“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, January 13, 1922, Bombay, India

Edward Morgan Forster, 43, can’t wait to get on that ship tomorrow to begin his long journey home to England. Not because he is so looking forward to going back to living with his mother, Lily, 66, and his cat back in Weybridge, but because he can’t wait to get out of here.

Last year Morgan accepted the bizarre job as personal assistant to his old friend Sir Tukoji Rao IV, 34, the Maharajah of Dewas state—always known as “HH”—in a spirit of adventure. Not only would he be away from Weybridge, but also he could finally finish his India novel, which he started before the Great War.

Sir Tukoji Rao IV

Well, Dewas, where he has been living for the past year, sure wasn’t Weybridge. But he hasn’t written anything except journals; he has published no new novels for a decade.

Every New Year’s Eve—the day before his January 1st birthday—Morgan has made it a habit to write in his diary, summing up the previous year. This past New Year’s he wrote,

India not yet a success, dare not look at my unfinished novel…how unsuitable were my wanderings at Dewas, where everyone laughed at my incompetence …My desire for self-expression has slackened along every line…Slowness and apathy increase…I can’t go on any more here.”

In a letter home, Forster describes to his Mum the celebrations his friends arranged in Hyderabad for his birthday, filling his rooms with flowers.

It was roses all the way,”

he writes to her, always giving her the impression that he is happy here.

Morgan’s plans for his journey home included a visit to the Ajanta caves, which he’d always wanted to see. Then he fell and hurt his wrist and elbow so badly he couldn’t even feed himself, let alone go hiking through caves. Another disappointment in India.

From Hyderabad to Bombay is 435 miles, and now he is more than ready to set sail on the RMS Kaisar-i-Hind tomorrow. Rather than plan the shorter but more expensive trip back on land through Europe, he is going by sea to Port Said, Egypt, and then on to London. With the money he saves, Forster will spend a full month in Egypt. He explains to Lily that when he gets to Egypt he will be “nearer Mummy.”

But his real incentive is that, in Port Said, he will spend the month with his lover Mohammed el Adl, 22. The last time they saw each other was for four stolen hours on a beach when Forster was on his way to India last spring. Now they will have much more time together.

Mohammed el-Adl

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

At the end of February I am talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

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