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Title page of first (1910) UK edition
|Author||E. M. Forster|
|Publisher||Edward Arnold (London)|
|18 Oct 1910|
|Media type||Print Hardback|
Howards End is considered by some to be Forster's masterpiece. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Howards End 38th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
The story revolves around three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century: the Wilcoxes, rich capitalists with a fortune made in the Colonies; the half-German Schlegel siblings (Margaret, Tibby, and Helen), whose cultural pursuits have much in common with the real-life Bloomsbury Group; and the Basts, an impoverished young couple from a lower-class background. The idealistic, intelligent Schlegel sisters seek both to help the struggling Basts and to rid the Wilcoxes of some of their deep-seated social and economic prejudices.
The Schlegels had briefly met and befriended the Wilcoxes when both families were touring Germany. Helen, the younger Schlegel daughter, then visits the Wilcoxes at their country house, Howards End. There, she is romantically attracted to the younger Wilcox son, Paul; they get engaged in haste but soon regret their decision. The engagement is consequently broken off by mutual consent, despite a somewhat awkward intervention by Helen's Aunt Juley.
Later that year, the Wilcoxes move to London, taking an apartment very near the Schlegels' home. Margaret Schlegel befriends the Wilcox matriarch, Ruth. Howards End is Ruth's most prized personal possession; she feels a strong connection to its values and history. However, her husband and children do not share her feeling for the old house. Perceiving that Margaret is a kindred spirit, Ruth invites her to visit Howards End, but due to various circumstances, the visit does not happen. Margaret is unaware both that Ruth is gravely ill and that Ruth regards her as an ideal owner of Howards End after she passes away. On her deathbed, Ruth writes a note bequeathing Howards End to Margaret. When the widowed Henry Wilcox reads this note, it causes him great consternation and anxiety. Henry and his children burn the note without telling Margaret anything about her inheritance.
A few years later, Henry Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel renew their acquaintance. Their friendship blossoms into romance and in due course, Henry proposes to Margaret and she accepts. It is apparent that their personalities could not be more different. The courageous, idealistic, compassionate, high-minded and romantically inclined Margaret tries to get the rigid, unsentimental, staunchly rational Henry to open up more, to little effect. Henry's children do not look upon her engagement to their father with a friendly eye. Evie, the daughter, soon to be married herself, is largely concerned with her own affairs, whereas Paul, the younger son, now lives and works in Nigeria. The main opposition comes from the elder son, Charles, and his wife Dolly, who are civil enough to conceal their hostility to Margaret, yet really see her as an intruder, posing a threat to their own ambitions. Most of all, they fear any claim she could one day have to Howards End.
Meanwhile, the sisters encourage Leonard Bast, an acquaintance of theirs, to quit his job as a clerk and seek employment elsewhere, having learned from Henry that the insurance company Leonard works for is likely to go bankrupt. A few weeks later, Henry reverses his opinion, but it's too late. Leonard has already resigned his modest yet safe position, thereby losing whatever precarious hold he had on financial security, and his subsequent job-seeking efforts have come to naught.
An additional complication is that Leonard is married to Jacky, a troubled, vulnerable "fallen" woman for whom he feels responsible. Helen continues to try to help him, ostensibly out of guilt for having interfered with his life in the first place, but also perhaps because she is secretly attracted to him. Soon, however, it all goes terribly wrong. Helen encounters the starving Basts and, appalled by the state they are in, brings them to Evie Wilcox's garden wedding, whereupon Henry recognizes Jacky as his former mistress. He flees from the scene, breaking off his engagement to Margaret. His first thought is that the Schlegels and Basts have concocted a dark plot to entrap and expose him; but he later calms down and tells Margaret the truth. Ten years previously, when he was on business in Cyprus, he seduced Jacky and then carelessly abandoned her as soon as it suited him to do so, leaving her on foreign soil with no money and no way to return home. Margaret, dreadfully disturbed by this, confronts Henry about his ill-treatment of Jacky. Henry is embarrassed and ashamed but unrepentant. Such are the ways of the world, to his mind. Margaret is still very much in love and, wishing to save the relationship, forgives him. Henry and Margaret realize they must put the past behind them in order to make peace with each other and plan their own future together.
The Schlegel sisters drift apart, partly because of Margaret's impending marriage into the Wilcox family, partly because of Helen's profound disapproval of Henry's treatment of the Basts. Much distressed by what she has heard from Leonard about the circumstances of Henry's acquaintance with Jacky in Cyprus, she is overwhelmed by love and pity for him; indeed she sees Leonard as a strikingly altruistic and romantic figure whose struggle throughout life bears the mark of heroism. Helen and Leonard are thrown together in an atmosphere of great anguish and succumb to their feelings of mutual passion. Finding herself pregnant, Helen leaves England, travelling to Germany in order to hide her condition, but later returns to England upon receiving news that Aunt Juley is ill. She refuses to meet her sister face-to-face but is tricked by Margaret, who, following Henry's suggestion, had traveled to Howards End, where Helen's belongings are kept. Having correctly guessed that Helen would wish to retrieve them, she surprises her sister by appearing on the scene unannounced. Henry and Margaret had planned an intervention with a doctor, presuming Helen's evasive behavior was a sign of emotional instability or even mental illness. However, as soon as they encounter Helen at Howards End, they see her true condition for themselves.
Margaret decides it is her duty to stand by her sister and help her. She tries in vain to convince Henry that if she can forgive his own transgression, he should by the same token forgive Helen hers. Henry, strongly indignant, remains unconvinced. At this point, Leonard arrives at Howards End, still tormented by the affair and wishing to speak to Margaret. He is not aware of Helen's presence there, having lost contact with her ever since refusing her offer to assist him financially. Charles Wilcox then bursts upon the scene and, in an effort to ingratiate himself with his father, attacks Leonard for purportedly "insulting" Helen. He strikes Leonard with the flat edge of a heavy old German sword which had belonged to Margaret's father. Leonard grabs onto a nearby bookcase, which collapses in a heap on top of him. Tragically, his weak heart fails and he dies on the spot. Margaret assumes responsibility for this turn of events and sides with Helen and the dead Leonard, informing Henry of her intention to leave him.
Charles Wilcox is found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. The scandal and its repercussions have a profound effect on Henry, causing him to take a good look at his life and examine his conscience. He learns the value of empathy and begins to connect with others. Writing a new will, he bequeaths Howards End to Margaret, as his deceased first wife Ruth had wished. He further stipulates that after Margaret's own death the property will go to her nephew, the son of Helen and Leonard. Helen is warmly reconciled with Margaret and Henry. Fully supported by them, she decides to bring up her son at Howards End. The scene of the tragedy is therefore revealed as a place of poetic justice and ultimate redemption. Margaret has resolved the conflict by making a complex, thoughtful, remarkably noble moral choice to stand by her sister, while at the same time reversing her decision to leave her husband. Indeed, by staying married to Henry, lovingly supporting him through his own hour of need, she acts as a uniting force, bringing all the elements peacefully together. The future is ostensibly happy, as the open-minded, forward-looking idealism of the Schlegels is balanced and integrated with the healthy drive and essential pragmatism of the Wilcoxes, each side learning tremendous lessons from the other through a vital process of discord brought into harmony. Leonard Bast, representative of the lower middle class, is problematically written out. However, his son with Helen is set to inherit Howards End from the Wilcox family, thereby making some amends for the tragedy.
Howards End was conceived in June 1908 and worked on throughout the following year. It was completed in July 1910.
Film, TV, Radio and theatrical adaptations
In 2009, a two-part adaptation by Amanda Dalton was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, with John Hurt as the Narrator, Lisa Dillon as Margaret Schlegel, Jill Cardo as Helen Schlegel, Tom Ferguson as Tibby Schlegel, Alexandra Mathie as Aunt Juley, Malcolm Raeburn as Henry Wilcox, Ann Rye as Ruth Wilcox and Joseph Kloska as Charles Wilcox.
Forster based his description of Howards End on a house at Rooks Nest in Hertfordshire, his childhood home from 1883 to 1893. The house, known in Forster's childhood as "Rooksnest", had, as in the novel, previously been owned by a family named Howard, and the house itself had been called "Howards" in their day. According to his description in an appendix to the novel, Rooks Nest was a hamlet with a farm on the Weston Road just outside Stevenage. The house is marked on modern Ordnance Survey maps at grid reference . Since Forster's childhood, Stevenage has expanded beyond the house, now encompassing it.
Wickham Place, the London home of the Schlegel sisters, was demolished to make way for a block of flats; it did not have a direct real-world counterpart. However, Forster's conception of it owed a great deal to 1, All Souls Place, where the sisters of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson lived.
- Trilling, Lionel (1965). E.M.Forster. New York, NY: New Directions. p. 114. ISBN 0811202100.
- Moffat, Wendy E. M. Forster: A New Life, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010
- Walters (Editor), Tracey L (2008). Zadie Smith: Critical Essays. Switzerland: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. p. 23. ISBN 0820488062.
- "Claudia Stevens Papers, 1967- ongoing". scdb.swem.wm.edu.
- Andreeva, Nellie. "Starz Boards ‘Howards End’ BBC Limited Series; Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen & Tracey Ullman To Star". Deadline. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- Editor's Introduction, in Howards End, Penguin Books. This information was passed to Forster many years after the publication of the novel by a family friend, the composer Elizabeth Poston, who by that point lived at the house; this came as a surprise to Forster, who concluded that, having known and then forgotten these facts as a child, he had unwittingly used them when writing the novel
- "Appendix: Rooknest" in Howards End, Penguin Books.
-  "The two Miss Schlegels are a sort of blending of the three Miss Lowes Dickinson (G. L. D.'s sisters) whom I saw in passing when we were all young. Wickham Place is their house, 1 All Souls' Place, since destroyed, not far from Queens Hall."
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Howards End at Project Gutenberg
- Critical/Historical Edition of Howards End
- Study guide with plot summary, analysis and background
- Free online notes, analysis and study questions
- A hypertextual, self-referential, complete edition of Howard's End
- Howards End at the British Library
- Howards End public domain audiobook at LibriVox