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Forster: The Papers of Edward Morgan Forster

Reference Code: GBR/0272/EMF

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a number of items by and about E.M. Forster. The heart of the collection consists of Forster's writings, published and unpublished, held by the archive centre in manuscript, typescript and photocopied forms. Items written for publication, or in some cases broadcast, have been placed at the start of the collection. These include manuscripts, drafts and fragments of his novels, short stories, essays, talks, plays, poems and memoirs. Contributions to periodicals, which the archive centre holds almost entirely in photocopied form, have been placed later in the sequence. Items written for the public have been followed by items written or compiled for private contemplation: E.M. Forster's journals and notebooks, as well as commonplace books, anthologies and scrapbooks.
Texts written or compiled by E.M. Forster have been followed by documents less purposively constructed. Forster's financial records and documents recording special moments in his life accompany a voluminous correspondence with family, friends and colleagues. A significant collection of photographs and prints, containing over 1000 images, record E.M. Forster, his family, his friends and the places that he traveled. Subsequently listed are several items left by E.M. Forster's Thornton, Forster and Whichelo ancestors.
Over time, the collection has also accrued a sizable body of papers that, while not created by Forster, concern his life and work. On one hand, these include a copious amount of material related to adaptations and criticism of his works. On the other, they include materials that Forster gathered, such as the books in his library. These 'related papers' have been listed in series 29-32.
Soon after E.M. Forster's death, it was decided that a new, critical edition of all of his work should be published. The Abinger edition, under the editorship of Oliver Stallybrass and Elizabeth Heine, was the result. King's College has in its possession much of the preparatory material for this edition, including correspondence between the editors and other parties, research notes and earlier versions of what would become the Abinger texts. These have been listed in series 33-40.
The final series contains a history of the collection's development in the form of former catalogues.
In view of the assorted contents of many original notebooks and modern composite guard books, this catalogue has separate entries for each piece of creative writing, be it a physically discrete item or a few lines or sheets within a larger whole. To order material from the store therefore, readers should note the call mark given at the end of each entry, rather than the catalogue entry number in the left-hand margin, as the manuscripts of several entries will be found in the same volume or guard book. The basic arrangement of entries in sections 1-5, 18 and 29 is alphabetical by title, rather than chronological by date of writing, although recently catalogued items have often been placed at the end of a sequence. Sections 7, 10, 12, 17, 19 and 20-25 are chronological. For more information concerning the arrangement of section 18, see the introduction to that series. Sections 33-40 concern the materials from the Abinger edition and its editors. In sections 33-40, materials concerning each novel have been separately gathered where provenance allows. The novels have then been placed in alphabetical order as in section one of this catalogue, rather than in order of their publication in the Abinger edition, with materials concerning multiple volumes preceding those that are relevant to only a single volume.


  • Creation: 1777 - 2015


Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote from Forster's unpublished writings should be obtained from The Librarian, King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST. Permission to quote from published material should be obtained from The Society of Authors, 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB.

Biographical / Historical

E.M. Forster was born in 1879. His father, E.M.L. Forster, was an architect living in London, but died in the year following his son's birth. The boy was thus raised by his mother, Alice Clara Forster, and a number of female relatives, spending his early years at Rooksnest, a country house near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. It was a house for which E.M. Forster held great affection throughout his life, and became the model for the home in his novel 'Howards End'. After a number of unhappy years in public schools, Forster came up to King's in 1897 to read classics. During his freshman year, he joined the society known as the Apostles, which he remained a member of throughout his undergraduate career, and received a B.A. in 1900. His tutor, Nathaniel Wedd, was of some influence on the young Forster, encouraging him to become a writer and more generally being responsible, according to Forster, for 'such awakening as has befallen me'. Forster stayed on for a fourth year to read history, being tutored in this capacity by Oscar Browning, and at the same time came under the influence of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, who became a lifelong friend. A legacy from his great-aunt, Marianne Thornton, relieved any immediate pressure to earn a living, and E.M. Forster spent the years after his degree alternately traveling, working and writing. Between 1901 and 1927 he visited Italy, Austria and India, and from his experiences both at home and abroad he published the five major novels for which he is still best known: 'Where Angels Fear to Tread,' 'The Longest Journey,' 'A Room with a View,' 'Howards End' and 'A Passage to India'. When E.M. Forster was in England, he lived with his mother at Abinger Hammer in Surrey and continued to do so until she died in 1945. King's offered him an Honorary Fellowship from that time forward, and he split his time thereafter between a flat in London and rooms in Cambridge. From 1953 he resided at King's College where he either taught little or not at all, held no college office, nor sat on any committee, but nevertheless came to know and influence a large number of undergraduates, acting as the sort of 'bachelor don' that had disappeared since his own days as an undergraduate. E.M. Forster died in 1970 at the age of 91.


63 archive box(es) (63 boxes) : paper

72 volume(s)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

The Archive Centre holds an extensive collection of Forster's writings published in the UK and abroad. The Centre's copy of B.J. Kirkpatrick’s, 'A Bibliography of E.M. Forster' (2nd ed., Oxford, 1985) is annotated to this effect. In addition, Forster collected works by a variety of authors during his lifetime. Much of this ‘library’, found in Forster’s rooms after his death, was later placed among the holdings of the Archive Centre at King’s College. A list of these books, made by the College Librarian in 1970, has now been catalogued as item 31/1. These books may be requested from the archivist. A full catalogue of E.M. Forster's papers is available in hard copy in the Archive Centre.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Forster bequeathed his papers, and the copyrights in his own writings, to King's College in 1970, subject to a life interest of W.J.H. Sprott who died in 1971. Subsequent smaller additions, especially to the correspondence sequence, were made by donation and purchase since 1970. Sections EMF/1-28 largely comprise the papers left by Forster, with subsequent accessions comprising the series from EMF/29 to the end.

Related Materials

Further Thornton family material is held in the Manuscripts Department, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. The Archive Centre also holds back issues of the 'Basileon' containing submissions by EMF. Further material relating to EMF's copyright can be found at KCAR/3/3/3/1.


Biographical information can be found in Nicola Beauman, 'Morgan: a biography of E.M. Forster' (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1993) and P.N. Furbank, 'E.M. Forster: a life' (Secker and Warburg: London, 1977-1978). Forster's diaries and some of his memoirs are published in 'The Journals and Diaries of E.M. Forster' edited by P. Gardner (Pickering and Chatto: London, 2011).


Elizabeth Ellem and Marian Stewart produced the first catalogue of the collection in the mid-1970s. It was enlarged by Michael Halls and Jacqueline Cox in 1990 and 1992, respectively. The current catalogue was completed in 2002, incorporating several boxes of previously uncatalogued material for the first time. Notable among the additions are materials concerning the reception of Forster’s work, such as reviews and adaptations, as well as papers associated with the Abinger edition. This new listing maintains the house-style imposed in 1992 and conforms to international archival standards. Sections 1-26 maintain the order and numbering of the catalogue produced by Michael Halls in 1990. Sections 28 and 29 of the previous catalogue, however, have been given new classifications, and the items formerly therein have been placed elsewhere.


Correspondence includes many photocopies of Forster's outward letters, of which the originals are held in other repositories.


Forster, Edward Morgan (1879-1970), writer

1999-07-24 14:02:20+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archive Centre, King's College, Cambridge Repository

King's College
Cambridge CB2 1ST United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 331444