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New at IWP Books: E. M. Forster (1934) Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson. W. H. Auden (Foreword to the Abinger Edition, 1973):

I read this book when it came out in 1934. Rereading it now, it seems to me even better than I remembered… That this biography should be the great book it is, seems to me a miracle. To begin with, it is not easy to write justly and objectively about a personal friend, a situation which, Goldie wrote, when asked to review a book by Forster, “leads us Cambridge people to under-estimate virtues and gifts for fear of being too partial”. Then nothing is more difficult than writing an interesting book about a really nice person. The biographer of a monster, like Wagner, has a far easier task. Bad behaviour always has a dramatic appeal. Forster imagines Mephistopheles asking him why a memoir of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson needs to be written, and when he answers, “My friend was beloved, affectionate, unselfish, intelligent, witty, charming, inspiring,” the devil says, “Yes, but that is neither here nor there, or rather it was there but it is no longer here.” Forster can only reply:

“These qualities in Goldie were fused into such an unusual creature that no one whom one has met with in the flesh or in history the least resembles it, and no words exist in which to define it. He was an indescribably rare being, he was rare without being enigmatic, he was rare in the only direction which seems to be infinite: the direction of the Chorus Mysticus. He did not merely increase our experience: he left us more alert for what has not yet been experienced and more hopeful about other men because he had lived. And a biography of him, if it succeeded, would resemble him; it would achieve the unattainable, express the inexpressible, turn the passing into the everlasting. Have I done that? Das Unbeschreibliche hier ist’s getan? No. And perhaps it only could be done through music. But that is what has lured me on.”