Longest Journey, The (1907), a novel by E. M. *Forster.
Rickie Elliot, a sensitive and congenitally lame young man, orphaned at the age of 15, escapes from the misery of suburban life and the bullying of public school to Cambridge, where, like Forster himself, he finds sympathetic friends, chief amongst them Ansell, a grocer's son. He has literary aspirations (his short stories, Arcadian pastoral fantasies, are remarkably like Forster's own), but is also attracted by Agnes Pembroke, the conventional but beautiful sister of a schoolmaster friend and protector, and by her handsome, athletic, ex-bully fiancé Gerald. After Gerald‘s sudden death in a football match, Rickie idealizes Agnes, through whom he imagines that he has glimpsed true passion. Despite Ansell's faintly misogynist warnings, he becomes engaged to her. On a visit to his aunt Mrs Failing in Wiltshire he discovers that he has a half-brother, the healthy and 'pagan' Stephen Wonham, who lives with her at Cadover; Stephen himself is unaware of the relationship, and Agnes, horrified by the potential scandal, prevents Rickie or Mrs Failing from telling him. Rickie suffers 'a curious breakdown', his stories, a collection called 'Pan Pipes', are rejected by various publishers, one of whom advises him 'to see life', but instead, discouraged, Rickie marries Agnes and becomes a schoolmaster at his brother-in-law's school, Sawston. He sinks into a world of petty jealousy and domesticity, cut off from his old Cambridge friends, increasingly aware of Agnes's failings. Their only child, a daughter, is born crippled and dies. Stephen Wonham, having discovered his relationship to Rickie, turns up at Sawston, and Agnes tries to buy him off with money, thinking he has come to blackmail them. Offended, Stephen vanishes penniless, and it emerges that he has been thrown out of Cadover by Mrs Failing, largely through Agnes's machinations; also that he is the son of Rickie's mother, not of his disliked father, as he had supposed. A reconciliation follows, and although Rickie is killed while rescuing the drunken Stephen, the novel ends with the information that his stories achieved posthumous recognition.
*Trilling described the novel 'as perhaps the most brilliant, the most dramatic, and the most passionate of his works' (E. M. Forster, 1944), and it is almost certainly the most autobiographical, but its construction has puzzled many, and the number of sudden deaths is high even by Forsterian standards. It was his own favourite of his works; he admitted its faults, but felt that in Stephen, although 'a theoretic figure', he had created a living being, and expressed some of his feelings for the English landscape.
(Text from Drabble, Margaret. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford, New York: OUP, 1998.; © Margaret Drabble and Oxford University Press 1985, 1995; cited here by permission of Oxford University Press.)
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