lyric poetry. Again and again in The 
Longest Journey we are delighted by 
some exquisite description of the coun-
try; or some lovely sight—like that 
when Rickie and Stephen send the 
paper boats burning through the arch
—is made visible to us forever. Here, 
then, is a difficult family of gifts to 
persuade to live in harmony together: 
satire and sympathy; fantasy and fact; 
poetry and a prim moral sense. No 
wonder that we are often aware of 
contrary currents that run counter to 
each other and prevent the book from 
bearing down upon us and overwhelm-
ing us with the authority of a master-
piece. Yet if there is one gift more 
essential to a novelist than another it 
is the power of combination—the 
single vision. The success of the mas-
terpieces seems to lie not so much in 
their freedom from faults—indeed we 
tolerate the grossest errors in them 
all—but in the immense persuasive-
ness of a mind which has completely 
mastered its perspective.


We look then, as time goes on, for 
signs that Mr. Forster is committing 
himself; that he is allying himself 
to one of the two great camps to 
which most novelists belong. Speaking 
roughly, we may divide them into the 
preachers and the teachers, headed by 
Tolstoy and Dickens, on the one hand, 
and the pure artists, headed by Jane 
Austen and Turgenev, on the other. 
Mr. Forster, it seems, has a strong 
impulse to belong to both camps at 
once. He has many of the instincts and 
aptitudes of the pure artist (to adopt 
the old classification)—an exquisite 
prose style, an acute sense of comedy, 
a power of creating characters in a few 
strokes which live in an atmosphere of 
their own; but he is at the same time 
highly conscious of a message. Behind 

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the rainbow of wit and sensibility there 
is a vision which he is determined that
we shall see. But his vision is of a 
peculiar kind and his message of an 
elusive nature. He has no great inter-
est in institutions. He has none of that 
wide social curiosity which marks the 
work of Mr. Wells. The divorce law 
and the poor law come in for little of 
his attention. His concern is with the 
private life; his message is addressed to
the soul. 'It is the private life that 
holds out the mirror to infinity; per-
sonal intercourse, and that alone, that 
ever hints at a personality beyond our 
daily vision.' Our business is not to 
build in brick and mortar, but to draw 
together the seen and the unseen. We 
must learn to build the 'rainbow bridge 
that should connect the prose in us with 
the passion. Without it we are mean-
ingless fragments, half monks, half 
beasts.' This belief that it is the 
private life that matters, that it is the 
soul that is eternal, runs through all 
his writing. It is the conflict between 
Sawston and Italy in Where Angels 
Fear to Tread; between Rickie and 
Agnes in The Longest Journey; between 
Lucy and Cecil in A Room with a 
View. It deepens, it becomes more in-
sistent as time passes. It forces him 
on from the lighter and more whim-
sical short novels past that curious 
interlude, The Celestial Omnibus, to the 
two large books, Howards End and 
A Passage to India, which mark his 

But before we consider those two 
books let us look for a moment at the 
nature of the problem he sets himself. 
It is the soul that matters; and the soul, 
as we have seen, is caged in a solid villa 
of red brick somewhere in the suburbs 
of London. It seems, then, that if his 
books are to succeed in their mission his 
reality must at certain points become 
irradiated; his brick must be lit up; we 
must see the whole building saturated