E. M. Forster and the Unpublished “Scrapbook”of Gay History: “Lest We Forget Him!”'

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English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920


The approach of the Second World War left E. M. Forster isolated and increasingly lonely. By the midthirties, painstakingly, he had established some equilibrium between his public and his private lives. Effectively abandoning his role as a writer of fiction, Forster turned to radio broadcasts and essay writing, publishing Abinger Harvest in 1936. A close-knit circle of younger homosexual friends, including the Listener literary editor J. R. Ackerley, the South African poet William Plomer, and the novelist Christopher Isherwood, buoyed his entrance into a modern gay world. Most importantly, through this circle he had found the man he loved for the rest of his life, the sturdy policeman Bob Buckingham, and—despite the fact of Bob being married and having a son—established an occasional domestic intimacy with him that Forster described rapturously as “a little like being married.” But by the end of the decade, Forster’s world, like so many others’, shattered and contracted. Isherwood fled with W. H. Auden to the United States, settling in Los Angeles, his “sexual homeland.” Turning sixty in 1939, Forster remained tethered to his mother Lily, who approached ninety, taking care of her in the rambling Victorian house they shared in the village of Abinger Hammer.


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