I started writing this post last week, after I posted my review of Howards End – a book I just can’t shake from my thoughts. Even though I’ve read one-and-a-half absolutely brilliant books since…
I ran out of time last week, and that post was never completed. Until now.
As I said in my original review, the extraordinary thing about Howards End is that it offers the reader more than just a cracking, well-written story – it also offers you advice. Advice that could change your life. It’s hardly a unique sentiment. It’s been said before, and will be said again. But it’s never been expressed quite the way Forster says it: in two short succinct words:
“Mature as he [Mr. Wilcox] was, she [Margaret] might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the gray, sober against the fire.”
“Only connect! That was the whole of her [Margaret’s] sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”
- E. M. Forster, Howards End, pages 158 and 159
There it is. Forster’s advice in two words – only connect.
(Forster even uses these words as the epigraph of his book, as you can see in the image above. Most authors use a relevant quote from another author as their epigraph, but nooooo, not E. M. Forster. He quotes himself - and in the book the reader is about to read. How ballsy is that?)
To condense an entire book down to a couple of paragraphs from Chapter Twenty Two isn’t exactly fair. There’s much more to Howards End than these few words, however insightful they may be. If you haven’t already, pick up Howards End and find out what I’m on about.
Okay. I’ll stop ranting incoherently about Howards End now. Promise.