John Galsworthy’s authorship seems to develop unusually smoothly, pushed on by a conscientious and indefatigable creative impulse. Yet he is not one of those who have turned to the literary career rapidly and without resistance. Born, as the English put it, with a silver spoon in his mouth, that is, economically independent, he studied at Harrow and Oxford, chose the law without practicing it, and traveled all over the world. When, at the age of twenty-eight, he began writing for the first time, the immediate reason
was the exhortation of a woman friend, and it was to Galsworthy a mere recreation, evidently not without the inherent prejudices of the gentleman, against the vocation of writing. His first two collections of tales were published under the pen name of John Sin john, and the editions were soon withdrawn by the self-critical beginner. Not until he was thirty-seven did he begin his real authorship by publishing the novel The Island Pharisees (1904), and two years later appeared The Man of Property, the origin of his fame and at the same time of his monumental chief work, The Forsyte Saga.
So went the citation for Galsworthy on the occasion of his receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in abstentia how to write a cause and effect essay
Galsworthy was born at Kingston Hill in Surrey, England into an established upper-middle-class and wealthy family, his father, John Galsworthy, a lawyer and director of several companies and his mother, nee Blanche Bartleet, the daughter of a Midlands manufacturer. Galsworthy attended Harrow and New College, Oxford, training as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1890. Not keen to begin practicing law, he traveled abroad to look after the family’s shipping business interests whilst pursuing an unlucky love affair. During the period of his studies, he gained fame as a cricket and football player, but not with his writings. Only that once he planned to write a study of warm-blooded horses.
During his travels he met Joseph Conrad, then the first mate of a sailing-ship moored in the harbor of Adelaide Australia, and the two became close friends. In a letter he noted: “The first mate is a Pole called Conrad, and is a capital chap though queer to look at; he is a man of travel and experience in many parts of the world, and has a fund of yarns on which I draw freely.” This meeting convinced Galsworthy to give up law and devote himself entirely to writing.
In 1895 Galsworthy began an affair with Ada Nemesis Pearson, the wife of one of his cousins. with whom he lived in secret for ten years, because he did not want to cause distress to his father, who would not approve of the relationship. With his father’s death in 1904, Galsworthy became financially independent and in 1905 married Ada. They stayed together until his death in 1933. She even inspired many of Galsworthy’s female characters. Her previous unhappy marriage with Galsworthy’s cousin formed the basis for the novel The Man of Property (1906), which began the The Forsyte Saga novel sequence which established Galsworthy’s reputation as a major British writer.
From the Four Winds a collection of short stories was Galsworthy’s first published work in 1897, which with several subsequent works, were published under the pen name John Sinjohn. It would not be until The Island Pharisees (1904) that he would begin publishing under his own name, after 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 his best known plays were Strife (1909) and The Skin Game (1920).
He 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, 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. The first appearance of the Forsyte
family was in one of the stories in Man of Devon (1901). The saga follows the lives of three generations of the British middle-class before 1914. Soames Forsyte, married to beautiful and rebellious Irene, was modeled after Arthur Galsworthy, the writer’s cousin. Soames rapes his wife, which was the fate Ada Galsworthy suffered at the hands of her former husband Arthur. In the second volume, In Changery (1920), Irene and Soames divorce. She marries Jolyon Forsyte, Soames’s cousin, and bears a son, Jon. Soames and his second wife, Annette Lamotte, have a daughter, Fleur. In the third volume, To Let (1921), Fleur and Jon fall in love, but Jon refuses to marry her. The second part of Forsyte chronicles, containing The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), Swan Song (1928), starts on an October afternoon of 1922 and closes in 1926. ‘A Silent Wooing’ and ‘Passers By’, the two interludes, came out in 1927.
Galsworthy returned again to the world of the Forsyte books in 1931 with a further collection of stories, On Forsyte Change. Romain Rolland, the writer of Jean-Christophe (1904-1912), coined a special term, the roman-fleuve, to descibe this kind of series of novels, which can be read separately, but which form a coherent narrative.
Although Galsworthy chronicled changes in the middle-class family in England, he said in the preface of The White Monkey, that the English character had changed very little since the Victorianism of Soames and his generation. “He emerged still thinking about the English. Well! They were now one of the plainest and most distorted races of the world; and yet was there any race to compare with them for good temper and for ‘guts’? And they needed those in their smoky towns, and their climate a remarkable instance of adaptation to environment, the modern English character! ‘I could pick out an Englishman anywhere,’ he thought, ‘ and yet, physically, there’s no general type now!’ Astounding people!”
Galsworthy is viewed as one of the first writers of the Edwardian era; who challenges in his works some of the ideals of society depicted in the literature of Victorian England. The depiction of a woman in an unhappy marriage is a recurring theme in his work. Through his writings he campaigned for a variety of causes including prison reform, women’s rights, animal welfare and censorship, most of which have limited appeal outside the era in which they were written.
Galsworthy’s first four books were published at his own expense under the pseudonym John Sinjohn. After reading Maupassant and Turgenev, Galsworthy published Villa Rubein (1900), in which he started to find his own voice. These early efforts, written under the influence of Kipling and Russian novelists, he later labeled as heavy and exaggerated. The Island Pharisees (1904) the first book which came out under his own name. Galsworthy wrote originally in the first person, then in the third, and revised it again. Its final version was not finished until 1908.
In Galsworthy’s satire against the Island Pharisees, the fundamental feature that was to mark all his subsequent works was already apparent. The book deals with an English gentleman’s having stayed abroad long enough to forget his conventional sphere of thoughts and feelings. He criticizes the national surroundings severely, and in doing so he is assisted by a Belgian vagabond, who casually makes his acquaintance in an English railway compartment and who becomes his fate. At that time Galsworthy was himself a cosmopolite returned home, prepared to fight against the old
capitalistic aristocratic society with about the same program as George Bernard Shaw, although the Englishman, contrary to the Irishman who fought with intellectual arms, above all aimed at capturing feeling and imagination. The pharisaical egoism of England’s ruling classes, the subject of Galsworthy’s debut, remained his program for the future, only specialized in his particular works. He never tired of fighting against all that seemed narrow and harsh in the national character, and the persistence of his attacks on social evil indicates his strong impressions and deeply wounded feeling of justice.
With the Forsyte type he now aimed at the upper middle class, the rich businessmen, a group not yet having reached real gentility, but striving with its sympathies and instincts toward the well-known ideal of the gentleman of rigid, imperturbable, and imposing correctness. These people are particularly on their guard against dangerous feelings, a fact which, however, does not exclude accidental lapses, when passion intrudes upon their life, and liberty claims its rights in a world of property instincts. Beauty, here represented by Irene, does not like to live with The Man of
Property; in his bitter indignation at this, Soames Forsyte becomes almost a tragic figure. Fifteen years later that he again took up his Forsytes, the effects of the World War had radically changed the perspective. But now this work expanded; In Chancery (1920) and To Let (1921) and two short story interludes were added, and thus The Forsyte Saga proper was completed. Not finished with the younger members of the family,
Galsworthy wrote A Modern Comedy, a new trilogy whose structure is exactly like that of its predecessor and consists of the three novels, The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), and Swan Song (1928), united by two short story interludes. These two trilogies together form an unusual literary accomplishment. The novelist has carried the history of his time through three generations, and his success in mastering so excellently his enormously difficult material, both in its scope and in its depth, remains an extremely memorable feat in English literature.