Longest Journey, The
a novel by E. M. Forster, published in 1907. Its central character, Rickie Elliot, is a young man handicapped in his dealings with others as much by his sensitivity and intelligence as by the fact that he is lame; he is first seen at Cambridge, where his circle of friends include the philosopher, Ansell. He is befriended by Herbert and Agnes Pembroke, a brother and sister: Herbert runs a school; Agnes is engaged to Gerald Dawes, whom Rickie recognizes as the bully who had terrorized him during their school days. When Gerald is killed during a football match, Rickie comforts Agnes; he falls in love with her and proposes marriage, despite Ansell's attempts to discourage him. He takes Agnes to visit his aunt, Emily Failing, at Cadover, her Wiltshire estate, where he encounters Stephen Wonham, her somewhat uncouth but good-natured protégé. There, Rickie learns that Stephen is in fact his half-brother—a circumstance which has been kept from Stephen himself. The scene shifts to Sawston School, where Rickie, having relinquished his earlier hopes of becoming a writer, works as a schoolmaster. He is bitterly unhappy in his new life and his marriage has proved a disappointment: Agnes is revealed as shallow and commonplace, and their child is born with a club foot and later dies. Stephen Wonham arrives at Sawston, intending to confront him with the knowledge that he and Rickie are brothers. Agnes, supposing that he intends to blackmail her husband, offers him money to leave Rickie in peace; horrified at this suggestion, Stephen disappears. It emerges that he has fallen out of favour with his aunt, partly as a result of Agnes's spiteful interference, and that he is the son not of Rickie's hated father, but of his adored mother. Attempting to bring about a reconciliation, Rickie eventually finds his brother in Wiltshire; when he tries to save Stephen, who has fallen asleep in a drunken stupor on the railway line, Rickie is injured and dies a few days later. A postscript to the story informs the reader that Rickie's stories have now found a publisher, and that he has achieved, posthumously, the success which evaded him during his lifetime. The novel, whose title is an allusion to Shelley's Epipsychidion, was Forster's own favourite amongst his works and contains, particularly in its portrayal of its central character and in its affectionate depiction of Cambridge life, an autobiographical element found to the same degree only in some of his short fiction and in his novel Maurice (1971).
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lights of Bohemia to Love in Livery