Howards End is a novel by E. M. Forster, first published in 1910,
about social conventions, codes of conduct and relationships in
Howards End is considered by some to be
Forster's masterpiece. In 1998, the
Modern Library ranked Howards
End 38th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the
1 Plot summary
4 In other media
7 External links
The story revolves around three families in England at the beginning
of the 20th century: the Wilcoxes, rich capitalists with a fortune
made in the colonies; the half-German Schlegel siblings (Margaret,
Helen, and Tibby), whose cultural pursuits have much in common with
the Bloomsbury Group; and the Basts, an impoverished young couple from
a lower-class background. The idealistic, intelligent Schlegel sisters
seek to help the struggling Basts and to rid the Wilcoxes of some of
their deep-seated social and economic prejudices.
The Schlegels had briefly met and befriended the Wilcoxes, when both
families were touring Germany. Helen, the younger Schlegel daughter,
then visits the Wilcoxes at their country house, Howards End. There,
she is romantically attracted to the younger Wilcox son, Paul; they
become engaged in haste but soon regret their decision. The engagement
is broken off by mutual consent, despite a somewhat awkward
intervention by Helen's Aunt Juley.
Later that year, the Wilcoxes move to London, taking an apartment
close to the Schlegels' home. Margaret Schlegel befriends the Wilcox
Howards End is Ruth's most prized possession; she
feels a strong connection to its values and history. Her husband and
children do not share her feelings for the old house. Perceiving that
Margaret is a kindred spirit, Ruth invites her to visit Howards End
but circumstances prevent the visit from taking place. Margaret is
unaware that Ruth is gravely ill and that Ruth regards her as an ideal
Howards End after she dies. On her deathbed, Ruth writes a
Howards End to Margaret; when the widowed Henry
Wilcox reads this note, it causes him great consternation. Henry and
his children burn the note without telling Margaret about her
A few years later, Henry Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel renew their
acquaintance. Their friendship blossoms into romance and Henry
proposes to Margaret who accepts. It is apparent that their
personalities could not be more different. The courageous, idealistic,
compassionate, high-minded and romantically inclined Margaret tries to
get the rigid, unsentimental, staunchly rational Henry to open up
more, to little effect. Henry's children do not look upon her
engagement to their father with a friendly eye. Evie, the daughter,
soon to be married, is largely concerned with her own affairs; Paul,
the younger son, lives and works in Nigeria. The main opposition comes
from the elder son, Charles, and his wife Dolly, who are civil enough
to conceal their hostility to Margaret, yet really see her as an
intruder, posing a threat to their own ambitions. Most of all, they
fear any claim she could one day have to Howards End.
The sisters encourage Leonard Bast, an acquaintance, to quit his job
as a clerk and seek employment elsewhere, having learned from Henry
that the insurance company Leonard works for is likely to go bankrupt.
A few weeks later, Henry reverses his opinion, but it is too late.
Leonard has already resigned his modest yet safe position, thereby
losing whatever precarious hold he had on financial security, and his
job-seeking efforts come to naught.
An additional complication is that Leonard is living with but not
married to Jacky, a troubled, vulnerable "fallen" woman for whom he
feels responsible. Helen continues to try to help him, ostensibly out
of guilt for having interfered with his life in the first place but
also perhaps because she is secretly attracted to him. Soon it all
goes terribly wrong: Helen encounters the starving Basts and, appalled
by the state they are in, brings them to Evie Wilcox's wedding
celebration, whereupon Henry recognises Jacky as his former mistress.
He flees from the scene, breaking off his engagement to Margaret. His
first thought is that the Schlegels and Basts have concocted a dark
plot to entrap and expose him but he later calms down and tells
Margaret the truth. Ten years previously, when he was on business in
Cyprus, despite being married, he seduced Jacky and then carelessly
abandoned her, leaving her on foreign soil with no money and no way to
return home. Margaret, dreadfully disturbed by this, confronts Henry
about his ill-treatment of Jacky. Henry is embarrassed and ashamed,
but unrepentant. Such are the ways of the world, to his mind.
Margaret, for various reasons, wishes to save the relationship and
forgives him. Henry and Margaret realise that they must put the past
behind them to make peace with each other and plan their future.
The Schlegel sisters drift apart, partly because of Margaret's
impending marriage into the Wilcox family, partly because of Helen's
profound disapproval of Henry's treatment of the Basts. Much
distressed by what she has heard from Leonard about the circumstances
of Henry's acquaintance with Jacky in Cyprus, she is overwhelmed by
love and pity for him; she sees Leonard as a strikingly altruistic and
romantic figure, whose struggle throughout life bears the mark of
heroism. Helen and Leonard are thrown together in an atmosphere of
great anguish and succumb to their feelings of mutual passion. Finding
herself pregnant, Helen leaves England, travelling to
Germany to hide
her condition, but she later returns to England upon receiving news
that Aunt Juley is ill. She refuses to meet her sister face-to-face
but is tricked by Margaret, who, following Henry's suggestion, had
travelled to Howards End, where Helen's belongings are kept. Having
correctly guessed that Helen would wish to retrieve them, she
surprises her sister by appearing on the scene unannounced. Henry and
Margaret had planned an intervention with a doctor, presuming Helen's
evasive behaviour was a sign of emotional instability or even mental
illness. As soon as they encounter Helen at Howards End, they see the
Margaret decides it is her duty to stand by her sister and help her.
She tries in vain to convince Henry that if she can forgive him his
transgression, he should forgive Helen hers. Henry, indignant, remains
unconvinced. Leonard arrives at Howards End, still tormented by the
affair and wishing to speak to Margaret. He is not aware of Helen's
presence, having lost contact with her ever since refusing her offer
to assist him financially. Charles Wilcox then bursts upon the scene
and in an effort to ingratiate himself with his father, attacks
Leonard for purportedly "insulting" Helen. He strikes Leonard with the
flat edge of a heavy old German sword which had belonged to Margaret's
father. Leonard grabs onto a nearby bookcase, which collapses in a
heap on top of him. His weak heart, which has been infected by heart
disease, fails, and he dies on the spot. Margaret assumes
responsibility for this turn of events and sides with Helen and the
dead Leonard, informing Henry of her intention to leave him.
Charles Wilcox is found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three
years in prison. The scandal and its repercussions have a profound
effect on Henry, causing him to take a good look at his life and
examine his conscience. He learns the value of empathy and begins to
connect with others. Writing a new will, he bequeaths
Howards End to
Margaret, as his first wife Ruth had wished. He further stipulates
that, after Margaret's death, the property will go to her nephew, the
son of Helen and Leonard. Helen is warmly reconciled with Margaret and
Henry. Fully supported by them, she decides to bring up her son at
The scene of the tragedy is revealed as a place of poetic justice and
redemption. Margaret has resolved the conflict by making a complex,
thoughtful, remarkably noble moral choice to stand by her sister,
while at the same time reversing her decision to leave her husband.
Indeed, by staying married to Henry, lovingly supporting him through
his hour of need, she acts as a uniting force, bringing all the
elements peacefully together. The future is ostensibly happy, as the
open-minded, forward-looking idealism of the Schlegels is balanced and
integrated with the healthy drive and essential pragmatism of the
Wilcoxes, each side learning tremendous lessons from the other through
a vital process of discord brought into harmony. Leonard Bast's son
with Helen is set to inherit
Howards End from the Wilcox family,
making some amends for the tragedy.
Howards End was conceived in June 1908 and worked on throughout the
following year. It was completed in July 1910.
Rooks Nest House, Stevenage
Forster based his description of
Howards End on a house at Rooks Nest
in Hertfordshire, his childhood home from 1883 to 1893. The house,
known in Forster's childhood as "Rooksnest" had, as in the novel, been
owned by a family named Howard, and the house itself had been called
"Howards" in their day. According to his description in an appendix
to the novel,
Rooks Nest was a hamlet with a farm on the Weston Road
just outside Stevenage. The house is marked on modern Ordnance
Survey maps at grid reference TL244267.
The area to the north west and west of
Rooks Nest House is the only
farmland remaining in
Stevenage (the area to the east of the house now
comprises the St Nicholas neighbourhood of the town). The landscape
was termed "Forster country" in a letter to
The Times signed by a
number of literary figures, published on 29 December, 1960. The letter
was written in response to two compulsory purchase orders made by the
Stevenage Development Corporation; it expressed the hope that 200
acres of countryside around the house could be preserved both as one
of the last beauty spots within 30 miles of
London and "because it is
the Forster country of Howards End." In 1979, the centenary of the
author’s birth, the area was officially named the Forster Country by
local planners after efforts by a campaign group, the Friends of the
Forster Country, which aims to preserve the landscape that Forster
knew for future generations. In 1997 a sculpture marking
Forster’s connection with the area was unveiled beside St Nicholas
churchyard by the MP for Stevenage, Barbara Follett In September
Rooks Nest house was put up for sale.
Wickham Place, the
London home of the Schlegel sisters, was demolished
to make way for a block of flats; it did not have a direct real-world
counterpart. Forster's conception of it owed a great deal to number 1
All Souls Place, where the sisters of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson
In other media
A stage adaptation by
Lance Sieveking and Cottrell, was performed in
1967 on tour and at the New Theatre in London, with Gwen Watford,
Gemma Jones, Michael Goodliffe,
Joyce Carey and
Andrew Ray in the
cast. Forster co-operated in the production.
The Inheritance, a two-part stage adaptation opened in March 2, 2018
at Young Vic. It gets inspiration from the Forster novel to portray
instead the generation that came after the height of the AIDS crisis,
addressing the life of a young gay man in New York. Actors: Hugo
Bolton, Robert Boulter, Andrew Burnap, Hubert Burton, John Benjamin
Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Syrus Lowe, Michael Marcus,
Vanessa Redgrave, Kyle Soller, Luke Thallon, Michael Walters.
Main article: Play of the Month
A British television adaptation of the novel in the BBC's Play of the
Month series was broadcast in 1970, and starred Leo Genn, Sarah-Jane
Gwillim, and Glenda Jackson.
Howards End (miniseries)
In November 2017, a four-part adaptation by
Kenneth Lonergan was
broadcast by the BBC. It was a co-production with US broadcaster
Howards End (film)
A film version made in 1992 stars Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave,
Helena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins, and Samuel West. Thompson won
Academy Award for her performance.
In 2009, a two-part adaptation by Amanda Dalton was broadcast on BBC
Radio 4, with
John Hurt as the narrator, Lisa Dillon as Margaret
Schlegel, Jill Cardo as Helen Schlegel, Tom Ferguson as Tibby
Schlegel, Alexandra Mathie as Aunt Juley, Malcolm Raeburn as Henry
Wilcox, Ann Rye as Ruth Wilcox, and
Joseph Kloska as Charles
Claudia Stevens' opera libretto Howards End, America (2016) moves the
action to 1950s Boston. The adaptation is discussed in Stevens'
article "Page to Stage: A New Opera, Howards End, America" in the
Polish Journal of English Studies.
On Beauty is a modern retelling of the novel, as well as
an homage to it.
^ Trilling, Lionel (1965). E. M. Forster. New York, NY: New
Directions. p. 114. ISBN 0811202100.
^ Moffat, Wendy E. M. Forster: A New Life, London: Bloomsbury
^ Editor's Introduction, in Howards End, Penguin Books. This
information was passed to Forster many years after the publication of
the novel by a family friend, the composer Elizabeth Poston, who by
that point lived at the house; this came as a surprise to Forster, who
concluded that, having known and then forgotten these facts as a
child, he had unwittingly used them when writing the novel
^ "Appendix: Rooknest" in Howards End, Penguin Books.
^ The letter says, "Literate people the world over feel that it
[Forster country] should be preserved in its original setting as one
of our greatest literary landmarks." It was signed by W. H. Auden,
John Betjeman, Sir Arthur Bryant, Lord David Cecil, Graham Greene,
John G. Murray, Harold Nicolson, Max Reinhardt, Dr C. V. Wedgewood,
and Vita Sackville-West. Authors Fear Threat To 'Forster Country’.
The Times [London, England] 28 Dec. 1960: 10.
The Times Digital
Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2017.
^ Cooper, Samuel. Forster Country—Its recognition on the centenary
of E. M. Forster's birth. Hertsmemories.org.uk
^ "The Forster Country—The Fame of Forster Country". The Friends of
the Forster Country.
^ The sculpture is marked with the words "Only Connect" with a fuller
text: "THE RAINBOW BRIDGE THAT SHOULD CONNECT THE PROSE IN US WITH THE
PASSION." Maryan, Pauline. ONLY CONNECT, BY ANGELA GODFREY – St
Nicholas' churchyard. ourstevenage.org.uk
^ McEvoy, Louise (21 September 2017). "
Stevenage childhood home of
author E M Forster goes on the market for £1.5 million". The Comet.
Retrieved 21 November 2017.
^ "The childhood home of novelist
E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster goes up for sale –
Country Life". Country Life. 2017-10-20. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
^ "'HOWARDS END'; Forster's Sisters". The New York Times. 1992-04-12.
ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-28. The two Miss Schlegels are
a sort of blending of the three Miss Lowes Dickinson (G. L. D.'s
sisters) whom I saw in passing when we were all young. Wickham Place
is their house, 1 All Souls' Place, since destroyed, not far from
^ 1 All Souls Place was built by G.L. Dickinson’s portraitist father
Lowes Cato Dickinson
Lowes Cato Dickinson in 1877–9. Forster writes of the building as
‘a tall dark red wedge-shaped house all windows and hospitality, and
it was there that I saw him once or twice towards the end of his life.
He was then nearly ninety and he walked around the rooms with a candle
to show me some pictures which he thought would give me pleasure.’
Forster, E. M. (1934). Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. Edward Arnold. p.
BBC – All-star cast announced for Kenneth Lonergan's adaptation
Howards End for
BBC One – Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk.
^ Andreeva, Nellie. "
Starz Boards 'Howards End'
BBC Limited Series;
Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen & Tracey Ullman To Star".
Deadline. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
^ "EM Forster – Howard's End –
BBC Radio 4 Extra". BBC.
Claudia Stevens Papers, 1967– ongoing". scdb.swem.wm.edu.
^ Stevens, Claudia, March 2, 2017
^ Walters (Editor), Tracey L (2008). Zadie Smith: Critical Essays.
Switzerland: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. p. 23.
ISBN 0820488062. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Howards End at Project Gutenberg
Howards End public domain audiobook at LibriVox
Howards End at the British Library
Critical/Historical Edition of Howards End
Study guide with plot summary, analysis and background
Free online notes, analysis and study questions
A hypertextual, self-referential, complete edition of Howard's End
Works by E. M. Forster
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905)
The Longest Journey (1907)
A Room with a View
A Room with a View (1908)
Howards End (1910)
A Passage to India
A Passage to India (1924)
"The Machine Stops" (1909)
The Celestial Omnibus (1911)
The Eternal Moment
The Eternal Moment (1928)
"The Life to Come"
"The Classical Annex"
"The Other Boat"