I read recently that some hitherto unknown letters of Forster's had been made public. The author of the article expressed surprise that some of the letters betrayed in Forster a significant amount of misogyny. How, wondered the author, could the creator of the wonderfully sympathetic Mrs. Moore, possibly have disliked women? Clearly, that particular author had never read The Longest Journey (or perhaps anything by Forster apart from a A Passage to India
). The least known of Forster's six novels it nonetheless contains all of his familiar preoccupations including very definitely the destructive dominance of sensitive, truth loving men by hard-faced, small-minded women.
When he stopped writing novels after 1924 Forster said that he was tired of only being able to create certain character types. These could be said to full into three categories, the classically-trained, beauty-seeking person, the uneducated, simple, id-driven but fundamentally honest person and finally the dishonest, manipulative and worldly person. Throughout the novels many who fit into this last category are women and in Agnes Pembroke he creates one of his most truly repulsive characters. She is materialistic and dull and does everything she can to prevent her husband Rickie from remaining true to himself and pursuing his literary and spiritual dreams.
This is sometimes quite difficult to read but whether or not one accepts it as an accurate representation of what really happens or rejects it as abject misogyny it is difficult not to admire the way Forster elegantly and simply presents his story. Add into the mix typical Forsterian plot devices as gradually new pieces of information about the past are revealed and characters meet again in rather unexpected circumstances and you have a fine piece of work that probably tells you as much about Forster himself as anything else he ever wrote.