Forsterian sexuality

Christopher Lane*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex has prevented the latter. (Forster, diary entry, 31 December 1964, quoted LC, p. xiv) ‘What do you want for yourself?’ When D. H. Lawrence asked Forster this question, early in 1915, the writers had known each other barely a week.1 They had met and talked amiably just a few days earlier, at a dinner party hosted by Lady Ottoline Morrell. Books and letters soon crossed in the mail, followed by an invitation for Forster to stay with Lawrence at Greatham, Sussex. Both men had by this point won acclaim (Forster rather more than Lawrence) and each hoped to cement what he thought would be an important friendship. But the visit did not go well. On the second day, Lawrence launched into a tirade about Forster’s work, life, and philosophy that ended, hours later, with Forster asking plaintively, ‘How do you know I’m not dead?’2 Readers might prefer to draw a veil over this exchange, convinced that it points more to Lawrence’s aggression than to Forster’s reticence. But the exchange has different value, I believe, in showing how Forster sometimes tried to transpose desire into nonsexual forms, including literary depictions of marriage and what he called ‘democratic affection’.3 This chapter will examine the creative tensions informing this transposition and its implications for readers and critics, especially those wanting to assess sexuality’s influence on Forster’s life and work. For with startling perception, Lawrence broached a set of issues, sexual and creative, that Forster had huddled defensively and privately berated himself for, and throughout the 1910s could find no simple way to resolve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to E. M. Forster
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781139001359
ISBN (Print)9780521834759
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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