E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf were the literary leaders of the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of intellectuals who gathered regularly in London in the first two decades of the twentieth century to discuss art and aesthetics. The circle also included the economist John Maynard Keynes, the painters Vanessa and Clive Bell, and the philosopher and critic Lytton Strachey. From the group’s wide-ranging discussions, Forster often received ideas about art that he later incorporated into his fiction. Forster became noted for his deft style, complex characters, and important themes.
Although he is best remembered for his acknowledged masterpieces Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924), Forster’s earlier novels and short stories often point in the direction to which his later fiction turned. These earlier works are usually concerned with how people living in a modern world lack the passion necessary for a complete life. To make his point, Forster often contrasts the passionate intensity of people in southern European countries with the flaccid people of his native England. Typically, a character in one of these stories travels from England to Greece or Rome and there undergoes a revelation. In Forster’s famous short story “The Road from Colonus” (1903), for example, Mr. Lucas discovers passion at an idyllic spring in Greece. His daughter forces him to return to England, however, and he subsequently dies a miserable and lonely old man. In A Room with a View, on which Forster was working as he finished “The Road from Colonus,” Lucy Honeychurch discovers the passion of Italy. Lucy is more fortunate in her fate than is Mr. Lucas. Although she initially rejects the passion that Italy represents (indeed, she is shocked by it), she later comes to accept it as a fundamental part of life. The novel consequently ends happily with her in George Emerson’s arms as they honeymoon in Florence.
Forster struggled to write A Room with a View. Although he initially conceived it and started taking notes during a trip to Italy in 1902, he did not complete the novel until 1908, after he had already published two other novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread...
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