I linger’d; all within was noise

Of songs, and clapping hands, and boys

That crash’d the glass and beat the floor;

Where once we held debate, a band

Of youthful friends, on mind and art,

And labour, and the changing mart,

And all the framework of the land;

This is not from a review of the play we went to see last night ( Posh), but from a poem by Tennyson mourning a Cambridge friend (Canto 88, In Memoriam A. H. H., Representative Poetry Online). Tennyson and his friend Hallam joined the secret society or club called the Cambridge Apostles in 1829. The Canto quoted above describes what goes on behind A.H.H.’s former door at the university, and thus could be about the Apostles, according to this website. The Apostles were influential beyond university, including its Bloomsbury members and its spies. Read more about them here.

E. M. Forster

The author of the novel A Passage to India, E.M. Forster also was a member of the Apostles. Forster’s novel, The Longest Journey, supposedly opens with a recreation of an Apostles’ evening. If you were wondering how the photo of the British director of a film based on an English novel, A Passage to India, slipped onto the pages of a site about Canadian writers, Forster is why. And what does he have to do with Canadian Writers Abroad? One of my readers knows the answer, because she tipped me off to this connection. So I will give you a clue. Who else have I written about who wrote about India?

Here is an excerpt from the Selected Letters of E.M. Forster, Volume One. It is dated 12 November 1912, from Lahore, to his mother:

“Plans again altered as a most kind invitation has come from Mrs Cotes (‘Sarah Jeannette Duncan’) to stop with them at Simla; I am going up by the night train…” Then in a letter dated 21 November 1912, he writes:

“Mr Cotes himself was charming – the vigourous athletic type, but not the least alarming. He took me a delightful ride. Mrs Cotes was clever & odd – nice to talk to alone, but at times the Social Manner descended like a pall. Her niece completed the household; they were busy packing up for Delhi, and in great excitement over the change of capital, as are all. Their Simla house is quite English, with a hall, staircase of dark wood, etc.; indeed all the time I was in Simla, I forgot I was in India; there is nothing there but government & scenery.”

The Arena footnote explains that Everard Cotes (1862-1944) was Managing Director, Eastern News Agency, 1910-19, and on the London staff of The Christian Science Monitor. And that Sara Jeanette (Duncan) Cotes was a Canadian-born novelist and journalist.

As someone in the midst of house guests, I can’t stop myself from trying to figure out exactly how many days Forster (younger than Cotes by seven years) stayed with them. He left for Simla on the 12th by train, and wrote about the visit in the past tense on the 21st, having also been on a 20-hour train journey from Simla to Agra. The day before he left Simla, he went on a hike and stayed out overnight – “an eider down of Mrs Cotes’ kept me warm.” I calculate that he was with them for one week.

So, ok, she had servants to help her, I am sure. But Sara did not have the Apostles behind her.

the cast of Posh the play

cast for “Posh”, Tom Mison website

Posted by Debra Martens

author, editor


  1. […] Sara and Edward (canadianwritersabroad.com) […]


  2. […] Jeanette Duncan and E.M. Forster […]


  3. barbarasibbald May 16, 2012 at 22:21

    The Apostles! Who knew! They sound like literary Masons. I wonder if they had a secret handshake. This sounds like fodder for a great Gothic novel.


  4. I believe it was nine days… if you read the complete diaries of Forster, there’s more in there… he noted at one point that “Mrs. Cotes seems difficult, and I fancy unhappy.”


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