FORSTER (E.M.) Barger family collection of twenty-eight autograph letters by E.M. Forster, two to his mother Lily Forster, fifteen to his intimate friend Florence Barger, two to her son Evert and nine to Evert's wife Mollie, 1915-64

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 216
Barger family collection of twenty-eight autograph letters by E.M. Forster, two to his mother Lily Forster, fifteen to his intimate friend Florence Barger, two to her son Evert and nine to Evert's wife Mollie, 1915-64

Sold for £ 17,562 (US$ 21,281) inc. premium
Barger family collection of twenty-eight autograph letters by E.M. Forster, two to his mother Lily Forster, fifteen to his intimate friend Florence Barger, two to her son Evert and nine to Evert's wife Mollie; including:

(i) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dear Florence", written while staying with D.H. Lawrence at Greatham, near Pulborough ("...We are in a cottage, or rather barn, belonging to Miss Viola Meynell... The Lawrences I like – especially him. We have had a two hours walk in the glorious country between here & Arundel, and he has told me all about his people – drunken father, sister who is married to a tailor &ct: most gay & friendly, with breaks to look at birds, catkins, &ct... L. is now finishing off his new novel [The Rainbow], which he thinks is good...") and describing how "Lawrence gets almost mad with rage" against respectability and especially Sir Jesse Boot's prudish reluctance to stock his short stories; dated by recipient in pencil "12.ii.1915" [sic], 2 pages, 8vo, "C/o D.H. Lawrence, Greatham, Pulborough", [teatime, 11 February 1915] [Lago, B52]

(ii) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", containing the well-known account of his last visit to his dying lover Mohammed el-Adl in Alexandria ("...He sat by me in the Ry carriage and said 'My love to you – there is nothing else to say' which is exactly the truth. I did not think him so well. I trust that the end will come without suffering – poor dear little fellow. His face is unchanged. In the house he wears a yellow velvet cap, shaped rather like Goldie's, and folds his body up as only an Oriental can, so that the intelligent beautiful head seems to be resting on a pyramid of clothes. Ah me – but every thing is bearable, it is the betrayal from within that wears away one's soul and I have been spared that..."), 2 pages, P&O SS Delta headed paper, 4to, "Near Corsica", 25 February 1922 [Lago, B123]

(iii) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", describing life with his mother ("...the atmosphere of old-ladyism became more than my nerves could stand...") and her attitude towards his lovers ("...The disappearance of Vicary is a great loss, and mother has never alluded to him since he left. She never mentions Mohammed either. Perhaps she has suspicions..."), before giving full vent to his grief for his dead friend ("...I feel that if my novel [Passage to India] is no good there may yet be some other work for me to do. Also it is poor Mohammed's nearest approach to 'that immortality promised by our ever-living poet.' I feel very sad about my true but vanished friend. The victory of the grave is indeed a very real one. The dead may live on as influences, but each day we remember them less clearly... I wear Mohammed's ring once every twenty hours, generally at night, yet I know that if I lost it/ it would be nearer to him, because he is lost. And it is a sort of comfort to know that my state and his will one day be the same, although he is wrong in supposing we shall meet in it. He is constantly in my thoughts, but it is a labelled concept I think of, not he, and I don't know how long this will go on or what good it does, while it goes on. Art is the only escape, and the esoteric reference at the close of 'Pharos & Pharillon' was a great relief to me when I penned it, so was that story 'The Life to Come' which I read to you and George. My expectation is that the dead are a bore and best forgotten, but I have not suffered enough yet to justify me acting on this..."); the letter also referring to his friendship with Siegfried Sassoon ("...very nice, very intimate, and wants me to come abroad... He is certainly a genius, and this only comes out partially in his writings..."), 4 pages, weak at folds, 4to, Hunnyhill, Brightstone, 24 June 1923 [Lago, B133]

(iv) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", describing his first meeting with T.E. Lawrence ("...Then here, which is the most thrilling, as I have spent much time with T.E. Lawrence. He, and the other private soldiers, spend their time off in a romantic cottage in a hollow of 'Egdon Heath', and I joined them there. L. is a queer card, attractive in many ways, indeed in most. He was very friendly and poured forth in fascinating fashion. I feel certain that – as regards the East – there is an unspoken bond between us. He has some superb drawings of Orientals for the 'definitive' edition of his new book. I wish he had not tangled himself in to the army. It is really a mental hitch, consequent on his Arab adventure and sufferings. His identity has, of course, begun to leak out... I have also had pleasant visits to the Hardys..."), 2 pages, 4to, Wool [The Black Bear inn, near Lawrence's cottage Clouds Hill], 25 March 1924 [Lago, B134]

(v) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", written after the triumphant publication of A Passage to India that June and lamenting over the hollowness of it all after Mohammed's death ("...I learn now that the Gov.t are upset about the sales of A Passage to India... I wonder whether they will ban it at this point. All this fame and money, which have so thrilled me when they came to others, leave me cold when they come to me. I am not an ascetic, but I don't know what to do with them, and my daily life has never been so trying, and there is no one to fill it emotionally..."), 5 pages, 8vo, Harnham, 23 December 1924 [Lago, B142]

(vi) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", describing his latest encounter with Lawrence of Arabia ("...T.E. Lawrence did me proud, devoted a whole day to catching hold of me before his departure to India, and gave me a gorgeous copy of the private edition of 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom'... It is a very great work I am certain... he has the power of making one feel one could do all he has done. I don't know whether this is a sign of genius, certainly few people possess it..."); also touching on his Clark Lectures [Aspects of the Novel], his stultifying home life with mother, the consolation he receives in rereading Mohammed's letters, etc., 4 pages, 4to, West Hackhurst, 26 December 1926 [Lago, B146]

(vii) Autograph letter signed ("Morgan"), to "Dearest Florence", describing a visit to Florence Hardy ("...She doesn't, I'm glad to say, want me to take any active part in the 'life'. She has had awful trouble with her co-literary-executor, that coarse grained fellow Cockerill (of the Fitz William). Poor woman, she thought it was her fault she couldn't stand him!... One of the poems in the new volume which she will issue before long will deal with this [Hardy's boyhood]; it's a beautiful poem, indeed some of his latest works, judging from what she showed me, will be quite first class: she has given me the MS of two unpublished poems..."), and another visit to Lytton Strachey, etc., 4 pages, 4to, West Hackhurst, 9 August 1928 [Lago, B149]

(viii) Remaining eight letters to Florence: autograph letter written from his club in Alexandria, while preparing a lecture for the Theosophical Society, 4 pages, engraved heading of 'Cercle Mohammed Aly', 8vo, [Alexandria], 17 August 1918 [Lago, B99]; autograph postcard, unsigned, making unfavourable comparison between Hugh Walpole's The Secret City and Virginia Woolf's Night and Day, 2 pages plus address, 16mo, postmarked Weybridge, 29 December 1920 [Lago, B113]; autograph letter, about his mother ("...I am so worried... there will be some permanent estrangement between us. I want to go abroad after the move for a little. She has of course leapt at the idea I should go abroad now as she has 'much to think over.' No thank you!..."), 2 page, 8vo, Harnham, 18 October 1924 [Lago, B140]; autograph letter, discussing her son, 2 pages, 8vo, West Hackhurst, 28 August 1926 [Lago, B145]; autograph letter, worrying about his erstwhile lover Frank [Vicary] ("...The suffering in the world would drive one mad or to take drugs if one saw too much of it; often it seems to me a suffering beyond what is inevitable... When I hear of the troubles of strangers and slight acquaintances, I find I grow callous perhaps from an instinct of self-preservation: if I felt them I should have no strength either to help people like Frank or for my own life..."), 2 pages, 4to, West Hackhurst, 14 May 1928 [Lago, B148]; autograph letter, complaining of his uprooted restless life but looking forward to work on the opera [Billy Budd], 2 pages, coffee-stain, 4to, King's, 27 April 1949 [Lago, B159]; autograph letter, discussing the MS of Mollie's novel, 2 pages, 4to, King's paper, headed "as from 4 Crabbe Street Aldeburgh", 12 July 1952 [Lago, B160]; autograph letter, about his flat and with news of friends, 2 page, 4to, West Hackhurst, "Friday" [Lago, B163]

(ix) Two autograph letters to Evert Barger, the first written to him as a child from Alexandria and suggesting a long-distance piano game, with Evert's reply; the second sympathising on the decline of his mother Florence's health, 2 pages, 4to, Alexandria and Coventry, 5 February 1918 and no date [Lago, B43-4]

(x) Nine autograph letters to Evert's wife Mollie, alluding to Florence's declining health, his receipt of the OM, and kindred matters; one, from hospital, largely dictated, 12 pages, 4to and 8vo, King's and elsewhere, 1954-64 where dated [Lago, B176-184]

(xi) Autograph postcard signed ("Pop") and autograph letter subscribed "Pop's love", the postcard addressed to "Mrs Forster", the letter to "Dearest Mummy", both describing holidays spent in Scotland with the Bargers ("...infernal weather. I have not actually got wet so far, though of course my boots have..."), 4 pages, card with autograph address, folded, letter stained, 4to and 16mo, card postmarked Edinburgh, 5 September 1922, letter from Mains Farm, Arisaig, [Invernesshire], 23 August 1923


  • 'MY NOVEL... IS POOR MOHAMMED'S NEAREST APPROACH TO "THAT IMMORTALITY PROMISED BY OUR EVER-LIVING POET"' – E.M. FORSTER ON A PASSAGE TO INDIA, HIS LOVER MOHAMMED EL-ADL, HIS MOTHER, D.H. LAWRENCE AND LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, in letters written to his most intimate female friend, Florence Barger; plus two letters written to his mother, Lily, the other woman in his life.

    The rest of the series to Florence – arguably the most revealing letters he ever wrote - are held among the Forster Papers at King's College, Cambridge. The letters now offered for sale are all those that remain with the family. Four are printed in the Selected Letters, edited by Mary Lago and P.N. Furbank (1983-4). Among these is his well-known account of his visit to D.H. Lawrence (see i, above; for a discussion of letter, see David Ellis, 'Lawrence and Forster in 1915', The Cambridge Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1, 1998, pp.1-14); his description of the visit to his dying lover Mohammed el-Adl (ii); his lament over the hollowness of the triumph of A Passage to India (v); and his account of the visit to T.E. Lawrence when he was presented with a copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (vi).

    Three significant letters, however, were not published, namely the letter in which he directly associates the memory of his dead friend Mohammed with A Passage to India (iii); his description of his first visit to T.E. Lawrence and his soldier friends "in a romantic cottage in the hollow of 'Egdon Heath'", in which he tells Florence that "I feel certain that – as regards the East – there is an unspoken bond between us" (iv); and his letter of 9 August 1928, describing his stay with Florence Hardy and their visit to the haunts of Hardy's boyhood, with its withering assessment of Sidney Cockerell (vii).

    Copies of all letters to members of the Barger family were deposited by Mollie at King's; and are listed by Mary Lago, Calendar of the Letters of E.M. Forster, 1985 (Calendar numbers listed after each letter, above). However the majority of these are in the form of typescripts made by Mollie, as opposed to photocopies, including the well-known letter describing his stay with D.H. Lawrence (where the date "12.ii.1915" is typed as November). Of the fifteen letters to Florence, thirteen are in typescript; of the two to Evert, one; of the nine to Molly, five. Lago lists no transcripts of the two letters to Forster's mother Lily as held at King's. The originals were, it is fair to assume, given to Florence by Forster after his mother's death because they both describe holidays spent with her family.
FORSTER (E.M.) Barger family collection of twenty-eight autograph letters by E.M. Forster, two to his mother Lily Forster, fifteen to his intimate friend Florence Barger, two to her son Evert and nine to Evert's wife Mollie, 1915-64
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine, Whisky and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £20,000 of the hammer price;
26% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £20,000 up to and including £700,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £700,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.