Tea in Cambridge

  • Robert Craft
Part of the Interviews and Recollections book series (IR)


October 27, 1961 Cambridge. Tea with E. M. Forster in his rooms at King’s College. Several times the conversation grinds to a stop, each of them agonizing because Forster’s silences are so acutely critical. Each time, moreover, it is Forster who artificially resuscitates the talk, with questions such as: ‘Did you come on the two-thirty-six train?’ When Tolkien’s1 name comes up, he says ‘I dislike whimsicality and I cannot bear good and evil on such a scale. But surprisingly I liked Thomas Mann’s The Holy Sinner.2 Mann always knew a great deal, of course, but his other books were so heavy.’ Don Quixote is mentioned, and Forster says, ‘I never reached the end of it, did you?’ — and though obviously I did not, I wonder if I would admit it if I had. He talks about meeting Tagore in 1910, and about a trip to Uganda,3 this prompted by a question of mine concerning an object on his table, a smooth white box with wires attached to the base, like a jew’s-harp. ‘The natives played these instruments as they worked on the roads’, he says. ‘They cut the telephone wires for “strings.”’


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  1. 1.
    J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, whose Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–5) enjoyed a vogue into the 1970s.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

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  • Robert Craft

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