Biography of John Galsworthy (1867-1933)

Novelist and playwright British, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. He/She was born on August 14, 1867 in Kingston Hill (Surrey) and died on January 31, 1933 at Grove Lodge (Hampstead).

The family of Galsworthy, a lineage of farmers of Devonshire whose origin dates back to the 16th century, had made a considerable Fortune during the 19th century. Son of lawyer, was educated at Harrow and New College, Oxford, Galsworthy. He/She joined the Bar Association in 1890. Specialized in maritime law, it took a trip around the world during which he/she met Joseph Conrad, then a merchant ship officer, whose friendship remained throughout life. Galsworthy realized that his adventurous character was incompatible with the legal profession. They were his first literary works from the four winds (1897), a collection of short stories, and the novel Jocelyn (1898), both funded by himself when still used the pseudonym of John Sinjohn. The Pharisees of the island (1904) was the first book signed with his own name.

His works mainly depict the life of the English bourgeoisie; its dramas are usually focused on this social stratum, although occasionally deal also the poor and social justice issues. In his early days as a novelist are the rural house (1907), El Patricio (1911), and free land (1915). The owner (1906) was the first of a series of novels known as the Saga of the Forsythe saga that made him famous; other titles of the same are the Indian summer of San Martín's a Forsythe (1918, which consists of five stories), in court (1920), Awakening (1920), and for rent (1921). The series, published in its entirety in 1922, describes the lives of three generations of a vast family of upper-middle class at the end of the 19th century.

Owner, Galsworthy attacking the Forsythe through the character of Soames Forsythe, a lawyer who considers his wife Irene as one of its properties. Irene finds her husband physically unattractive and falls for a young architect who dies. The other two novels of the series trying to divorce of Soames and Irene, their second marriages and amorous entanglements of their children. After the first world war Forsythe family history continues on the white monkey (1924), spoon Silver (1926), and the swansong (1928), collected under the title of a modern comedy (1929). These followed them, in turn, hopes youth (1931), flowery meadow (1932) and beyond River (1933), posthumously published under the title the end of the chapter (1934).

GALSWORTHY was also an excellent playwright. His works, written in a naturalistic style, often discusses a controversial ethical or social problem. His theatrical piece Silver box (1906) - the first which used the resource present two families parallel - had a favorable reception for his legal subject since it tries to show the bitter contrast of different laws made for the rich and the poor. His plays include dispute (1909, a study of industrial relations), Justice (1910, a realistic portrait of life in prison that awoke in him a deep sense of the need for reform), the Dove (1912), an old English (1924) and the roof (1929). Perhaps loyalties (1922) the best of all of them. He/She also wrote poems. In 1929 he/she received the order of merit and in 1932, as indicated above, the prize Nobel of literature.

In 1905 he/she married Ada Pearson, wife of his cousin a. j. Galsworthy, which kept extramarital affairs for ten years. The Irene of the Forsythe Saga is to some extent a portrait of Ada Galsworthy. His novels, by the absence of complicated psychological portraits and a social point of view simplified, came to be considered true models of English life of that time. Galsworthy is remembered for its evocation of the life of the high Victorian period and Edwardian middle class and for his creation of Soames Forsythe, deplorable character who manages to arouse the sympathy of the reader.

The television series the Saga of the Forsythe, performed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), got a huge popularity not only in Great Britain and revived interest in an author whose name had been virtually forgotten after his death.


MARROT, H.V.: Life and letters of John Galsworthy (1935, reprinted in 1973).

DUDLEY Barker, the man of principle: A personal view on John Galsworthy (1963).

DUPRÉ, Catherine: John Galsworthy (1976).

GINDIN, James: Life and artistic work of John Galsworthy (1987).

SANFORD STERNLICHT, John Galsworthy, an introduction (1987).