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Published Friday, June 07, 2013 @ 5:31 AM EDT
Jun 07 2013

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Quotes of the day: E.M. Forster

Published Friday, June 07, 2013 @ 5:30 AM EDT
Jun 07 2013

Edward Morgan Forster (January 1, 1879 - June 7, 1970) was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect...". His 1908 novel, A Room with a View, is his most optimistic work, while A Passage to India (1924) brought him his greatest success. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)


A humanist has four leading characteristics- curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.

A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself.

Death destroys a man; the idea of Death saves him.

Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible.

Happiness in the ordinary sense is not what one needs in life, though one is right to aim at it. The true satisfaction is to come through and see those whom one loves come through.

Hardship is vanishing, but so is style, and the two are more closely connected than the present generation supposes.

How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?

I do not believe in Belief.

If God could tell the story of the Universe, the Universe would become fictitious.

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 is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.

Laughing at mankind is rather weary rot, I think. We shall never meet with anyone nicer. Nature, whom I used to be keen on, is too unfair. She evokes plenty of high and exhausting feelings, and offers nothing in return.

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

Love is a great force in private life; it is indeed the greatest of all things; but love in public affairs does not work.

Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talks that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence.

One can run away from women, turn them out, or give in to them. No fourth course.

One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life.

Pathos, piety, courage- they exist, but are identical, and so is filth. Everything exists, nothing has value.

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

The human mind is not a dignified organ, and I do not see how we can exercise it sincerely except through eclecticism.

The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.

The newspapers still talk about glory but the average man, thank God, has got rid of that illusion.

The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society was eternal.

There lies at the back of every creed something terrible and hard for which the worshipper may one day be required to suffer.

There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.

Think before you speak is criticism's motto; speak before you think is creation's.

To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.

Tolerance is just a makeshift, suitable for an overcrowded and overheated planet. It carries on when love gives out, and love generally gives out as soon as we move away from our home and our friends.

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world where ignorance rules, and Science, which ought to have ruled, plays the pimp.

Tolerance, good temper and sympathy- they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.

Two Cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give three.

We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.

What an ill constructed world this is! Love is always being given where it is not required.

Science, when applied to personal relationships, is always just wrong.

Self-pity? I see no moral objections to it, the smell drives people away, but that's a practical objection, and occasionally an advantage.


Author Dorothy Parker died on this date in 1967. Click here for our Dorothy Parker page.

Categories: E.M. Forster, Quotes of the day


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