THERE are many reasons which should 
prevent one from criticizing the work
of contemporaries. Besides the obvi-
ous uneasiness—the fear of hurting 
feelings—there is too the difficulty 
of being just. Coming out one by one, 
their books seem like parts of a design 
which is slowly uncovered. Our appre-
ciation may be intense, but our cu-
riosity is even greater. Does the new 
fragment add anything to what went 
before? Does it carry out our theory of 
the author's talent, or must we alter our 
forecast? Such questions ruffle what 
should be the smooth surface of our 
criticism and make it full of argument 
and interrogation. With a novelist 
like Mr. Forster this is specially true, 
for he is in any case an author about 
whom there is considerable disagree-
ment. There is something baffling and 
evasive in the very nature of his gifts. 
So, remembering that we are at best 
only building up a theory which may 
be knocked down in a year or two by 
Mr. Forster himself, let us take Mr. 
Forster's novels in the order in which 
they were written, and tentatively and 
cautiously try to make them yield us 
an answer.

The order in which they were written 
is indeed of some importance, for at the 
outset we see that Mr. Forster is ex-
tremely susceptible to the influence of 
time. He sees his people much at the 
mercy of those conditions which change 
with the years. He is acutely conscious 
of the bicycle and of the motor car; of 

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the public school and of the university; 
of the suburb and of the city. The 
social historian will find his books full 
of illuminating information. In 1905
Lilia learned to bicycle, coasted down 
the High Street on Sunday evening, 
and fell off at the turn by the church. 
For this she was given a talking to by 
her brother-in-law which she remem-
bered to her dying day. It is on Tues-
day that the housemaid cleans out the 
drawing-room at Sawston. Old maids 
blow into their gloves when they take 
them off. Mr. Forster is a novelist,
that is to say, who sees his people in 
close contact with their surroundings. 
And therefore the color and constitu-
tion of the year 1905 affect him far 
more than any year in the calendar 
could affect the romantic Meredith or 
the poetic Hardy. But we discover as 
we turn the page that observation is 
not an end in itself; it is rather the 
goad, the gadfly driving Mr. Forster
to provide a refuge from this misery, 
an escape from this meanness. Hence 
we arrive at that balance of forces 
which plays so large a part in the 
structure of Mr. Forster's novels. 
Sawston implies Italy; timidity, wild-
ness; convention, freedom; unreality, 
reality. These are the villains and 
heroes of much of his writing. In 
Where Angels Fear to Tread the disease, 
convention, and the remedy, nature,
are provided if anything with too eager 
a simplicity, too simple an assurance, 
but with what a freshness, what a