EM Forster letters for sale at Chiswick Auctions

Image above: EM Forster’s personal correspondence with Bob Buckingham; Chiswick Auctions

Personal correspondence with Bob Buckingham, with whom the author had a long relationship

Personal correspondence that marks the deep relationship between author EM Forster and policeman Bob Buckingham and his family are being auctioned at Chiswick Auctions tomorrow (Wednesday 29 November).

The author of A Passage to India and Journey’s End lived in Chiswick and had a long relationship with Bob Buckingham. As well as the cache of more than a dozen letters, the Buckingham family is now selling more than 160 books and a couple of pieces of furniture that were Forster’s.

Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970) had a relationship with Bob Buckingham (1902-1975) for 40 years until his death. They had met at a party on the day of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in 1930 when Buckingham was unmarried. Buckingham was 28 and Forster 51. The recent film My Policeman starring Harry Styles was inspired by the story.

The author was best man when Buckingham married his wife May Hockey in 1932; he was godfather to their son Robin (who was given Morgan as a middle name) and in 1949 he bought the Buckinghams their family home at Salisbury Avenue in Coventry.

The collection of autograph correspondence includes letters from Forster to Buckingham’s son Robin Morgan Buckingham (1933-1962) dated between March 1950 and July 1962 and his grandson Clive Morgan Buckingham.

In one letter written from Aldeburgh in February 1957 on King’s College, Cambridge headed paper, he writes:

“Here I am stopping with [Benjamin] Britten. I have just been taken to the theatre here – Donald Wolfit in The Master of Santiago – not a good play and he not suited to the part of an ascetic Spaniard.’

On a postcard to Clive he says: “I wonder whether you read my hand writing easily. It is said to be rather difficult”.

Image above: Chaise longue owned by EM Forster

The library of books and pamphlets includes many presentation copies and signed copies. Many, such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1930) and Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon (1932) were gifts from Forster to Bob Buckingham.

Others were books sent by a range of 20th century writers and poets to Forster himself. A copy of Rose Macaulay’s Life Among the English (1932) in its original dust jacket is inscribed ‘E.M. Forster from R.M’.

Towards the end of Forster’s life, he lived with the Buckingham family, with Bob’s wife May acting as his nursemaid, until his death at the age of 91. She later wrote:

“I now know that he was in love with Robert and therefore critical and jealous of me and our early years were very stormy. Over the years he changed us both and he and I came to love one another, able to share the joys and sorrows that came.”

Image above: Wooden washstand which belonged to EM Forster

The sale also includes two pieces of Edwardian furniture owned by EM Forster. Both a button upholstered chaise longue and a washstand together with elements of a blue and white pottery wash set come with accompanying letters of provenance from Clive Morgan Buckingham.

The letters explain: ‘Over the years Forster gifted many items to the Buckingham family, including books, pictures and furniture, and the wash-stand which was kept by my mother in her bedroom in west London.”

The chaise is expected to bring £1000-1500 with the washstand estimated at £200-300. The collection of letters and books will be offered as a single lot with a guide of £4,000-6,000.


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