The Edwardians - Livres du Mois
The theme for March's Livres du Mois is the Edwardians. I have compiled a small collection of books from the era, featuring many books by the most famous author of the Edwardian era, E. M. Forster.
E. M. Forster
"Howards End is a novel by E. M. Forster, first published in 1910, about social conventions, codes of conduct and relationships in turn-of-the-century England. Howards End is considered by many to be Forster's masterpiece
'Only connect.' is the idea at the heart of this book, a heartbreaking and provocative tale of three families at the beginning of the twentieth century: the rich Wilcoxes, the gentle, idealistic Schlegels and the struggling Basts. As the Schlegel sisters try desperately to help the Basts and educate the close-minded Wilcoxes, the families are drawn together in love, lies and death."
The Freaks of Mayfair
E. F. Benson
"In a series of hilariously dry fictional sketches, E F Benson introduces us to some of the more bizarre inhabitants of Mayfair's Edwardian high society - a world he knew intimately.
Each is a distinct representative of an anthropological 'type': Sir Louis and Lady Mary Marigold turn snobbery into an art form; 'Aunt' George is a bachelor with a passion for embroidery; Mrs Weston, a devotee of every new health-cult and spiritual fad; Horace Campbell, the jealous and poisonous society gossip. These and a number of other intriguing specimens, all greedily jockeying for social standing in this most exclusive of societies, are impaled, labelled and preserved for our entertainment on the razor-sharp scalpel of Benson's savage wit."
E. M. Forster
Maurice is a novel by E. M. Forster. A tale of homosexual love in early 20th-century England, it follows Maurice Hall from his schooldays through university and beyond. It was written in 1913–1914 but was not published until 1971.
This book is different from the rest in the list as it is the only one with a happy ending. Forster wrote: “A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn't have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense, Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”
Maurice was adapted into a film in 1987 directed by James Ivory, staring James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves. The film is loyal to the book but in the final edit, the most important scene was cut. Luckily it was put into the extended version, both versions are available to watch on YouTube. Maurice is one of my favourite books, and owning a copy with the front cover image of Teddy by Adolph de Meyer as pictured above, makes it all the more special.
"Sebastian is young, handsome and romantic, the heir to a vast and beautiful English country estate. He is a fixed feature in the eternal round of lavish parties, intrigues and traditions at the cold, decadent heart of Edwardian high society. Everyone knows the role he must play, but Sebastian isn't sure he wants the part. Position, privilege and wealth are his, if he can resist the lure of a brave new world."
A Room with a View
E. M. Forster
"Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance.
Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George. Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. The story is both a romance and a humorous critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century."
An Oxford Companion
"The Edwardian age was a great age for English fiction. Many classic novels, some of them subsequently adapted for film and television, were first published then - Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Lost World; E. M. Forster's A Room with a View and Howard's End; Conrad's Lord Jim and Nostromo; for children, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess and Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill, Kim, and Just So Stories; the first of Galsworthy's Forsyte novels, The Man of Property; Erskine Childers's great spy story The Riddle of the Sands; Arnold Bennett's Clayhanger; Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel; D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. But alongside such well-known and never out of print titles there was a wealth of other writing, much of it forgotten or half-forgotten, some of it unjustly neglected, and all of it important to the literary context in which the enduringly popular works were produced.
This Companion examines the broad sweep of fiction-writing in the first decade and a half of the century, from 1900 to the outbreak of the First World War - a period when novels in Britain were produced more cheaply, and read more widely, than ever before - providing over 800 author-entries as well as articles on individual books, literary periodicals, and general topics. With the excitement of the new century came fiction from new sources, which explored new subjects and was read by new audiences. From James's The Ambassadors to Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson, from J. H. Abbott to Israel Zangwill, from the Boer War to Suburban Life, Edwardian Fiction offers unique access to the books, writers, and preoccupations of a fascinating literary era.
I hope you have found something of interest amongst this collection of Edwardian books, but if not, there may be something more to your tastes in the Compendium's Library.