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 first degree rape 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 His first two collections of tales were published under the pen name of John Sin john, and the editions were soon withdrawn by the self-critical beginner.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.
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. 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.