Howards End

by

E. M. Forster

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Henry Wilcox Character Analysis

Henry is in his fifties, and he has made a great fortune running the Imperial and West African Rubber Company. He opposes social reform and women’s rights, and believes whole-heartedly in the righteousness of capitalism and colonialism. He looks down on the lower classes and addresses his servants rudely. He distrusts emotion and imagination, and his view of the world is consistently shallow and single-minded. He likes to flaunt his power and is very conscious of his reputation. He demands that his family, especially his wives, be always respectful and deferential to him. A blatant misogynist, he looks down on women, dismissing them as hysterical and incapable of sound judgment. In the early days of his marriage to Ruth, he used to go on business to Cyprus, where he took a mistress, Jacky, and later abandoned her there without any means to support herself. He judges men and women’s sexual transgressions by a strict double standard, refusing to overlook Helen’s affair while expecting his own to be condoned. He shows no true remorse for his mistakes and their disastrous consequences for people like Jacky and Leonard Bast. Only after his firstborn son, Charles, is jailed for his role in Leonard’s death by manslaughter does Henry see the flaws in the narcissistic worldview he promoted and passed down to his children. He rights one of his wrongs by giving Howards End, the house belonging to Ruth, to his second wife, Margaret, as Ruth had always wanted. He even consents to allowing Margaret’s nephew, an illegitimate child, to inherit the home next.

Henry Wilcox Quotes in Howards End

The Howards End quotes below are all either spoken by Henry Wilcox or refer to Henry Wilcox. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Howards End published in 2002.
Chapter 11 Quotes

They did not make the mistake of handling human affairs in the bulk, but disposed of them item by item, sharply…It is the best—perhaps the only—way of dodging emotion. They were the average human article, and had they considered the note as a whole it would have driven them miserable or mad. Considered item by item, the emotional content was minimised, and all went forward smoothly.

Related Characters: Henry Wilcox, Charles Wilcox
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

It was the first [Margaret] had heard of the mews behind Ducie Street. When she was a possible tenant it had suppressed itself, not consciously, but automatically. The breezy Wilcox manner, though genuine, lacked the clearness of vision that is imperative for truth. When Henry lived in Ducie Street he remembered the mews; when he tried to let he forgot it; and if any one had remarked that the mews must be either there or not, he would have felt annoyed, and afterwards have found some opportunity of stigmatising the speaker as academic. So does my grocer stigmatise me when I complain of the quality of his sultanas, and he answers in one breath that they are the best sultanas, and how can I expect the best sultanas at that price? It is a flaw inherent in the business mind, and Margaret may do well to be tender to it, considering all that the business mind has done for England.

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel, Henry Wilcox
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

Whether as boy, husband, or widower, [Henry] had always the sneaking belief that bodily passion is bad…Religion had confirmed him. The words that were read aloud on Sunday to him and to other respectable men were the words that had once kindled the souls of St. Catherine and St. Francis into a white-hot hatred of the carnal. He could not be as the saints and love the Infinite with a seraphic ardour, but he could be a little ashamed of loving a wife. Amabat, amare timebat. And it was here that Margaret hoped to help him.

…Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel, Henry Wilcox
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

[Margaret] was glad to go there, for Henry had implied his business rather than described it, and the formlessness and vagueness that one associates with Africa itself had hitherto brooded over the main sources of his wealth. Not that a visit to the office cleared things up…even when she penetrated to the inner depths, she found only the ordinary table and Turkey carpet, and though the map over the fireplace did depict a helping of West Africa, it was a very ordinary map. Another map hung opposite, on which the whole continent appeared, looking like a whale marked out for blubber.

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel, Henry Wilcox
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

[Charles] described what he believed to have happened. Albert had flattened out a cat, and Miss Schlegel had lost her nerve, as any woman might. She had been got safely into the other car, but when it was in motion had leapt out again, in spite of all that they could say. After walking a little on the road, she had calmed down and had said that she was sorry. His father accepted this explanation, and neither knew that Margaret had artfully prepared the way for it. It fitted in too well with their view of feminine nature.

Related Symbols: Cars and Walks
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

Now and then [Henry] asked [Margaret] whether she could possibly forgive him, and she answered, “I have already forgiven you, Henry.” She chose her words carefully, and so saved him from panic. She played the girl, until he could rebuild his fortress and hide his soul from the world. When the butler came to clear away, Henry was in a very different mood—asked the fellow what he was in such a hurry for, complained of the noise last night in the servants’ hall. Margaret looked intently at the butler. He, as a handsome young man, was faintly attractive to her as a woman—an attraction so faint as scarcely to be perceptible, yet the skies would have fallen if she had mentioned it to Henry.

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel (speaker), Henry Wilcox
Explanation and Analysis:

As is Man to the Universe, so was the mind of Mr. Wilcox to the minds of some men—a concentrated light upon a tiny spot, a little Ten Minutes moving self-contained through its appointed years. No Pagan he, who lives for the Now, and may be wiser than all philosophers. He lived for the five minutes that have past, and the five to come; he had the business mind.

Related Characters: Henry Wilcox
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

“You shall see the connection if it kills you, Henry! You have had a mistress—I forgave you. My sister has a lover—you drive her from the house. Do you see the connection? Stupid, hypocritical, cruel—oh, contemptible!—a man who insults his wife when she’s alive and cants with her memory when she’s dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure, and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial advice, and then says he is not responsible. These men are you. You can’t recognise them, because you cannot connect… Only say to yourself, ‘What Helen has done, I’ve done.’”

Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

“You go on as if I didn’t know my own mind,” said Mr. Wilcox fretfully. Charles hardened his mouth. “You young fellows’ one idea is to get into a motor. I tell you, I want to walk; I’m very fond of walking.”

…Charles did not like it; he was uneasy about his father, who did not seem himself this morning. There was a petulant touch about him—more like a woman. Could it be that he was growing old? The Wilcoxes were not lacking in affection; they had it royally, but they did not know how to use it.

Related Characters: Henry Wilcox (speaker), Charles Wilcox
Related Symbols: Cars and Walks
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

Margaret was silent. Something shook her life in its inmost recesses, and she shivered.

“I didn’t do wrong, did I?” [Henry] asked, bending down.

“You didn’t, darling. Nothing has been done wrong.”

From the garden came laughter. “Here they are at last!” exclaimed Henry, disengaging himself with a smile. Helen rushed into the gloom, holding Tom by one hand and carrying her baby on the other. There were shouts of infectious joy.

“The field’s cut!” Helen cried excitedly—“the big meadow! We’ve seen to the very end, and it’ll be such a crop of hay as never!”

Related Characters: Margaret Schlegel (speaker), Helen Schlegel (speaker), Henry Wilcox (speaker), Ruth Wilcox
Related Symbols: Howards End
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
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Henry Wilcox Character Timeline in Howards End

The timeline below shows where the character Henry Wilcox appears in Howards End. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
...suffering from hay fever. Helen writes that the Wilcox children—Charles, Evie, and Paul—and their father, Henry, all suffer from hay fever as well, but are more stoic about it than Tibby.... (full context)
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...glorious time” with the Wilcoxes. She admires Ruth for being so sweet, steady, and unselfish. Henry convincingly talks Helen out of all of her beliefs learned from books—women’s suffrage, universal equality—and... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...at the train station, but they are surprised in turn by the unexpected appearance of Henry and Evie, who have returned early from their motor trip to Yorkshire after Henry crashed... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...has been left on the grave and he takes one. The next morning, the grieving Wilcoxes—Henry, Charles, Dolly, and Evie—are having breakfast at Howards End. Henry reflects on Ruth’s unfailing goodness... (full context)
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The mail arrives, and Henry finds a letter from his wife’s nursing home, enclosing a message left by Mrs. Wilcox.... (full context)
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...to acquire Howards End and may come down at any moment to collect it, but Henry defends her and says that she was as ignorant as any of them to Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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As Henry predicted, Margaret was indeed unaware of Mrs. Wilcox’s wish for her to inherit Howards End.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...go. Margaret and Helen are dismayed and resolve to pass this advice on to Leonard. Henry also informs them that he has recently rented out Howards End, and intends to live... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...firm’s true financial standing at his lowly level. When they tell him their news from Henry, he claims that the company is fine, but lacks conviction. He resents their insistence on... (full context)
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Henry and Evie drop in, and Leonard excuses himself. Helen tells him to come back soon,... (full context)
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Henry smugly warns Margaret against trying to befriend such people who “aren’t our sort.” Margaret repeats... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...invites her to lunch with her and her fiancé. Margaret is happy to see that Henry is also joining them. They dine at Simpson’s in the Strand, one of London’s oldest... (full context)
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Henry observes that Margaret talks to him the same way he heard her speaking to Leonard... (full context)
Chapter 18
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While staying with Aunt Juley, Margaret receives a letter from Henry saying that he plans to rent out his house in London now that Evie is... (full context)
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Once they begin touring the house, Henry proposes to her quite unromantically. Margaret kindly pretends to be surprised, and she averts her... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...house with her news. Helen bursts into tears when she realizes Margaret intends to accept Henry’s proposal. She heatedly objects to the marriage, having been so disturbed by the flaws in... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Margaret and Henry discuss their future. Henry mentions that he owns some shares in a currant-farm near Calamata,... (full context)
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Next Henry and Margaret talk about where to live—Howards End has been rented out to a tenant,... (full context)
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Henry walks Margaret back to her aunt’s house and kisses her abruptly, without saying a word... (full context)
Chapter 22
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The next day, Margaret greets Henry with tenderness. She is eager to help him see how, in their marriage, they might... (full context)
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The one thing Henry is reluctant to embrace in his marriage is intimacy. Because “he had always the sneaking... (full context)
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Helen joins Margaret and Henry for a walk. Margaret tells Henry that Helen received a letter from Leonard Bast. Thanks... (full context)
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Henry then asks Margaret to go up to Howards End with him next week, which she... (full context)
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Before Henry can talk to Juley, Helen confronts him about his poor advice that prompted Leonard to... (full context)
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...that her sister’s outrage is stronger than her civility, and she must be separated from Henry before she explodes at him. Thus Margaret braves Aunt Juley’s disappointment and leaves early with... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...Helen reconcile before Margaret leaves for Howards End, and Helen agrees to be civil to Henry in company, at least. Margaret meets Henry at his offices for the Imperial and West... (full context)
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After Henry drops her off and drives over to get the key from the neighboring farmhouse, Margaret... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...on the farm next door and keeps the keys to the house for the Wilcoxes. Henry dismisses her prowling around the house as the harmless stupidity of the uneducated. He shows... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...insult to their mother’s memory. But the onset of her wedding restores her good mood. Henry expects Margaret to play a prominent role in the wedding, which is to take place... (full context)
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...the cowardice of them all, but aware that she has disgraced herself in front of Henry’s friends. She decides to play up her feminine hysteria as a pretense for acting so... (full context)
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When they arrive at Oniton, Charles tells Henry what happened. They agree all too easily that Margaret was simply overcome by nerves and... (full context)
Chapter 26
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At breakfast, Margaret observes Henry going about the day’s business with his customary stoicism, even on the occasion of his... (full context)
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Henry complains about a turn in the road to the church that will be difficult to... (full context)
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Margaret and Henry look for the butler among the large crew of new servants to show them to... (full context)
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...and their meals before taking them up to Oniton. She has brought them to see Henry before he leaves for Scotland the next day, convinced that he owes the Basts for... (full context)
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Margaret sits down with Henry and asks him if he could possibly offer her friend Leonard a new job in... (full context)
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However, Margaret’s happiness is diminished when she and Henry find Jacky still in the garden, having a bit of cake and champagne and recovering... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...no harm has been done. Leonard thanks her for working everything out with Margaret and Henry. Helen wants to discuss theories of personal responsibility, but Leonard has become jaded and weary... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...Margaret sits paralyzed for a time, then begins to compose a letter. She writes to Henry, “this is not to part us … I mean it to be nothing.” She censors... (full context)
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Despite everything, Margaret still faithfully believes that “Henry must have it as he liked, for she loved him, and some day she would... (full context)
Chapter 29
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The next morning, Margaret greets Henry at breakfast and tells him what she had meant to write the previous night: his... (full context)
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Margaret is not moved by Henry’s shallow emotional appeals and wishes he would plainly acknowledge the real wrong he did to... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...tells him about what happened at the wedding, and what she learned about Jacky and Henry. He is shocked when she asks him to transfer five thousand pounds of her money... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...the former renter left. Miss Avery will continue to look after the property. Margaret and Henry are married quietly at Margaret’s insistence, without the grand celebration that was once envisioned. On... (full context)
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Henry is happy to avoid confronting Helen and the reminder of his narrowly avoided scandal and... (full context)
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...home. They spend the winter in the house on Ducie Street, where Margaret tends to Henry and the household, preparing to take over a large new home in the future. She... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...Margaret a visit, and Margaret shows her the plans for the big house she and Henry are planning to build in Sussex. Dolly is now pregnant with her fourth child, and... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...being kept there, as if the Schlegels were living there. Margaret insists that she and Henry are not moving into Howards End, but into a much larger house in Sussex, where... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...to such lengths to avoid seeing her. Troubled by the depth of Helen’s hatred for Henry, Margaret worries whether her sister has become unduly fixated on the Wilcoxes ever since the... (full context)
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Henry believes the sick have no rights—when Ruth was sick years ago, he promised to care... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Margaret and Henry lunch with Dolly before heading over to Howards End to ambush Helen. Margaret seems quite... (full context)
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Henry picks up a doctor, and Margaret becomes more and more convinced that the men’s attitudes... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Margaret cannot speak to the men at first. Henry orders her to give them the keys and allow them to go inside and see... (full context)
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...neither man has for Helen. She stands her ground outside the door until he and Henry drive away, and then she joins Helen inside. (full context)
Chapter 37
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...last night together in the house, fully furnished with all their belongings. Margaret doubts that Henry and Charles will agree to such a thing, but she also wants to spend a... (full context)
Chapter 38
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Margaret talks with Henry at Charles’s house. Henry says he told Charles about Helen and Charles has gone to... (full context)
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Margaret asks Henry if Helen may stay the night at Howards End. He refuses, saying he does not... (full context)
Chapter 39
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Charles meets Tibby at Henry’s house in Ducie Street. Charles is badly prejudiced against Helen, stemming from her disastrous entanglement... (full context)
Chapter 40
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...confrontation at Evie’s wedding. Helen admits the danger of “isolat[ing]” to extremes, acknowledging, “I isolated Mr. Wilcox from the other forces that were pulling Leonard downhill.” Margaret apologizes for rashly writing such... (full context)
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...got Margaret’s letters, and how dismayed she was to learn of Leonard’s dual humiliation at Henry’s hands. She explains that she does not love Leonard, however; on the contrary, she says,... (full context)
Chapter 41
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...house where she used to live is gone. He tracks her down by talking to Henry’s servants, and leaves London early one morning for Howards End. He walks from the Hilton... (full context)
Chapter 42
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After visiting Tibby in London, Charles returns to his house in Hilton, where Henry tells him what happened with Helen and Margaret earlier. Henry entrusts his son with escorting... (full context)
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...an inquest, but Charles is sure that the cause of death will be heart disease. Henry is not so sure after he hears that Charles used a sword upon the boy.... (full context)
Chapter 43
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...to accompany her sister and help her raise her child. She is unable to forgive Henry after his outrageous hypocrisy and refusal to empathize with Helen. In turn, she certainly isn’t... (full context)
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Henry summons Margaret to Charles’s house, where she returns the keys to Howards End and tells... (full context)
Chapter 44
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...field while the Wilcoxes talk inside Howards End. Helen tells her sister that she likes Henry when she didn’t before. She muses about how she no longer believes in romantic love,... (full context)
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...of leaving Helen to raise her baby abroad with only a friend’s help and leaving Henry to be passed back and forth between Dolly and Evie. Margaret modestly demurs, saying she... (full context)
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Paul calls Margaret into the house, where Henry, Evie, Dolly and he are sitting in an airless room, trying to keep out the... (full context)
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When everyone else has left, Margaret asks Henry what Dolly meant, and he explains what happened after his wife’s death years ago. “I... (full context)