with light. We have at once to believe 
in the complete reality of the suburb 
and in the complete reality of the soul. 
In this combination of realism and mys-
ticism his closest affinity is, perhaps, 
with Ibsen. Ibsen has the same realistic 
power. A room is to him a room, a 
writing table a writing table, and a 
waste-paper basket a waste-paper bas-
ket. At the same time, the parapher-
nalia of reality have at certain moments 
to become the veil through which we see 
infinity. When Ibsen achieves this, as 
he certainly does, it is not by performi-
ng some miraculous conjuring trick at 
the critical moment. He achieves it by 
putting us into the right mood from the 
very start and by giving us the right 
materials for his purpose. He gives us 
the effect of ordinary life, as Mr. 
Forster does, but he gives it us by 
choosing a very few facts and those 
of a highly relevant kind. Thus when 
the moment of illumination comes we 
accept it implicitly. We are neither 
roused nor puzzled; we do not have to 
ask ourselves, What does this mean? 
We feel simply that the thing we are 
looking at is lit up, and its depths re-
vealed. It has not ceased to be itself by 
becoming something else.

Something of the same problem lies 
before Mr. Forster—how to connect 
the actual thing with the meaning of 
the thing and to carry the reader's 
mind across the chasm which divides 
the two without spilling a single drop 
of its belief. At certain moments on 
the Arno, in Hertfordshire, in Surrey, 
beauty leaps from the scabbard, the 
fire of truth flames through the crusted 
earth; we must see the red brick villa 
in the suburbs of London lit up. But 
it is in these great scenes which are the 
justification of the huge elaboration of 
the realistic novel that we are most 
aware of failure. For it is here that Mr. 
Forster makes the change from realism 
to symbolism; here that the object 

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which has been so uncompromisingly 
solid becomes, or should become, lumi-
nously transparent. He fails, one is 
tempted to think, chiefly because that 
admirable gift of his for observation has 
served him too well. He has recorded 
too much and too literally. He has 
given us an almost photographic pic-
ture on one side of the page; on the 
other he asks us to see the same
view transformed and radiant with 
eternal fires. The bookcase which falls 
upon Leonard Bast in Howards End
should perhaps come down upon him 
with all the dead weight of smoke-dried
culture; the Marabar caves should 
appear to us not real caves but, it may 
be, the soul of India. Miss Quested 
should be transformed from an English 
girl on a picnic to arrogant Europe 
straying into the heart of the East and 
getting lost there. We qualify these 
statements, for indeed we are not quite 
sure whether we have guessed aright. 
Instead of getting that sense of instant 
certainty which we get in The Wild 
Duck or in The Master Builder, we are 
puzzled, worried. What does this 
mean? we ask ourselves. What ought 
we to understand by this? And the 
hesitation is fatal. For we doubt both 
things—the real and the symbolical: 
Mrs. Moore, the nice old lady, and 
Mrs. Moore, the sibyl. The conjunc-
tion of these two different realities 
seems to cast doubt upon them both. 
Hence it is that there is so often an 
ambiguity at the heart of Mr. Forster's 
novels. We feel that something has 
failed us at the critical moment; and
instead of seeing, as we do in The 
Master Builder, one single whole we see 
two separate parts.

The stories collected under the title 
of The Celestial Omnibus represent, it 
may be, an attempt on Mr. Forster's 
part to simplify the problem which so 
often troubles him of connecting the 
prose and poetry of life. Here he admits