A Great Unrecorded History

A New Life of E. M. Forster

Wendy Moffat

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A REVELATORY LOOK AT THE INTIMATE LIFE OF THE GREAT AUTHOR—AND HOW IT SHAPED HIS MOST BE LOVED WORKS

With the posthumous publication of his long-suppressed novel Maurice in 1970, E. M. Forster came out as a homosexual— though that revelation made barely a ripple in his literary reputation. As Wendy Moffat persuasively argues in A Great Unrecorded History, Forster’s homosexuality was the central fact of his life. Between Wilde’s imprisonment and the Stonewall riots, Forster led a long, strange, and imaginative life as a gay man. He preserved a vast archive of his private life—a history of gay experience he believed would find its audience in a happier time.

A Great Unrecorded History is a biography of the heart. Moffat’s decade of detective work—including first-time interviews with Forster’s friends—has resulted in the first book to integrate Forster’s public and private lives. Seeing his life through the lens of his sexuality offers us a radically new view—revealing his astuteness as a social critic, his political bravery, and his prophetic vision of gay intimacy. A Great Unrecorded History invites us to see Forster— and modern gay history—from a completely new angle.

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Book Excerpts

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1
“A Queer Moment”
It was just Lily and Morgan. This had not been the plan.
Alice Clara Whichelo, known as Lily, married a marvelous young architect after an eight-week engagement when she was twenty-one. Edward Morgan Forster was the son of a clergyman. Lily and Eddie settled near Dorset Square in London, a few blocks from the rose gardens of Regents Park—a fine place for a young couple to start a family, and far enough away from Eddie’s imposing relatives at Clapham to give them breathing space. It was January 1877.

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Reviews

Praise for A Great Unrecorded History

“[A Great Unrecorded History is] a well-written, intelligent and perceptive biography . . . [Moffat] uses the sources for our knowledge of Forster’s sexuality, including letters and diaries, without reducing the mystery and sheer individuality of Forster, without making his sexuality explain everything.” —Colm Tóibín, The New York Times Book Review

“None of [Forster’s] biographers have had either the will or the wherewithal to concentrate as closely on Forster’s sexuality as Wendy Moffat . . . In A Great Unrecorded History, she offers an insightful, revelatory portrait of a man who deeply resented having to hide such an important side of himself . . . Ms. Moffat’s overarching interests are in tracing Forster’s attitudes about sex and hypocrisy and in placing this increasingly outspoken figure within the context of his changing times.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Wendy Moffat’s reexamination of E. M. Forster identifies his homosexuality as the essence of his creative life. Using unpublished writings, she charts his gradual awakening to the moral, intellectual, and emotional significance of his homoerotic imagination. Her book is an astute and original new portrait of this major novelist.” —Michael Holroyd, author of A Strange Eventful History

A Great Unrecorded History explores the intimate life of E. M. Forster with sensitivity and scholarship. Wendy Moffat writes with profound insight about a great writer who believed in the vital significance of personal connection while being unable to openly express his sexual feelings for the men he desired. She also gives us an illuminating picture of gay sexual culture in the first half of the twentieth century. This biography is at once an engrossing read and a book to cherish and go back to. Essential for understanding E. M. Forster and the times in which he lived.” —Sheila Rowbotham , author of Edward Carpenter

“Wendy Moffat’s biography of E. M. Forster is splendid—beautifully researched and written, imaginatively structured, and deeply revealing. We finally have a life of Forster that foregrounds his homosexuality and skillfully traces its impact on his life and art. We’ve had a long wait for a fully honest book on Forster—but at last we have it.” —Martin Duberman, author of Paul Robeson

A Great Unrecorded History is a bold new re-imagining of Forster’s long career, which makes some striking connections between his life and work.” —D. J. Taylor, author of Bright Young People


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About the Author

Wendy Moffat

WENDY MOFFAT is a professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A Great Unrecorded History is her first book. 

Wendy Moffat

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Available Formats and Book Details

A Great Unrecorded History
A New Life of E. M. Forster
Wendy Moffat

Award

Biographers' Club Best First Biography Prize

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
May 2010
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374166786
ISBN10: 0374166781
6 x 9 inches, 416 pages, Includes 16 Pages of Black-and-White Illustrations, Notes, a Bibliography, and an Index
$32.50

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
April 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312572891
ISBN10: 0312572891
6 x 9 inches, 432 pages, Includes sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs
$20.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
May 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429940245
ISBN10: 1429940247
416 pages
$9.99
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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