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Howards End by E. M. Forster

Howards End (1910)

by E. M. Forster

Other authors: David Lodge (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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A novel of the intelligentsia (the Schlegel sisters), the capitalists (the Wilcox family), and the striving underclass (the Basts).


The affections are more reticent than the passions, and their expression more subtle. (Helen & Margaret Schlegel, 8)

It is so easy to talk of 'passing emotion', and to forget how vivid the emotion was ere it passed. (Helen & Margaret, 21)

Oh, it was no good, this continual aspiration. Some are born cultured; the rest had better go in for whatever comes easy. (Leonard Bast, 47)

She could not explain in so many words, but she felt that those who prepare for all the emergencies of life beforehand may equip themselves at the expense of joy. (Margaret, 51)

It is thus, if there is any rule, that we ought to die - neither as victim nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave. (Ruth Wilcox, 87)

...Margaret realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and signposts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes....Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty. (91)

"...so few of us think clearly about our own private incomes, and admit that independent thoughts are in nine cases out of ten the result of independent means." (Margaret, 109)

"It is sad to suppose that places may ever be more important than people." (Margaret, 111)

"That's why we practical fellows" - he smiled - "are more tolerant than you intellectuals. We live and let live, and assume that things are jogging on fairly well elsewhere, and that the ordinary plain man may be trusted to look after his own affairs." (Mr. Wilcox to Margaret, 124)

Premonitions are not preparation. (Margaret, 142)

"One is certain of nothing but the truth of one's own emotions." (Frieda or Aunt Juley, 145)

Disappointed a hundred times, she still hoped. (Margaret, 188)

It was the reward of her tact and devotion through the day. Now she understood why some women prefer influence to rights. (Margaret, 196)

...to Helen the paradox became clearer and clearer. "Death destroys a man; the idea of Death saves him." (quoting Michelangelo, 204; repeated by Leonard Bast, 276)

Henry must have it as he liked, for she loved him, and some day she would use her love to make him a better man. (Margaret, 207)

...she had outgrown stimulants, and was passing from words to things. It was doubtless a pity not to keep up...but some closing of the gates is inevitable after thirty, if the mind itself is to become a creative power. (Margaret, 223)

Science explained people, but could not understand them. (282)

"It is only that people are far more different than is pretended." (Margaret to Helen, 288) ( )
  JennyArch | Feb 11, 2015 |
Dissolves into pointless melodrama at the end and the "fallen woman" Jacky stuff is kind of weird (what happens to her?) but the concert chapter (those descriptions of Beethoven's Fifth!) and the following scene at Wickham Place ensures that this book deserves its spot on 20th Century classics lists:

"If only he could talk like this, he would have caught the world. Oh, to acquire culture! Oh, to pronounce foreign names correctly! Oh, to be well informed, discoursing at ease on every subject that a lady started! But it would take one years. With an hour at lunch and a few shattered hours in the evening, how was it possible to catch up with leisured women, who had been reading steadily from childhood? His brain might be full of names, he might have even heard of Monet and Debussy; the trouble was that he could not string them together into a sentence, he could not make them "tell," he could not quite forget about his stolen umbrella. Yes, the umbrella was the real trouble. Behind Monet and Debussy the umbrella persisted, with the steady beat of a drum. "I suppose my umbrella will be all right," he was thinking. "I don't really mind about it. I will think about music instead. I suppose my umbrella will be all right." Earlier in the afternoon he had worried about seats. Ought he to have paid as much as two shillings? Earlier still he had wondered, "Shall I try to do without a programme?" There had always been something to worry him ever since he could remember, always something that distracted him in the pursuit of beauty."

( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
Really well-written. Good characters, excellent storyline. And not anything simple to it. The relationship between Meg and Mr. Wilcox is complicated. The struggle of Leonard Bast to overcome ignorance and poverty. The misplaced idealism of Helen. So much depth to this novel. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 20, 2014 |
Two sisters encounter another English family while on holidays in Germany and develop ties that carry on through the novel. Howards End is the name of the family's estate north of London based on the author's beloved childhood home, and it plays a symbolic role in the story that creeps up on you. There's a thematic parallel here with "Passage", the communication challenge in this case being between and across social strata within a single culture. Both novels propose bridges built from compassion, from assuming there are commonalities to be found versus doggedly insisting upon an "us" and "them" dichotomy. To achieve it we must lay ourselves emotionally open, sensitive to our own hearts first before we can presume to understand the hearts of others.

I found the opening very engaging, didn't care for some plot turns in the middle but was deeply held by its ending. Events are interspersed with impressive psychological insight in the quieter passages. I wasn't always on point with following the symbolism and nuances of the activities, just as I wasn't entirely free of wanting something eventful to happen during the interludes, but then I was rewarded for reflection or patience respectively. This fault lies with me rather than the novel, and I think a second read would go much more smoothly. E.M. Forster is a classic "writer's writer" who knows how to turn a metaphor to his advantage or recall an earlier passage at precisely the correct time. ( )
  Cecrow | Sep 17, 2014 |
Margaret and Helen Schlegel meet the Wilcox family during a vacation in Germany. Helen, the younger sister, falls in love with Paul, one of the Wilcox sons, but the two soon break off the hastily made engagement after realizing that they aren't right for each other. Margaret, meanwhile, befriends Ruth, the Wilcox matriarch, who entertains her companion with stories about her ancestral home. The house, Howards End, is Ruth's pride and joy, though no one else in her family appreciates its charms. Margaret never manages to visit the house before Ruth's untimely death, but unbeknownst to her Ruth bequeaths the house to the eldest Schlegel. Ruth's family, horrified at the thought of losing the house, burn Ruth's will and ignore their mother's dying request. Ultimately, though, Margaret does find her way to Howards End, albeit in a way no Wilcox anticipated. Woven into the narrative of the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes is the story of the Basts, an impoverished couple trying to rise beyond their lower class limitations.

Howards End is one of the titles on that famous 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. There was a time when I thought I'd actually try to conquer that particular mountain, so I ordered a bunch of the titles on the list from various book-swapping websites. As life got busy my enthusiasm waned, and the books got shuffled in with my other to-be-read tomes and were forgotten. Howards End resurfaced only because I happened to download an audio version of the story.

So what made this book so great that it was included in the 1001 Books list? Well, it is a rather biting social commentary on early 20th century England. The Schlegels are kindhearted women who mean to do well, but when it comes to practically applying their book knowledge to helping the less fortunate, they fare poorly. They pass bad advice on to Mr. Bast, who quits a steady job clerking at a firm only to find himself much worse off than before. But at least the Schlegels realize their error. Mr. Henry Wilcox is incredibly callous and cold; it was he that declared the firm that Mr. Bast worked at doomed to imminent failure and triggered the young man's state of unemployment, but after grandly declaring a few days later that the firm is in fact one of the soundest in England, Wilcox does absolutely nothing to remedy the situation his careless comment has created.

Yet of all the characters, it is Henry Wilcox who ultimately experiences the greatest transformation and growth over the course of the novel. It seems a bit of a stretch to call him the hero, but his change could be called heroic.

But though it is prettily written, and the characters pleasantly complex, I didn't find Howards End particularly memorable. As Librarything user AlCracka drily notes, “There are a million books about the inner lives of English people. Here is one of them.” It's a nice, diverting read but I'm just not convinced that it's really a book one must read before death. ( )
  makaiju | Jun 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
"The season's great novel"
added by GYKM | editDaily Mail
"A fine novel"
added by GYKM | editGraphic
"My impression is that the writer is a woman of a quality of mind comparable to that of the Findlater sisters or to May Sinclair."
added by GYKM | editChicago Tribune
"A story of remarkably queer people"
added by GYKM | editWestern Mail

» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. M. Forsterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lodge, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hynes, SamuelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klett, ElizabethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pascual, ToniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennanen, EilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pessarrodona, MartaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Only Connect . . ."
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One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister.
Theatres and discussion societies attracted her less and less. She began to ‘miss’ new movements, and to spend her spare time re-reading or thinking . . . she had outgrown stimulants, and was passing from words to things. It was doubtless a pity not to keep up with Wedekind or John, but some closing of the gates is inevitable after thirty, if the mind itself is to become a creative power.
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
Margaret greeted her lord with peculiar tenderness on the morrow. Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monk, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the grey, sober against the fire. Happy the man who sees from either aspect the glory of these outspread wings. The roads of his soul lie clear, and he and his friends shall find easy-going.
The train sped northward, under innumerable tunnels. It was only an hour’s journey, but Mrs. Munt had to raise and lower the window again and again. She passed through the South Welwyn Tunnel, saw light for a moment, and entered the North Welwyn Tunnel, of tragic fame. She traversed the immense viaduct, whose arches span untroubled meadows and the dreamy flow of Tewin Water. She skirted the parks of politicians. At times the Great North Road accompanied her, more suggestive of infinity than any railway, awakening, after a nap of a hundred years, to such life as is conferred by the stench of motor-cars, and to such culture as is implied by the advertisements of antibilious pills. To history, to tragedy, to the past, to the future, Mrs. Munt remained equally indifferent; hers but to concentrate on the end of her journey.
They were both at their best when serving on committees. They did not make the mistake of handling human affairs in the bulk, but disposed of them item by item, sharply. ... It is the best—perhaps the only—way of dodging emotion.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0486424545, Paperback)

Margaret Schlegel, engaged to the much older, widowed Henry Wilcox, meets her intended the morning after accepting his proposal and realizes that he is a man who has lived without introspection or true self-knowledge. As she contemplates the state of Wilcox's soul, her remedy for what ails him has become one of the most oft-quoted passages in literature:
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
Like all of Forster's work, Howards End concerns itself with class, nationality, economic status, and how each of these affects personal relationships. It follows the intertwined fortunes of the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and the Wilcox family over the course of several years. The Schlegels are intellectuals, devotees of art and literature. The Wilcoxes, on the other hand, can't be bothered with the life of the mind or the heart, leading, instead, outer lives of "telegrams and anger" that foster "such virtues as neatness, decision, and obedience, virtues of the second rank, no doubt, but they have formed our civilization." Helen, after a brief flirtation with one of the Wilcox sons, has developed an antipathy for the family; Margaret, however, forms a brief but intense friendship with Mrs. Wilcox, which is cut short by the older woman's death. When her family discovers a scrap of paper requesting that Henry give their home, Howards End, to Margaret, it precipitates a spiritual crisis among them that will take years to resolve.

Forster's 1910 novel begins as a collection of seemingly unrelated events--Helen's impulsive engagement to Paul Wilcox; a chance meeting between the Schlegel sisters and an impoverished clerk named Leonard Bast at a concert; a casual conversation between the sisters and Henry Wilcox in London one night. But as it moves along, these disparate threads gradually knit into a tightly woven fabric of tragic misunderstandings, impulsive actions, and irreparable consequences, and, eventually, connection. Though set in the early years of the 20th century, Howards End seems even more suited to our own fragmented era of e-mails and anger. For readers living in such an age, the exhortation to "only connect" resonates ever more profoundly. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:43 -0400)

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When impetuous Helen Schlegel believes herself to be in love with Paul, the youngest of the Wilcox sons, she sparks off a connection between the two families that leads to collision.

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8 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118213X, 0141199407

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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