The Beauty of the Crest of a Wave

English novelist E.M. Forster takes a seat on the beach, oct 1949


“I wished you were with me at Montazah this morning. It is the country Palace of the ex-Khedive and has been turned into a Convalescent Hospital. Amongst its tamarisk groves and avenues of flowering oleander, on its reefs and fantastic promontories of rocks and sand, hundreds of young men are at play, fishing, riding donkeys, lying in hammocks, boating, dozing, swimming, listening to bands. They go about bare chested and bare legged, the blue of their linen shorts and the pale mauve of their shirts accenting the brown splendour of their bodies; and down by the sea many of them spend half their days naked and unrebuked. It is so beautiful that I cannot believe it has not been planned, but can’t think by whom nor for whom except me. It makes me very happy and very sad—they came from the unspeakable, all these young gods, and in a fortnight at the latest will return to it: the beauty of the crest of a wave.”


E.M. Forster
Letter to his friend and mentor G. L. Dickinson (28 July 1916)in which Forster described a scene near one of the hospitals he worked at, located to the east of Alexandria along the coast.
(Selected Letters 156)



Naked We Came…

“Naked I came in to the world naked I shall go out and a very good thing too for it reminds me that I’m naked under my shirt whatever its color.”
E.M. Forster


E. M. Forster with Lady Ottoline Morell’s pug Soie. Photo by Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1922


“Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes.”
E.M. Forster
A Room with a View


Stills from A Room with a View (James Ivory, 1985)

A Room with a View and No Walls

“My father says that there is only one perfect view— the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.”

A Room With a View

Chapter 15

E.M. Forster


This is spoken by George when Cecil asks him if he enjoys the view at Windy Corner. It shows Mr. Emerson’s influence on his son, and illuminates their shared philosophy. If a “view” can be seen to have a second meaning as “worldview,” then George’s comment means that there are all kinds of ideas on earth, and people may argue over whose is best, but there is only one perfect view, and that is the view of the Creator, or God, or the Eternal. The quote shows that George is not bound by the superficial prejudices and snobberies that govern Cecil. Like Lucy, he is above all that; he has a sense of something higher.


Stills from A Room with a View (James Ivory, 1985)