”Discussion keeps a house alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone.”
I’ve fallen in love with the Schlegel sisters twice now in separate decades. I plan to keep falling in love with them for many decades to come. They are vibrant defenders of knowledge, of books, of art, of travel, of feeling life in the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and spleen on a daily basis. Margaret and Helen have a brother, Tibby, poor lad, who is plenty bright while at Oxford, but in the family Schlegel home, he is struggling to keep up with the thoughts expressed that keep expanding past him.
Compared to most people, they are rich. Compared to most rich people, they are poor. Their ancestors left them with enough capital to insure that they don’t have to work for the rest of their lives, can travel a bit, can go to the theatre, and can buy books as they need them. They are very attuned to their privileged position and are frequently tempted to reduce their capital by helping those in need. How much money do they really need or, for that matter, really deserve to have?
Improbably, the Schlegel sisters become friends with the Wilcoxes, a capitalistic family who have a different idea of money. Is there ever enough? Helen forms a temporary attachment to the younger Wilcox which throws each family into a tizzy as to the suitability of the match. Margaret begins a friendship with the wife, Ruth, that proves so strong that it throws a few wrinkles into the plot regarding Ruth’s family and the inheritance of Howards End.
Ruth passes away suddenly. ”How easily she slipped out of life?” Her insignificance in life becomes even more pronounced in her death.
E. M. Forster based Howards End on his childhood home, The Rooks Nest, which had been owned by a family named Howard and referred to as the Howard house. Thus, the name Howards End is a not too subtle reference to that family home. I have to believe that it might have represented a lifetime longing he had for those childhood years he spent in that home. In the novel, Howards End goes beyond being an estate and becomes almost a character, a ShangriLa that I began to pine for from the very beginning of the novel. The Sisters have only brief contact with Howards End through the early part of the novel, and my trepidation grows as the plot progresses. Will they ever have a chance to consider the house a home?
The Schlegel’s befriend the Basts, who are certainly in much reduced circumstances compared to their own. By mere chance they are discussing the Basts situation with Henry Wilcox, who promptly puts doubt into their mind about the future validity of the company Leonard is working for. This sets off a chain of events that cause a series of ripples that change the course of several lives. There certainly is a word of caution in meddling in others’ affairs. Sometimes we can think we are helping, only to cause even more problems.
Improbably, Margaret and Henry Wilcox form a friendship that becomes romantic. The eldest Wilcox son, Charles, is not happy about the attachment. He and Margaret are so far apart in their views of how the world works or should work that they have difficulty communicating well enough to reach a point of mutual respect. ”They had nothing in common but the English language, and tried by its help to express what neither of them understood.”
Margaret’s odd relationship with Henry causes a rift between the sisters that is, frankly, painful to experience. Forster makes sure that I, as a reader, at this point can no longer be objective. The relationship between these siblings is a precious thing and to think of it torn asunder is impossible to accept. They know so well how to entertain each other, to finish each other’s thoughts, and share a general agreement on most things that other people who bump around in the orbit of their reality feel like intruders.
So the marriage between Margaret and Henry is unsettling to Helen and me for numerous reasons, but this statement might sum up how we feel pretty well: ”How wide the gulf between Henry as he was and Henry as Helen thought he ought to be.” There is probably someone we could feel is good enough for Margaret, but not just Margaret but Helen and this reader as well (see how invested I am?); for whomever either girl would marry would have to slip seamlessly into the state of euphoria that already exists in the Schlegel household.
Henry is not that person. ”He misliked the word ‘interesting’, connoting it with wasted energy and even with morbidity.”
It is becoming impossible to think that Howards End will remain nothing more than a shimmering presence in another reality.
E. M. Forster, portrait by Roger Fry.
The Schlegel sisters are really the best friends any reader could hope for. We would be so enriched by the opportunity to know them and practically giddy to be able to call them friends. It is unnerving that something so strong, like this relationship between sisters, can be so fragile. I haven’t discussed the fascinating nuances of plot that will add further weight to the interactions between the Schlegels, the Wilcoxes, and the Basts, for I want everyone to read this book and marvel at the words and thoughts that Forster tosses in the air for you to catch. I want you all to be as haunted as I have been, to the point that you, too, will have to go back to the place you first met these characters, these ghostly beings, and read and read again turning these phantoms into tangible beings you can almost touch.
”Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”
If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten Forster is the Jane Austen of the 20th century. He clearly read her novels and fell in love.
And this makes him rather unusual amongst his literary peers. He didn’t do anything new; he didn’t write with any particular passion or any attempt at breaking a literary boundary. His writing is relatively safe compared to the likes of Joyce or Woolf.
But in such safety a certain simple beauty can be found because Howard’s End is a novel about reconciliation; it’s about conflict and resolution; it’s about bringing people who are so radically different together. And I love this. I love the way he spends the entire novel showing how the two families (Wilcox & Schlegel) are so opposed in traditions and values; yet, for all that, he offers no comment on which way is right but instead brings them together in one big union at the end: it’s a celebration of life and love.
"Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differenceseternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow, perhaps, but colour in the daily grey.”
The house, Howard's End, is at the centre of the action. It’s bequeathed by Mrs Wilcox to Margaret who (unlike the Wilcox’s) is the only one capable of seeing, and feeling, it’s true value. The remaining Wilcox’s decide to destroy the evidence and rent the house out because they want the money. And with this begins a discussion about the importance of death and life, about respecting wishes and understanding the importance of sentiments.
So the plot was immediate; it didn’t mess around and started flowing from the first page. And that’s kind of important with novels like this, novels that are largely about domestic life and the complications of class and money. The Wilcox’s are overly concerned with money and status (and acquiring more of it.) The Schlegel’s care about education, art, books and the passions of the soul. The two families become unlikely acquaintances and eventually friends (though not without an early embarrassment over an impromptu and insincere marriage proposal.)
It’s a nice easy read (a little lacklustre) but one is quite clearly content with its calm and subtle evocation of the variety of life. The title refers to a British country home, not a mansion like a Downton Abbey, but a small comfortable home with charm. (Although it seems that the story is set at about the same time as Downton Abbey.) The story revolves around two sisters who, on separate visits, fall in love with the home and in a very roundabout way end up living in it.
The main there of the book is British class structure. The two sisters are ‘liberal,’ using modern terminology. They attend meetings of progressive women’s groups where one of them gives a presentation and shocks her audience by arguing that such groups need to help the poor not by giving them free libraries, museums and concerts, but by giving them money. A kind of introduction by Lionel Trilling on the back cover tells us that “Howard’s End is about England’s fate. It is a story of the class war…[the plot] is about the rights of property, about a destroyed will and testament and rightful and wrongful heirs. It asks the question, who shall inherit England?’ “
Both sisters are aging (their parents have died) and they are ‘heading into spinsterhood.’ However the older one marries and she marries the owner of Howards End who is a Darwinist. His attitude, to be concise is, (I’m paraphrasing) “there will always be poor; nothing we can do; they are not like us; if you give them money they’ll just blow it because they’re re too stupid to know what to do with it.” And, this is a quote: “The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to think that anyone is responsible personally.”
The sisters are not wealthy but they are comfortable from an inheritance and they hang out in upperclass society. So this is a second theme: the sisters have an inherent cultured grace that comes from being part of the aristocracy. “…the instinctive wisdom that the past can alone bestow had descended upon her – that wisdom to which we give the clumsy name of aristocracy.” A married, struggling poor young man that the sisters take under their wing is trying to improve himself and become cultured by reading. But he eventually realizes that “…he could never follow them, not if he read for ten hours a day… Some are born cultured; the rest had better go in for whatever comes easy.”
“[We] stand upon money as upon islands. It is so firm beneath our feet that we forget its very existence.” [money]: there’s no nourishment in it. You pass it to the lower classes, and they pass it back to you, and this you call ‘social intercourse’ or ‘mutual endeavor,’ when it’s mutual priggishness…”
There’s not a lot of plot other than that of the older sister coming around to marry the wealthy older man, and after they are married she struggles to get his family to accept her. And both sisters get involved with helping the poor young man but ‘the road to hell…’ The younger sister gets more involved with him and a person ends up getting killed (manslaughter).
Another theme of the book, or more appropriately, motto, is ‘only connect.’ The sisters are good at it; the wealthy aristocrat is a disaster.
There is good writing. Some passages I liked:
On the poor young man looking ill at ease in his best clothes: “[She] wondered whether it paid to give up the glory of the animal for a tail coast and a couple of ideas.”
“The church itself stood in the village once. But there it attracted so many worshippers that the devil, in a pet, snatched it from its foundations and poised it on an inconvenient knoll three quarters of a mile away.”
“Their interview was short and absurd. They had nothing in common but the English language, and tried by its help to express what neither of them understood.”
E. M. Forster (18791970), the author, is best know for A Room With a View with Howard’s End and A Passage to India about equally wellknown after that. You can tell that the author loved London and the growth and dynamism of the city at that time. I enjoyed the book very much.
Top photo from tbn0.gstatic.com
Photo of the author from bl.uk/britishlibrary
I loved this book so much that I will never be able to do it justice in this review. I finished it several months ago, but still I think of it often and have recommended it to numerous friends. While reading, I used countless postits to mark beautiful and thoughtful passages.
Howard's End was one of the novels I took on my visit to England earlier this summer. I wanted to read English authors while I was there, and I'm so glad I did. The specialized reading completely enhanced the trip, and it was especially true for this book.*
This was also a reread for me. I first read Howard's End when I was in high school, after I saw the excellent Merchant & Ivory movie version. But that was 1992 and I was just an impressionable teenager. Reading it as an adult with more life experience made me better appreciate how amazing this novel is.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, we follow two sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, in London around 1910. (More on the significance of that timing in a moment.) The Schlegels are welleducated, progressive, and love literature, music and art. They hold cultural discussions and like to talk about improving society. When they meet poor, intelligent Leonard Bast at a music concert, they see someone they want to champion. Meanwhile, the Schlegels have also crossed paths with the rich Wilcox family, and entanglements ensue. One of the key threads of the book is who will inherit Howard's End, which was the estate of Ruth Wilcox. Early in the book, Ruth wants to give it to Margaret Schlegel, but Henry Wilcox, Ruth's husband, refuses to oblige her wish. More entanglements ensue.
As I read this novel, I appreciated how Forster was trying to recreate modern England with families from three classes: the rich capitalists (Wilcoxes), the liberal middleclass (Schlegels), and the downtrodden workers (Mr. and Mrs. Bast). There were so many good quotes about social class and the state of society, and I found it all fascinating and thoughtprovoking. Reading a great novel such as Howard's End reminded me of how much literature can enrich a life. It answers questions I didn't know I had asked.
On the chance that some Goodreaders don't want the ending spoiled, I'll hide the outcome: (view spoiler)[After Ruth dies, Margaret marries Henry Wilcox, and she eventually inherits the estate. Margaret decides to leave it to her nephew, who is the bastard son of Helen and Leonard Bast. So if there are any English majors working on essays and you want to read into the SYMBOLISM of that, it's like the working class finally got some land/wealth from the aristocrats, and in England, land equals power. (hide spoiler)] 2.5 "This Champagne has gone flat and don't tell me that Vanilla is from Madagascar" stars !!
Third Most Disappointing Read of 2019 Award
In my late teens I read all of Mr. Forster's books and although not my favorites I enjoyed them thoroughly. I wanted to reread one at random and see what my fortysomething self thought and felt. Alas, this particular reading of Howard's End did not hold up for me the way I had expected it too.
I want to to be clear though that I found parts of it sparkling but the majority of it was simply hohum and did not stand the test of time.
This is a novel that writes about particular substrates of class in early twentieth Century England. We have the cultured and idle rich, the brash and industrious nouveau riche and the struggling working classes. There is also commentary on city vs. rural living, relations between the genders and the superiority of anything British over anything continental never mind foreign. A novel about social commentary and where England was headed during that period of time. This is all very good but Mr. Forster forces it down our throats between absolutely brilliant and hilarious dialogue that if left alone would have stood on their own in a thought provoking and very pleasant way.
The characters are not well drawn out, the men are either blustering dominants, idle entitled layabouts or overromantic zealots. The women are mostly hysterical, overemotional, irrational and if sensible than dull either in appearance or imagination or intelligence. The plot is convenient.
This novel does shine though in its dialogue and some of the description of both cityscape and rural living as well as the quirky descriptions of some of the more minor characters.
An enjoyable read that to me is more a bagatelle than a substantial sonata.
"A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow. Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differenceseternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey."
Howards End is the second book in my endeavor to reread all of E.M. Forster’s major novels. Having read five of these in my late teens, I decided that it would be fun to approach them with more years, wisdom, and appreciation for literature on my side. Well, I don’t necessarily claim much more in the way of wisdom (in fact, I sure felt a lot ‘smarter’ back in the day), so perhaps experience would be a better word! In any case, my first book on the list – A Room with a View – proved to be a marvelous success. I had high hopes for Howards End. The result? Well, I will say that I am still a great admirer of Forster’s vision and brilliance. I adored this more in theory than in the execution, perhaps. If I could boil down this piece to those passages I highlighted – and there were loads of them – then this would have been five stars without a doubt. If I could have removed some of the superfluous philosophizing that sometimes left me literally closing my eyes from time to time, then this would be sitting on my favorites shelf. I wanted to love this! Instead, I appreciated it and ultimately liked it.
There is so much one could say about the themes in this book. There is of course the overlying theme ‘to connect’. This word ‘connect’ appears repeatedly throughout. Forster introduces us to the Schlegels, a very comfortable, perhaps middleclass family. They appreciate art, literature, and discussionmuch like us dear Goodreaders. One can’t help but become attached to them – in particular the two sisters, Margaret and Helen. Oh, how I would love to sit down with them and have an intelligent conversation about books, music, and women's rights. Their lives become decisively intertwined with the Wilcox family, representing the wealthy, conservative and less imaginative set. "… they avoided the personal note in life. All Wilcoxes did. It did not seem to them of supreme importance." The Schlegel’s desire to connect with one and all further entangles them with the impoverished Basts, in particular, Leonard Bast, an intelligent young man who aspires to more than what his lower class would readily allow. "He felt that he was being done good to, and that if he kept on with Ruskin, and the Queen's Hall Concerts, and some pictures by Watts, he would one day push his head out of the grey waters and see the universe." The three families clearly illustrate the distinct differences in the social classes existing within preWorld War I England. Is it possible to cross these social boundaries? The Schlegels would like to think so and in fact strive to do just that. Their efforts are always endearing, occasionally comical, and sometimes disastrous.
At the heart of this novel, too, is Howards End, the house, one of the Wilcox’s family homes. Howards End is where Ruth Wilcox was born. To her, the house has a spirit. Her husband and children do not feel the same affinity to the house as she. But Margaret Schlegel, with whom she strikes up a friendship, understands places and homes. Howards End takes on a life of its own until it becomes akin to a vital character in the novel. "She paced back into the hall, and as she did so the house reverberated… But it was the heart of the house beating, faintly at first, then loudly, martially. It dominated the rain." The rural setting of Howards End is further contrasted with the chaos of London. It seems to be the heart of the country for those like the Schlegels. "She recaptured the sense of space, which is the basis of all earthly beauty, and, starting from Howards End, she attempted to realize England."
Eventually, goodintentioned meddling has serious consequences, unlikely romances form, and a rift develops and deepens both within and across families. Is it possible to mend such a fracture or will it always be necessary to separate one class from another? Aside from the relevant commentary regarding social and economic classes, this novel also examines the differences between genders. Forster is clearly an early champion for feminism; and I applaud him once again for his progressive views regarding women’s rights. I admire the way he paints his female characters and they are turning out to be among my favorites in the literary world.
So you see, there is much I truly liked about Howards End. The themes, the dialogue, and many of the characters – those elements shine. Subtract the labored philosophizing as well as the frequent trespass of the author into the story and this would be all I had imagined it to be. The other day I had the opportunity to watch the superb 1992 Merchant Ivory film adaptation, which I highly recommend. It truly sparkles and brings this to a whole new level. I daresay I prefer the movie over the book – you really must watch it if you haven’t done so already. It remains true to the heart of the story, those parts I loved best.
3.5 stars rounded up to 4
"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." Howards End Srie TVAlloCin Publie LeoctobreLa Srie BBC Howards Endtraduit Parfaitement L Esprit Et La Lettre Du Superbe Roman D EM Forster Un Prtexte Pour Le Relire , Devenu Aujourd Hui Un Classique Howards End WikipdiaHowards End E M Forster Babelio Observateur Subtil De La Socit Britannique, E M Forster N A Peut Tre Jamais Mieux Dcrit Les Antagonismes Et Les Entrelacs D Intrts Entre Aristocratie Et Bourgeoisie Que Dans Howards End Dans Cette Histoire D Hritage Et De Remariage S Affrontent Deux Familles, Les Schlegel Et Les Wilcox, Et Travers Eux Deux Visions Du Monde Retour Howards End FilmAlloCin Retour Howards End Est La Troisime Adaptation Par James Ivory D Un Roman De EM Forster, Aprs Chambre Avec Vue Et Maurice La Conscration D Une Actrice Emma Thompson A HOWARDS END Festival De Cannes HOWARDS END Festival De Cannes L Un Des Chefs D Uvre Incontests De Merchant Ivory, Cette Adaptation Du Classique De EM Forster Traite Des Rapports De Classe Et De L Volution Des Temps En Angleterre Douardienne Howards End TV Mini Series IMDb With Matthew Macfadyen, Hayley Atwell, Philippa Coulthard, Alex Lawther The Social And Class Divisions In Early Th Century England Through The Intersection Of Three Families The Wealthy Wilcoxes, The Gentle And Idealistic Schlegels And The Lower Middle Class Basts Howards EndIMDb When Charlie And Dolly Wilcox Are Hiding From Margaret Schlegel In The Castle, The Scene Closes With Low Angle Wide Shot Of The Castle With A View Of The Sky Behind It, Revealing An Aircraft Contrail There Were No Aircraft Capable Of Leaving High Altitude Contrails In The Time Period This Movie Is Set In Howards End Masterpiece Official Site PBS Often Considered EM Forster S Masterpiece, Howards End Is The Story Of Two Independent And Unconventional Sisters And The Men In Their Lives Seeking Love And Meaning As They Navigate An Retour Howards End WikipdiaHowards End Wikipedia Retour Howards End I've read three of Forster's most well known novels, and yet, I don't feel I know them at all. Even this one, as I read it, was fading from memory. I don't mean to say that his work is forgettable, but with every Forster book I've readamazing human portraits and elegant, occasionally profound turns of phrasesomehow they all flitter on out of my head. It's as if they were witty clouds: intelligent and incorporeal. Heck, I've even seen movie versions for a couple of them and I still don't recall what the stories are about.
Why is that? If I could pinpoint it, well, then I wouldn't have started this review with that first paragraph. Perhaps it is because of Forster's penchant for pleasant diversions. He expounds upon ideas as the action unfolds, and that's wonderful! He gives the reader some very nice theories on human behavior to ponder upon. My problem is that I ponder too frickin' much! A writer like Forster is a danger to me. My imagination likes to fly and it's not very well tethered, so when I read books like Howards End with lines like "And of all means to regeneration remorse is surely the most wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissues with the poisoned. It is a knife that probes far deeper than the evil."...oh boy, off goes my mind in another direction and the next thing I know I've spent 20 minutes on a single page. Ah, but they are wondrous pages to linger upon. Perhaps it is worth the time. This novel from 1910 has a lovely Shakespearean flavor of good intentions leading to unintended consequences. Urgent letters between sisters kicks off its engaging plot about the collision between two very different families. The younger sister Helen Schlegel, visiting the rural “Howard’s End” estate of the conservative, wealthy Wilcox family, writes to Margaret that she is love with and wants to marry one of their sons Paul (which grew out of a single impulsive kiss). Margaret urges her aunt to travel there to make sure the Wilcoxes are “their kind of people.” By the time she arrives, Helen has already fallen out with Paul, who is headed for Nigeria to manage the family’s rubber plantation. Later, when the Wilcoxes move near the Schlegels in London, and Margaret tries to make amends by reaching out to the mother Ruth Wilcox. I loved experiencing how their brief friendship blossomed over discussions of the meaning of a home and the value she places in the family homestead of Howard’s End, which her husband Henry considers only in light of its real estate value. Early in the plot, Ruth dies and the discovery by Henry of a handwritten bequeathment of the estate to Margaret leads to the Wilcox family deciding to ignore the request.
Already we see how Helen’s impulse toward romance with Paul has the unintended consequence of a special friendship of Margaret with Ruth and a hidden act of generosity. It has also brought Margaret into more contact with the widower Henry and a surprising romance between opposites: she an early feminist who admires literature and arts and supports programs for the poor, and he a pragmatic industrialist who is a true believer in the genetic superiority of his class. The other unintended consequence comes when Helen mistakenly takes the umbrella of Leonard Bast after a theater performance. When he drops by to retrieve it, the sisters kindly draw him out and find they admire his ambitions to imbibe literature and work his way up in class from his lowly position as a bank clerk. His dreamy account of tuning into nature by tramps in the woods a la Ruskin makes them admire him more than bumbling life probably deserves. Margaret presses Henry for advice to help him better his circumstances, which turns out to be disastrous for Leonard and his wife when they follow through with his recommendation. This fate turns Helen even more against the Wilcoxes and makes for a serious wedge in her relationship with Margaret. There is tragedy in the tale, but all key characters make a satisfactory transformation toward becoming better, more empathetic human beings despite the boundaries of class.
I liked this even better than “Passage to India”. I absolutely loved Margaret’s outlook and continual efforts to build bridges. Her charm for me equals that of Woolf’s indomitable Mrs. Dalloway. Immediately after the delightful read (by LibriVox audiobook), I had the great pleasure of experiencing Emma Thompson nail the role in the sumptious Merchant Ivory production. Helena Bonham Carter rendered a great adaptation for the flighty, idealistic Helen.
The beginning started off slow but not boring. It was just trying to get into the plot but once it got into it was nice and flowing. Forster for being hardly into his 30s writing this amazing eye opening story is just incredible. His major understandings of society at that age are things people barely start to grasp in their 50s....
Howards End is the beginning of the story and the end to it. The house is more like a metaphor of all rich and poor dying but structures will always be standing and mean more than any man alive. Forster incorporates class warfare through the Wilcox's, the Schlegel sisters, and the Basts. Helen upon meeting and introducing the Wilcox's to her family, sets off a chain of events that cannot be helped. Margaret is the most significant character in the story because she has the most obvious change in personality from beginning, middle, and end.
This is a clever drama that one cannot forget ever reading. It will make you mad and thoughtful and laugh and then think again about your own society. Just because he saw an English societal conflict in the 1910s doesn't mean it can't pertain to today to any other country. Forster tackles the errors and selfishness and hopeful love of humans. This story can be read over and over and will always feel relevant.
I am sorry if I am botching it but it is hard to explain. It's a book that makes you feel.