The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster


Seven letters written in June:—


Dear Rickie,

I would rather write, and you can guess what kind of letter this is when I say it is a fair copy: I have been making rough drafts all the morning. When I talk I get angry, and also at times try to be clever—two reasons why I fail to get attention paid to me. This is a letter of the prudent sort. If it makes you break off the engagement, its work is done. You are not a person who ought to marry at all. You are unfitted in body: that we once discussed. You are also unfitted in soul: you want and you need to like many people, and a man of that sort ought not to marry. "You never were attached to that great sect" who can like one person only, and if you try to enter it you will find destruction. I have read in books and I cannot afford to despise books, they are all that I have to go by—that men and women desire different things. Man wants to love mankind; woman wants to love one man. When she has him her work is over. She is the emissary of Nature, and Nature's bidding has been fulfilled. But man does not care a damn for Nature—or at least only a very little damn. He cares for a hundred things besides, and the more civilized he is the more he will care for these other hundred things, and demand not only—a wife and children, but also friends, and work, and spiritual freedom.

I believe you to be extraordinarily civilized.—Yours ever,


Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road, Sawston

Dear Ansell,

But I'm in love—a detail you've forgotten. I can't listen to English Essays. The wretched Agnes may be an "emissary of Nature," but I only grinned when I read it. I may be extraordinarily civilized, but I don't feel so; I'm in love, and I've found a woman to love me, and I mean to have the hundred other things as well. She wants me to have them—friends and work, and spiritual freedom, and everything. You and your books miss this, because your books are too sedate. Read poetry—not only Shelley. Understand Beatrice, and Clara Middleton, and Brunhilde in the first scene of Gotterdammerung. Understand Goethe when he says "the eternal feminine leads us on," and don't write another English Essay.—Yours ever affectionately,



Dear Rickie:

What am I to say? "Understand Xanthippe, and Mrs. Bennet, and Elsa in the question scene of Lohengrin"? "Understand Euripides when he says the eternal feminine leads us a pretty dance"? I shall say nothing of the sort. The allusions in this English Essay shall not be literary. My personal objections to Miss Pembroke are as follows:—(1) She is not serious. (2) She is not truthful.

Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road Sawston

My Dear Stewart,

You couldn't know. I didn't know for a moment. But this letter of yours is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me yet—more wonderful (I don't exaggerate) than the moment when Agnes promised to marry me. I always knew you liked me, but I never knew how much until this letter. Up to now I think we have been too much like the strong heroes in books who feel so much and say so little, and feel all the more for saying so little. Now that's over and we shall never be that kind of an ass again. We've hit—by accident—upon something permanent. You've written to me, "I hate the woman who will be your wife," and I write back, "Hate her. Can't I love you both?" She will never come between us, Stewart (She wouldn't wish to, but that's by the way), because our friendship has now passed beyond intervention. No third person could break it. We couldn't ourselves, I fancy. We may quarrel and argue till one of us dies, but the thing is registered. I only wish, dear man, you could be happier. For me, it's as if a light was suddenly held behind the world.


Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road, Sawston

Dear Mrs. Lewin,—

The time goes flying, but I am getting to learn my wonderful boy. We speak a great deal about his work. He has just finished a curious thing called "Nemi"—about a Roman ship that is actually sunk in some lake. I cannot think how he describes the things, when he has never seen them. If, as I hope, he goes to Italy next year, he should turn out something really good. Meanwhile we are hunting for a publisher. Herbert believes that a collection of short stories is hard to get published. It is, after all, better to write one long one.

But you must not think we only talk books. What we say on other topics cannot so easily be repeated! Oh, Mrs Lewin, he is a dear, and dearer than ever now that we have him at Sawston. Herbert, in a quiet way, has been making inquiries about those Cambridge friends of his. Nothing against them, but they seem to be terribly eccentric. None of them are good at games, and they spend all their spare time thinking and discussing. They discuss what one knows and what one never will know and what one had much better not know. Herbert says it is because they have not got enough to do.—Ever your grateful and affectionate friend,

Agnes Pembroke

Shelthorpe, 9 Sawston Park Road Sawston

Dear Mr. Silt,—

Thank you for the congratulations, which I have handed over to the delighted Rickie.

(The congratulations were really addressed to Agnes—a social blunder which Mr. Pembroke deftly corrects.)

I am sorry that the rumor reached you that I was not pleased. Anything pleases me that promises my sister's happiness, and I have known your cousin nearly as long as you have. It will be a very long engagement, for he must make his way first. The dear boy is not nearly as wealthy as he supposed; having no tastes, and hardly any expenses, he used to talk as if he were a millionaire. He must at least double his income before he can dream of more intimate ties. This has been a bitter pill, but I am glad to say that they have accepted it bravely.

Hoping that you and Mrs. Silt will profit by your week at Margate.-I remain, yours very sincerely,

Herbert Pembroke

Cadover, Wilts.

Dear Miss Pembroke,—Agnes—

I hear that you are going to marry my nephew. I have no idea what he is like, and wonder whether you would bring him that I may find out. Isn't September rather a nice month? You might have to go to Stone Henge, but with that exception would be left unmolested. I do hope you will manage the visit. We met once at Mrs. Lewin's, and I have a very clear recollection of you.—Believe me, yours sincerely,

Emily Failing

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