John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy OM (/ˈɡɔːlzwɜːrði/; 14 August 1867 – 31 January 1933) 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 in Literature in 1932.

John Galsworthy

Born(1867-08-14)14 August 1867
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
Died31 January 1933(1933-01-31) (aged 65)
Hampstead, London, England
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Literature
SpouseAda Galsworthy
President of
PEN International
In office
October 1921  October 1933
Succeeded byH. G. Wells


Galsworthy was born at what is now known as Galsworthy House (then called Parkhurst)[1] on Kingston Hill in Surrey, England, the son of John and Blanche Bailey (née Bartleet) Galsworthy. His family was prosperous and well established, with a large property in Kingston upon Thames that is now the site of three schools: Marymount International School, Rokeby Preparatory School, and Holy Cross Preparatory School. He attended Harrow and New College, Oxford. He took a Second in Law (Jurisprudentia) at Oxford in 1889,[2] then trained as a barrister and was called to the bar in 1890. However, he was not keen to begin practising law and instead travelled abroad to look after the family's trans-European shipping agency. During these travels, he met Joseph Conrad in 1893, 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 Cooper (1864–1956), the wife of his cousin Major Arthur Galsworthy. After her divorce ten years later, they were married on 23 September 1905 and stayed together until his death in 1933. Before their marriage, they often stayed clandestinely in a farmhouse called Wingstone that was in the village of Manaton on Dartmoor, Devon.[3] In 1908 Galsworthy took a long lease on part of the building, and it was their regular second home until 1923.[3]


From the Four Winds, a collection of short stories, was Galsworthy's first published work in 1897. These and several subsequent works were published under the pen name of John Sinjohn, and it was not until The Island Pharisees (1904) that he began publishing under his own name, probably owing to the recent death of his father. His first full-length novel, Jocelyn, was published in an edition of 750 under the name of John Sinjohn—he later refused to have it republished. His first play, The Silver Box (1906),[4]—in which the theft of a prostitute's purse by a rich 'young man of good family' is placed beside the theft of a silver cigarette case from the rich man's father's house by 'a poor devil', with very different repercussions,[5] though justice was clearly done in each case—became a success, and he followed it up with The Man of Property (1906), the first book of a Forsyte trilogy. Although he continued writing both plays and novels, it was as a playwright that he was mainly appreciated at the time. Along with those of other writers of the period, such as George Bernard Shaw, his plays addressed the class system and other social issues, two of the best known being Strife (1909) and The Skin Game (1920).

John Galsworthy

He is now far better known for his novels, particularly The Forsyte Saga, his trilogy about the eponymous family and connected lives. These books, as with many of his other works, deal with social class, and upper-middle class lives in particular. 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 who challenged some of the ideals of society depicted in the preceding 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, though her previous marriage was not as miserable as that of the character. The publishers William Heinemann were responsible for the publication of much of his work.

In 1924 he agreed to write a preface free of charge, to secure the publication of The Spanish Farm, the debut novel of family friend R. H. Mottram; the book was duly published by Chatto and Windus to great acclaim.

Causes and honours


Through his writings Galsworthy campaigned for a variety of causes, including prison reform, women's rights, and animal welfare, and also against censorship. Galsworthy was a supporter of British involvement in the First World War. In an article for The Daily News on 31 August 1914 Galsworthy called for war on Germany to protect Belgium. Galsworthy added "What are we going to do for Belgium — for this most gallant of little countries, ground, because of sheer loyalty, under an iron heel?" [6] During the First World War he worked in a hospital in France as an orderly, after being passed over for military service, and in 1917 turned down a knighthood, for which he was nominated by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, on the precept that a writer's reward comes simply from writing itself.[7]

Galsworthy opposed the slaughter of animals and fought for animal rights.[8] He was also a humanitarian[9] and a member of the Humanitarian League.[10] He opposed hunting and supported the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports.[11]


Galsworthy was offered and refused a knighthood in 1918, but he was incorrectly stated to have received the knighthood because his letter to decline the knighthood was lost.[12] Galsworthy was in 1921 elected to be the first president of the PEN International literary association. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1929. He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Literature, after his nomination by Henrik Schück who was a member of the Swedish Academy,[13] and he donated the prize money from the Nobel Prize to PEN International.[14] He was too ill to attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony on 10 December 1932,[15][16] and he died seven weeks later.


Galsworthy during the final seven years of his life lived at Bury, West Sussex, but he died from a brain tumour at his London home, Grove Lodge in Hampstead, and he was cremated at Woking, after which his ashes were scattered over the South Downs from an aeroplane.[17] There are also memorials to him in Highgate (West) Cemetery[18] and in the cloisters of New College, Oxford, that are by Eric Gill.[19][20] The popularity of his fiction declined subsequent to his death, until the highly popular black-and-white television adaptation The Forsyte Saga (1967) increased public interest in his work.

A trove of John Galsworthy's letters and papers is held at the Special Collections of the University of Birmingham.[21] A building at Kingston University, which was opened during 2007,[22] and Galsworthy Road in Kingston, which is the location of Kingston Hospital, are named for him.


Galsworthy's sister Lilian (1864–1924) was married to the German painter and lithographer Georg Sauter from 1894. With the beginning of World War I, Sauter was interned as an enemy alien at Alexandra Palace and later expelled.[23] Their son Rudolf Sauter (1895–1971) was also a painter and graphic artist, who among other things, illustrated the works of his uncle.

Notable adaptations

Bury House, Galsworthy's West Sussex home.

The Forsyte Saga has been filmed several times:

The White Monkey was made into a silent film of the same name in 1925, directed by Phil Rosen, and starring Barbara La Marr, Thomas Holding, and Henry Victor.[27]

The Skin Game was adapted and directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1931. It starred C.V. France, Helen Haye, Jill Esmond, Edmund Gwenn, John Longden and Phyllis Konstam.[28]

Escape was filmed in 1930 and 1948. The latter was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Rex Harrison, Peggy Cummins, and William Hartnell. The screenplay was by Philip Dunne.[24]

One More River (a film version of Galsworthy's Over the River) was filmed by James Whale in 1934. The film starred Frank Lawton, Colin Clive (one of Whale's most frequently used actors) and Diana Wynyard, and featured Mrs. Patrick Campbell in a rare sound film appearance.[29]

The First and the Last, a short play, was adapted as 21 Days, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.[30]

Galsworthy's short story The Apple Tree was adapted into a radio play for Orson Welles's Lady Esther Almanac radio series on CBS, first broadcast on 12 January 1942; the play was again produced by Welles for CBS on The Mercury Summer Theatre of 6 September 1946. The 1988 film A Summer Story was also based on The Apple Tree.[31]

The NBC University Theater aired radio adaptations of his plays Justice on 31 October 1948 and The Patrician on 26 February 1950.

The Mob, adapted by John Foley in 2004 for the BBC Radio World Service.


The Forsyte Chronicles

  1. The Salvation of a Forsyte (The Salvation of Swithin Forsyte) (1900)
  2. On Forsyte 'Change (1930) (re-published 1986 as "Uncollected Forsyte")
  3. Danaë (1905–06) in Forsytes, Pendyces, and Others (1935)
  4. The Man of Property (1906) – first book of The Forsyte Saga (1922)
  5. The Country House,(1907)
  6. "Indian Summer of a Forsyte" (1918) – first interlude of The Forsyte Saga in Five Tales (1918)
  7. In Chancery (1920) – second book of The Forsyte Saga
  8. "Awakening" (1920) – second interlude of The Forsyte Saga
  9. To Let (1921) – third book of The Forsyte Saga
  10. The White Monkey (1924) – first book of A Modern Comedy (1929)
  11. The Silver Spoon (1926) – second book of A Modern Comedy
  12. "A Silent Wooing" (1927) – first Interlude of A Modern Comedy
  13. "Passers-By" (1927) – second Interlude of A Modern Comedy
  14. Swan Song (1928) – third book of A Modern Comedy
  15. Maid in Waiting (1931) – first book of End of the Chapter (1934)
  16. Flowering Wilderness (1932) – second book of End of the Chapter
  17. One More River (originally Over the River) (1933) – third book of End of the Chapter


  • From the Four Winds, 1897 (as John Sinjohn)
  • Jocelyn, 1898 (as John Sinjohn)
  • Villa Rubein, 1900 (as John Sinjohn)
  • A Man of Devon, 1901 (as John Sinjohn)
  • The Island Pharisees, 1904
  • Fraternity, 1909
  • A Motley, 1910
  • The Dark Flower, 1913
  • The Freelands, 1915
  • A Sheaf, 1916
  • Beyond, 1917
  • Saint's Progress, 1919
  • Captures, 1923
  • The Burning Spear, 2002

Short Storiy Collections

  • Villa Rubein and Other Stories, 1900 (as John Sinjohn)
  • Five Tales, 1918 (Contents: "The First and Last", "A Stoic", "The Apple Tree", "The Juryman", and "Indian Summer of a Forsyte" (the first interlude of The Forsyte Saga)
  • Tatterdemalion, 1920


  • The Silver Box, 1906
  • Strife, 1909
  • Joy, 1909
  • Justice, 1910
  • The Little Dream, 1911
  • The Patrician, 1911
  • The Pigeon, 1912
  • The Eldest Son, 1912
  • The Fugitive, 1913
  • The Mob, 1914
  • The Little Man, 1915
  • A Bit o' Love, 1915
  • The Foundations, 1917
  • The First and the Last, 1919
  • The Skin Game, 1920
  • A Family Man, 1922
  • Loyalties, 1922
  • Windows, 1922
  • Old English, 1923
  • Escape, 1926
  • Punch and Go, 1935


  • Quality, 1912,
  • The Inn of Tranquility, 1912,
  • Addresses in America, 1912
  • Two Essays on Conrad, 1930

Collected Works

  • The Manaton Edition, 1923–26 (30 vols.)
  • The Grove Edition, 1927–34 (27 Vols.)

Other works

  • A Commentary, 1908
  • A Justification for the Censorship of Plays, 1909
  • The Japanese Quince, 1910
  • The Spirit of Punishment, 1910
  • Horses in Mines, 1910
  • Moods, Songs, and Doggerels, 1912
  • For Love of Beasts, 1912
  • Treatment of Animals, 1913
  • The Slaughter of Animals For Food, 1913
  • Abracadabra, 1924
  • The Forest, 1924
  • Old English, 1924
  • The Show, 1925
  • Caravan: The Assembled Tales of John Galsworthy, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1925
  • Verses New and Old, 1926 (poems)
  • Castles in Spain, 1927
  • Bambi, Mar 16, 1928, wrote the foreword to Felix Salten's now famous novel
  • Exiled, 1929
  • The Roof, 1929
  • Soames and the Flag, 1930
  • The Creation of Character in Literature, 1931 (The Romanes Lecture for 1931).
  • Forty Poems, 1932
  • Autobiographical Letters of Galsworthy: A Correspondence with Frank Harris, 1933
  • Collected Poems, 1934
  • The Life and Letters, 1935
  • The Winter Garden, 1935
  • Forsytes, Pendyces and Others, 1935
  • Selected Short Stories, 1935
  • Glimpses and Reflections, 1937
  • Galsworthy's Letters to Leon Lion, 1968
  • Letters from John Galsworthy 1900–1932, 1970

Notes and references

  1. Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1983). The Buildings of England, London 2: South. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books. p. 321. ISBN 0-14-071047-7.
  2. Oxford University Calendar 1895, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895, 262
  3. Cooper, Robert M. (1998). The Literary Guide & Companion to Southern England. Ohio University Press. pp. 323–324. ISBN 0-8214-1225-6. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
  4. Galsworthy, John (9 January 1909). "The silver box, a comedy in three acts". C. Scribner's Sons. OCLC 8792009. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. Description of the plot from John Galsworthy, by George Orwell, Monde 23 March 1929
  6. Playne Caroline Elisabeth. Society at War, 1914-1916. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1931 (p.87).
  7. "Masterpiece Theatre – The Forsyte Saga, Series I – Essays + Interviews – John Galsworthy
    (see ¶ 6)"
    . Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)(US). Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  8. Sternlicht, Sanford. (1987). John Galsworthy. Twayne Publishers. p. 21. ISBN 978-0805769470
  9. Durey, Jill Felicity. (2019). John Galsworthy (1867–1933) and Animal Welfare. Minnesota Review 92: 95-110.
  10. Wilson, David A. H. (2015). The Welfare of Performing Animals: A Historical Perspective. Springer. pp. 30-31. ISBN 978-3-662-45833-4
  11. Tichelar, Michael. (2017). The History of Opposition to Blood Sports in Twentieth Century England. Routledge. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-138-22543-5
  12. A. Michie, God Save The Queen at 107 (1952).
  13. "Nomination Database". April 2020.
  14. Olga Soboleva; Angus Wrenn (20 April 2017). From Orientalism to Cultural Capital. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  15. Smith, Helen (2017). An Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett, Mentor and Editor of Literary Genius. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0374717414.
  16. "". Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  17. Geoffrey Harvey, Galsworthy, John (1867–1933), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006, accessed 29 July 2012
  18. Other Writers.
  19. "A History of the Workshop". Archived from the original on 11 January 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link).
  20. MacCarthy, Fiona (1989). Eric Gill. Faber & Faber. p. 276. ISBN 0-571-14302-4.
  21. Small, Ian (1984). "Special Collections Report: The Galsworthy Collection and Its Fate". English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. 27 (3): 236–238. ISSN 1559-2715.
  22. "John Galsworthy building". Kingston University London. Retrieved 10 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. Webb, Simon (2016). British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900–1975. Pen and Sword. pp. 50–51. ISBN 978-1473846326.
  24. "That Forsyte Woman (1949)".
  25. "BFI Screenonline: Forsyte Saga, The (1967)".
  26. Guider, Elizabeth (25 July 2004). "Review: 'The Forsyte Saga'".
  27. "The White Monkey". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 3 June 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  28. "The Skin Game (1931)".
  29. "One More River (1934)".
  30. "21 Days Together (1940)".
  31. "A Summer Story". RadioTimes.

Further reading

  • Barker, Dudley (1963). The Man of Principle: A View of John Galsworthy. Heinemann.
  • Dupre, Catherine (1976). John Galsworthy. A Biography. Collins.
  • Durey, Jill Felicity (2021). John Galsworthy's Compassion: All Beings Great and Small. Springer International.
  • Fabes, Gilbert H. (1932). John Galsworthy. His First Editions, Points and Values. Cornell University Press.
  • Frechet, Alec (1982). John Galsworthy: A Reassessment. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Garnett, Edward (1934). Letters from John Galsworthy 1900-1932. Jonathan Cape.
  • Gindin, James (1987). John Galsworthy's Life and Art: An Alien's Fortress. University of Michigan Press.
  • Gindin, James (1979). The English Climate: An Excursion into a Biography of John Galsworthy. University of Michigan Press.
  • Heinemann, William (1926). John Galsworthy. An Appreciation together with a Bibliography. Heinemann.
  • Marrot, H. V. (1928). A Bibliography of the Works of John Galsworthy. Elkin Mathews & Marrot.
  • Marrot, H. V. (1935). The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy. Heinemann.
  • Mottram, R. H. (1956). For Some We Loved: An Intimate Portrait of Ada and John Galsworthy. Hutchinson.
  • Mottram, R. H. (1953). John Galsworthy. Writers and their Work, No. 38. British Council/National Book League.
  • Reznick, Jeffrey S. (2009). John Galsworthy and Disabled Soldiers of the Great War. Manchester University Press.
  • Stevens, Earl E. (1980). John Galsworthy: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him. Cornell University Press.
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