Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1948



It has been suggested that Forster, conscious of his failure here turned outwards to the relationship of people and society. 'Howards End' is an intense plea for the recognition of the inner life of the individual. It explores the country of the heart. But it goes further. It attempts a reconciliation between the life of personal relations and the outer life of 'telegrams and anger'. 'Only connect . . .' urges Forster. And his story endeavours to show us that such a connection is achieved. Margaret marries Henry Wilcox. A cultured and leisured woman of independent means, she at last realizes that the Wilcoxes have some real worth, do really live. Shortly before her marriage she remarks to her sister Helen, 'If Wilcoxes hadn't worked and died in England for thousands of years, you and I wouldn't sit here without having our throats cut. There would be no trains, no ships to carry us literary people about in, no fields even. Just savagery. No—perhaps not even that. Without their spirit life might never have moved out of protoplasm. More and more do I refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it.' Such then are the Wilcoxes, chief of whom she marries. Margaret is an ostensibly cultured person, vitally concerned with the arts and the true integration of the human personality. A passionate believer in personal relationships. Henry Wilcox is none of these things. I am not a fellow who bothers about my own inside.' Rather is he an Empire-builder, an ever-expanding business man, obtuse to personal influence, intellectually confused, crudely conscious of the material world and no more. Between these two worlds Forster imposes a connection. Somehow the diametrically opposed are found mutually compatible. Nor is there implied any necessary subordination of the one to the other. Henry does not suddenly in a moment of clairvoyance divine the hidden spirit and testify to its supremacy. How then is the gap bridged, the irreconcilable harmoniously joined? Both Margaret and Henry are brought low by personal tragedy — Helen's pregnancy and Charles' imprisonment. But in the healing atmosphere of 'Howards End' in which the ghost of Mrs. Wilcox still lingers, all is redeemed. 'Nothing wrong has been done.' The book is very beautiful but not finally convincing. If a connection is to be established between a person such as Margaret and another such a connection could only be real if it were made with some one to whom the 'inner life' was also a reality. Forster has postulated the truth and validity of this inner life and then attempted to forge a union with one to whom it is unreal and of no significance. With one in whom it is not so much as preconceived and then consciously or unconsciously derived. Either Margaret is not what we are presumed to infer, a symbol for a higher life, or else Forster has falsified the relationship. In either case he has failed satisfactorily to achieve a real connection.

Throughout 'Howards End' there runs as a frequently recurring sub-theme the topic of money. 'When your socialism comes', says Margaret, 'it may be different and we may think in terms of commodities instead of cash. Till it comes give people cash, for it is the warp of civilization whatever the woof may be. The imagination ought to play upon money and realize it vividly for it's the—the second most important thing in the world, but 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.' Perhaps this is true for the people with whom Forster is primarily concerned, the middle class Edwardian Englishman. But it has no necessary application to real genius in any age. History through the centuries has produced men in whom, despite utmost poverty, the human spirit has so flowered as to leave for all time expressions of rare beauty; eternal truth. If this world has riches other than those of which Mr. Wilcox was mindful, and Forster asserts repeatedly that it has, then how can it be consistently said 'Talk as one would, Mr. Wilcox was king of this world, the superman with his own morality, whose head remained in the clouds'? Mr. Forster's subtlety has surely confounded its creator.