John Galsworthy was born August 14, 1867, at Kingston Hill, Surrey, to John Galsworthy, a kind, charming, and prosperous London lawyer and company director whom his son idolized, and Blanche Bartleet, an unimaginative, fussy, and religious woman to whom Galsworthy was never close. The Galsworthys were a newly rich, upper-middle-class family; their wealth came from house and shop rentals and from speculations and investments in real estate that were begun by Galsworthy’s grandfather, a merchant who came from Devon to settle in London.
Because of the family’s wealth, Galsworthy enjoyed a childhood of privilege and luxury; his family could afford the kind of education his father had not had, so Galsworthy was privately tutored before being sent at age nine to a preparatory school at Bournemouth. He went on to Harrow, where he distinguished himself as an athlete, and then entered New College, Oxford, where he seemed more interested in behaving like a gentleman of leisure, dressing well, and gambling on the horses than in studying. He was graduated in 1889 with a second-class degree in jurisprudence and continued to study law until 1894 at Lincoln’s Inn in London; apparently, he wanted to please his father by following in his footsteps. He found the study and work boring and completed only one law case; he preferred hunting, shooting, and the company of a young singing teacher. His father disapproved of the infatuation and sent Galsworthy on several trips abroad to cure him of it. Sailing home from the South Pacific islands and Australia in 1893, Galsworthy met Joseph Conrad , then second mate on the Torrens; Conrad afterward became Galsworthy’s lifelong friend. Galsworthy had undertaken the trip partly in the hope of meeting Robert Louis Stevenson, whose fiction he admired, but he showed no serious interest in becoming a writer himself for two more years.
In 1895, Galsworthy’s acquaintance with his cousin Arthur’s wife, Ada Nemesis Pearson Cooper Galsworthy, turned into an adulterous affair. Ada, the illegitimate daughter of Anna Pearson of Norwich, had been adopted by a Norwich physician, Emanuel Cooper, who provided for her and her brother in his will. Ada married unwisely; her escape from the unhappy marriage to Arthur had a profound emotional effect on her and on John Galsworthy, who transformed the episode into fiction...
(The entire section is 965 words.)