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On Clapham Common') The clipped sentences serve to reinforce the point of his observa- Biographies and Criticism 33 tion. But Marianne Thornton is above all a personal book, a companionable book in which we are taken gently into Forster's confidence, and full of dry asides which subtly compliment us by putting us on a footing with the author himself. This shared point of view enables Forster to make use of evidence in a discriminating manner peculiarly his own. His account of his great-uncle's elopement to the continent with his sister-in-law is mediated through a letter from a gossiping female relation who witnessed the couple's departure from Dover.
This is sharp, incisive and by present standards orthodox: we all talk about 'society' now. But Forster refuses to lose human contact with his ancestors. It is no surprise, therefore, when he follows the above words with this comment: I agree with the above line of criticism. But I do not share the moral indignation that sometimes accompanies it. The really bad people, it seems to me, are those who do no good anywhere and help no one either at home or abroad. There are plenty of them about, and when they are clever as well as selfish they often manage to slip through their lives unnoticed, and so escape the censure of historians.
Forster such sunsets, such flights of birds and of butterflies (thE last-named meeting us when we were still two days from thE Indian coast). On board were many Anglo-Indians, as the) were then called. These I have often seen again. The contrast between their clan and our clique was amusing. We were dubbed 'The Professors' or 'The Salon', and there was the same little nip of frost in these jests as in the title of 'The Three Graces' which had been fastened on Dickinson and his school friends at Charterhouse.