In a paragraph memorable to anyone who has read and re-read E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Cecil Fielding, a British schoolmaster, on his way home to England after many years, pauses in Venice. There confronted with the visible coherence of Europe, he is driven, not without “a sense of disloyalty,” to compare it with the visible formlessness of the country he has left.

The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was placed wrong .... In the old undergraduate days he had wrapped himself up in the many-coloured blanket of St. Mark’s, but something more precious than mosaics and marbles was offered to him now: the harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that has escaped muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting .... [T]hough Venice was...

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