Read Along,  Show Notes

Episode 214: E. M. Forster’s “Howards End,” Ch. 26-34

Welcome back to The Literary Life Podcast and our series discussing Howards End by E. M. Forster. This week Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks cover chapters 26-34. Together they continue to talk about the ideas Forster is presenting in the book as seen in this section, including Howards End as a character, the echoes of Wind in the Willows (thanks to Jen Rogers!), Helen’s idealism, Margaret and Henry’s conflict, the idea of rootedness, and more.

On March 7, 2024 you can join Thomas and his brother James live for a webinar on King Alfred the Great. Register today at The webinar recording will also be available for lifetime access after that date.

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Commonplace Quotes:

Everything has been said already; but since nobody was listening, we shall have to begin all over again.

Toutes choses sont dites déjà; mais comme personne n’écoute, il faut toujours recommencer.

Andre Gide, from “Narcissus”

It is under these “present conditions” of materialism, urbanization, and cosmopolitanism that Howards End poses the question, “Who shall inherit England?” This question is given a lyrical resonance shortly after Margaret tells Helen of her intention to marry Henry. The two women, visiting Aunt Julie at Swanage, gaze across Poole Harbor and watch the tide return. “England was alive, throbbing through all her estuaries, crying for joy through the mouths of all her gulls, and the north wind, with contrary motion, blew stronger against her rising sea,” the narrator records, and then asks: “What did it mean? For what end are her fair complexities, her change of soil, her sinuous coast? Does she belong to those who have moulded her and made her feared by other lands, or to those who had added nothing to her power, but have somehow seen her, seen the whole island at once, lying as a jewel in a silver sea, sailing as a ship of souls, with all the brave world’s fleet accompanying her towards eternity?” These questions are at the heart of the book. More crudely stated, they ask whether England belongs to the imperialist or to the yeoman, to those who see life steadily or to those who see it whole, to the prosaic or to the poet. Put another way, they ask whether the inheritors of England are to be people of action or vision.

Claude J. Summer, from “E. M. Foster”

To E. M. Forster

By W. H. Auden

Here, though the bombs are real and dangerous,
And Italy and Kings are far away,
And we're afraid that you will speak to us, 
You promise still the inner life shall pay.

As we run down the slope of Hate with gladness
You trip us up like an unnoticed stone,
And just as we are closeted with Madness
You interrupt us like the telephone.

For we are Lucy, Turton, Phillip, we
Wish international evil, are excited
To join the jolly ranks of the benighted

Where Reason is denied and Love ignored:
But, as we swear our lie, Miss Avery
Comes out into the garden with the sword.

Book List:

Theodore Dreiser

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One Comment

  • Jennie Brandon

    Quick footnotes for this episode from a Cambridge girl, born and bred!
    You can’t apply to Cambridge and Oxford in the same year. I think that’s always been the case (I worked in admissions at Cambridge)
    A good Cambridge girl I was taught to call Oxford “the other place”. The rivalry is both tongue in cheek and deadly serious 😂
    A lay reader is a position in the church of England/Anglican
    church. They may also have them in the Methodist Church but it’s almost certainly Anglican
    The City (capital C) is the financial district, like Wall Street,where you now see all the skyscrapers. So working in the City means you work in finance. They even have their own tube stop called City.
    Middle class, even today, means something different there in the UK than it does in the States. It has little to do with income but probably means you’re a graduate and in the professions or at least in middle management. But it also means a certain attitude to culture and education which is why it’s hard to move between classes, even if you change your income. The class system is still alive and kicking here, whether we like it or not. People will read a lot into your accent and things like that as it often signifies as much about your class as your region. (I’m not defending this but it’s there). Working class usually means blue collar workers or can be office workers without degrees. That’s why Leonard Vass sticks out for reading. Upper class isn’t just aristocracy any more but almost always aristocracy adjacent.
    There, that feels better. Sorry!

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