Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1, 1879, in Coventry, England. His father died when he was only a year and a half old, leaving him in the care of his mother and a devoted circle of female relatives. He and his mother lived at Rooksnest, their beloved country house near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. After a rather unhappy adolescence as a student at Tonbridge School, Forster enrolled at Cambridge University, where he flourished.
At Cambridge the emphasis was on liberal arts and individual expression; Forster found freedom to pursue both intellectual development and personal relationships. It was here that he began developing many of the humanistic ideas and values that would come to dominate his literary works. He became a member of the Cambridge Apostles, an intellectual discussion group. Many Apostles were later active in the Bloomsbury Group, which began informal salons in London about 1905. Several in the Bloomsbury circle later became famous: Lytton Strachey as a critic, biographer, and historian; Leonard Woolf as political activist and theorist and man of letters; John Maynard Keynes as a political and economic theorist; Roger Fry and Clive Bell as art critics; Grant and Vanessa Bell as painters; and Virginia Woolf and Forster as novelists. Members of the Bloomsbury Group were deeply influenced by Cambridge philosophers, especially G. E. Moore, who believed in the value of social interaction and cultural stimuli, and possessed a passion for the truth and a skepticism toward moral tradition.
After Forster graduated from Cambridge in 1901, he traveled abroad for a year. Between 1902 and 1910, he wrote four novels: Where Angels Fear To Tread (1905), A Room with a View (1908), The Longest Journey (1907), and Howards End (1910). With the publication of Howards End, Forster achieved status as a major writer, receiving high critical praise. Forster’s novels were recognized for their precise character portrayal, their concern with the complexities of human nature, and their detailed, comical descriptions of Edwardian society. His next novel, A Passage to India, did not appear until 1924, and was the last novel published during his lifetime. A posthumously published novel, Maurice, tells the story of a young man’s growing awareness of his homosexuality and is based on Forster’s own experiences. The publication of A Passage to India firmly established Forster’s reputation as a master novelist. Drawn from Forster’s experiences in India during visits there in 1912 and 1921, A Passage to India portrays the social and political realities of colonial India.
For the rest of his career, Forster focused on writing short stories, essays, biographies, and travel books. He also became quite politically active, and wrote essays in which he spoke out against many of the political and social ills of his time. In the mid-1940s he was offered a resident fellowship at Cambridge University, which he enthusiastically accepted. He became one of the most celebrated figures at the university, and remained active in university life and continued to write and publish well into the early 1960s. He died on June 7, 1970, in Coventry at the home of friends. His legacy of classic novels, while not written specifically for young adult readers, are read and studied by students of all ages.