. . Faith makes one unkind."
See Two Cheers for Democracy, p. 101. For a fuller definition of bhakti,
see the appendix of the present study.
V. A. Shahane thinks Brahman Hinduism is Forster's final answer.
See his Chapter V of E. M. Forster: A Reassessment (Calcutta, 1962), pp.
1David Jones, "E. M. Forster on his Life and his Books," The
Listener, LXI (January 1, 1959), 11.
18E. M. Forster, "The Challenge of Our Time," Two Cheers for
Democracy, p. 56.
19Wilfred Stone, The Cave and the Mountain (Stanford, California,
1966), p. 356.
20E. M. Forster, "Notes on the Way," Time and Tide, XV (1934), 696.
21E. M. Forster, "What I Believe," Two Cheers for Democracy, p. 68;
Stone, p. 56.
2E. M. Forster, "Introduction" in Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson,
The Greek View of Life (New York, 19W1), no page number.
23This quotation is from a letter Dickinson wrote to Forster April
19, 1928. E. M Forster, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (London, 1962), p.
216. (First published London, 1934.)
24Virginia Woolf, "The Novels of E. M. Forster," The Death of the
Moth (New York, 1942), pp. 168, 170.
251. A. Richards, "A Passage to Forster: Reflections on a Novel-
ist," The Forum, LXXVIII, No. 6 (December, 1927), 914; Stephen Spender,
World Within World (London, 1951), p. 167; F. R. Leavis, "E. M. Forster,"
Scrutiny, VII (September, 1938), 185; C. B Cox, The Free Spirit: A
Study of Liberal Humanism in the Novels of George Elliot, Henry James,
E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and Angus Wilson (London, 1963), p. 102;
G. L. Dickinson, Letter to Forster, June 2, 1926, in E. M. Forster,
Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (London, 1962), p. 216; James McConkey, The
Novels of E. M. Forster (Ithaca, N. Y., 1957), p. 3; Raja Rao, untitled
article on Forster in K. Natwar-Singh's E. M. Forster: A Tribute, With
Selections from His Writings on India (New York, 1964), p. 18; Malcolm
Bradbury, "Introduction," Forster: A Collection of Critical Essays
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1966), p. 4; Rose Macaulay, The Writings
of E. M. Forster (New York, 1938), p. 10.
26Angus Wilson, in an interview with Forster, noticed Forster's
habit of halting speech, in which he would seemingly stop a sentence,
only to add an even more significant word or phrase after a moment. I
do not want to arbitrarily compare an oral habit with a written method,
but I find it interesting that Forster's fictional process, which always
leaves enough room open for another question, another possibility, seems
to relate to Wilson's description of Forster's conversational manner-
isms. Wilson writes that "EMF speaks in quick, little bursts of words
which end, as it seems, inconclusively, and then he usually adds one or
two words more, which though they seem tangential, nevertheless are often
the real core of what he is saying. It is as though a firework did its
stuff adequately but not excitingly, never fizzling but hardly illuminat-
ing, and then just as the onlookers are about to give a polite smile and
say 'very pretty' in a slightly disappointed tone, there shoot up one or
two very bright lights that in turn fade away, making one wish for more."
Angus Wilson, "A Conversation with E. M. Forster," Encounter, IX (Novem-
ber, 1957), 52.
27Lionel Trilling, E. M. Forster (New York, 1964), p. 10. (First
published New York, 1943.)
28E. M. Forster, Howards End (New York, 1960), p. 195. (First
published London, 1910.)
29See Alan Wilde, Art and Order: a Study of E. M. Forster (New
York, 1964), p. 14, and Hans Vaihinger, The Philosophy of "As If," trans.
C. K. Ogden (New York, 1924).
The gods have taken alien shapes upon them,
Wild peasants driving swine
In a strange country. Through the swarthy faces
The starry faces shine.
From the first, the short stories establish the "open-ended" qual-
ity of the dialectic. In order to operate, each step must be left open
for further development, further metamorphoses. Forster's definition of
the writer of prophecy could be applied to his method in the short stories:
"His theme is the universe, or something universal, but he is not neces-
sarily going to 'say' anything about the universe; he proposes to sing,
and the strangeness of song arising in the halls of fiction is bound to
give us a shock." Yet this "strangeness of song," this absence of state-
ment is not vague, as Forster's definition would indicate. It is struc-
tured, as his dialectic is structured, around characters and their view-
points. Because he uses fantasy in the stories the main characters can
step outside time and space and, in a visionary detachment, "see" another
reality. They can do so because they are antithetical to phenomena, to
the everyday world: they contain within themselves an ability to know
noumena, which are the cause and the essence of phenomena and which can
only be comprehended intuitively. They see through phenomena to the
other side, where another reality lies. The tension caused between these
characters who can "see" and the characters of the "thesis"--the everyday
world of phenomena, of convention, of "morality," of "educated"culture--
triggers the dialectical struggle which constitutes the plot. Forster
forces the reader to change sides, to join the antithetical character in
his vision, by a reversal of viewpoint. Those characters of the thesis
who represent phenomenal reality are described in the terms of their
world and react in those terms (the world of everyday), but these descrip-
tions and reactions are so flat, so "realistic," so shallow, that the
richer, deeper, vaguer, more visionary viewpoint of the antithetical
"seeing" character becomes more attractive. The everyday world becomes
the backside of truth--not untrue, for nothing in Forster's Hegelian di-
alectic is demolished--but made ridiculous, so that the reader, when he
joins the antithetical character from his sprung-about position, changes
sides completely. The reader can join the visionary character because
Forster does not make of his visionaries something unreal and inhuman:
they do not know their own ability to "see" until something happens which
causes them to explode inwardly,as it were, into vision. Before that,
they are just like the rest of us. And to preserve the reader's credul-
ity, Forster is careful to keep that "something" in the earlier stories
concrete. If the experience arrives through a mythological figure it is
a faun who speaks, a Pan who is solid enough to leave a hoof-print, or a
Dante (made mythological by the context) who can drive a bus. If the ex-
perience occurs through nature it is a hedge, a tree, a beech copse, or a
bed of flowers through which the character makes contact with another
world. Thus a phenomenon (even a symbolic phenomenon, in the case of
Pan) is made to serve its cause and essence, or its noumenon; the
noumenon annihilates, but preserves the phenomenon and lifts it, via
aufheben, into another reality which is itself not a statement so much
as a situation capable of further shifting, further development. The
dialectical movement which will unify Forster's whole canon has, even
in the first stories, already begun.
All the short stories were written before 1914; six were published
as The Celestial Omnibus in 1911, six more as The Eternal Moment in 1928
(both to reappear as The Collected Tales of E. M. Forster in 1947), and
one, not included in either collection, "Albergo Empedocle," was printed
in a 1903 issue of Temple Bar. The first story Forster wrote, "The Story
of a Panic," "came" to him on an Italian hillside in May, 1902. It
"rushed into my mind," he wrote later, "as if it had waited for me up
there."2 It was, perhaps, a visitation from the noumenal world of the
subconscious which set his investigation of such "eternal moments" going.
The plot is simple enough. A party of English tourists staying at a
hotel in Ravello, Italy, decide to go on a picnic in the nearby hills.
The group includes a narrator, his wife and two daughters; Leyland, an
artist; two Miss Robinsons and a Mr. Sandbach, whose ecclesiastical
language implies his Church of England (and hence conventional morality)
affiliation. There is also--most importantly--Eustace, the nephew of
the Robinsons, a willful teenage boy who sulkily agrees to accompany
them but who would much rather loaf around the hotel talking to the
Italian waiter. Eustace--his name in Greek ("eustachys") means "rich in
corn, blooming, fruitful," and by juxtaposing it with such dull names as
"Miss Mary Robinson" and "Mr. Sandbach" Forster has already indicated
something different about him--goes with the party, cuts a whistle from
the bark of a tree and blows it. There is a "terrible silence" followed
by a "catspaw of wind" which runs down the far ridge of a valley and up
the ridge where the party, lazing about, dozes. Immediately panic seizes
them: they dash downhill, only to climb up again, a little embarrassed at
their terror. They find Eustace sprawled on the grass, senseless, a goat-
print near him and a little lizard crawling out of his shirt. He is never
the same again. On the way back to the hotel he capers and canters and
is welcomed by the Italian waiter, Gennaro, with a mysteriously whispered
"Ho capito" ("I understand"). That night Eustace escapes from his room
to flit wildly about, reciting strange poetry in the courtyard. He
evades the attempts of the narrator and the others to catch him. Finally
the narrator bribes the reluctant Gennaro to help them, and Eustace re-
turns submissively to his room with the waiter. Later, when a terrible
cry, as of the wind, comes from Eustace's room, Gennaro runs up and
leaps from the window with the boy in his arms. Eustace breaks away,
jumps a parapet and alights "in an olive tree, looking like a great white
moth" (p. 38). Gennaro, in the courtyard, falls forward, dead.
Such a story seems too fantastic, demanding too much suspension of
belief. One can certainly agree with Bergson that myths, because they
"counterfeit reality as actually perceived," demand a special compliance
on the part of the reader.3 Does Forster provide that compliance? He
does: with the person of the narrator, in whom--but for the grace of
God--we see ourselves. The narrator is "rational," "practical," a link
with "reality" and with the everyday social world, one who demands
obedience from the recalcitrant Eustace and obsequiousness from the
waiter. He is an English devotee of discipline and the playing fields
of Eton whose language places him squarely on the side of the herd. He
is just enough like everybody we know to provide Forster with a plat-
form of reality which he can use as a springboard into the less realis-
tic world of Eustace. From the first paragraph, the narrator's ego is
ill-concealed in the fussy language of Edwardian nicety. He "confesses"
that he is a "plain, simple man"; he "flatters" himself that he can tell
a story; Ravello is a "delightful place with a delightful little hotel"
(p. 3). But Eustace generates his ire:
I would not have minded so much if he had been a really
studious boy, but he neither played hard nor worked hard.
His favorite occupations were lounging on the terrace in an
easy chair and loafing along the high road, with his feet
shuffling up the dust and his shoulders stooping forward.
Naturally enough, his features were pale, his chest con-
tracted, and his muscles undeveloped. His aunts thought
him delicate; what he really needed was discipline. (pp. 4-5)
The narrator is, in a word, an athletic prig who sets the dialectical
movement going. He believes that his speaking "rather sharply on the
subject of exercise" caused Eustace to come along on the outing. If he
is correct, there is added irony in the fact that the narrator should
have arranged, inadvertently, the situation in which Pan--the antithesis
of everything he is or believes in--appeared. He is very pleased with
himself. "Obedience was not his [Eustace's] strong point. . I should
have insisted on prompt and cheerful obedience, if I had a son" (p. 7).
Eustace, although he calls out "I'm--coming--Aunt--Mary," dawdles "to
cut a piece of wood to make a whistle, taking care not to arrive" until
the others have set out the food. The passage is worth quoting, for it
rounds off the character of the self-righteous narrator and his complete
misinterpretation of another human being:
"Well, well, sir'" said I, "you stroll in at the end and
profit by our labours." He sighed, for he could not endure
being chaffed. Miss Mary, very unwisely, insisted on giving
him the wing of the chicken, in spite of all my attempts to
prevent her. I remember that I had a moment's vexation when
I thought that, instead of enjoying the sun, and the air, and
the woods, we were all engaged in wrangling over the diet of
a spoilt boy.
But, after lunch, he was a little less in evidence. He
withdrew to a tree trunk, and began to loosen the bark from
his whistle. I was thankful to see him employed, for once
in a way. We reclined, and took a dolce far niente. (pp. 7-8)
Eustace's sigh may be the patience suffered by a sensitive boy under the
unfeeling "guidance" of his elders--but the narrator would never have
guessed that, and translates it subjectively as hurt ego. When Eustace
withdraws to a tree trunk--the verb is significant--the narrator approves
of his being "employed" and turns to a dolcee far niente" ("It is sweet
to do nothing"); evidently the narrator condones employment for "social
inferiors," but not for himself. The use of the Italian phrase at the
end reinforces our view of him as an affected character, but more:
"doing nothing" is precisely what the narrator and his "civilized" com-
panions have been doing all their lives, so that the words carry added
significance. Leyland, the "artist," emphasizes the emptiness of "cul-
tured" activity and sets up a secondary dialectical see-sawing action
with the narrator, spokesman of the "practical." Leyland notices that
some of the surrounding chestnut trees have been cut and deplores the
commercial use of nature. The narrator defends the harvesting of timber,
but Leyland rebukes him with "It is through us, and to our shame, that
the Nereids have left the waters and the Oreads the mountains, that the
woods no longer give shelter to Pan." It is Leyland, representative of
false, cultured "art," who first uses the word "Pan." It is echoed by
Mr. Sandbach, whose "mellow voice" fills the valley "as if it had been
a great green church." "Pan is dead," Mr. Sandbach tells the others
emphatically, and describes Pan's death at the birth of Christ. "The
great God Pan is dead," he pronounces. "Yes. The great God Pan is
dead," Leyland echoes. "And," Forster adds, "he abandoned himself to
that mock misery in which artistic people are so fond of indulging" (p.
W. R. Irwin, in an article entitled "The Survival of Pan," traces
the popularity of Pan in the 1890's.4 He tells the same story of Pan's
death at Christmas, recorded by Plutarch and embellished by Rabelais,
that Mr. Sandbach now repeats. Leyland's "The great God Pan is dead"
reminds one of Arthur Machen's novel, The Great God Pan, which appeared
in 1894. In that story a girl who meets a "strange man in the woods"
becomes insane and causes murders. Pan can aid distressed creatures, but
the same power which he uses against villains can become willfully malev-
olent. He is, after all, as Irwin calls him, a "rough-hewn god" with a
power at times diabolical. The banter which follows Leyland's mock mis-
ery is met by a silence in Eustace: "Eustace was finishing his whistle.
He looked up, with the irritable frown in which his aunts allowed him to
indulge, and made no reply" (p. 10). Forster's language here takes on
symbolic significance, and deserves analysis:
The conversation turned to various topics and then died
out. It was a cloudless afternoon in May, and the pale green
of the young chestnut leaves made a pretty contrast with the
dark blue of the sky. We were all sitting at the edge of
the small clearing for the sake of the view, and the shade
of the chestnut saplings behind us was manifestly insuf-
ficient. All sounds died away--at least that is my ac-
count: Miss Robinson says that the clamour of the birds
was the first sign of uneasiness that she discerned. All
sounds died away, except that, far in the distance, I could
hear two boughs of a great chestnut grinding together as the
tree swayed. The grinds grew shorter and shorter, and
finally that stopped also. As I looked over the green
fingers of the valley, everything was absolutely motionless
and still; and that feeling of suspense which one so often
experiences when Nature is in repose, began to steal over
me. (p. 10)
After the irritable silence of Eustace, the conversation, like an organ-
ism, turns and dies out. Forster enlarges the focus of his camera im-
mediately by cataloguing the scene: the cloudless afternoon, the pale
green leaves, the dark blue of the sky. The negation of "cloudless,"
the unsubstantial "pale" and the frank ominousness of "dark" hint of a
Dantean descent. "We were all sitting at the edge of the small clear-
ing for the sake of the view. . ." They certainly seem on a brink,
and the view, physically downward (for they are on a hill), may be sym-
bolically downward into the subconscious. Then: "All sounds died away--."
This phrase is repeated: all sounds die away except the grinding to-
gether of two chestnut boughs. These grow shorter, and stop; the nar-
rator looks over "the green fingers of the valley." Although the tree
is moved presumably by wind, the emphasis is on the boughs grinding "as
the tree swayed," and the inference is that the tree is moving to grind
the boughs, not as a result of a force from without. Immediately, a
reader remembers earlier descriptions in this story which make nature
not only organic but human: "the ribs of hill," the valley which seemed
like "a many-fingered green hand, palm upwards, which was clutching
convulsively to keep us in its grasp," the trees which "clothed the con-
tours of the hills" (pp. 5, 6, 8). Now the narrator does not tell us
that the wind died, but that "everything was absolutely motionless and
still," as if "everything" had deliberately chosen to turn silent. When
we remember that one of the premises of occultism which John Senior re-
cords is that "The human body is especially taken to be the image of cre-
ation. The universe is taken to be, in fact, a living man," Forster's
description contains more than a playful pantheism. A human body seems
to have stirred, and with a will of its own has tried to "clutch con-
vulsively"--the adverb is not pleasant--and now seems to be responding,
in fact seems to be answering, with its own irritable silence, the frown
of Eustace. Suddenly Eustace blows his whistle: "Then the terrible
silence fell upon us again." Now the narrator stands up and sees "a
catspaw of wind" that runs down one of the ridges, "turning light green
to dark as it travelled" (p. 11). He experiences "A fanciful feeling of
foreboding." He looks around, to find the others standing also, watching
it. Again, the phrase, "all was motionless": ". . all was motionless,
save the catspaw of wind, now travelling up the ridge on which we stood"
(p. 11). Panic explodes--that word whose root can be diabolical, whose
spirit, indeed, may have been invoked by Leyland's and Sandbach's repe-
titions of its name--and "brutal, over-mastering physical fear" over-
takes the narrator, who admits, "I had been afraid, not as a man, but
as a beast" (p. 12).
Precisely because Forster has presented the narrator to us as a
prig, we have received him as real--more real, certainly, than Eustace.
Now, because of that acceptance, we can appreciate the intensity of his
fear as he runs down the hill. We go with him. But his descent is more
than movement; the implication of a plunge into the subconscious is un-
mistakable: "The sky might have been black as I ran, and the trees short
grass, and the hillside a level road; for I saw nothing and heard nothing
and felt nothing, since all the channels of sense and reason were blocked"
(p. 12). The narrator undergoes a change. He can now "see" that Leyland
is a coward when he refuses, at first, to go back for Eustace, who has
remained on the hill. They find Eustace, motionless, and to the narrator's
"unspeakable horror" he sees "one of those green lizards dart out from
under his shirt-cuff as we approached" (p. 14). Eustace's hand was "con-
vulsively entwined in the long grass"--just as the valley itself, like a
green-fingered hand, had clutched convulsively (the adverb is the same)
to keep them in its grasp when they first climbed the hill. Now Eustace
opens his eyes and smiles, and the narrator records: "I have often seen
that peculiar smile since, both on the possessor's face and on the photo-
graphs of him that are beginning to get into the illustrated papers" (p.
14). At the end of the story Eustace is running away--"escaping" is
Forster's word--and subsequent readings make that pronoun L'him" of
"photographs of him" even more puzzling. Why does Forster separate the
"possessor" from the photographs of him? And since we have no knowledge
that Eustace was ever captured--he may still be escaping--how did the il-
lustrated papers get his picture? Even on first reading, the "him"
bothers. Could it refer to Pan? After all, the "catspaw" came in
response to the whistle. Could the narrator have seen Pan since? The
heretofore "practical" narrator has certainly been affected by the event.
Rose, the narrator's daughter and the youngest of the group, is
perhaps closer to the subconscious than the others. She begs Eustace to
tell her "everything--every single thing," as if he knew something the
others did not. The narrator, who has been changed by fear--ironically
so, since his first criticism of Eustace was for being afraid--is curi-
ous, and moves nearer "to hear what he was going to say" (p. 16). Why
do they think that Eustace has learned anything, unless they suspect his
having communicated with some inexplicable force outside ordinary experi-
ence? As the narrator leans forward he sees the footprints of a goat
"in the moist earth beneath the trees." Eustace "laboriously got on to
his feet"--the adverb implies exhaustion--and rolls on them, "as a dog
rolls in dirt" (p. 16). The ecclesiastical Mr. Sandbach sums up the
situation neatly: "The Evil One" has been there, and he advises them
to "offer up thanks for a merciful deliverance." The attempt at
prayer--they make a rather incongruous circle, with Eustace kneeling
"quietly enough between his aunts"--underscores the feeble plea of
language in the presence of universal forces. While they are praying
the pseudo-artist Leyland cuts the whistle in two, "a superstitious act"
of which the reasonable narrator "could hardly approve" (p. 17). But
Eustace is unperturbed; he does not need it any more, and when they ask
him why, he merely smiles. He has taken into himself the powers the
whistle called forth.
Forster now lets his reader down from the emotional heights of
the hillside onto the familiar ground of the narrator's ego. The narrator
congratulates himself for insisting that Eustace walk rather than ride a
donkey: "As it turned out, I was perfectly right, for the healthy exer-
cise, I suppose, began to thaw Eustace's sluggish blood and loosen his
stiffened muscles. He stepped out manfully, for the first time in his
life, holding his head up and taking deep draughts of air into his chest"
(p. 18). The narrator stupidly credits exercise for the change in
Eustace and observes "with satisfaction . that Eustace was at last
taking some pride in his personal appearance" (p. 18). Our recognition
of the narrator as still the silly prig we knew at first helps return us
to "reality." Things are back to "normal," and,as if to relieve further
the larger tensions between the picnic party and the universe, Forster
generates again the conflict between Leyland and the narrator. Leyland
starts an argument about athletics, a subject which vexes him almost as
much as cut timber. But the narrator, caught up again in his own con-
victions and feeling secure in the usual habitat of his own ego, con-
descends to ignore "such remarks, especially when they come from any
unsuccessful artist, suffering from a damaged finger" (p. 19). His at-
tention is turned again to Eustace, who "was racing about, like a real
boy, in the wood to the right." The narrator's use of "real" is ironic.
If he could really see Eustace as he is now, with the elemental forces of
nature in him, he would seem anything but "real" to the narrator, dulled
as his perception is by his phenomenal viewpoint.
"The Story of a Panic" is uncommon among Forster's stories because
it contains two elemental characters. Gennaro, the waiter, is substi-
tuting for "the nice English-speaking Emmanuele." Again there seems to
be a juxtaposition of names: the ecclesiastical "Emmanuele," stamped
with approval by the tourists because he speaks English, and "Gennaro,"
which may relate to the Italian "genio" (genius). Eustace wants to see
Gennaro when they return, and to Mr. Sandbach's snapped "And why?"
Eustace replies "Because, because I do, I do; because, because I do"
(p. 20). And he "danced away into the darkening wood to the rhythm of
his words," not unlike Hawthorne's Pearl. Even Rose cannot understand
why Eustace wants to see Gennaro; he has only been working as a waiter
in the hotel for two days. Eustace's running and darting about take on
the intensity of frenzy: he dashes into the wood and out again, pretending
to be an Indian, then a dog. "The last time he came back with a poor
dazed hare, too frightened to move, sitting on his arm" (p. 20). They
leave the wood, but Eustace still scurries in front of them "like a
goat." Perhaps Forster loses power here by being too obvious; certainly
the three old women Eustace meets on the way back to the hotel are too
reminiscent of the Fates. He gives one flowers and she blesses him, but
he "bounded away without replying at all." He bounds to Gennaro, that
"incongruous" person "with his arms and legs sticking out of the nice
little English-speaking waiter's dress suit" (p. 21). This is not mas-
querade: we know who he is; at least the emphasis here is that he is not
the nice English-speaking waiter. But the nice English-speaking waiter--
nice because he is English-speaking, this Christian Emmanuele--is repre-
sented in absentia by his clothes, a shell into which the elemental Pan-
like figure of Gennaro has stepped. Forster implies here, I believe, a
metamorphosis similar to the one experienced by Eustace, who has assumed
the qualities of Pan. If one applies the same process of transformation
to the group of tourists, English "culture" (the narrator's priggishness,
Leyland's art, Mr. Sandbach's religion) could be seen as a shell into
which the earthly forces have entered in the form of Pan-turned-Eustace.
Eustace and Gennaro certainly recognize each other with more than usual
enthusiasm. Gennaro keeps whispering his "Ho capito" ("I understand")
and the dialectical contrast between the elemental forces and civiliza-
tion is kept alive by the narrator's snobbery. He asks Miss Robinson's
"permission to speak seriously to Eustace on the subject of intercourse
with social inferiors" (p. 22). When Gennaro uses the second person
singular, the narrator considers that "an impertinence of this kind was
an affront to us all. . ." His daughter Rose, to his surprise, keeps
saying that "everything was excusable," but he speaks to the waiter
bluntly, because "it is no good speaking delicately to persons of that
class. Unless you put things plainly, they take a vicious pleasure in
misunderstanding you" (p. 24). Again the recognition of a remembered
character trait keeps the reader on familiar ground and keeps the volume
low, but this return to the hotel is a lull before the crescendos of
The words the narrator uses to describe Eustace's nocturnal wan-
derings in the courtyard take on the overtones of a metamorphosis:
Trembling all over I stole to the window. There,
pattering up and down the asphalt paths, was something
white. I was too much alarmed to see clearly; and in the
uncertain light of the stars the thing took all manner of
curious shapes. Now it was a great dog, now an enormous
white bat, now a mass of quickly travelling cloud. It
would bounce like a ball, or take short flights like a
bird, or glide slowly like a wraith. It gave no sound--
save the pattering sound of what, after all, must be human
feet. And at last the obvious explanation forced itself upon
my disordered mind; and I realized that Eustace had got out
of bed, and that we were in for something more. (p. 26)
The ambiguity of the "uncertain" light of the stars, the "thing," the
"it" which could take "all manner of" shapes, which "gave no sound" in-
sists on, indeed demands, a lack of definition which will leave whatever
flits out there in the courtyard free to change its substance. The in-
sistence in the narrator's "must be human feet" implies that in fact he
thinks they are not. When the reader remembers the goat prints in the
moist earth of the hillside, the real meaning of this passage is clear:
the spirit of Pan is in Eustace, dancing about on the flagstones. Eustace
"chatters" to himself, then bursts forth with poetry praising the forces
He spoke first of night and the stars and planets
above his head, of the swarms of fire-flies below him, of
the invisible sea below the fire-flies, of the great rocks
covered with anemones and shells that were slumbering in
the invisible sea. He spoke of the rivers and waterfalls,
of the ripening bunches of grapes, of the smoking cone of
Vesuvius and the hidden fire-channels that made the smoke,
of the myriads of lizards who were lying curled up in the
crannies of the sultry earth, of the showers of white rose-
leaves that were tangled in his hair. And then he spoke of
the rain and the wind by which all things are changed, of
the air through which all things live, and of the woods in
which all things can be hidden. (pp. 28-29)
The "cultured" Leyland observes that Eustace's poetry was "a diabolical
caricature of all that was most holy and beautiful in life," but the
narrator, who has experienced some change himself and half-admits
appreciating Eustace's "high faluting" absurdities, could have kicked
him (p. 29). Eustace, just before he finishes and kneels on the parapet,
says "And then--and then there are men, but I can't make them out so
well" (p. 29). His vision of creation, in which all things are one and
related, is ended.
The narrator bribes Gennaro to catch Eustace, who is now "in the
shadow of the white climbing roses." Eustace accepts the waiter as a
friend, leaning on him, mumbling "I understand almost everything. The
trees, hills, stars, water, I can see all. But isn't it odd' I can't
make out men a bit. Do you know what I mean?" (p. 33). Gennaro under-
stands: men are unreal because they do not contain the truth which is
of the earth. But the narrator, Leyland and Sandbach jump on Eustace,
and the white roses, "which were falling early that year, descended in
showers on him as we dragged him into the house"(p. 33). The roses seem
to undergo a metamorphosis into tears: the descriptions "falling" and
"descended in showers" are followed by "as soon as we entered the house
he stopped shrieking; but floods of tears silently burst forth, and
spread over his upturned face" (p. 33). The narrator guiltily thinks of
the thirty pieces of silver, but he has not changed completely--if he
should change completely we could no longer believe in him--for he can
still appreciate the deference of Gennaro's "Signor Eustazio." Gennaro
tells them Eustace will be dead by morning unless he leaves his room,
which has no view and faces a stone wall. Then a cry, "like the sound
of wind in a distant wood" comes from Eustace's room and Gennaro runs to
save him, leaping out of the window with Eustace in his arms when his
path is blocked by the others. Eustace, like a "great white moth,"
vaults a wall into an olive tree. Gennaro dies in the courtyard mur-
muring, "He has understood and he is saved," and "more rose leaves fell
on us as we carried him in" (p. 38). But the narrator, to preserve the
dialectical tension between non-understanding culture and elemental
knowledge of the universe, thinks "those miserable Italians have no
stamina. Something had gone wrong inside him, and he was dead" (p. 38).
Something certainly had happened inside Gennaro, but what it was the
narrator's education or reason will never be able to figure out. Per-
haps he possessed some secret strength of the earth, some power of Pan
which he surrenders in the sacrificial act of saving Eustace. Certainly
there seems to be a transfer of power when Eustace connects with the
earth again: "And as soon as his bare feet touched the clods of earth
he uttered a strange loud cry, such as I should not have thought the
human voice could have produced, and disappeared among the trees below"
(p. 38). For all we know, Eustace may still be running, into new meta-
morphoses, into new and deeper connections, through the earth, with his
"The Story of a Panic" is exciting because, slight in content and
obvious in theme as it is, it contains all the elements of Forster's di-
alectical movement which will appear again and again throughout his work.
The theory of an organic universe, the power of place, the importance of
human relationships are real, are noumena placed in tension beside the
fake"artist," the phony pragmatist, the ineffectual cleric. Forster will
retain that tension with the same cast of characters in his stories and
novels. I cannot agree with Wilfred Stone that Forster in the short
stories was "seeking his identity," that he was "giving voice, under a
dozen fictional disguises, to an agonized self-confession." Stone
cleverly subtracts eight from 1902, the year "The Story of a Panic" was
written, and discovers that Forster, like Eustace, would have been fif-
teen at the time of the "extraordinary event." He sees Forster's nar-
rator as Forster was in 1902 and Eustace as Forster was in 1894. I con-
tend that Forster sees his narrator far too clearly as a priggish con-
formist for that gentleman to represent one side of a schizophrenic
author. The narrator is rather a position in a dialectical argument, a
position shared by the "cultured" Leyland, whose "educated" refinement
provides another useless way of seeing the world: both are "civilized,"
i.e., empty of that harmonious empathy with the earth which invokes
vision. The other side of the dialectic, the antithetical or noumenal
side, has its problems in this story as well as in Forster's other early
efforts, as we shall see. Eustace and Gennaro do not emerge quite solid.
Eustace, particularly, seems a flitting outline: his nervous antics lend
too unsubstantial a quality to a teenage boy. Perhaps, with Eustace,
Forster overplayed his sleight of hand. The only human flaw in Eustace
with which we might identify is his laziness, but this seems more often
than not a foil for the narrator's grumbling. Through Eustace's identi-
fication with white (white moth, white bat, white roses) Forster connects
the idea of innocence with paganism, and does so perhaps too bluntly: we
do not have to be coached incessantly in the shortcomings of "culture."
Rather than criticize the characters from the standpoint of
phenomenal "reality," however, it might be more fruitful to ask: What
happened? Real or unreal, teenager or metamorphosis of Pan, Eustace has
experienced some strange change. If we shift focus from the character
to the experience we realize that Eustace has learned to operate in
another reality which he has entered through sensuous contact with the
earth. Limited it may have been, momentary and of no benefit to anyone
but Eustace, but intense it certainly was. For a while, there in Ravello,
the earth was more than earth, the trees more than trees.8 What happened?
Did the earth become a symbolic substance through which Eustace experi-
enced another reality? Ernst Cassirer sees objects-become-symbols as a
medium through which man can fuse with his environment: "Man lives with
objects only in so far as he lives with these forms; he reveals reality
to himself, and himself to reality, in that he lets himself and the en-
vironment enter into this plastic medium, in which the two do not merely
make contact, but fuse with each other."9 Yet I should like to avoid the
word "symbol" with Forster. He does not like it himself. In Aspects of
the Novel he wrote that "Done badly, rhythm is most boring, it hardens
into symbol and instead of carrying us on it trips us up."10 In an inter-
view for the Paris Review he turned from the word "symbol" and suggested
instead "symbolic."11 The medium through which Eustace "saw" is much
less solid, much more porous than the word "symbol" would suggest. It is
not something which stands for or over against something else but a fu-
sion of mind and matter in which man and the things around him, animate
and inanimate, become one. Professor Ralph Monroe Eaton writes of such
fusion in Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge:
What is needed in place of the Kantian theory of isolation
[of mind and matter] is the notion that mind by its activity
joins itself to real things in knowledge, that is, an epis-
temological monism which takes account of thought-activity
in cognition. Mind grows into a cognitive unity with the
reality it originally knows only in fleeting and momentary
glimpses; the mind in knowing is actively continuous with
No better explanation, it seems to me, has been given which could be ap-
plied to Forster's use of Hegel's aufheben. Eustace has annihilated the
outward forms of nature to penetrate and assimilate the essence and sub-
stance of nature into himself, to attain, in Eaton's words, "a cognitive
unity with reality." He has allowed his mind "to join itself to real
things in knowledge." Eustace, as he runs off into the trees, becomes
"continuous" with all things.
Yet it is important to remember that Eustace does not run away
into synthesis with the earth or even with the noumenal reality on the
other side of phenomena, but into possibility. He is an elemental char-
acter who becomes momentarily infinite--outside space and time--and his
inability to "see" man in his vision becomes frightening. Man, smothered
by "culture," by education, by his own ego, may not really--the implica-
tion is yet--exist. Humanity has the potential to live in the subcon-
scious, but this potential operates only in isolated individuals like
Gennaro and Eustace. Perhaps, because most of humanity is unable to re-
ceive the vision, even those who do are destroyed by it, as Gennaro is
here, as Rickie Elliot will be in The Longest Journey and Mrs. Moore
will be in A Passage to India. The evil inherent in the excessive im-
pulses generated in this story by contact with Pan reflects a deeper
inward inability of man to live on the subconscious level, the only
level where we can fully "connect." This, I believe, is Forster's re-
curring message. This limitation is the basis for Eustace's failure to
see men and for the cry of "Not yet" at the end of A Passage to India
twenty-two years later. In both, as in all his stories, Forster refuses
synthesis; in both the dialectic is left open.
Living on the subconscious level is the criterion of "Albergo
Empedocle," the only story not included in one of the collections.13
Again Forster gives us an English tourist group, this time in Sicily:
Sir Edwin and Lady Peaslake, their daughters, Lilian and Mildred, and Mil-
dred's fiance, Harold. Harold is the Eustace of the story, a little lazy,
a little dull, and not particularly interested in history or in Sicily.
He has, however, learned to put himself to sleep by pretending to be
someone else, and Mildred is fascinated and "rather annoyed with her
parents for their want of sympathy with imagination" when they see Harold's
ability as a dangerous habit (p. 667). One afternoon Harold and Mildred
visit the ruins of the temple of Zeus. They become separated, and Mil-
dred later finds him asleep on a bed of wild flowers between two fallen
columns. When he wakes he knows that he has lived before, as a Greek.
Mildred, full of "educated" imagination, imagines that she, too, has
been a Greek and remembers "a great city full of gorgeous palaces and
snow-white marble temples, full of poets and music . ." where she and
Harold "led solemn sacrifices" (p. 677). When Harold, who knows that
the town had not been "full of noble men and noble thoughts,' tells her
"No, Mildred darling, you have not," she becomes irritated with her own
self-deception, then furious with Harold for having proved her wrong.
She accuses him of being mad; the others agree and Harold is sent to an
asylum where he mumbles an unrecognizable language and seems "utterly
unconscious" of his fellow men. Again, as in "The Story of a Panic,"
Forster attempts to create credibility through a narrator, this time
aided by the distance of time and space: Harold's roommate Tommy intro-
duces the story with a letter regretting that he did not accept Harold's
invitation to visit Sicily. If he had been there, he thinks, Harold
"would not now be in an asylum." At the end he appears again, to give
his opinion on the strange language Harold speaks; he believes that it
is Greek, and that we have since lost the correct pronunciation.
With this slim plot and even flimsier veil through which the nar-
rator tries to establish a noumenal viewpoint, Forster manages to pre-
sent the intensity and depth of a dialectical conflict between the every-
day "civilized" world and that strange world of unreason which uses in-
tuition and the powers of the subconscious to "see." He does so by em-
phasizing Harold'sinability to view the past through "education" and
his refusal to be a tourist:
"It is imagination," she [Mildred] would say, "that
makes the past live again. It sets the centuries at
"Rather!" was the invariable reply of Harold, who was
notoriously deficient in it. Recreating the past was apt
to give him a headache, and his thoughts obstinately re-
turned to the unromantic present, which he found quite
satisfactory. . To the magnificence and pathos of the
ruined temple of Zeus he was quite dead. He only valued it
as a chair. (pp. 664, 671)
Harold is deficient in imagination because his mind is uncluttered by the
"ideas" of imagination. He sees directly, clearly, and intuitively. The
others see with the limitations of their senses and their culturally con-
ditioned judgments of others. This conflict of views becomes the main
gear which sets the dialectical movement going. Sir Edwin's character
is presented through what he "sees" of Harold:
Harold's character was so simple; it consisted of little
more than two things, the power to love and the desire
for truth, and Sir Edwin, like many a wiser thinker, con-
cluded that what was not complicated could not be mysterious.
Similarly, because Harold's intellect did not devote itself
to the acquisition of facts or to the elaboration of emo-
tions, he had concluded that he was stupid. He was sitting
in a Doric temple with a sea of gold and purple flowers toss-
ing over its ruins, and his eyes looked out to the moving,
living sea of blue. But his ears caught neither the echo
of the past nor the cry of the present. . (p. 671)
Sir Edwin's problem is epistemological: what do we perceive, how do we
perceive? He is, as most of us are, limited by his reception of sense
data, from nature and from other people. Without intuition,he "sees"
only through the narrow slot of his own view: he sees Harold through
Surface misunderstanding cannot give Forster the tension he needs,
however. He extends the conflict into the minds of all the characters,
where the action reallylies. Lady Peaslake's "Ask for a back room, as
those have the view" echoes, ironically, the theme: the Peaslake expedi-
tion--all except Harold--are incapable of more than a limited view be-
cause they are ill from the social disease of self-consciousness. When
Mildred watches Harold, who has fallen asleep on the wild flowers, she
thinks that she, watching him, "must look picturesque, too. She knew
that there was no one to look at her, but from her mind the idea of a
spectator was never absent for a moment. It was the price she had paid
for becoming cultivated" (p. 672). Mildred's mind operates with ideas:
"cultivation" develops a self-consciousness which prevents an honest
connection with Harold or with the earth. Her imagination is purely
verbal. She can claim that it "makes the past live again," but when
Harold gives her an example of the real thing she cannot cope with it.
She can speak glibly of the transmigration of souls because for her it
is only an idea. When she speaks of Pindar and Empedocles, she is using
merely words and displaying that fund of facts which Sir Edwin equates
with intelligence. She tells Harold of the vanished city:
"Think," she said, "of the famous men who visited her
in her prime. Pindar, Aeschylus, Plato--and as for Empe-
docles, of course he was born there."
"The disciple, you know, of Pythagoras, who believed in
the transmigration of souls."
"It's a beautiful idea, isn't it, that the soul should
have several lives."
"But, Mildred darling," said the gentle voice of Lady
Peaslake, "we know that it is not so."
"Oh, I didn't mean that, mamma. I only said it was a
"But not a true one, darling."
Their voices had sunk into that respectful monotone which
is always considered suitable when the soul is under discus-
sion. They all looked awkward and ill at ease. Sir Edwin
played tunes on his waistcoat buttons, and Harold blew into
the bowl of his pipe. Mildred, a little confused at her
temerity, passed on to the terrible sack of Acragas by the
Romans. Whereat their faces relaxed, and they regained
their accustomed spirits. (p. 667)
Forster's Austenesque touch of domestic comedy lies lightly over weight-
ier material: the Peaslakes are awkward and ill at ease when they speak
of the soul because they do not really believe in it, whereas the bru-
tality of man causes them to relax and regain their "accustomed spirits."
Harold's "Oh!" registers the impact he feels, deeper than language. This
same contrast between the verbal reflection of experience and the deeper
knowledge of it is extended to the scene in which Harold, after his nap,
tells Mildred that he has lived before.
"More, more!" cried Mildred, who was beginning to find
her words. "How could you smile', how could you be so calm '
0 marvellous idea' that your soul has lived before' I should
run about, shriek, sing. Marvellous' overwhelming' How can
you be so calm' The mystery' and the poetry, oh, the poetry!
How can you support it? Oh, speak again."
"I don't see any poetry," said Harold. "It just has hap-
pened, that's all. I lived here before." (p. 674)
Because she sees his experience as "poetry" and a "marvellous idea,"
Mildred longs for verbal descriptions, ignoring Harold's sincerity. "'Oh,
I see,' said Mildred fingering her watch. . The tide of rapture had
begun to ebb away from Mildred. His generalities bored her. She longed
for detail, vivid detail, that should make the dead past live. It was
of no interest to her that he had once been greater" (p. 675). Not satis-
fied with Harold's vague statements, she supplies her own details. Ex-
citedly, caught up in the "idea" of having lived before, she thinks she
too has lived with "gorgeous palaces . bounded by the sapphire sea,
covered by the azure sky, here in the wonderful youth of Greece" (p. 677).
Her trite language underscores the shallowness of her self-deception, and
when Harold whispers his "No, Mildred darling, you have not," her chagrin
at her own hypocrisy becomes destructive envy. She will prove that he is
deceived. Harold, broken at her loss of faith in him and her accusation
of madness, passively submits to commitment.
Although "Albergo Empedocle" contains less action than "The Story
of a Panic," more seems to happen. It does so because the real setting
is in the minds of the characters; the dialectical distinction between
view and vision is made clear there. In the asylum Harold gazes "out
the window hour after hour and sees things in the sky and sea that we
have forgotten" (p. 684). After his experience he can tell if people are
lying by looking at them: it is his supreme test of Mildred. He is able
to "see" truth, and his disinterest in his fellow men at the end indicates
their lack of truth; they have deceived themselves so long with "ideas"
that they have lost reality. We can, I believe, accept Harold's judgment
more readily than Eustace's because he is more real than Eustace. Several
items have contributed to his reality. Forster has devoted more time to
others' opinions of Harold, so that we feel a roundness to him that we
did not from the one-sided narrator's view of Eustace. Harold, unlike
Eustace, is contrasted with a peer, with someone closer to his own age,
Mildred. The distance between the reader's view of the elemental character
is thereby shortened because we see him through eyes not so far removed
in years and attitude from his own. And he is in love, sincerely and un-
calculatingly in love. His honesty is contrasted with Mildred's states
of mind, which are presented to us as manufactured: her self-conscious-
ness, like her imagination, is willed with the help of language. Harold's
metamorphoses are real: he really becomes another person watching himself
sleep. His satisfaction with that experience was sufficient as long as
he kept the knowledge of it to himself. When other people learn of his
experience, he becomes dependent on their opinions because he is, after
all, just a boy. In his immaturity he relies on the approval of others.
"If you think I'm mad," he tells Sir Edwin, "I am mad. That's all it
means." Desperately he pleads, "Six people say I'm mad. Is there no
one, no one, no one who understands?" (p. 682). Harold is Arnold's
Empedocles, who knows that, even if we gain peace within ourselves and
with our relation to nature, society still remains a threat:
Yet, even when man forsakes
All sin,--is just, is pure,
Abandons all which makes
His welfare insecure,-- 15
Other existences there are, that clash with ours.
Arnold, Forster's favorite Victorian, created an Empedocles who leaped
into the crater of Etna not to become a god like the Empedocles of
legend, but to escape despair. Forster's Harold is dependent on the
opinion of others--as Arnold's Empedocles is. He brushes aside Mildred's
"ecstasy" at his former life and focuses on the really important item:
her belief in him. Ironically, that rests on her reception of impressions,
of sense data from him: his words, the expression on his face, and on her
own interpretation into language of those impressions. She misses the
depth and intensity, the truth of his experience. He loses her faith,
and the "sophist brood"--the term is Arnold's--wins out:
No, thou art come too late, Empedocles'
And the world hath the day, and must break thee,
Not thou the world.16
Sir Edwin pronounces the diagnosis: Harold has had a sunstroke.17 The
world has won.
Has it? Harold's ex-roommate, visiting him in the asylum, tells
us that "he does not know that we exist" (p. 684). Harold's view has be-
come vision: he can "see things in the sky and sea that we have forgot-
ten." He has connected, through the subconscious, with another reality.
The historic Empedocles believed in a universe unified by similar sub-
stances and predominated by love. But according to Empedocles' theory,
the elements of the universe had become separated by strife; we can know
things only by allowing corresponding elements in ourselves to connect
with the elements in things.18 Translated into Forster's story, Empe-
docles' theory would mean that our ability to "see" and to "connect" with
nature lies in direct ratio to elements within ourselves which can cor-
respond with the elements in nature--truth, beauty, honesty. If those
elements are limited, we are limited. Harold was "better" when he lived
before. He tells Mildred that he "saw better, heard better, thought
better." Was he Empedocles? Perhaps. "Albergo" in the title means, in-
nocently enough, "hotel" in Italian. But it derives its form from
"albergare" ("to lodge, to live in a temporary state"). The first per-
son present form of this verb, "I live," is "albergo." The title "Albergo
Empedocle" could read "I, Empedocles, live"--i.e., lodge in a temporary
state. Harold is the first Forsterian character to connect with more
than the earth. Eustace had merely assimilated the forces of Pan; Harold's
vision seems to have carried him another step farther up the dialectical
spiral into a psychic connection which erases time and space as well as
phenomena: he has annihilated his own self-consciousness and assimilated
the past and another consciousness into his own.
In Forster's first two stories he refuses synthesis by allowing
his visionary characters to escape at the end: Eustace into the woods,
Harold into what the world and the Peaslakes call insanity. In his next
story, "The Road from Colonus," Forster presents a new problem: a char-
acter who suffers disintegration because he turns away from vision.
Visiting mountain villages in Greece with his daughter Emily, Mr. Lucas
becomes fascinated with a hollow tree which contains a spring and votive
offerings. He decides to spend the night at the local khan, or inn,
but is dissuaded from doing so by Emily and the other members of their
party, Mrs. Forman and the athletic Mr. Graham, who lifts Mr. Lucas
bodily into the saddle and starts his mule off at a trot. Back home
in England, Mr. Lucas, now irritable and senile, hardly notices Emily's
excitement when she receives from Mrs. Forman (still in Athens) some
asphodel bulbs wrapped in a newspaper. One of the headlines tells of
the khan's destruction by the hollow tree, which fell the night Mr.
Lucas wanted to stay there. He can only identify the village as a place
where they had lunch. With "a faint expression of trouble on his vacant
face," he says, "Perhaps it was where the dragoman bought the pig" and
continues to compose a letter to his landlord in which he complains of
a barking dog, the children next door and the noise of running water
from an upstairs apartment (p. 142).
Things had been different in Greece. There, he had experienced
"a strange desire . to die fighting" (p. 128). Disappointed in his
efforts as a tourist to "experience" Delphi or Thermopylae with his mind,
he is honest with himself, perhaps for the first time in his life. "I
do mind being old, and I will pretend no longer," he tells himself, and
then notices water at his feet. It comes from a hollow tree, where he
finds little votive offerings "to the presiding Power." He feels "a
curious sense of companionship" with the people who left them there, a
Wordsworthian mixture of nature worship with love of humanity:
There was no such thing as the solitude of nature, for
the sorrows and joys of humanity had pressed even into
the bosom of a tree. He spread out his arms and steadied
himself against the soft charred wood, and then slowly
leant back, till his body was resting on the trunk behind.
His eyes closed, and he had the strange feeling of one
who is moving, yet at peace--the feeling of the swimmer,
who, after long struggling with chopping seas, finds that
after all the tide will sweep him to his goal. (p. 130)
Forster's language captures the rhythmic flow of water and something
more: the sinking into the subconscious which becomes Mr. Lucas'
"moment." When he returns to the khan he "sees" the people as if for
the first time. "There was meaning in the stoop of the old woman over
her work, and in the quick motions of the little pig, and in her diminish-
ing globe of wool" (p. 130). Not only people, but natural objects par-
take of this newly perceived purpose in the universe: "The sun made no
accidental patterns upon the spreading roots of the trees, and there was
intention in the nodding clumps of asphodel, and in the music of the water"
(p. 130). When he "sees," Mr. Lucas desires to hang a votive offering in
the tree, "a little model of an entire man"--"entire," perhaps, because
Mr. Lucas has become whole since his relinquishment of hypocrisy. There
is hope that he can "die fighting" until the characters of the thesis--
Emily (the false Antigone), Mrs. Forman and Mr. Graham--gather the momen-
tum of the phenomenal world and set the whirligig of tensions swirling in
the opposite direction.
That dialectical conflict is presented by Forster subtly, through
the tone of language Mr. Lucas uses when he confronts the members of the
opposition. They, like the Peaslakes, are "tourists," and Mr. Lucas
"found them intolerable." But when he addresses them he assumes the mask
of a pompous old man whose dogmatic judgments jerk out in abrupt phrases.
Since Forster has introduced the reader to the real Mr. Lucas whose
thoughts flow with the rhythms of nature, the old man's clipped, academic
sentences communicate the pain of his tension.
They came back in ecstasies, in which Mr. Lucas tried
to join. But he found them intolerable. Their enthusi-
asm was superficial, commonplace, and spasmodic. They
had no perception of the coherent beauty that was flower-
ing around them. He tried at least to explain his feelings,
and what he said was:
"I am altogether pleased with the appearance of this
place. It impresses me very favourably. The trees are fine,
remarkably fine for Greece, and there is something very
poetic in the spring of clear running water. The people
too seem kindly and civil. It is decidedly an attractive
place." (pp. 131-132)
In contrast to Mr. Lucas' careful phrases, Ethel's "must . positively
must" and Mrs. Forman's cliches shout a false enthusiasm:
Mrs. Forman upbraided him for his tepid praise.
"Oh, it is a place in a thousandi"she cried. "I could
live and die here! I really would stop if I had not to
be back at Athens! It reminds me of the Colonus of Sophocles."
"Well, I must stop," said Ethel, "I positively must."
"Yes, do' You and your father' Antigone and Oedipus.
Of course you must stop at Colonus!" (p. 132)
Mr. Lucas, "breathless with excitement," can hardly believe his good luck.
Forster allows him to think again in a stream of catalogued images, and
we are reminded of the rhythmic flow of the subconscious. But when Mr.
Lucas delivers his thoughts to the outside world they come out in a terse
To sleep in the Khan with the gracious, kind-eyed country
people, to watch the bats flit about within the globe of
shade, and see the moon turn the golden patterns into
silver--one such night would place him beyond relapse, and
confirm him for ever in the kingdom he had regained. But
all his lips could say was: "I should be willing to put
in a night here."
"You mean a week, papal It would be sacrilege to put
"A week then, a week," said his lips, irritated at being
corrected, while his heart was leaping with joy. (pp. 132-133)
Mr. Lucas, however, is one of Forster's figures who is damned
because he did not dare, whose contact with the earth roused longings
which he was not strong enough to fulfill. He does not escape into the
death experienced by the people of the khan when the tree blew down be-
cause he allows the false Antigone, Emily, to drag him back into society.
His name, which relates him to the disciple Luke, who preached in Greece,
is especially ironic because he is the first of Forster's characters to
withdraw from spiritual experience. J. B. Beer points out that Mr. Lucas
presents Forster with the problem of a character who has found reality in
a moment of time and who does not die with fulfillment.9 I think, rather,
that Mr. Lucas' problem is one of unfulfillment, precisely because his ex-
perience remained in time and did not, as Eustace's or Harold's, go be-
yond space and time. He has a glimpse, no more, into subconscious real-
ity. He hopes a night at the khan will "place him beyond relapse, and
confirm him for ever" because he is not beyond relapse and is not con-
firmed in his vision. His deterioration into irascible senility in Eng-
land is evidence that his vision was incomplete. It lingers in his sub-
conscious in the form of half-remembered sounds. He grumbles to Emily:
"First the door bell rang, then you came back from the theatre. Then
the dog started, and after the dog the cat. And at three in the morning
a young hooligan passed by singing. Oh yes: then there was the water
gurgling in the pipe above my head" (p. 140). Beer correctly relates
the old man's complaints to events in Greece, suspended in his mind:
He does not even seem to recall their visit, and perhaps
he does not recall it consciously. Yet when we look at the
reasons for his complaints more closely, something else
emerges. The incidents about which he complains to his
daughter are the cries of the dog and the cat, a young
hooligan who passes in the night, singing, and the water
gurgling in the pipe above his head. Clearly, although
he does not remember the fact, these correspond to the
woman with her little pig, the young man who came singing
over the waters and the music of the stream. It is the
subconscious link with what he has lost that makes these
things so irritating to him.20
The disintegration of Mr. Lucas answers the question "What if a character
cannot receive his vision?" What if he cannot annihilate and assimilate
Nature, another consciousness, the Not-Self into the self? The dialecti-
cal tension with which Forster leaves the reader at the end of this story
drives him onward to seek new resolutions, new answers.
"The Road from Colonus" appeared in 1904. That same year "The
Other Side of the Hedge"intensified the contradictions between phenomena
and noumena, "this" world and "another." Although a slender story, "The
Other Side of the Hedge" annihilates phenomena more completely than any-
thing Forster wrote. We begin after death, with a young man walking
wearily along a dusty road which is bordered on either side by high brown
hedges. He passes through a break in the hedge, falls into a moat, is
helped out by an older man who becomes his guide in the beautiful country
on the other side. Patiently the older man tries to explain that the
road is never far from "our boundary" and shows the young man a gate
through which all humanity "went out countless ages ago, when it was
first seized with the desire to walk" (p. 45). Most of the story is
taken up with the young man's defense of "progress," of "getting ahead,"
in spite of the fact that he was relieved when he dropped the heavy
things he had been carrying before he "crossed over." But he is still
unconvinced that this country is better than the road he left. His
guide shows him a transparent gate in the hedge which opens inwards.
Through it he sees again the dusty road and becomes extremely upset.
At this moment a man passes with a scythe and a can of beer. The young
man snatches the can from him, drinks, and sinks immediately into obli-
vion. Before he does, he recognizes that the newcomer is his brother,
who had left the road a year or two before.
From the first sentence, space and time are annihilated via fusion:
"My pedometer told me that I was twenty-five; and, though it is a shock-
ing thing to stop walking, I was so tired that I sat down on a milestone
to rest" (p. 39). From that moment, phenomena melt into unsubstantial
forms: when the narrator looks back at the road "strewn with the things
we all had dropped . the white dust was settling down on them, so
that already they looked no better than stones" (p. 40). The road, with
its devotees of "progress," seems straight--i.e., purposeful, leading to
a "goal" --but the old man on the other side explains that it often
doubles back onto itself, is "never far" from the "other side" and some-
times touches the boundary between. Forster is saying that we are never
far from another reality, another perspective, in which the "race of life"
becomes meaningless and all our efforts at "improvement," at "understand-
ing," becomes ridiculous. When the narrator asks, "What does it all mean?"
the answer is "It means nothing but itself" (p. 44). The moat which fol-
lows the hedge and into which the narrator falls provides a symbolic bap-
tism, but the narrator is still unconverted. When his pedometer does
not work, he uses the catchwords of progress: "The laws of science are
universal in their application. It must be the water in the moat that
has injured the machinery. In normal conditions everything works. Sci-
ence and the spirit of emulation--those are the forces that have made us
what we are" (p. 43). He tries to rationalize the doubling of the road
as "part of our discipline." "Who can doubt," he asks, "that its general
tendency is onward?" (p. 45). But this is Erehwon spelled frontwards:
this is a nowhere that is everywhere. Life on this side is no different
from life on that side: only the perspective has changed. If this is so,
then all the rush and bother, all the goals are meaningless. Where, then,
can we go to find reality? The only place left: into the self, into an
awareness of the self qua reality. With this inflooding awareness of the
self as reality, as an assimilation of all time, space and effort, the
narrator gazes with horror through the transparent gate at the road,
"monotonous, dusty, with brown crackling hedges on either side, as far
as the eye could reach," in which he had put all his faith. A resurgence
of self-awareness causes him to realize how hungry and weak he is. He
wrenches the can of beer from the passing man's hand: intangible sub-
conscious need meets tangible liquid substance and fuse as his senses
sink into oblivion. The senses are annihilated but at the same time as-
similated into an oblivion which is also vision: "they seemed to expand
ere they reached it." The last sentence of the story--"The man whose
beer I had stolen lowered me down gently to sleep off its effects, and,
as he did so, I saw he was my brother"--contains overtones which go be-
yond the immediate relationship to include all humanity (p. 48).
Forster's refusal in this story to give death no more importance
than a dividing line between one form of perspective and another erases
phenomena completely. Death is a hedge separating not even one form of
life from another, but the same life. The only difference is a deeper
awareness, for after death, without the encumbrance of things, we can
live entirely on the subconscious level, where reality lies. The "ad-
vances" which the narrator uses in his argument--the Transvaal War, the
Fiscal Question, Christian Science, Radium--are events and ideas empty of
content in contrast with the old man's silence, full of meaning. For a
while, the narrator insists on operating on the conscious level, because
he identified himself with the Transvaal War and the Fiscal Question. In
The Undiscovered Self Jung explains that man, by adapting himself to the
tasks and technology of the world, "forgets himself in the process, los-
ing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of
himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly
into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious acti-
vity progressively replace reality."21 The narrator has manufactured
himself, as it were, in order to adapt to pressures which he and his
"civilization" have in turn manufactured: wars, economic crises, com-
petitive technology. Reality lies in the subconscious, not in the over-
lay of conscious learning and "ideas" which the narrator has mistaken
for knowledge, but which are only learned responses. By annihilating
the conceptual world--and hence his previous concept of himself--the
narrator can abandon his manufactured self and embrace reality. It lies
just over a hedge thin enough in places to be seen through, if one dares.
We meet Pan again in "The Curate's Friend," in the form of a Wilt-
shire faun. The curate, his fiancee Emily, her mother and a friend of
Emily's, a young poet, go out into the Wiltshire downs for a picnic-tea.
The curate sees and talks with a faun, who lays his hands on Emily and
the young poet and causes them to fall in love. The curate is surprised
to find that he is relieved rather than angry at his loss of Emily. In-
deed, his loss is replaced by a joy of nature which he tries to communi-
cate to his parishioners at the end of the story. He remains friends
with the faun, who often sits, at sundown, "before the beech copse as a
man sits before his house" (p. 123). With this slight and obviously con-
trived fantasy, Forster manages to present the dialectical tensions be-
tween nature and civilization through a cast of characters we have met
before. Emily is another Mildred: she is "able to talk about the sub-
conscious self in the drawing-room, and yet have an ear for the children
crying in the nursery ."--i.e., her talk of the sub-conscious (as
Mildred's talk of the soul) falls into the category of "ideas" (p. 114).
Her"little friend," the poet, is a younger Leyland: "a pleasant youth,
full of intelligence and poetry, especially of what he called the poetry
of the earth" (p. 115). He can "press his face passionately into the
grass" but he cannot hear, as the curate does, the sounds of the earth
all around them. The curate, too, might be a younger Mr. Sandbach. He
likes to climb to the top of hills and "exclaim facetiously 'And who will
stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?'" (p. 115). But he is
likeable and contains with him, as the others do not, the possibility of
connecting with the earth.
The earth in "The Curate's Friend" is not only organic but more
animate than it had been in the other stories. The downs are like "a
great chalk spider who straddles over our island--":
whose legs are the south downs and the north downs and the
Chilterns, and the tips of whose toes poke out at Cromer
and Dover. He is a clean creature, who grows as few trees
as he can, and those few in tidy clumps, and he loves to be
tickled by quickly flowing streams. He is pimpled all over
with earthworks, for from the beginning of time men have
fought for the privilege of standing on him, and the oldest
of our temples is built upon his back. (p. 115)
Not only is the earth animate, but it possesses a voice which can cry out.
When the curate tries to light the fire Emily's mother pleads "Won't the
kettle stand? Oh, but make it stand.' I did so. There was a little cry,
faint but distinct, as of something in pain. 'How silent it all is up
here'.' said Emily. I dropped a lighted match on the grass, and again I
heard the little cry" (p. 117).
Into this organic universe runs the faun, whom they mistake for a
schoolboy out for a swim, "until the strange fingers closed upon me .. ."
reports the curate. It is then, when he wrests himself away from the
"boy," that the curate sees the tail.
In a terrible voice I said to him, "Get thee behind me."
He got behind me. "Once for all," I continued, "let me tell
you that it is vain to tempt one whose happiness consists in
giving happiness to others."
"I cannot understand you," he said ruefully. "What is to
tempt?" (p. 119)
But innocence, with a Pan figure, does not necessarily imply goodness.
The faun cannot understand what the curate means by making people happy:
"People whom I have never seen--people who cannot see me--why should I
make them happy?" (p. 120). He "towers insolently above" Emily and the
young poet, lays his hands on them, and what they intended as "a little
cultured flirtation" becomes passion--i.e., the idea of passion becomes
the real thing. When the curate swears the faun rejoices: the curate is
cured of his inhibitions, and he can hear, for the first time, "the chalk
downs singing to each other across the valleys. ." (p. 123). The curate,
like the young man of "The Other Side of the Hedge," has annihilated a
previous concept of himself, which he had manufactured to fit his en-
vironment, and has assimilated the reality of the earth into a newly-
found self wherein peace lies.
Yet this story does not satisfy the tensions it presents, as "The
Other Side of the Hedge" did, or as that other Pan-centered story, "The
Story of a Panic," did. One reason might be the curate's too sudden ac-
quiescence in a change which was brought about, not by himself or through
himself, but by a figure external to himself. He does not have, therefore,
a legitimate "moment," but merely a heightened awareness of an organic
universe which he was receptive to even before the faun's appearance.
Another reason for the less-than-satisfactory dialectical shift at the
end might be the figure of Pan in England. If he is less diabolical in
Wiltshire than he had been on the Italian hillside, he is also less be-
lievable. It is as if Forster were trying to make him into a middle-
class shopkeeper "sitting before the beech copse as a man sits before his
house." This simply, for Pan, will not suffice. The forces of nature
are too cramped in a cottage, even an imaginary one, and especially an
English one. Max Beerbohm, in Seven Men, declared that "from the time
of Nathanael Hawthorne to the outbreak of the 1914 war, current litera-
ture did not suffer from any lack of fauns . with their hoofs and
their slanting eyes and their ways of coming suddenly out of woods to
wean quiet English villages from respectability."22 "The Curate's Friend"
was Forster's only attempt at Anglicizing his pagan demi-god. After 1907
Pan would be a spirit, no less powerful, but less recognizable, on Eng-
In "The Celestial Omnibus" literary figures replace Pan as the
mediums into noumenal reality. In this story "The boy who resided at
Agathox Lodge, 28, Buckingham Park Road, Surbiton" discovers a sign, "To
Heaven," pointing up a blind alley. It has been placed there, his middle-
class parents tell him, by a naughty young man named Shelley who was ex-
pelled from the University and who "came to grief in other ways." They
advise him to ask their cultured friend Mr. Bons--"snob" spelled back-
wards--for further information.
"Had you never heard of Shelley?" asked Mr. Bons.
"No," said the boy, and hung his head.
"But there is no Shelley in the house?"
"Why, yes'" exclaimed the lady, in much agitation.
"Dear Mr. Bons, we aren't such Philistines as that.
Two at the least. One a wedding present, and the other,
smaller print, in one of the spare rooms."
"I believe we have seven Shelleys," said Mr. Bons,
with a slow smile. Then he brushed the cake crumbs off
his stomach, and, together with his daughter, rose to go.
Mr. Bons might be the narrator of "The Other Side of the Hedge" with
another twenty years on his pedometer: he has shackled himself with the
civilized trappings which society thinks "good":
He had a beautiful house e and lent one books, he was a
churchwarden and a candidate for the County Council; he had
donated to the Free Library enormously, he presided over
the Literary Society, and had Members of Parliament to stop
with him--in short, he was probably the wisest person
alive. (p. 50)
In short, he represents the thesis, the everyday world of phenomena.
Forster achieves here the same irony he created in "The Story of a Panic"
with a narrator--now a boy--unaware of his own shortsightedness. We for-
give the boy more than we did the tale-teller of the previous story be-
cause of his youth, but because we do, we forgive Mr. Bons less for his
unkindness to him. Bons' self-righteous "seven Shelleys" and his con-
descending "It is odd how, in quite illiterate minds, you will find
glimmers of Artistic Truth" mark him as a suburban Leyland, representa-
tive of false culture (p. 63).
The boy discovers noumenal reality one afternoon at sundown when
he ventures up the alley, reads a sign announcing the services of Sunrise
and Sunset Omnibuses, for which tickets may be obtained from the driver.
There are no tickets at the other end: return tickets are available for
one day only. As he leaves the alley he bumps into his father, a sadis-
tic man whose chief pleasure seems to be laughing at his son: "Diddums'.
Diddumst Diddums think he'd walky-palky up to Evvinkt" (p. 53). The
next evening, however, the boy returns to the alley, boards the improb-
able omnibus--how it turns around in the narrow alley we never learn--
and obtains a return ticket from the driver, Sir Thomas Browne, a kindly,
delightful guide. They soar into fantasia, where matter, space, direc-
tion and the senses fuse: rainbows have sounds, clouds are solid, caves
are gateways. Home again, the boy is caned by his father while his
mother, silly and weak, begs him to recant the "lie." "There is no
omnibus," the father screams, punctuating the strokes of the cane, "no
driver, no bridge, no mountains; you are a truant, a gutter snipe, a
liar" (p. 62). He turns the boy over to Mr. Bons for the recital of
Keats, the "punishment": "Here, Bons, you go in for poetry. Put him
through it, will you, while I fetch up the whisky?" (p. 64). But Keats'
"Aye, on the shores of darkness there is light, and precipices show un-
trodden green" describes exactly what the boy has seen, and he bursts
into tears. "I never doubted it," Mr. Bons says "with closed eyes,"
but his agreement is verbal and "cultured": he sees the description as
an "idea." When the boy tries to tell him more he stops him with "Tut,
tut' No more of your yarns, my boy. I meant that I never doubted the
essential truth of Poetry. Some day, when you have read more, you will
understand what I mean" (p. 65). To "cure" the boy of his hallucina-
tions, Mr. Bons takes him to the alley the next evening, where they
board another bus, driven by Dante. Bit by bit, the dialectical tensions
are forced into focus by this last bus ride. Mr. Bons cannot see Achilles
guarding the causeway of the rainbow bridge, nor hear the prelude to
Rhinegold that rose from the water. "I want to go back," he whimpers
peevishly to the driver. "I have honoured you. I have quoted you. I
have bound you in vellum. Take me back to my world" (p. 73). Dante re-
plies: "Stand by yourself, as that boy has stood. I cannot save you."
Mr. Bons falls out of the omnibus "against the hard, moonlit rock, fell
into it as if it were water," to be found near the Bermondsey gas-works
(p. 73). The boy, caught up on Achilles' shield, sees the mountains
awake, the river awake, and felt "the touch of fresh leaves on his fore-
head" where "some one had crowned him" (p. 74).
I cannot agree with Wilfred Stone, who thinks this story is a
"psychic escape of a boy hero" by an author who is concealing antagonism
against his guardians, whom he doesn't kill off, as he does Mr. Bons, be-
cause (1) they would not then suffer remorse and (2) the author does not
want to reward himself with 'too much poetic justice. . ." "After all,"
Stone writes, "the real parent-guardian might read the story. . 24
Nowhere in Forster's biography do I find any indication that he suffered
at the hands of his mother or of Marianne Thornton, who died when he was
eight. He never knew his father, who died when he was a baby. Perhaps,
as Stone suggests, Forster resented the "smothering" he received from
the two women; certainly there is an implication that, in Stone's words,
Forster might have felt "like a fought-over prize." But even if he had,
I cannot equate childhood resentment with the secret rebellion against
parental authority which Stone attributes to "The Celestial Omnibus."
It was first published in 1908, the same year that Room with a View
appeared, when Forster was twenty-nine. He would hardly have been con-
cealing, it seems to me, latent hostility at that age. It is more mean-
ingful, in terms of his fiction, to see the sadistic father as an ex-
treme case of "civilized" man trapped by the catchwords of a learned
"morality," just as the narrator in "The Other Side of the Hedge" was
trapped by the catchwords of progress, and the boy as a position in a
dialectical argument which sets nature vs. civilization.
Certainly the boy is contrasted with the false culture of Mr.
Bons. For the boy, as for all Forster's elemental characters, nature is
organic, even before his experience. In the wasteland of Surbiton it
had retreated into a railroad cutting, "that wonderful cutting which
has drawn to itself the whole beauty out of Surbiton, and clad itself,
like any Alpine valley, with the glory of the fir and the silver birch
and the primrose" (p. 51). It was this cutting, Forster tells us, "that
had first stirred desires within the boy--desires for something just a
little different, he knew not what, desires that would return whenever
things were sunlit, as they were this evening, running up and down in-
side him. .".(p. 51). The boy has the ability to "see." The universe
to which he travels on the bus is spiritual, organic, in which waters
sing and mountains awaken, where experience expands rather than con-
tracts, where there is no synthesis. It is set in opposition to Aga-
thox (ironically from "agathos," Greek for "good," the environmental
embodiment of Mr. Bons, also "good"), where everything is spiritually
asleep--or worse, spiritually dead. But even in a dead-end alley with
damp brick walls, one can catch a celestial omnibus, if one "sees."
"Other Kingdom" brings the reader back to earth, in which the
"other reality" is a beech copse. The cultured, Leyland-Bons character
here is Harcourt Worters, who has imported an Irish girl, Miss Beaumont,
as his fiancee whom he intends to "educate." He gives her the copse as
a wedding present, and it becomes the fulcrum for a dialectical conflict
between the civilized and the pagan. The copse has a stream in front of
it, reminiscent of the moat in "The Other Side of the Hedge," which Mr.
Worters wants to span with a bridge. He also wants to fence in the
copse to keep wandering lovers out. He tells Miss Beaumont: "My haven
from the world! My temple of purity. Oh, the spiritual exaltation--
you cannot understand it, but you will! Oh, the seclusion of Paradise.
Year after year alone together, all in all to each other--year after
year, soul to soul, E. B., Everlasting Bliss!" (p. 97). Miss Beaumont
would admit humanity into paradise, those wandering couples who carve
their names on trees, deeper as each child is born: "Year by year--
while the initials deepen--the only thing worth feeling--and at last
they close up--but one has felt them" (p. 96). Similar hints are
given that Miss Beaumont, if not a dryad, is capable of becoming one:
She flung her arms up above her head, close together,
so that she looked like a slender column. Then her body
swayed and her delicate green dress quivered over it with
the suggestion of countless leaves . she twitched up
her skirts so that for a moment they spread out in great
horizontal layers, like the layers of a beech. (p. 80)
She insists on a picnic in the wood, accompanied by Worters, Inskip (the
tutor-narrator), and Worters' ward, a boy named Ford, who is secretly in
love with Miss Beaumont and who is another "elemental character." Inskip
(who has "skipped into" the story?) represents the view of the everyday
world, but because his opinions are narrow, Forster encourages the reader
to sympathize with the more exciting elemental characters. It is
Inskip who inadvertently defines the dialectical opposition which
form the real theme of the story when he compares Worters and Ford.
Explaining Ford, he tells the reader that "he has dreams--not exactly
spiritual dreams: Mr. Worters is the man for those--but dreams of the
tangible and the actual: robust dreams, which take him, not to heaven,
but to another earth" (pp. 83-84). Worters, called "spiritual" by the
limited narrator, is really selfish, wanting to keep the wood and Miss
Beaumont to himself: his spirituality is the idea of spirituality.
Ford, on the other hand, dreams of "the tangible and the actual" and
connects with matter: he knows that the only way to get to noumena is
through.phenomena. The spirit cannot be reached by talking about it,
by putting it into language. When Miss Beaumont speaks to Worters of
feeling the initials of the lovers deepen, Forster writes:
"Our initials!" he murmured, seizing upon the one
word which he had understood and which was useful to
him. "Let us carve our initials now ..."
He stretched out his hand to cut the initials. As
he did so she seemed to awake from a dream. "Harcourt!"
she cried. "Harcourt! What's that? What's that red
stuff on your finger and thumb?" (p. 97)
Worters is the "opaque" character of the thesis, sensuous enough
to appreciate Miss Beaumont's high spirits but spiritually unfeeling,
whose money allows him to alter nature to his purposes. He builds the
fence and orders asphalt paths to be put down to the wood, which now
"lies tethered by a ribbon of asphalt" to the house. He sends Ford
away, after discovering a notebook in which Ford had drawn a caricature
of him. Before he does, Miss Beaumont lashes out at the narrator and
Ford for their loyalty to catchwords and disloyalty to Worters, whom
she trusts, and therefore completely misreads.
"Right? What's a right? You use too many new
I don't follow it. What are we all here for, anyhow?"
Her discourse was full of trembling lights and shadows--
frivolous one moment, the next moment asking why Humanity
is here. I did not take the Moral Science Tripos, so'I
could not tell her.
"One thing I know-- and that is that Harcourt isn't as
stupid as you two. He soars above conventions. He doesn't
care about 'rights' or 'apologies.' He knows that all
laughter is nice, and that the other nice things are money
and the soul and so on. (p. 101)
Irony via misunderstanding--Forster had used it in "The Story of a Panic"
and "The Celestial Omnibus"--again emphasizes the real and the wished-
for. Worters does send Ford away, who ends in a grubby London flat
reading Oedipus Colonus.25 Miss Beaumont succumbs to Worters, retreats
into the house and changes her green dress to a brown one--significantly
the colors of "The Other Side of the Hedge," in which brown was the
color of the civilized side of the hedge. The wind rises mysteriously
and blows a bough from the copse against the house. The branches "sigh"
organically as Worters brags that he has at last "rounded us off from
the world" (p. 105). When Miss Beaumont dons her green dress again and
goes to the wood, the wind dies, but rises again after she disappears,
to chase the others indoors, as the catspaw of wind has chased the tour-
ists in "The Story of a Panic." Inside Worters and the narrator watch
the rain, which "hissed and rose up from the dry meadows like incense
smoke, and smote the quivering leaves to applause" (p. 110). They saw
Other Kingdom "as one who claps the hands, and heard it as one who roars
with laughter in the thunder"--nature in a form human enough to satisfy
the most ardent occultist. Miss Beaumont's song as she assimilates
nature to become a dryad turns into a chant, regrettable for its puns:
"Oh Ford! oh Ford, among all these Worters, I am coming through you to
my Kingdom. Oh Ford, my lover while I was a woman, I will never forget
you, never, as long as I have branches to shade you from the sun" (p.
109). And "singing," she "crossed the stream." The woods of Arcady
are not dead for Forster.
The stories which we have investigated so far (with the exception
of "Albergo Empedocle") belong to the collection entitled The Celestial
Omnibus, which appeared in 1911. In The Eternal Moment and Other Stories,
which was published in 1928, there is a subtle but significant change in
Forster's dialectic. In the earlier stories he relied on mythological
figures to embody noumena. Often, as with Eustace and Harold, and es-
pecially with the Wiltshire faun, he overstated the elemental character
of the antithesis to the point of almost destroying the dialectical ten-
sions necessary for a forward movement. Perhaps he felt later that iso-
lated characters such as Leyland, Bons and Worters were not strong
enough to weigh the thesis side of his argument. Being external and
civilized, they could be coped with and overcome by the Miss Beaumonts
and boys who could see heavenly rainbows. The thesis would be more in-
sidious and much harder to deal with if it existed side-by-side with the
antithesis within the same character: the character could then be a vic-
tim of culture trying to justify the viewpoint of the thesis but at the
same time a champion of the "unseen" trying to receive a vision. By
allowing the noumenon, with its possibility of another reality, to take
up its residence in the minds of the characters, Forster can move from
Pan to man, from a mythological to a human context. Now the noumenon,
trapped in the mind by ego and false concepts of the self, must oppose
the force of the thesis at closer range. Now the breaking down of the
ego and of culture-imposed concepts of the self will constitute the di-
alectical movement between the thesis and antithesis. The action will
be less overt; the drama will be internal. To emphasize this new, in-
ternal setting of his dialectic, Forster in this second collection em-
ploys enclosures more obviously than he has done before. Although
enclosures were used in the first collection--the hollow votive tree of
Mr. Lucas, the beech copse of Miss Beaumont and the curate's friend--
they were natural enclosures of vegetation. Now they are (with one ex-
ception, the grotto in "The Story of the Siren") not natural but cul-
turally produced and psychological: Micky's narrow "humanism" in "The
Point of It"; Mr. Andrews' selfish idea of heaven; the girls' school's
commitment to a limited curriculum in "Co-ordination"; a commercialism
which closes man off from his fellows in "The Eternal Moment."
Nowhere in the collection is this new emphasis more evident than
in the first story, "The Machine Stops." Here Forster with one stroke
extends the idea of enclosure to a whole civilization by making the civi-
lization itself a trap which suffocates its people spiritually, mentally
and physically. It is his No Exit, an underground world of blank walls
and corridors leading to similar blank walls and corridors, where human-
ity has surrendered to the Machine. Its people are "funguous," without
muscle, thought, or feeling, who pursue "ideas" through speaking tubes
and who dread physical contact. All connection with the earth, the sun,
the stars, vegetation, and each other, is gone. Vashti and her son Kuno
are the only characters we meet, but looming in the background, hovering
in the air about them is the presence of the Machine and its tentacles,
the bed which comes out of the ceiling, the thermometer which pops into
mouths, the televised telephones through which "lectures" are heard and
delivered. All action is verbal: the phenomena of nature has been re-
placed by "ideas." "Vomitories" provide access for airships, which
transport occasional passengers from one look-alike room to another and,
less frequently, some daring soul to the surface of the earth--equipped
with a respirator, for earthly air is now poison--under the guise of re-
search. But for the muscular and the too-inquisitive, there is the
threat of "homelessness," an ironic term for death because, in their
isolated cubicles, these people are already homeless. For Forster this
must have been the most frightening nightmare he could have devised: by
severing man from the earth, this world destroyed the sense of place; by
severing people from each other, it destroyed personal relationships; by
removing man from natural objects and emphasizing "ideas"--false noumena--
it destroyed the possibility of man's reaching true noumena through
phenomena. If his characters can experience a spiritual "moment" here,
or connect in this world atrophied of feeling, there is hope for civili-
One day Kuno dares to crawl up a tiled ventilator shaft (left
over from the construction of this under world) and discovers a remnant
of earth-people still alive on the surface. He persuades his mother to
visit him in his room on the other side of the earth, and Vashti reluc-
tantly leaves her lecture on "Music during the Australian Period" to
board an airship. Horrified, she hears his blasphemies: he has admired
the stars, the earth, the people he met. He compares the mending ap-
paratus, which pulled him back into the shaft, to long white worms.
Vashti returns to her own room convinced that Kuno is mad. Years pass.
Then the Machine begins to slow down; the air becomes stale, the light
dims, the bed sometimes refuses to come down. Kuno calls her again, to
warn her that the Machine is stopping. She refuses to listen: the
Committee of the Mending Apparatus has assured everyone that all com-
plaints will be investigated. As doubt enters this world the need to
believe returns: furtively, Vashti worships the Book of the Machine,
heretofore nothing but a manual of operations. One day there is silence:
she has never heard silence before. Frantically she presses button after
button, turns dial after dial: nothing happens. She dares to go out
into the corridor. It is choked with groaning people dying in the dark.
Kuno finds her, and through a vomitory opening widened by a crashing air-
ship, before they die, they see "scraps of the untainted sky." They
achieve their "moment" as they weep for humanity and Kuno's blood spurts
onto Vashti's hands. They have connected through the phenomena of their
bodies: they have touched at last, and thereby recaptured life.
Contrived and Wellsian as this story is, Forster manages to com-
municate his two themes of place and personal relationships more power-
fully than he has done before. It is through the earth and each other
that man must connect with another reality. Perhaps because his thesis
has expanded into a civilization which threatens to eliminate completely
the possibility of connecting, the sense of place and personal relation-
ships take on the nostalgia of lost causes. By making his thesis im-
personal, he can give it more force than it could have if it were em-
bodied in an individual. It pervades Vashti. Her name links her with
that Vashti from the Book of Esther who refused to go to the feast of
King Ahasuerus and who was set aside by him for another. Like her Bib-
lical counterpart, Vashti refuses the feast of experience, of life. She
is totally dominated by her world. She has "no time" to talk with Kuno;
she speaks constantly of "wasting time": the sense of hurry has
annihilated time as uniformity has eliminated place. In the airship
going to visit Kuno she is bored by the sight of the Himalayas--they
gave her no "ideas." When Kuno speaks of Orion--Forster's image of the
heroic ideal ("Man had mirrored his strength on the constellations")--
she says "I dislike the stars. But did they give you an idea? How in-
teresting; tell me" (p. 147). Specialization has isolated mankind.
When the blind flies up in the airship the attendant is helpless: "it
was not her place" to mend it; she can only suggest that Vashti change
compartments, and "behaved barbarically" by touching Vashti to keep her
from falling (p. 161). Vashti's longing to help Kuno--taken from her
as an infant and raised by the state--is muddled. What if "Kuno himself,
flesh of her flesh, stood close beside her at last, what profit was
there in that? She was too well-bred to shake him by the hand" (p. 164).
She is horrified by his escapade, and cannot understand his spiritual
communication with humanity when he tells her that, as he was digging
and clinging in the ventilator shaft, "the spirits of the dead comforted
me . even as the dead were comforting me, so I was comforting the
unborn" (p. 170). Equally frightening to her is his description of the
Wessex hills as organic nature: "But to me they were living and the
turf that covered them was a skin, under which their muscles rippled,
and I felt that those hills had called with incalculable force to men
in the past and that men had loved them" (p. 175). "The surface of the
earth is only dust and mud," she tells him, "no life remains on it. .. "
But Kuno knows the difference between the idea of something and the thing
itself, and knows that only by connecting with things can man be whole:
"You know that we have lost the sense of space. We say 'space is an-
nihilated,' but we have annihilated not space, but the sense thereof.
We have lost a part of ourselves"(p. 167). Dying, Vashti weeps, and the
flood of emotion makes her human again.
They wept for humanity, those two, not for themselves.
They could not bear that this should be the end. Ere
silence was completed their hearts were opened, and they
knew what had been important on the earth. Man, the
flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible,
man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored
his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was
dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven. (pp. 195-196)
Man made the Machine; man willed his own extinction as human. Progress
in this "advanced" world is really the progress of the machine, and its
products, things, have become the dictators of man. Only connection
with the earth, and with each other, holds the possibility of salvation.
Before the end, Vashti and Kuno connected; however briefly, they an-
nihilated self-consciousness and ego and assimilated each other and
humanity through love. Forster's dialectic seems already to have be-
gun, in 1909, the year "The Machine Stops" was published, that movement
toward the Hindu bhakti--connection with the universe through love--
which would be its ultimate destination in A Passage to India fifteen
years later. But, true to his commitment that a story should open out
rather than end, he refuses synthesis in "The Machine Stops," as he will
refuse it later in A Passage to India. Even while they are connecting
with all those past generations, Vashti and Kuno gaze outward into in-
finity. "For a moment they saw the nations of the dead, and, before they
joined them, scraps of the untainted sky" (p. 197).
The science fiction atmosphere created by "The Machine Stops"
remains in the next three stories, "The Point of It," "Mr. Andrews,"
and "Co-Ordination," with the introduction, in each, of a contrived
heaven-hell hierarchy which operates in the spiritual world as the
civilization of the "The Machine Stops" had operated below. The en-
closure in "The Point of It" is a boat, in which two boys, Micky and
Harold, "muddle about" trying to reach shore against an ebbing tide.
But this enclosure develops later in the story into the false "humanism"
and "education" of Micky, the self-righteous boy ("God had never thwarted
him hitherto . .") who shouts out lines of Tennyson as he urges Harold,
with a weak heart, to row harder. "Harold, who did not care for poetry,
only shouted" (p. 199). Harold's exertion leads him to "the mystic state
that is the athlete's true though unacknowledged goal: he was beginning
to be" (p. 200). But Forster's "to be" implies spirituality. "Setting
his teeth," Forster writes, Harold "went berserk." "His ancestors
called to him"--one is reminded of the dead generations calling to Kuno--
"that it was better to die than to be beaten by the sea" (p. 200). He
listens, pushes himself into infinity, and dying, calls out to Micky
that he will "see the point of it" some day. Micky will remember
"Harold's final gesture (one hand grasping his own, the other plunged
deep into the sea), because there was a certain aesthetic quality about
it, not because it was the last of his friend" (p. 202). Micky is a
Leyland-Bons character, an esthete who will "serve" humanity by becoming
an official at the British Museum, but at the end of his life, as his
son said, all he had accomplished was the rearrangement of some display
cases. He is not devoid of feeling, but feeling, when it remains too
close to ideas--in this case, the "idea" of humanism--is not enough.
Because such service is shallow, the language Forster employs describ-
ing Sir Michael (Micky has been knighted) is trite: "Love, the love of
humanity warmed him, and even when he was thinking of other matters, was
looking at Orion perhaps in the cold winter evenings, a pang of joy, too
sweet for description, would thrill him, and he would feel sure that our
highest impulses have some eternal value, and will be completed here-
after" (p. 203). What he does not know, and what Harold, dying in the
boat, discovered, is that our highest impulses do not have to wait until
a "hereafter," but can be accomplished here and now.26 Harold, with the
pagan element of the athlete, realized a mystic state through his body;
Micky's "love of humanity" is lip service and ironically, comically,
causes his death when he interferes with two quarrelling women. For-
ster's description crackles with wit:
The manner of his death was as follows. He, too, met
with an accident. He was walking from his town house to
Catherine's [his daughter] by a short cut through a slum;
some women were quarrelling about a fish, and as he passed
they appealed to him. Always courteous, the old man
stopped, said that he had not sufficient data to judge
on, and advised them to lay the fish aside for twenty-
four hours. This chanced to annoy them, and they grew
more angry with him than with one another. They accused
him of "doing them," of "getting round them" and one,
who was the worse for drink, said "See if he gets round
that," and slapped him with the fish in the face. He
fell. When he came to himself he was lying in bed with
one of his headaches. (pp. 210-211)
Ironically, he dies because of his civilized attempt to "help" the women,
but his "educated reason" prevents him from connecting with people.
Symbolically, he dies by a blow from a fish--from the sea.
In hell, because the afterlife is the same life, as it was in "The
Other Side of the Hedge," Micky still does not "see." He regrets all
the time he spent in the sun. He likes hell, where he can see "none
of the stars that drove me almost mad at night once." "It would be
appalling, would it not," he asks a companion, "to see Orion again .
for he recalled adventure and my youth" (pp. 216-217). He is exactly
opposite to Kuno, who, when he saw Orion, "felt that a man of my sort
lived in the sky." Micky is afraid of heroism because civilization has
killed herosim in him. But even in hell it is not too late. When the
Spirit of Life appears with the song, "I was before choice, I was before
hardness and softness were divided. I was in the days when truth was
love. And I am . .," Micky dares to follow the spirit across the
stream to the region of the saved (p. 221).27 It is a journey not to
heaven, but to another reality in which time and all his past experi-
ences have been annihilated, where he can recapture and assimilate that
spiritual moment from the past when Harold died. As he crosses he is
again in the boat watching the sand dunes on the shore. Like the boy
crossing the hedge, he feels a weight fall off his body. He experiences
youth and beauty at last because he reaches out to the true reality, be-
yond time and space. We leave him in the boat again, and again, as with
Vashti and Kuno, Forster ends his story without synthesis, with a char-
acter who looks out to a cloudless sky and a sea where "gulls were rid-
ing up and down on the furrowed waters," to a farm on the shore "full to
the brim with fire" (p. 224). Micky has recaptured the spirit of place
and of heroism, for we feel that the spirit of Harold again rides with
"Mr. Andrews" introduces heaven and the Hindu world soul. But
again, as in "The Other Side of the Hedge" and "The Point of It," the
afterlife is no different than the present life, as Mr. Andrews soon
discovers. It contains the same problems of connection and the neces-
sity for continuous experience. Mr. Andrews is ascending to heaven,
accompanied by a Moslem soul. At the entrance gate, in a moment of pity
for the Moslem, Mr. Andrews asks "Cannot he enter?" instead of the usual
"Can I enter?" The Turk does the same: "For the same spirit was work-
ing in each of them"(p. 228). But heaven proves disappointing: its
delights--for the Moslem, dark-eyed damsels, for Mr. Andrews, a harp--
cannot match the moment outside the gate when each lost his ego-conscious-
ness and became concerned for the other. On their way up, the world soul
had "pressed them on every side, just as the atmosphere presses upon ris-
ing bubbles, striving to vanquish them, to break their thin envelope of
personality, to mingle their virtue with its own. But they resisted, re-
membering their glorious individual life on earth, and hoping for an in-
dividual life to come" (p. 225). Only after they are both disappointed
in the selfish heaven they have found do they request release.29 Once
outside, they experience aufheben, an annihilation of ego and an assimi-
lation of the universe which constitutes their visionary moment and
places them onto a dialectical platform promising further fulfillment:
As soon as they passed the gate, they felt again
the pressure of the world soul. For a moment they stood
hand in hand resisting it. Then they suffered it to break
in upon them, and they, and all the experience they had
gained, and all the love and wisdom they had generated,
passed into it, and made it better. (p. 232)
It should be noted that Mr. Andrews and the Moslem, like all Forster's
visionary characters of the antithesis, are passive recipients of their
"moment." They may be ready, as Eustace was, as Harold in Sicily was,
as the curate was, but the vision must come to them before their experi-
ences can fuse into metamorphosis.
In "Co-Ordination" heaven contains Beethoven and Napoleon, who
look down on a girls' school and its ridiculous commitment to "co-ordi-
nating" a curriculum around Napoleon. Miss Haddon, the music teacher,
listens to her piano students play the Eroica Symphony badly hour after
hour. Other students recite "Homages de Wordsworth" and paint the left
front leg of Pauline Buonaparte's couch. Miss Haddon, admitting to her-
self that she is a poor music teacher, picks up a sea shell from St.
Helena which holds papers down on the principal's desk. Like Mr. Lucas,
who also experienced inklings of the unseen after he was honest with
himself, Miss Haddon connects with another reality. "She heard the sea
.the tide whispering over mud-flats or chattering against stones
.and the little waves that live in the big waves all sing for joy.
.She heard them all, but in the end she heard the sea itself, and
knew that it was hers for ever" (p. 238). The principal enters and Miss
Haddon confesses that she has been a poor teacher and asks for dismissal.
The principal, too, listens to the sea shell and joins her in a session
of self-honesty. A holiday is declared and the organization of the "co-
ordinated" curriculum breaks down. The girls play games at which "every-
one hid and nobody sought; every one batted and nobody fielded . it
was even possible to play two games at once. . (p. 241). Mephistopheles,
looking down from heaven, where he has gone with a scroll marked
"J'accuse'." decides that he may not have been able to prove the futil-
ity of genius with Job or Faust, but that he really has a case this time:
great men are completely misunderstood. The archangel Raphael agrees
that he may indeed have a case, because "this universe is supposed to
rest on co-ordination, all creatures co-ordinating according to their
powers" (p. 243). He asks Mephistopheles for his evidence, then re-
bukes him for missing the main point. Because the girls and their head
mistress have co-ordinated with Melody and Victory, they have not be-
trayed truth. Because they have dared to be honest,they have carried
truth into human relationships, where they have found another reality,
universal co-ordination. They have stepped, via an object of the
earth, a sea-shell, through phenomena into a noumena which is true
connection. They have escaped the enclosure of their own man-made men-
tal restrictions into spontaneous experience.
Eight years separated the publication of "The Story of a Siren"
(1920) from "Co-ordination" (1912), yet the theme picks up, like a
thread, the same conflict between false culture and a spontaneity re-
alized through nature. From the first line, "The Story of the Siren"
makes culture seem silly and insignificant compared with nature. The
narrator, a student in Sicily on holiday, tells us that "Few things have
been more beautiful than my notebook on the Deist Controversy as it fell
downward through the waters of the Mediterranean" (p. 245). He stays
behind with a young Sicilian guide who will dive for the book while the
others go on in the motor boat, to return for them later. They sit out-
side a grotto on a "great sunlit rock that guarded the harmonies within"
(p. 246). In the grotto there is a "cleanliness of all the sea gathered
together and radiating light" (p. 246). The Sicilian tells of his
brother Giuseppe, who was cruel, but who saw the Siren there, in spite
of the fact that she is said to appear only to the good. She cannot
emerge from the sea because "The priests have blessed the air, so she
cannot breathe it, and blessed the rocks, so that she cannot sit on them.
But the sea no man can bless, because it is too big, and always changing.
So she lives in the sea" (p. 249). Giuseppe married a girl who had seen
the Siren and legend prophesies that a child born of two who have seen
her will "fetch her from the sea, and destroy silence, and save the
world" (p. 258). The priests' "blessing" of the air is really a curse,
and it is a priest who pushes the pregnant wife of Giuseppe over the
cliff to her death. Giuseppe, broken-hearted, wandered over the world
looking for someone else who had seen the siren, until in Liverpool "he
began to cough, and spat blood until he died" (p. 257). The grotto
where the narrator and Giuseppe's brother sit is beautiful, but it con-
tains the terrible possibility of total knowledge: when Giuseppe saw the
siren, he was "unhappy because he knew everything" (p. 252). But total
knowledge, terrible as it is, becomes for Giuseppe the only reality, and
drives him to his death.
As the narrator and the young Sicilian sit in the blue beauty of
the grotto talking of these things, commercialism threatens in the form
of tourism, brought by an English lady who wrote a book about the place,
"and it was through her," the Sicilian says, "that the Improvement Syndi-
cate was formed, which is about to connect the hotels with the station
by a funicular railway" (p. 250). The English boy stops him with "Don't
tell me about that lady in here" (p. 250). The place is too sacred for
an invasion of mechanized civilization, which happens too soon when the
returning boat shatters the serenity. After the Sicilian boy's trumpet-
ing prophecy--"Silence and loneliness cannot last for ever. It may be a
hundred or a thousand years, but the sea lasts longer, and she shall come
out of it and sing" --the story as well as the narrator is cut short: "I
would have asked him more, but at that moment the whole cave darkened,
and there rode in through its narrow entrance the returning boat" (p.
258). The cave "darkens" with the return of civilization, which is
characterized by "silence and loneliness." The end, abrupt and intense,
fuses with the sudden confrontation of Christian-pagan, civilization-
nature elements onto an unresolved dialectical platform which will de-
mand future resolution beyond the boundary of this story.
The fertility theme which appeared in "The Story of a Siren," in
the form of a baby who holds the hope of the future, is central to the
hoped-for resolution of "The Eternal Moment." Although this story first
appeared in 1905, I, like Forster, have chosen to place it last because
in treatment of theme and character it seems to form a bridge between the
short stories and the novels. Miss Raby, the novelist of "The Eternal
Moment," almost steps out of the pages of "The Story of the Siren." Like
the English lady mentioned in the grotto, she has written a book which
has brought prosperity--and neon signs--to a peaceful village, in this
case the Italian village of Vorta. She returns to Vorta with a companion,
Colonel Leyland, whose position as her fiance is somewhat ambiguous: they
are "friends" in a mature disillusionment. As they pass a view, she
recognizes a mountainside where a young Italian guide, Feo, once kissed
her years ago. They register at the Grand Hotel des Alpes, which Miss
Raby impulsively leaves for the old Hotel Biscione when she learns that
her friend, Signora Cantu, still runs the old establishment and that Sig-
nora Cantu's son, owner of the new hotel, has broken with his family be-
cause of prosperity and competition. But her interview with Signora
Cantu proves disastrous: the old lady, too, is envious and spiteful;
she hopes that her son will fail. Miss Raby is about to leave her when
Feo's name is mentioned. He is now the concierge of the Hotel des Alpes.
Miss Raby sees him that afternoon, hoping to conciliate the two factions.
He is fat, greasy and obsequious, deftly greeting guests who tip him.
Still hopeful that she can penetrate his commercialism, Miss Raby re-
minds him that he was once a passionate young man on a mountainside years
ago. It is hopeless; not only does Feo not remember her clearly, but he
welcomes Colonel Leyland's "rescue" from a scene which threatens embar-
rassment. When Feo mentions his wife and children, Miss Raby tries to
adopt his youngest boy as a penance for ruining Vorta. She wants to
bring him up in England, to teach him that rich people are good, sympa-
thetic, and truthful. "Your boy shall learn this, and he shall try to
teach it to you. And when he grows up, if God is good to him he shall
teach the rich: he shall teach them not to be stupid to the poor" (p.
304). But this attempted reconciliation between rich and poor, like
her reconciliation between Signora Cantu and her son, fails. In
her defeat Miss Raby learns that the only good thing which has happened
in the new prosperity, the lovely campanile, is slipping and will one
day fall. It is then, when failure annihilates her previous conceptions
about herself, that Miss Raby experiences her "eternal moment":
In that moment of final failure, there had been vouchsafed
to her a vision of herself, and she saw that she had lived
worthily. She was conscious of a triumph over experience
and earthly facts, a triumph magnificent, cold, hardly
human, whose existence no one but herself would ever sur-
mise. From the view-terrace she looked down on the perish-
ing and perishable beauty of the valley, and, though she
loved it no less, it seemed to be infinitely distant, like
a valley in a star. At that moment, if kind voices had called
her from the hotel, she would not have returned. "I suppose
this is old age," she thought. "It's not so very dreadful."
In this new assimilation of her past life, Miss Raby rises beyond per-
sonal relationships, outside time and space, and from her new vantage
point looks down as if from an infinite distance. Impersonal, "cold,
hardly human," her triumph has carried her beyond the earth, beyond the
pain of people, but has lifted both place and people into a new region
of love without expectation, acceptance without regret. Misunderstanding
is no longer frustrating, but can be seen as the normal course of human
communication. Outside time, the perishing beauty of the valley, like
human misunderstanding, causes no alarm. Miss Raby has annihilated and
assimilated, and, for a moment, seems to have reached that area described
by Professor R. W. Eaton in which "Mind and matter are aspects of, ab-
stractions from, a known reality which is wider and richer than either."30
Colonel Leyland, with his pince nez and name reminiscent of Ley-
land in "The Story of a Panic," is the opaque character of the thesis
who implies that Miss Raby is insane by touching Feo's forehead. We may
not agree with his implication concerning Miss Raby's sanity, but Miss
Raby certainly causes us to look at her twice. In the first place, she
has been presented to us as a sensitive person who secretly longs for
love and who humbly regrets the ill she has brought to Vorta. She is
impulsive, but repentant and contrite, too contrite to suddenly say
"impressively," "Let me have that child, and I will bring him up" (p.
303). Her promise to show the boy that the rich are good seems the
speech of a person with all the answers to social ills, a latter-day
evangalizing Marianne Thornton defending investments. But the purpose
of the whole story, with its contrapuntal orchestration between the
themes of natural honest spontaneity and a dishonest commercialism which
destroys the sensitivity of its victims, defies and refutes such a change
in her character. That she should speak for the prosperity which has
all but ruined Vorta and for which she is sincerely repentant is too il-
logical a position at the end. And can we believe in Miss Raby's maternal
desires? Would she really love the child, or use him to expiate not only
her wrongs to Vorta, but to herself for having lived a passionless life?
Lionel Trilling may be right when he calls her "the delicate ancestress
of Forster's most notable heroines, women elderly, or middle-aged, or
moving toward middle age. . ." These women are "wise but powerless,
in some way triumphant, in some way defeated, often confused yet gifted
with an obscure certainty, as if remembering some ancient sibylline
wisdom that the world no longer knows."31 But, as Trilling says, neither
Mrs. Wilcox, nor Mrs. Elliot, nor Mrs. Moore--the descendants of Miss
Raby in Howards End, The Longest Journey and A Passage to India respec-
tively--have maternal affection, and we would suspect a similar lack in
Miss Raby, if she acquired Feo's boy. What of her sexual affection? Has
she really known passion, or has she merely, via imagination, transformed
it into memory and into art, where she can worship it, safe from actual
physical contact? C. B. Cox sees Forster's commitment to personal rela-
tionships as an island of escape where he can avoid grappling with social
problems.32 Is this what Miss Raby has done? Is she a female Leyland-
Bons character, transformed, to be sure, into a Demeter figure, but fer-
tile only in art? After all, her visionary moment, although subjectively
satisfying, leaves her detached and resigned to the isolation of old age.
Of Demeter, Forster wrote that "Demeter alone among gods has true immor-
tality . to her, from all over the world, rise prayers of idolatry
from suffering men as well as suffering women, for she has transcended
sex."33 Perhaps Miss Raby has not transcended sex so much as avoided it.
Her importance lies, I believe, in the fact that she is the first
Forsterian character to attain a visionary moment through specific human
relations. Admittedly, her love has been of the imagination, but the
imagination for the occultists and for Forster is real.34 Most of the
other main characters in these last six stories have touched down lightly
onto the earth and have achieved a promise of connecting rather than a
real arrival at a subconscious destination. The headmistress and Miss
Haddon are lifted momentarily by a recognition of earthly power rather
than by an actual absorption of those powers. Micky and Mr. Andrews re-
ceive their "moments" after death, in retrospect, as it were, and seem
more like specimens under glass--fossilized pieces from Micky's British
Museum cases. Giuseppe is destroyed in his search for a mythological
salvation of the world, but his death is caused by weariness and exhau-
tion--and, by implication, the commercial smog of Liverpool via tuber-
culosis--rather than by a visionary moment. Vashti and Kuno, although
connecting with the universe, do so through a love of dead generations
and humanity in general. Beginning with Miss Raby, the emphasis is on
specific personal relations. She is a pre-Lucy Honeychurch from A Room
with a View, who dares to consummate the love she experienced on a
violet-strewn mountain terrace, a pre-Caroline Abbott from Where Angels
Fear to Tread, who tries to adopt an Italian child, believing that an
English upbringing will purge a sin, a pre-Margaret Schlegel from Howards
End, who tries to reconcile commercialism and nature, and a pre-Mrs.
Moore from A Passage to India, who experiences visionary detachment. But
not until Forster divided Miss Raby's character and gave her separate
stories in his two Italian novels, A Room with a View and Where Angels
Fear to Tread, would she make sense. Within the confines of her short
story she leaves too many questions unanswered. It was time to try a
1E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (New York, 1954, p. 125.
(First published London, 1927.)
2E. M .Forster, The Collected Tales of E. M. Forster (New York,
1947). All quotations from the short stories are from this Knopf edi-
tion, with the exception of "Albergo Empedocle" which appeared in
Temple Bar, CXXVIII (December, 1903), 663-684.
3Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (New
York, 1956), p. 211.
4W. R. Irwin, "The Survival of Pan," PMLA, LXXXVI (June, 1961),
john Senior, The Way Down and Out: The Occult in Symbolist
Literature (Ithaca, New York, 1959), p. 39.
6The only other one is "Other Kingdom," which has Miss Beaumont
7Wilfred Stone, The Cave and the Mountain (Stanford, California,
1966), p. 122.
81 cannot agree with James McConkey that the unity provided by
the earth in the short stories "is not connected with anything beyond
the physical world." I see Forster's use of the earth here, in this
first story, as no different from his use of it in A Passage to India,
in which the Marabar Caves become the medium for Mrs. Moore's psychic
transformation. See James McConkey, The Novels of E. M. Forster (Ithaca,
New York, 1957), p. 52.
9Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth, trans. S. K. Langer (New York,
1946), pp. 6-10. Quoted and discussed by Charles Feidelson, Jr., Symbol-
ism and American Literature (Chicago, 1966), p. 53.
1E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel, p. 167.
11P. N. Furbank and F. J. H. Haskell, "E. M. Forster" in Writers
at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley (New York,
1959), p. 31. Forster was interviewed June 20, 1952.
12Ralph M. Eaton, Symbolism and Truth: An Introduction to the
Theory of Knowledge (Cambridge, Mass., 1925), p. 276.
13E. M. Forster, "Albergo Empedocle," Temple Bar, CXXVIII (Decem-
ber, 1903), 663-684.
1Harold's statement is close to McTaggart's "Nothing is true but
mental states . nothing is true unless it is believed." J. M. E.
McTaggart, The Nature of Existence, I (Cambridge, 1921), 16-17. The
reality of states of mind was one of the main premises of Bloomsbury.
See Chapter VII of the present study.
15Matthew Arnold, "Empedocles on Etna," Act I, lines 242-246. In
Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. Frederick L. Mulhauser (New York, 1955),
16bid., Act II, lines 16-18, p. 34.
17It is interesting that this will be Mrs. Moore's mistaken "ex-
planation" of her experience in the Marabar Caves in A Passage to India.
See E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (New York, 1952), p. 150. (First
published London, 1924.)
18"Empedocles," Encyclopaedia Britannica, VIII (Chicago, 1949),400.
Empedocles' idea of an interacting single-substance universe is strikingly
similar to McTaggart's theory of "determining correspondence." See the
Appendix of this study. It is also interesting that to Empedocles was at-
tributed the power of controlling the winds, as Eustace seems to do in
"The Story of a Panic."
19J. B. Beer, The Achievement of E. M. Forster (London, 1962), p.
21Carl G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self (New York, 1961), p. 93.
22Max Beerbohm, Seven Men (New York, 1959), p. 39. (First published
London, 1919.) Quoted by K. W. Gransden, E. M. Forster (New York, 1962),
23Pan's avatar, Stephen Wonham of The Longest Journey, who was
born the same year (1907), proved more congenial, although almost as
strange, in the hills of Wiltshire. Forster, in Howards End, stated the
problem bluntly: "Why has not England a great mythology? Our folklore
has never advanced beyond daintiness, and the greater melodies about our
country-side have all issued through the pipes of Greece." See Howards
End (New York, 1960), p. 267. (First published London, 1910.)
24Stone, p. 152.
25Ford's similarity to Leonard Bast in Howards End is striking.
Howards End was published the year after "Other Kingdom" appeared. Not
only is there a resemblance between Ford and Leonard, but between Har-
court Worters and Henry Wilcox--their initials and philosophies are the
same. There seems to be a kinship, also, between Miss Beaumont and the
Schlegel sisters; indeed, she could be a composite of Helen, whose
impulsive defense of Leonard Bast proves unrealistic, and Margaret,
whose appreciation of money and the ability to make it allows her to see
good qualities in Henry, as Miss Beaumont does in Harcourt. See Chapter
V of the present study.
26Robert Friend, in "The Theme of Salvation in 'The Point of It',"
Studies in English Language and Literature, ed. Alice Shalvi and A. A.
Mendilow, XVII (Jerusalem, 1966), 252, sees Micky as Castor, the human
twin who lives a death-in-life, and Harold as Pollux, the divine brother
who goes to Hades to save him. Although this comparison is interesting
and although the stars Castor and Pollux are mentioned in the story, I
do not believe such mention justifies the Christ-Harold-Pollux conclu-
sion Mr. Friend draws.
27Robert Friend thinks this spirit, never named by Forster, is
Youth. See note 26. I find a phonetic similarity between "I am," the
Hindu "OM," and the echo in the Marabar Cave in A Passage to India, the
famous "ou-boum." The caves are "older than all spirit" as the spirit
in this story "was before choice . before hardness and softness were
divided." See Chapter VI of the present study for a discussion of the
Dravidian Marabar Caves.
28It is ironic--and indicative of Micky's blindness--that he
thinks "No spiritual bond could survive" his relationship with Harold
(p. 202). A spiritual bond--that moment in the boat--is precisely what
29As F. W. McDowell says in "Forster's 'Natural Supernaturalism':
The Tales," Modern Fiction Studies, VII (Autumn, 1961), 271, the heaven
of Mr. Andrews "represents a selfish rather than a selfless fulfillment."
30Eaton, p. 287. This quotation is discussed by Charles Feidel-
son, Jr., in Symbolism and American Literature (Chicago, 1966), p. 51.
31Lionel Trilling, E. M. Forster (New York, 1964), pp. 46-47.
(First published New York, 1943.)
C. B Cox, The Free Spirit: A Study of Liberal Humanism in the
Novels of George Elliot, Henry James, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and
Angus Wilson (London, 1963), p. 79.
33E. M. Forster, "Cnidus," Abinger Harvest (New York, 1955), p.
167. (First published London, 1936.)
34That the imagination is real was a belief also of McTaggart,
Bertrand Russell and G. E Moore, who influenced Forster at Cambridge,
and of the Bloomsbury Group. It is not incidental that Roger Fry de-
signed the 1911 edition of The Celestial Omnibus, in which "The Eternal
Moment" first appeared. The edition was dedicated to "The memory of The
Independent Review," founded by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson.
Although A Room with a View was begun in 1903, Where Angels
Fear to Tread, Forster's first completed novel, appeared in 1905, the
same year "The Eternal Moment" was published. The stories in both novels
were undoubtedly on Forster's mind when he wrote the short story.
Time drops in decay,
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and woods
Have their day, have their day;
What one in the rout
Of the fire-born moods
Has fallen away?
Yeats, The Moods
Forster's two Italian novels are a direct development from Miss
Raby's "eternal moment." With his "Trialectic" method he subjects the
story to a series of "what if" questions. In A Room with a View he
seems to ask "What if Miss Raby had dared consummate the love scene on
the mountainside? What if, instead of an Italian lover, an Englishman
were substituted?" Then the dialectical opposition could be between
two individuals representative of pressures operating within one culture.
If one kept the Italian setting, these pressures could be put in juxta-
position with the more elemental, more earthy philosophy of the Mediter-
ranean. But turning Italy into a scenic backdrop seemed still to skirt
the original issue, the confrontation of Italian paganism with English
commercialism which Miss Raby had set up more intensely precisely be-
cause they operated between people representing separate cultures. In
A Room with a View the lovers are English, and Italy does come danger-
ously close to postcard prettiness. In Where Angels Fear to Tread
Forster asks the braver questions "What if Miss Raby had married her
Italian? What if his vulgarity were not the product of a commercial
invasion of tourism, which 'The Eternal Moment' perhaps too simply sug-
gests, but inherent in his character?" Then the dialectical tensions
would be complex, indeed. "Is it possible," he seems to ask in both
novels, "for England to invade the Mediterranean and come away, not
detached, as Miss Raby, not escaping, as Eustace, not disintegrating,
as Mr. Lucas, but wiser?" Each novel answers the question in its own
way. In the discovery of that answer Forster's characters experience
new levels of reality which will move them beyond the sensuous aware-
ness of the short stories into an imaginative perception which will form
the next step of the dialectic.
The plot of A Room with a View is simple. Lucy Honeychurch and
her chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, arrive at the Pension Bertolini,
Florence, in pursuit of "culture." Their first shock is not only that
the Signora Bertolini is a Cockney but that she has given their promised
rooms (with a view) to other guests. A forward but well-meaning old
man, Mr. Emerson, and his son George offer theirs; the offer is accepted
only after the Reverend Beebe, representative of the Church of England
and propriety, approves. Other guests include the spinster sisters,
the Alans, and Miss Lavish, a "lady novelist." Miss Lavish, who un-
feelingly uses people for her plots, inconsiderately wanders off in
search of "local color" to leave Lucy in Santa Croce, where she en-
counters the Emersons and the Reverend Eager (less likeable than the
Reverend Beebe) lecturing on Giotto. The crowd spurn the more human
interpretation of art offered by Mr. Emerson, who afterwards spouts
unconventional philosophy to Lucy, with a quote from Housman inserted.
Lucy meets his son George accidentally in the Piazza Signoria, where
they witness a murder and George emerges as sensitive and thoughtful.
On an outing to Fiesole they meet again, accidentally, with Lucy fall-
ing onto a violet-covered terrace to be kissed impulsively by George.
Miss Bartlett, who has witnessed the disreputable scene, whisks Lucy
away to Rome, where the Vyses, friends of the family, are staying.
Thus ends Part One. Part Two belongs to England and to Cecil Vyse,
representative of English "culture" and now engaged to Lucy. He is
medieval--a nasty word to Forster--and sees Lucy as a work of art
rather than as a human being. Thinking he will play a practical joke
on a local landowner (despicable to London-educated Cecil because the
landowner is conservative gentry), Cecil urges him to rent a villa to
the Emersons, whom Cecil has met accidentally in the National Gallery
and has pegged as "uncultured" because Mr. Emerson mispronounced an
artist's name. Lucy meets George again as he runs naked from a swim
with her brother,Tibby and Rev. Beebe, now transferred conveniently,
with the plot, to England. Lucy gradually sees Cecil as inhuman,
breaks her engagement, plans to go to Greece with the Alan sisters,
is dissuaded by Mr. Emerson, marries George and returns with him to the
Pension Bertolini to enjoy the view.
Although accidents and coincidences seem to be central to the
plot of A Room with a View they actually form the periphery because the
characters use the accidents and thus control the plot more than would
seem possible at first glance. Norman Kelvin thinks that this control
of plot by character "expresses one of the novel's major concerns: the
responsibility of the individual to be heroic--to accept a moral impera-
tive to defy society and consequently influence, shape, or control its
future." Lucy, whose responsibility to be heroic is almost destroyed
by her fear of direct experience, confuses honest emotion with "educa-
tion." In Santa Croce she tells Mr. Emerson, "I like Giotto. It is so
wonderful what they say about his tactile values. Though I like things
like the Della Robbia babies better."2 Mr. Emerson's "So you ought. A
baby is worth a dozen saints" voices the credo of earthy fertility and
makes Lucy's "cultured" term, "tactile," sound hollow and superficial.
Only when she plays the piano, and especially Beethoven, does she allow
a naturally passionate nature to experience emotion. "Like every true
performer," Forster tells us, "she was intoxicated by the mere feel of
the notes: they were fingers caressing her own; and by touch, not by
sound alone, did she come to her desire" (p. 35). So emotional was her
performance in the Pension Bertolini that the Rev. Beebe has cause to
say "If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be
very exciting--both for us and for her" (p. 36). But she does not
allow herself to remain emotional or sensuous for long. Immediately
after Rev. Beebe's observation "Lucy at once re-entered daily life."
She is in danger of joining those who do not dare to live heroically,
who, Forster tells his readers, sin "against passion and truth, and
vain will be their strife after virtue":
As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry
and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism,
their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce dis-
comfort wherever they go. They have sinned against Eros
and against Pallas Athene, and not by any heavenly
intervention, but by the ordinary course of nature,
those allied deities will be avenged.
Lucy entered this army when she pretended to George
that she did not love him, and pretended to Cecil that
she loved no one. The night received her, as it had
received Miss Bartlett thirty years before. (p. 204)
We are never told what happened to Miss Bartlett "thirty years before,"
but we can guess that, whatever the cause, the result was the resigna-
tion of spinsterhood, the negation of love. The implication is that
Lucy may become another Miss Bartlett; her character contains a testy
propensity for renunciation. Her solution to her broken engagement,
to work in London and share a flat with another girl or to go to Greece
with the Miss Alans, is interpreted by her mother as a self-inflicted
martyrdom not unlike Charlotte's.
Lucy screwed up her mouth and said, "Perhaps I spoke
"Oh, goodness!" her mother flashed. "How you do remind
me of Charlotte Bartlett'"
"Charlotte?" flashed Lucy in her turn, pierced at last
by a vivid pain.
"More every moment."
"I don't know what you mean, mother; Charlotte and I are
not the very least alike."
"Well, I see the likeness. The same eternal worrying,
the same taking back of words. .. "
"What rubbish! And if you dislike Charlotte so, it's
rather a pity you asked her to stop. I warned you about
her: I begged you, implored you not to, but of course it
was not listened to."
"There you go."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Charlotte again, my dear; that's all; her very words."
Lucy is also linked, very subtly by Forster, to another spinster, the
elderly Miss Alan. As Lionel Trilling sensitively discovered, the
language used to describe the two is almost the same. After Lucy breaks
with Cecil and refuses George, the effect of autumn on her is one of
pathetic decay: "Summer was ending, and the evening brought her odours
of decay, the more pathetic because they were reminiscent of spring
(pp. 196-197). As Trilling notes, "In the subtle--sometimes too subtle--
thematic fashion he often uses, Forster had written almost these very
words earlier in the novel when he had said of the sweet elderly Miss
Alan that 'A delicate pathos perfumed her disconnected remarks, giving
them unexpected beauty, just as in the decaying autumn woods there some-
times arise odours reminiscent of spring'" (p. 41).3 The danger is there:
the very real danger that if Lucy fails to connect honestly and sensu-
ously with another human being, she will, in effect, refuse to live.
But the main point of A Room with a View is that Lucy Honeychurch, un-
like Miss Raby, does not choose to allow accident and "education" and
the expectations of others to deter her from living heroically, from
accepting, in Kelvin's words, "a moral imperative to defy society and
consequently influence, shape, or control its future." She may be slow
to learn her lesson, but the lesson is there, and constitutes a dialec-
tical step toward a reality with a "view."
Lucy forms, with Cecil, the first of three character clusters in
the book. They represent false culture, "educated" with words and
ideas, undirected by any critical judgment of their own. Lucy's ig-
norance is harmless; Cecil's is viciously sarcastic. Of a permissive
nature, Lucy wants to oblige conventional opinion. She wants to ad-
mire the Giottos in Santa Croce, if someone will tell her which frescoes
are his. She asks Mr. Emerson, "Do you know which is the tombstone that
is praised in Ruskin?" "For her," writes Forster wryly, "taste was
catholic, and she extended uncritical approval to every well-known name"
(p. 48). In personal relationships she is equally dependent upon pub-
lic opinion: "she was accustomed to have thoughts confirmed by others
or, at all events, contradicted; it was too dreadful not to know whether
she was thinking right or wrong" (p. 55). Cecil, on the other hand,
thinks he is original, with "taste," but he really mouths trite praises
of nature and sees people as things. He thinks of Lucy as "a Leonardo."
He sneers at her mother because she says "the horse has arrived" instead
of "the carriage," not realizing that the difference lies in an emphasis
on animate rather than inanimate things. He can be petty: at the dinner
table he asks sarcastically, "May me and Lucy get down from our chairs?
We don't want no dessert" (p. 163). His life, like some rooms, is with-
out a view, and instinctively he realizes his problem when he tells Lucy,
"I had got an idea--I dare say wrongly--that you feel more at home with
me in a room." She admits, to his annoyance, that she does, and, more-
over, one without a view (p. 122). When she defends to her mother his
disparagement of their drawing room furniture with "But he does not mean
to be uncivil--he once explained--it is the things that upset him--he
is easily upset by ugly things--he is not uncivil to people," her mother
retorts with "Is it a thing or a person when Freddy sings?" (p. 156).
This question echoes another which Lucy had put to herself a few pages
If Cecil disliked Sir Harry Otway and Mr. Beebe, what
guarantee was there that the people who really mattered
to her would escape? For instance, Freddy. Freddy was
neither clever, nor subtle, nor beautiful, and what
prevented Cecil from saying, any minute, "It would be
wrong not to loathe Freddy"? And what would she reply? (p. 121)
One of the reasons, I think, we can accept George's defamation of
Cecil's character as he fights for Lucy's love is that we instinctively
agree with George when he tells Lucy, "He is the sort who are all right
so long as they keep to things--books, pictures--but kill when they come
to people" (p. 194). Cecil's problem is that he wants to impose his
opinions, to dictate: "Every moment of his life he's forming you,"
George tells Lucy, "telling you what's charming or amusing or ladylike,
telling you what a man thinks womanly; and you, you of all women, listen
to his voice instead of your own" (p. 194). After George opens her
eyes, Lucy's description of Cecil defines for the reader the meaning of
his last name. He is a vise:
". . conventional, Cecil, you're that, for you may
understand beautiful things, but you don't know how
to use them; and you wrap yourself up in art and books
and music, and would try to wrap up me. I won't be
stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people
are more glorious, and you hide them from me. That's
why I break off my engagement. You were all right as
long as you kept to things, but when you came to
people--" (pp. 201-202)
Yet it is to Cecil's credit that he agrees. "I shall never forget your
insight. . I have just used you as a peg for my silly notions of
what a woman should be. . I must actually thank you for what you
have done--for showing me what I really am" (pp. 202-203). This is
Cecil's "moment," that brief contact with truth through personal rela-
tionships which "saves" him. "For all his culture," Forster writes,
"Cecil was an ascetic at heart, and nothing in his love became him like
the leaving of it" (p. 204).