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The Wisdom of E. M. Forster

Edward Morgan Forster (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), known as E. M. Forster, was an English novelist, short story writer and essayist. He wrote a series of ironic and well-plotted novels the themes of which were mainly to do with class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society, including A Room with a View and A Passage to India. His 1910 novel Howards End contained the epigraph ‘Only connect ... ‘ which became famous as a humanistic statement of his central theme. Forster was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature thirteen times. Here are some snippets of his wisdom:

'Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.'

'It isn't possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.'

'What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.’

'Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.'

'Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him.’

'How do I know what I think until I see what I say?'

'By the side of the everlasting Why there is a Yes--a transitory Yes if you like, but a Yes.’

'I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.'

'We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.'

'Life' wrote a friend of mine, 'is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along.'

'We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.'

'The main facts in human life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death.’

'If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.'

'Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate.’

'When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love; it is one of the moments for which the world was made.'

'Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them.’

'Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.'

'Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.'

'This desire to govern a woman -- it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together.... But I do love you surely in a better way then he does.' He thought. 'Yes -- really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms.'

'Adventures do occur, but not punctually.'

'Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes.'

'You confuse what's important with what's impressive.'

'Only connect!'

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