Collected Short Stories, first published by Sidgwick & Jackson 1947, contains stories, which were already published earlier in The Celestial Omnibus (1911) and The Eternal Moment (1928).
The Story of a Panic
The Other Side of the Hedge
The Celestial Omnibus
The Curate's Friend
The Road from Colonus
The Machine Stops
The Point of It
The Story of the Siren
The Eternal Moment
Furthermore, the collection comprises an introduction, which contains valuable remarks and background information about the stories. I don't want to withhold it from you. Here you are. (h.z.)
THESE fantasies were written at various dates previous to the first world war, and represent all that I have accomplished in a particular line. Much has happened since: transport has been disorganized, frontiers rectified on the map and in the spirit, there has been a second world war, there are preparations for a third, and Fantasy to-day tends to retreat or to dig herself in or to become apocalyptic out of deference to the atom-bomb. She can be caught in the open here by those who care to catch her. She flits over the scenes of Italian and English holidays, or wings her way with even less justification towards the countries of the future. She or he. For Fantasy, though often female, sometimes resembies a man, and even functions for Hermes who used to do the smaller behest of the gods messenger, machine-breaker, and conductor of souls to a not-too-terrible hereafter.
The opening item, The Story of a Panic, is the first story I ever wrote and the attendant circumstances remain with me vividly. After I came down frorn Cambridge - the Cambridge to which I have just returned - I travelled abroad for a year, and I think it was in the May of 19o2 that I took a walk near Ravello. I sat down in a valley, a few miles above the town, and suddenly the first chapter of the story rushed into my mind as if it had waited for me there. I received it as an entity and wrote it out as soon as I returned to the hotel. But it seemed unfinished and a few days later I added some more until it was three times as long; as now printed. Of these two processes, the first - that of sitting down on the theme as if it were an anthill - has been rare. I did it again next year in Greece, where the whole of The Road from Colonus hung ready for me in a hollow tree not far from Olympia. And I did it, or rather tried it on, a third time, in Cornwall, at the Gurnard's Head. Here, just in the same way, a story met me, and, since the Panic and Colonus had both been published and admired, I embraced it as a masterpiece. lt was about a man who was saved from drowning by some fishermen, and knew not how to reward them. What is your life worth? £5? £5,ooo? He ended by giving nothing, he lived among them, hated and despised. As the theme swarmed over me, I put my hand into my purse, drew out a golden sovereign - they existed then - and inserted it into a collecting-box of the Royal Lifeboat Institution which had been erected upon the Gurnard's Head for such situations as this. I could well afford it. I was bound to make the money over and again. Calm sea, flat submerged rock whereon my hero was to cling and stagger, village whence his rescuers should sally - I carried off the lot, and only had to improvise his wife, a very understanding woman. The Rock was the title of this Ill-fated effort. It was a complete flop. Not an editor would look at it. My inspiration had been genuine but worthless, Eke so much inspiration, and I have never sat down on a theme since.
One of my novels, The Longest Journey , does indeed depend from an encounter with the genius loci, but indirectly, compicatedly, not here to be considered. Directly, the genius loci has only inspired me thrice, and on the third occasion it deprived me of a sovereign. As a rule, I am set going by my own arguments or memories, or by the motion of my pen, and the various methods do not necessarily produce a discordant result. If the reader will compare the-first chapter of The Story of a Panic, caught straight off the spot it describes, with the two subsequent chapters, in which I set myself to wonder what would happen afterwards, I do not think he will notice that a fresh hemisphere has swung into action. All a writer's faculties, including the valuable faculty of faking, do conspire together thus for the creative act, and often do contrive an even surface, one putting in a word here, another there.
The other stories call for little comment from their author. The Machine Stops is a reaction to one of the earlier heavens of H. G. Wells. The Eternal Moment, though almost an honest-to-God yarn, is a meditation on Cortina d'Ampezzo. As for The Point of It, it was ill-liked when it came out by my Bloomsbury friends. 'What is the point of it?' they queried thinly, nor did I know how to reply.
Original publication was in two volumes. The first was narned after The Celestial Omnihus, and was dedicated 'To the Memory of the Independent Review'. This was a monthly, controlled by an editorial board of friends who had encouraged me to start writing; another friend, Roger Fry, designed the book-cover and end-paper. The second volume came out many years later. It was called The Eternal Moment, and I dedicated it 'To T.E. in the absence of anything else'. T.E. was Lawrence of Arabia.
Now that the stories are gathered together into a single cover, and are sailing farther into the world they never foresaw, should they be dedicated anew? Perhaps, and perhaps to a god. Hermes Psychopompus suggests himself, who came to my mind at the beginning of this introduction. He can anyhow stand in the prow and watch the disintegrating sea.
1 E.M. Forster, Collected Short Stories (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1954) 5-7.
Essay: Frederick Williams, "Daphne transformed: Parthenius, Ovid, and E.M. Forster," Hermathena (Trinity College, Dublin), 166 (1999): 45-62 (to be viewed with Adobe's Acrobat Reader).
"The Road from Colonus"
Criticism: "The Road from Colonus." Ed. Catherine Belling. Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. New York U. 29 Nov. 2000.
"The Machine Stops"
E-text: "The Machine Stops" (Free, unabridged).
Collected Short Stories at Amazon.co.uk or Selected Stories at Amazon.com.
Please refer to the websites of Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com to find other collections of short stories.