Galsworthy 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 for literature
was born at Kingston Hill in Surrey, England into an established
wealthy family, the son of John and Blanche (nee Bailey) Galsworthy.
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 practicing law and instead travelled abroad to look after
the family's shipping business interests. 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, the wife of one of his cousins. After her
divorce the pair eventually married on 23 September 1905 and stayed
together until John death in 1933.
the Four Winds was Galsworthy's first published work in 1897,
a collection of short stories. 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 he was mainly appreciated at the
time. Along with other writers of the time such as Shaw his plays
addressed the class system and social issues, two of the best
known being Strife (1909) and The Skin Game (1920).
is now far better known for his novels and particularly The Forsyte
Saga, the first of three trilogies of novels about the eponymous
family and connected lives. These books, as with many of his other
works, dealt with class, and in particular upper-middle class
lives. 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; challenging in his works some of the ideals of society depicted
in the proceeding 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 even though her previous marriage was
not as miserable as Irene's.
work is often less convincing when it deals with the changing
face of wider British society and how it affects people of the
lower social classes. Through his writings he campaigned for a
variety of causes including prison reform, women's rights, animal
welfare and censorship, but these have limited appeal outside
the era in which they were written. During the first world war
he worked in a hospital in France as an orderly after being passed
over for military service. He was elected as the first president
of the International PEN literary club in 1921, was appointed
to the Order of Merit in 1929–after earlier turning down
a knighthood–and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1932.
Galsworthy died from a brain tumour at Grove Lodge, Hampstead.
He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the South Downs
from an airplane. The popularity of his fiction waned quickly
after his death but the hugely successful adaptation of The Forsyte
Saga in 1967 renewed interest in the writer.