Personal anthology: E. M. Forster

In honor of my impending move, which is now (gulp!) less than two weeks away, a particularly apposite couple of paragraphs from E. M. Forster’s Howards End:

The Age of Property holds bitter moments even for a proprietor. When a
move is imminent, furniture becomes ridiculous, and Margaret now lay
awake at nights wondering where, where on earth they and all their
belongings would be deposited in September next. Chairs, tables,
pictures, books, that had rumbled down to them through the generations,
must rumble forward again like a slide of rubbish to which she longed
to give the final push, and send toppling into the sea. But there were
all their father’s books–they never read them, but they were their
father’s, and must be kept. There was the marble-topped
chiffonier–their mother had set store by it, they could not remember
why. Round every knob and cushion in the house gathered a sentiment
that was at times personal, but more often a faint piety to the dead, a
prolongation of rites that might have ended at the grave.

It was
absurd, if you came to think of it; Helen and Tibby came to think of
it; Margaret was too busy with the house-agents. The feudal ownership
of land did bring dignity, whereas the modern ownership of movables is
reducing us again to a nomadic horde. We are reverting to the
civilisation of luggage, and historians of the future will note how the
middle classes accreted possessions without taking root in the earth,
and may find in this the secret of their imaginative poverty.

— E. M. Forster, Howards End, chapter 17

Like Margaret Schlegel, I’m getting tired of being a nomad, and entertaining the occasional fantasy of just chucking everything and starting over. But at least it’ll be over in a couple of weeks.

(And speaking of Howards End, if you haven’t read Oso Raro’s splendid post about it at Slaves of Academe, go forthwith and read.)

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