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|John Galsworthy (1867-1933) - pseudonym "John Sinjohn"|
English novelist and playwright, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932. Galsworthy became known for his portrayal of the British upper middle class and for his social satire. His most famous work is The Forsyte Saga (1906-1921), an English parallel to Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks (1901). Galsworthy was a representative of the literary tradition, which has regarded the novel as an instrument of social debate. He believed that it was the duty of an artist to examine a problem, but not to provide a solution. Before starting his career as a writer, Galsworthy read widely the works of Kipling, Zola, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Flaubert.
"When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were present; when a Forsyte died – but no Forsyte has as yet died; they did not die; death being contrary to their principles, they took precautions against it, the instinctive precautions of highly vitalized persons who resent encroachments on their property." (from The Forsyte Saga)
John Galsworthy was born in Kingston Hill, Surrey, into a upper-middle-class family. His father, John Galsworthy, was a lawyer and director of several companies. Galsworthy's mother, the former Blanche Bartleet, was the daughter of a Midlands manufacturer. Galsworthy studied law Harrow and New Collage, Oxford. During this period he gained fame as a cricket and football player, but not with his writings. Once he planned to write a study of warm-blooded horses. Galsworthy's favorite authors were Thackeray, Dickens, and Melville, his favorite composer was Beethoven. In 1890 he was called to the bar. However, he never settled into practice, but chose to travel, after an unlucky love affair.
In 1893 Galsworty met the writer Joseph Conrad while on a South Sea voyage, which he made in part to study maritime law. 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. Years later Galsworthy helped Conrad financially.
Galsworthy's first four books were published at his own expense under the pseudonym John Sinjohn, the first being a collection of short stories, From the Four Winds (1897). 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 labelled as heavy and exaggerated. The Island Pharisees (1904) was the first book which came out under his own name. Galsworthy wrote it originally in the first person, then in the third, and revised it again. Its final version was not finished until 1908.
With the death of his father in 1904, Galsworthy became financially independent. In 1905 he married Ada Pearson (1864-1956), his cousin's wife. Galsworthy had lived in secret with her for ten years, because he did not want to cause distress to his father, who would not approve the relationship. They had began the affair while Ada's husband Arthur served in the Boer war. According to some biographers Galsworthy, a "decent chap" of his times, was dominated by his wife who was atrocious and hypochondriac. Ada 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 novel sequence to be known as The Forsyte Saga and established Galsworthy's reputation as a major British writer.
The first appearance of the Forsyte family was in one of stories in Man of Devon (1901). The saga follows the lives of three generations of the British middle-class before 1914. Soames Forsyte was modelled after Arthur Galsworthy, the writer's cousin. Soames is married to beautiful and rebellious Irene. The incident, when Soames rapes his wife, was supposedly based on Ada Galsworthy's experience with 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, containig 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 1930 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. Another example of the genre from the interwar years is Martin du Gard's Les Thibaults (1922-1940).
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 - 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 also gained recognition as a dramatist with his plays, that dealt directly with the unequal division of wealth and the unfair treatment of poor people. The Silver Box (1906) stated that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor, Strife (prod. in 1909), depicted a mining strike, and Justice (prod. in 1910) encouraged the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, in his program for prison reform. Later plays include The Skin Game (1920), adapted to screen by Alfred Hitchcock in 1931, Loyalties (1922), dealing with the theme of anti-Semitism, and Escape (1926), filmed second time in 1948 by 20th. Century-Fox, starring Rex Harrison. In the story a law-abiding man meets a prostitute and accidentally kills a police in defending her. He escapes from prison, and meets different people before giving himself up.
GIRL. You don't like women, that's clear.
During World War I Galsworthy tried to enlist in the army, but he was rejected due to his shortsightedness. He actively supported the war effort, raising funds, working in France for the Red Cross, and helping refugees in Belgium. Galsworthy refused knighthood in 1917 in the belief that writers should not accept titles. He also gave away at least half of his income to humanitarian causes. In 1924 Galsworthy founded PEN, the international organization of writers, with Catherine Dawson Scott. Its trust fund was financed by his Nobel Prize money. The organization was named PEN when someone pointed out at the first meeting that the initial letters on poet, essayist and novelist were the same in most European languages.
John Galsworthy died on January 31, 1933. He produced 20 novels, 27 plays, 3 collections of poetry, 173 short stories, 5 collections of essays, 700 letters, and many sketches and miscellaneous works. After his death, his reputation declined. Galsworthy's socially committed work was attacked by D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, who said in her essay 'Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,' that the Edwardian writers "developed a technique of novel-writing which suits their purpose. . . But those tools are not our tools, and that business is not our business." The younger generation of writers accused Galsworthy of being thoroughly embodied the values he was supposed to be criticizing. Galsworthy's influence is seen in the works of Thomas Mann, and he was widely read in France and in Russia. The Forsyte Saga gained a huge popular success as a BBC television series in 1967.
For further reading: The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy by H.V. Marrot (1935); John Galsworthy by V. Dupont (1942); John Galsworthy by R.H. Mottram (1953); The Man of Principal by D. Baker (1963); John Galsworthy by N. Croman (1970); John Galsworthy by C. Dupré (1976); John Galsworthy as Dramatic Artist by R.H. Cotes (1978); John Galsworthy by A. Frechet (1982); The Language and Style of John Galsworthy by F.A. Mooty (1982); John Galsworthy's Life and Art by J. Gindin (1987); John Galsworthy by S.V. Sternlicht (1987); John Galsworthy and Disabled Soldiers of the Great War: With an Illustrated Selection of his Writings by Jeffrey S. Reznick (2010) - Suom.: Galsworthylta on myös julkaistu suomeksi teos Omenapuu (1926 ) V.A. Koskenniemen kääntämänä