"Only connect": E. M. Forster, the Bloomsbury Group, and the two Marianne Thorntons

Nicole Starling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


E. M. Forster’s Marianne Thornton is typically described by biographers and historians as a politer version of Lytton Strachey’s Lives of Eminent Historians, in which the disdain of the Bloomsbury Set for their nineteenth century forebears is softened somewhat by Forster’s sense of indebtedness to his great aunt. A closer examination of the work, however, including a careful study of the primary sources that Forster drew on in writing it, reveals a somewhat more complicated picture of powerful and mutually contradictory editorial impulses. This thesis examines the way in which Forster redacted the contents of the Thornton family papers that were bequeathed to him, taking as a case study the contrasting portrayals of his great aunt, Marianne Thornton, and her mother, Marianne Sykes Thornton. What emerges is a revealing insight into the complex roles that affection and prejudice play in the work of biographers and historians, and an affirmation of the humanizing dimension of the historian’s task.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-35
Number of pages20
JournalFides et Historia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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