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Monday, 9 January 2017

E. M. Forster and The Purbeck Hills, Dorset; Howard's End



The National Trust:- "If one wanted to show a foreigner England, perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, Howard's End, Chapter 19and stand him on their summit, a few miles to the east of Corfe." So wrote E.M. Forster in Howards End.

Howard's End, Chapter 19

"If one wanted to show a foreigner England, perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills, and stand him on their summit, a few miles to the east of Corfe. Then system after system of our island would roll together under his feet. Beneath him is the valley of the Frome, and all the wild lands that come tossing down from Dorchester, black and gold, to mirror their gorse in the expanses of Poole. The valley of the Stour is beyond, unaccountable stream, dirty at Blandford, pure at Wimborne--the Stour, sliding out of fat fields, to marry the Avon beneath the tower of Christ church. The valley of the Avon--invisible, but far to the north the trained eye may see Clearbury Ring that guards it, and the imagination may leap beyond that on to Salisbury Plain itself, and beyond the Plain to all the glorious downs of Central England. Nor is Suburbia absent. Bournemouth's ignoble coast cowers to the right, heralding the pine-trees that mean, for all their beauty, red houses, and the Stock Exchange, and extend to the gates of London itself. So tremendous is the City's trail! But the cliffs of Freshwater it shall never touch, and the island will guard the Island's purity till the end of time. Seen from the west the Wight is beautiful beyond all laws of beauty. It is as if a fragment of England floated forward to greet the foreigner--chalk of our chalk, turf of our turf, epitome of what will follow. And behind the fragment lies Southampton, hostess to the nations, and Portsmouth, a latent fire, and all around it, with double and treble collision of tides, swirls the sea. How many villages appear in this view! How many castles! How many churches, vanished or triumphant! How many ships, railways, and roads! What incredible variety of men working beneath that lucent sky to what final end! The reason fails, like a wave on the Swanage beach; the imagination swells, spreads, and deepens, until it becomes geographic and encircles England".

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