John Galsworthy

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John Galsworthy OM (pronounced /ˈɡɔːlzwɜrði/; 14 August 1867 – 31 January 1933) was an English novelist and playwright. Notable works include The Forsyte Saga (1906—1921) and its sequels, A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932.

Contents

Life

John Galsworthy was born at Kingston Hill in Surrey, England into an established wealthy family, the son of John and Blanche Bailey (née Bartleet) Galsworthy. His large Kingston upon Thames estate is now the site of three schools: Marymount International, Rokeby Preparatory School and Holy Cross. He attended Harrow and New College, Oxford, training as a barrister, and was called to the bar in 1890. However, he was not keen to begin practising law and instead travelled abroad to look after the family's shipping business. During these travels he met Joseph Conrad, then the first mate of a sailing-ship moored in the harbour of Adelaide, Australia, and the two future novelists became close friends. In 1895 Galsworthy began an affair with Ada Nemesis Pearson Cooper (1864–1956), the wife of his cousin Major Arthur Galsworthy. After her divorce ten years later, they married 23 September 1905 and stayed together until his death in 1933. Prior to their marriage, they would stay clandestinely in a farmhouse called Wingstone in the village of Manaton on Dartmoor, Devon.[1] From 1908 he took out a long lease on part of the building and made it their regular second home until 1923.[1]

From the Four Winds, a collection of short stories, was Galsworthy's first published work in 1897. These and several subsequent works were published under the pen name John Sinjohn, and it would not be until The Island Pharisees (1904) that he would begin publishing under his own name, probably owing to the death of his father. His first play, The Silver Box (1906), became a success, and he followed it up with The Man of Property (1906), the first in the Forsyte trilogy. Although he continued writing both plays and novels, it was as a playwright that he was mainly appreciated at the time. Along with those of other writers of the time, such as George Bernard Shaw, his plays addressed the class system and social issues, two of the best known being Strife (1909) and The Skin Game (1920).

He is now far better known for his novels, particularly The Forsyte Saga, his trilogy about the eponymous family and connected lives. These books, as with many of his other works, deal with social class, upper-middle class lives in particular. Although sympathetic to his characters, he highlights their insular, snobbish, and acquisitive attitudes and their suffocating moral codes. He is viewed as one of the first writers of the Edwardian era who challenged some of the ideals of society depicted in the preceding literature of Victorian England. The depiction of a woman in an unhappy marriage furnishes another recurring theme in his work. The character of Irene in The Forsyte Saga is drawn from Ada Pearson, though her previous marriage was not as miserable as that of the character.

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