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Howards End by E. M. Forster

Howards End (1910)

by E. M. Forster, E.M. Forster

Other authors: David Lodge (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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  1. 31
    On Beauty by Zadie Smith (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: contemporary novel is an homage to Howard's End
  2. 10
    The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (Limelite)
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Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
I went into this not knowing what to expect after loving Forster's [A Room with a View] and detesting [A Passage to India]. In the end, I think this split the middle for me.

Howards End is about the Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, and their interaction with the Wilcoxes who are wealthy and the Basts who are poor. There is a lot of social commentary and commentary on the arts threaded through the book. There is also a good story, though, with the choices of Margaret and Helen being interesting and moving the action forward nicely. I do have a complaint, though, that there were several plot occurrences that seemed to happen very abruptly, with little or no lead up. Afterwards they are explored and explained, but I found it jarring while I was listening.

This is a book that is either going to grow on me and keep me thinking or I'll have completely forgotten it in a year. Not sure yet which way it will fall. ( )
  japaul22 | Oct 17, 2015 |
Nothing much happens in the first half of this E.F. Forster novel, set in Edwardian England. That is, there’s a lot of intellectually self-conscious conversation about art, culture and philosophy by two well-to-do sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlagel, and a bit where their path crosses with a considerably less well-to-do gent named Leonard Bast, a clerk in an insurance office who is trapped by poverty, class and an unfortunate marriage into a much more subscribed life, but who aspires to something more poetic. It’s when their lives become entangles with the lives of the nuveau-rich Wilcox family, the tenants of Howards End, that things start becoming more complicated.

Literally, Howards End is a pretty country house, neither plain nor ostentatious but – as they say in the fairy tale – just right. Symbolically, it represents a simpler, more stately world in which people understood the importance of remaining connected to the land and family. Because this novel is, at its core, a story about an England in transition between two value systems: agrarian vs. modern. The characters, in one fashion or another, wrestle with the values and ethics of the “new world” in which they find themselves, trying to forge a balance between old values and modern principles.

It’s not just poor Mr. Bast who aspires to something he can never achieve. Pretty much everyone in this book possesses the same fatal flaw. Helen nurses a socialist vision of a world in which the poor are provided equal access to education, wealth, and achievement. Mr. Wilcox, a successful “new money” aristocrat, wants to believe his England a “progressive” world in which efficiency and capitalism reign triumphant. Margaret wants the man she has fallen in love with to be worthy of her love. One by one, each of them is destroyed (or nearly destroyed) by their witting/unwitting self-delusion.

About the only person who doesn’t nurse allusions is Wilcox’s first wife, a lingering representative of English yeomanry who senses her breed is dying away but who, unlike her husband, understand the substance and integrity of the principles that are being sacrificed to the gods of business. Howards End is her ancestral home, and as long as she lives, she serves as the roots that keep her family grounded. It is when she passes and her family embraces rootlessness that everyone comes to grief, in the way that all 19th century novels seem to do, with disillusion and disgrace eventually resolving into unhappy equilibrium. In the case of Howards End, everyone realizes that they have been betrayed by self-delusion and that, as the first Mrs. Wilcox understood all along, it’s the connections we make to land and family that sustain us.

This isn’t the easiest read. The pretentious intellectualism of the first chapters is off-putting; then, later, it’s hard to stand by and watch the characters advance relentlessly towards their own destruction. But I found the themes of the tale worthy, the characters interesting, and Forster resolves the tale in an ending that isn’t unremittingly bleak, which is more than I can say for other novels of this period and genre. ( )
  Dorritt | Jun 22, 2015 |
Story set in Edwardian England of two sisters. A very interesting story of two independent, socially conscious females during a time when men still ruled and women had few if any rights. I found the characters interesting, the story is engaging though some of the social commentary gets a bit much, over all, a good story and picture of Edwardian England.

The novel examines England at the turn of the century through three families; the Wilcox (representing Imperialism), the Schlegels (½ German siblings who pursue cultural of reading, education, art and philosophy), and the Basts (a young couple representing the lower middle class). Through these three groups, the author shows us Edwardian England social conduct and manners, the upper class idealism and materialism, and the effects of poverty on the poor.

I enjoyed the story and so far consider it the best of E. M Forster though I’ve only read one other, A Room With a View. The Schlegel sisters were such strong female characters to the point that I wondered how a male author of the time could write so well of these women. This was a contemporary novel of its time. Women suffrage was something that was discussed but not realized. Meg and Helen were both well read, intellectuals who enjoyed philosophy and expressing their opinions. I liked Meg best and found Helen a bit annoying but in the end, she came through. Meg is more conventional and Helen more adventurous and emotional. Besides being a good example of social commentary, it’s a really good story. ( )
  Kristelh | Apr 27, 2015 |
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 |
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"The season's great novel"
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"A fine novel"
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"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."
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"A story of remarkably queer people"
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» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. M. Forsterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forster, E.M.main 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:58 -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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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118213X, 0141199407

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