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This report is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

E.M. Forster in the Netherlands, 1956:
A Brief Incident
D.R.M. Wilkinson
When I finished at Cambridge in July 1956, I set off for two weeks to Italy, where, in addition to all the other splendours, I visited San Gimignano. On returning to England I was told by a friend that San Gimignano was 'Monteriano' in Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Further to the story, then. In September 1956, Professor A.G.H. Bachrach offered me a lecturing job in English Literature in the Department of English at the University of Leyden, so I set off to the Netherlands by ferry, and then by train to Leyden. On the train, sitting at the window, I began to be aware of an elderly man opposite. Suddenly I realised who it was: opposite me was the man of the portrait in King's dining hall. It could only be E.M. Forster. If he spoke English to the conductor, that would be final proof, and of course he did. What was I to do? I had to make contact in some way or other: he was a Cambridge don and I was a student, so that making contact would in no way be unexceptionable. But how to start? Well, eventually I leant across and said something like: 'Excuse me, Sir, are you by any chance from Cambridge?', and of course he was. Disingenuously, I had a question: I asked if San Gimignano was indeed Monteriano in Where Angels Fear to Tread, and of course it was. He must have asked me in turn what I was ...


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