Alice Clara ‘Lily’ Forster (1855-1945)

E.M. Forster, aged about 2 years old, with his mother sitting on a chair beside him. Taken by W.J. Hawker (EMF/27/149).
E.M. Forster, aged about 2 years old, with his mother sitting on a chair beside him. Taken by W.J. Hawker (EMF/27/149).

Mother of Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970, KC 1897)

Edward Morgan Forster (hereafter Morgan) was born on 1 January 1879, the only child of Alice Clara "Lily" (née Whichelo) and Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect. Morgan’s father died while he was still an infant, on 30 October 1880. Inevitably, this led to him having a very close relationship with his mother.

In fact, he spent much of his life living with her. For this reason, he seldom wrote to her and the best place to find details about their relationship is his locked diary, in which he kept his most private memories. His comments suggest that his mother never really understood or appreciated his talents as a writer, that she was rather conservative and that she said things which were detrimental to his self-confidence, whether intentionally or not.

Though Morgan is considered to have been a member of the Bloomsbury group, he didn’t benefit from the openness which characterised the upbringing of second generation Bloomsbury members, such as Julian Bell.

Whereas Rupert Brooke was able to lead the lifestyle he chose for himself, without sharing everything with his mother, Morgan’s mother was a constant presence in his life until her death in 1945. Brooke had found small ways of rebelling against his mother, while Morgan had occasional fits of rage, for which he felt very sorry. Morgan clearly loved travelling and experiencing other cultures. Perhaps part of the pleasure was due to freedom from the pressures of his life at home.

As he grew up, Morgan began to realise that though his mother lacked the intelligence of many of his friends, her experience of life had made her far shrewder.