P. N. Furbank

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Philip Nicholas Furbank FRSL (/ˈfɜːrˌbæŋk/; 23 May 1920 – 27 June 2014) was an English biographer, critic and academic. His most significant biography was the well-received life of his friend E. M. Forster.[1]


After Reigate Grammar School, Furbank entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After graduating with a First in English, he served in the army. He became a corporal in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and was in Italy in 1945. He returned to Emmanuel as a teaching Fellow in 1947.[1] While in Cambridge Furbank became a close friend of the novelist E. M. Forster,[2] and also of the mathematician Alan Turing,[3] whose literary executor he would become.

Furbank moved to London in 1953 and worked as an editor and librarian. He contributed reviews to The Listener. In 1972 he became a professor of the Open University

In 1960 in London he married the poet and critic Patricia Beer. The marriage was dissolved by 1964 when she remarried.


Furbank's best known work was his sympathetic and widely acclaimed biography E. M. Forster: A Life.[1] Forster had recognised that a biography was inevitable and had originally asked the novelist William Plomer to write one. Plomer found it impossible to describe Forster's sexuality and Furbank was asked instead.[1] Forster's old college, King's College, made Furbank a fellow for the two years before Forster's death in 1970 to support the writing and the biography was published in two parts in 1977 and 1978.[1]

Furbank won a Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism for his Diderot: A Critical Biography (1992). He also edited the works of Daniel Defoe and made major contributions to the question of attributions to Defoe in A Critical Bibliography of Daniel Defoe, The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe, and A Political Biography of Daniel Defoe all co-written with W. R. Owens. Furbank also helped oversee the publication of Alan Turing's collected works.

Furbank's other books include ones on the poet Mallarmé and the painter Poussin, Italo Svevo: The Man and the Writer (1966)[4] and Behalf (1999) on political thought.[5]



  1. ^ a b c d e Hawtree, Christopher (9 July 2014). "PN Furbank obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  2. ^ Joseph, Epstein (10 October 1971). "Maurice; By E. M. Forster. 256 pp. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. $6.95. Maurice". New York Times. p. BR1. Retrieved 20 May 2011. PN Furbank, who is preparing his biography, tells us that Forster felt large ....
  3. ^ Andrew., Hodges (1992). Alan Turing : the enigma (Vintage ed.). London: Vintage Books. ISBN 0099116413. OCLC 27386110.
  4. ^ Sections of Italo Stevo on books.google.com Retrieved 6 January 2011
  5. ^ Sections of Behalf on books.google.com Retrieved 6 January 2011

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