Galsworthy, John 1867-1933
(Also wrote under the pseudonym John Sinjohn) English short fiction writer, novelist, dramatist, poet, and essayist.
A prolific author who worked in many genres, Galsworthy is most widely recognized as a chronicler of English bourgeois society during the early twentieth century. His most acclaimed work, The Forsyte Saga, is a trilogy of novels and two short stories, featuring Soames Forsyte, a prosperous and materialistic solicitor. A passionate humanist, Galsworthy criticized social injustice in Victorian society and exalted nature, beauty, and love. His style was noted for its charm, delicacy, and descriptive detail.
Galsworthy was born on a family estate in Kingston Hill, Surrey, near London. His mother was a descendant of provincial squires, while his father was of Devonshire yeoman stock. His father was a successful solicitor who had financial interests in mining companies in Canada and Russia, and who later served as the model for Old Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga. At the age of nine, Galsworthy was sent to a boarding school and later to the prestigious Harrow School in London, where he excelled in athletics. In 1886 he enrolled at Oxford to study law, graduating with second degree honors in 1889. The following year he was admitted to the bar. For a short while he worked at his father's legal firm but showed little interest in the law. He left for Canada in 1891 to inspect his family's mining interests and traveled extensively thereafter. In 1893, while aboard the Torrens, he befriended the first mate, Joseph Conrad, who was working on his first novel. Conrad would later become an important source of encouragement in Galsworthy's writing career. When Galsworthy returned to London in 1894, he had his own legal chambers but heard only one case. Within a short time, he gave up his chambers and spent the next few years reading and writing assiduously. Galsworthy was interested in writing about the plight of the working class, and he spent many hours roaming the impoverished neighborhoods of London. Ada Galsworthy, a married cousin with whom he became romantically involved, encouraged him to pursue a writing career, and her unhappiness with her failed marriage inspired many of his stories. In 1905 John and Ada Galsworthy were married. In 1897 he published his first collection of short stories, From the Four Winds, under the pseudonym John Sinjohn. Shortly thereafter he wrote two novels and another book of short stories called A Man of Devon. In 1917 Galsworthy was offered a knighthood, which he declined, arguing that it was not fitting for a writer; he later accepted the Order of Merit for his literary achievements. For twelve years he served as the first president of PEN, the international writers' organization. In December 1932, just a month before his death, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Galsworthy's short fiction exhibits similar themes to those of his novels, challenging upper-class Victorian standards. Though he himself was born to a wealthy family, Galsworthy espoused a liberal philosophy, opposing rigid doctrines of morality and religion. He believed that justice depended on the individual and on faith in humanity. He wrote about social justice, poverty, and old age, as well as love, beauty, and nature. Some of his stories are passionate tales of romance, such as "A Man of Devon" and "The Apple Tree," both of which take place in the Devonshire countryside. The former features the relationship between a young girl, Paisance, and the man she falls in love with, Zachary Pearse. Tragically, Paisance, as she watches her love sail away on a voyage that she was forbidden by her grandfather to join, trips and falls from the edge of a cliff to her death. In "The Apple Tree," a man returns after twenty-six years to Devon, where he had deserted a relationship with a farm girl in order to pursue a wife of greater social status. The story focuses on the remorse that he feels about his past choice as well as the guilt that he experiences upon discovering that the farm girl had committed suicide soon after he had left many years ago. Sanford Sternlicht called "The Apple Tree" Galsworthy's "most finely crafted, most symbolic, and most poetic tale." Other stories are character portraits or mood pieces such as "Spindleberries." He created his visions in minute detail, imbuing a strong sense of atmosphere and character. In general, Galsworthy's stories tend to center more on characters and their environment rather than plot. In many of his stories, Galsworthy empathizes with characters who are unappreciated by society for their kindness and humanity. Those who are depicted as most admirable are individuals who recognize goodness and beauty in others. For instance, in The Forsyte Saga, Irene leaves her husband, Soames, for Young Jolyon because Soames considers her his property and merely lusts for her, whereas Young Jolyon loves Irene and worships her beauty. In the idyllic "Indian Summer of Forsyte," first published in Five Tales, Old Jolyon, an epicurean, dies as he sips an exquisite wine, as if from excess of delight. A Modern Comedy, on the other hand, denounces the post-World War I generation for their aimlessness and restlessness. Commentators have noted that while Galsworthy satirized the wealthy in his early works, he presented a more sympathetic view of the Forsytes in his later works, especially those collected in A Modern Comedy. Collectively, On Forsyte 'Change, The Forsyte Saga, and A Modern Comedy have been referred to as "The Forsyte Chronicles."
Galsworthy's earliest work showed the influence of Conrad, though Galsworthy insisted he was influenced most by Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev and Guy de Maupassant. His writings have also been compared to those of Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, and Katherine Mansfield. Galsworthy's talents were first widely recognized in 1906 upon the publication of his novel The Man of Property and his first play, The Silver Box. The novel introduced his famous Forsyte family, through whom he satirized Victorian society. Galsworthy finally achieved international acclaim when The Man of Property was republished in 1922 as part of The Forsyte Saga, along with two of his most famous stories, "Indian Summer of a Forsyte" and Awakening. Galsworthy was widely regarded as a compassionate humanist whose work evinced sensitivity, sincerity, and charm. Many believe that he successfully captured the spirit of his age. Yet, while some consider him a critic of the upper class, others assert that he admired it, especially later in his life. Some of his contemporaries, especially experimental modernists, disdained his work. Virginia Woolf, for instance, considered him a "stuffed shirt" and found him guilty of the same behavior and attitudes to which he objected in his writing. His style was variously faulted as overly sentimental and melodramatic or too analytical and pessimistic. His plays in particular were often criticized as social propaganda lacking dramatic intensity. However, many critics agree that as his style evolved it became less rigid and more subtle. Galsworthy's earlier style showed similarities to French naturalism, shifting later to a more deliberate use of symbolism and mythology.
From the Four Winds [as John Sinjohn] 1897
A Man of Devon [as John Sinjohn] 1901
A Commentary (essays and sketches) 1908
A Motley (short stories, sketches, and essays) 1910
The Little Man, and Other Satires (short stories, satires, and sketches) 1915
Five Tales 1918
*Awakening (short story) 1920
The Forsyte Saga (novels and short stories) 1922
The Works of John Galsworthy. 30 vols. (novels, dramas, essays, poetry, and short stories) 1923-36
Caravan: The Assembled Tales of John Galsworthy 1925
†Two Forsyte Interludes: A Silent Wooing; Passers By 1927
A Modern Comedy (novels and short stories) 1929
On Forsyte 'Change 1930
‡Forsytes, Pendyces, and Others 1935
Other Major Works
Jocelyn [as John Sinjohn] (novel) 1898
Villa Rubein [as John Sinjohn] (novel) 1900
The Island Pharisees (novel) 1904
*The Man of Property (novel) 1906
The Silver Box (drama) 1906...
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SOURCE: A letter to John Galsworthy in 1901, The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy, by H. V. Marrot, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936, pp. 129-30.
[Conrad was born and raised in Poland and later resided in England. A major novelist, he is considered an innovator of novel structure as well as one of the finest stylists of modern English literature. In the following letter, originally written in 1901, he critiques A Man of Devon and suggests that Galsworthy should regard his characters with more skepticism.]
11th Nov. 1901.
DEAREST JACK,—I didn't write about the book before, first because Jess had it—and she reads slowly—and then I had at last some proofs of mine—a whole batch—which it took me several days to correct. Nevertheless I've read the book twice—watching the effect of it impersonally during the second reading—trying to ponder upon its reception by the public and discover the grounds of general success—or the reverse.
There is a certain caution of touch which will militate against popularity. After all, to please the public (if one isn't a sugary imbecile or an inflated fraud) one must handle one's subject intimately. Mere intimacy with the subject won't do. And conviction is found (for others, not for the author) only in certain contradictions and irrelevancies to the general conception of character (or characters) and of the...
(The entire section is 807 words.)
SOURCE: A review of A Motley, in The New York Times Saturday Review, Vol. XV, No. 88, September 17, 1910, pp. 505-06.
[In the following review, the critic offers a favorable assessment of A Motley.]
John Galsworthy is one of the few really significant figures in the literary world to-day. It is difficult to understand the attitude of those who dismiss him with the slightly condescending dictum, "Oh, yes—Galsworthy. He's the Socialist and propagandist, isn't he?"
Socialist he may be, but he is too much the artist to be a mere propagandist. As a man of thought and imagination he reflects the ultra-modern temper—the new humanitarianism, which is concerned less with theories and formulae than with the actualities of life. The volume [A Motley] of short stories, studies, and impressions just published is doubly interesting, for, apart from its intrinsic value, it is a striking revelation of the personality of the writer. As in the plays Strike and The Silver Box and the novel Fraternity, one finds here the presentation of life, and modern problems concretely treated. If Mr. Galsworthy cherishes any solution of these problems he does not give utterance to it. Seemingly, he is content to write of what he sees and feels, not despairing of Utopia, yet not overconfident of its coming.
The book opens with "A Portrait"—a study, slightly in...
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SOURCE: An excerpt from John Galsworthy, H. Holt and Company, 1916, pp. 86-99.
[Kaye-Smith was an English novelist, short story writer, and critic best known for her portrayals of the land, people, and history of Sussex, England. In the following excerpt, she analyzes short stories by Galsworthy, comparing them to a few of his essays and poems. ]
Villa Rubeln and four short stories under the title of A Man of Devon were published anonymously. All early efforts, they are not on a line with Galsworthy's later work, but they have about them a certain beauty and individuality which makes them worth considering. Perhaps their chief characteristic is delicacy: they are water-colours, in many ways exquisitely conceived and shaded, but perhaps a trifle pale and washed out, a trifle—it must be owned—uninteresting.
Villa Rubeln, describing with much sensitive charm the life of a half-Austrian household, is full of tenderness, but lacking somehow in grip. The characters are more attractive than most of Galsworthy's—in fact, in no work of his do we meet such a uniformly charming group of people. They are sketched, even the less pleasing, with an entire absence of bitterness, and the heroine, Christian, and her little half-German sister are delightful in their freshness and grave sweetness. Miss Naylor and old Nic Treffry are also drawn with a loving and convincing hand....
(The entire section is 2233 words.)
SOURCE: "Mr. Galsworthy's Tales," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 864, August 8, 1918, p. 371.
[Below, the critic lauds Five Tales.]
Mr. Galsworthy's work, on a small scale or a big, has the quality of greatness. It is largely planned and stately built. There is dignity in its substance and in its form. It is not showy; it is not brilliant; it is not even clever. It is as free from that cocksureness which is the attitude of much modern writing as it is from the tip-and-run sensation which his younger contemporaries mistake for feeling, and from the "carrying-on" which it was a fault of his predecessors to mistake for sensitiveness. You may dig deep into what he gives you, and the deeper you dig the richer you find the store to be. And his prose reveals his nature. It never shows off. It moves with dignity, but so quietly that at times you are tempted to declare it sluggish or even commonplace, until, when the tale is finished, you realize how apt an expression it has given to the quality of the mind that made it. The secret of this greatness may be partly shyness. It has taken Mr. Galsworthy some time to reveal himself. For years he seemed to be afraid of his own convictions and his own feelings. Little by little he has burned through the obstruction; but he is still rather shy, and the shyness saves him from exaggeration and display. But behind it lies a bigger and nobler quality—the habit of...
(The entire section is 1089 words.)
SOURCE: "Mr. Galsworthy in War and Peace," in The New York Times Review of Books, March 28, 1920, p. 139.
[Below, Field commends Galsworthy's attention to beauty in Tatterdemalion.]
If one were to try to sum up in a single word that for which John Galsworthy stands, both in the matter of expression and of creed, it would seem inevitable that the word should be "beauty." Beauty of expression, in the style whose exquisite finish is flowerlike in its all but flawless perfection, yet resembles a hot-house flower in that it is no untrained thing, but at once natural and carefully, skilfully cultivated. Beauty, too, as a creed, expressed in many different books, yet never—to our recollection, at least—so briefly and completely as in the sketch or essay, whichever you may choose to call it, that closes the first section of this volume, "A Green Hill Far Away." There, with the war a thing of the past and peace a blessed fact the author declares, "There are not enough lovers of beauty among men," and that until there shall be "more lovers of beauty in proportion to those who are indifferent to beauty," wars will not cease. No matter what other sterling qualities men may possess; so long as they lack this one they are, and will remain, fighting animals.
The book is divided into two sections, "Of War-Time" and "Of Peace-Time," titles which quite sufficiently explain themselves. And in war,...
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SOURCE: "Beauty and the Beast," in The Nation, Vol. CX, No. 2859, April 17, 1920, p. 522.
[In the following review of Tatterdemalion, the critic declares some of Galsworthy's stories "among the best of our time, " yet notes limitations of his literary style.]
There is a moving little essay in Mr. Galsworthy's new volume which he calls "A Green Hill Far Away." It is a breath of relief and thanksgiving at the coming of peace. It was written in 1918, and as he permits an untroubled spirit to blend once more with his beloved English countryside, he says "There is Peace again and the souls of men fresh murdered are not flying into our lungs with every breath we draw." Now it is 1920 and such souls are still flying, for hunger is a more cruel murderer than the sword and the sword itself is far from idle. And one wonders whether this wise and truly lofty soul still believes—for this is the central note of the collection—that the world is full of war and hate because "there are not enough lovers of beauty among men." "It all," he continues, "comes back to that. Not enough who want the green hill far away—who naturally hate disharmony and the greed, ugliness, restlessness, cruelty, which are its parents and children." Alas, in 1914 there was Paris, a city that loved beauty, and there was Vienna, whose many, many poets sought only after the green hills and temples of the soul. The love of beauty...
(The entire section is 765 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The Forsyte Saga, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1066, June 22, 1922, p. 411.
[In the following review, the critic praises Galsworthy's ability to create familiar and sympathetic characters in The Forsyte Saga.]
At various times Mr. Galsworthy has written three novels and two short stories about the same family. The last of the novels brings the chronicle down to the year 1920. It is therefore closed, at least for some time, and Mr. Galsworthy has taken the opportunity of grouping all these works within one cover. He has also, and, we cannot help thinking, unluckily, taken the opportunity of presenting all these works as if they were one work. So regarded, they make, at least at first sight, a very imposing whole. It is a volume of over eleven hundred pages. It contains more characters (and real, recognizable characters) than can easily be counted. It covers thirty-four years. It is a sort of English War and Peace. Only it is not. The device of calling novels "books" and short stories "interludes" does not make one work out of five or give unity and symmetry to what obviously was not composed or even imagined as a whole. And perhaps the title given to the collection is a trifle unfortunate. Mr. Galsworthy says:—
The Forsyte Saga was the title originally destined for the part of it which is called The Man of...
(The entire section is 1484 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Captures, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1130, September 13, 1923, p. 602.
[In the following mixed review, the critic maintains that the stories comprising Captures possess the characteristic beauty of Galsworthy 's writing, but lack incisiveness and intensity.]
Mr. Galsworthy's sixteen new stories, here collected [in] Captures, are neither unworthy of him nor yet on a level with his best work. They are characteristic. But one feels that in writing them he allowed himself a certain relaxation: they are deficient not in truth but in intensity. He has always surveyed life with the cool and ironic detachment which is the natural refuge of the man who feels acutely. In The Forsyte Sage his detachment was a desperately maintained pose, more dreadful and moving than could have been the least restrained partisanship. But here the detachment is rather that of a certain fatigue. The outlines of his persons are not less true, but they are less incisive. Rupert K. Vaness was a hedonist—"Life moved round him with a certain noiseless ease or stood still at a perfect temperature like the air in a conservatory round a choice blossom which a draught might shrivel." But he was still "the sort of man of whom one could never say with safety whether he was revolving round a beautiful young woman or whether the beautiful young woman was revolving round him." He was...
(The entire section is 735 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Captures, in The New York Times Book Review, September 16, 1923, p. 11.
[In the review below, the critic compares Galsworthy's stories in Captures with the game of cricket, asserting that they both contain a "code of gentility. "]
Reading another Galsworthy short stories, essays or poems book, whether a novel, plays, is like following a team, or a sportsman, in a familiar game, and seeing the supported colors come to the defeat of a gentleman. It is again Galsworthy's code of gentility, of "cricket," against a more material, coarse-fibred world that is revealed in his latest collection of short stories, Captures.
Reference to games in connection with Galsworthy is not to be construed as convicting that fine artist of triviality; it is rather a recognition of a quality held in common—that "inner pluck" which is perhaps the most engaging attribute of the Anglo-Saxon, at work or at play.
It is a world, Galsworthy would seem to be saying, scarcely worth the trouble of carrying on one's back. His characters play at life earnestly and gallantly, with no hope of winning. Persons in Galsworthy's books are developed with that swift selectiveness of his and groomed for their bit of drama—an encounter with some individual or some brute force which is "not quite cricket." The cricketers go down to be frustrated, in a sense, and to have living...
(The entire section is 1111 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Caravan, in The Bookman, Vol. 68, No. 404, May, 1925, pp. 114-15.
[Author of the acclaimed novel trilogy Eustace and Hilda (1944-47), Hartley was an English novelist and short story writer whose fiction is unified by the theme of the search for individuality and meaning in the post-Christian era. A literary critic as well, Hartley contributed reviews for many years to the Saturday Review, Time and Tide, the Spectator, and other periodicals. In the following review, he describes the stories in Caravan as inventive, indignant, and at times sentimental.]
An exhausted and pitiable caravan, this of Mr. Galsworthy's, composed of the maimed, the halt and the blind, the victims of circumstance, the victims of themselves—depressed, unsuccessful, down-at-heel, under-dogs nearly all of them. There are fifty-six stories in [Caravan], and nearly a thousand pages; in nearly every story, on nearly every page, the most we see of Happiness is her heels vanishing round a corner. Moments of elation occur and, more rarely, moments of ecstasy; but they are the brief summits of a sharply-declining curve. The caravan catches the sunlight for a second before it plunges into the shadows.
Pathos rather than tragedy is the note of Mr. Galsworthy's tales. He is for ever pitying somebody, and the shorter the story the more pity he contrives to squeeze...
(The entire section is 1150 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Caravan, in The New Statesman, Vol. XXV, No. 628, May 9, 1925, p. 106.
[In the following review, Kennedy offers a generally positive review of Galsworthy 's Caravan but contends that "a golden mediocrity honeys and mitigates all his achievement. "]
But two birds haunt the heights of Parnassus—not, as some have fabled, the eagle and the dove, but the phoenix and the ibis: the phoenix, lonely in eminence:
that self-begotten bird,
In the Arabian woods imbost,
That no second knows nor third;
and the ibis, which, as everybody remembers, is safest in the middle. There is a paradox about each of them. By the phoenix one does not mean a single literal supremacy, such as might be claimed for Shakespeare: one means the supreme quality which, wherever it is met, stands out as lord and beacon of its kind. One meets it more often in Shakespeare than anywhere else, of course; but it is to be found in lesser folk, and in odd corners. It is known by indubitable physical signs: the pit of the stomach gives, the backbone dissolves, tears come into the eyes, and one exclaims publicly in a clear voice (or privately in the heart): "By Heaven, this is the goods!" By these signs is the phoenix recognised in many places. There is one phoenix, but there are several thousand phoenixes; and that is the...
(The entire section is 1188 words.)
SOURCE: A review of On Forsyte 'Change, No. 1497, October 9, 1930, p. 804.
[Below, the critic presents a favorable assessment of On Forsyte 'Change.]
Mr. Galsworthy gives us with unneeded apologies his volume of "apocryphal Forsyte tales," (On Forsyte 'Change), fragments that stop the remaining chinks in the history of the clan between 1821 and 1918. Time has moved on while Mr. Galsworthy has been writing these annals, and more and more his Forsytes, who began by being very much of a joke, have acquired the dignity of history; they are no longer mere individuals or a mere family, they are a whole social order and a lost one.
The consciousness, or subconsciousness, of this in the author's mind gives a unity to these detached pieces; for nearly each one of them shows the time-spirit gnawing away some timber of the splendidly upholstered Forsyte mansion. Amid the insecure chaos of post-War England the survivors of the great Victorian Forsytes stand like grey monoliths covered with unintelligible maxims of prudence and morality, in the same way as in their heyday the relics of the Georgian Forsytes encumbered their drawingrooms with the rugged or fantastic outlines of a ruder and more reckless age. Just as in the first episode of this collection young Jolyon fingers with amused perplexity the paste shoe-buckles that old "Superior Dosset" Forsyte used to wear with his...
(The entire section is 839 words.)
SOURCE: "New Tales of the Forsyte Clan," in The New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1930, p. 1.
[In the following laudatory review of On Forsyte 'Change, Hutchison commends the insightful and familiar nature of the stories in the collection.]
The nineteen stories in John Galsworthy's new volume are so many episodes, farcical, grave, satirical, as the case may be, in the lives of that Forsyte clan the history of which has for so long been the major occupation of England's distinguished novelist. No doubt there are persons who have never heard of the Forystes, but with these the present writer refuses to converse. He merely informs them that in On Forsyte 'Change they will find a collection of some of the very best short stories they have encountered in recent years, varied of mood and perfect in execution. And that they had best, after reading them, familiarize themselves with the book's background, namely, the history of the Forsytes, as contained in The Forsyte Saga and A Modern Comedy. By so doing not only will they find that the present stories suddenly enrich and broaden and grow immensely more humane, but they will become acquainted with a family they have always known and yet never quite known.
If evidence were lacking (as evidence is not) of the reality of the scores of persons that walk in and out of the Forsyte pages, from The Man of...
(The entire section is 1432 words.)
SOURCE: "Fragments and Remainders of Galsworthy's Writing," in The New York Times Book Review, October 27, 1935, p. 2.
[Below, Hutchison provides a generally positive review of the stories included in Forstyes, Pendyces, and Others.]
Perhaps the striking thing about this collection of crumbs from the abundant board set by John Galsworthy is the proof of the degree to which this paramount delineator of persons and manners lived with and among the characters of his creation. Few authors, we fancy, ever dwelt with a single family for so many years as Mr. Galsworthy dwelt with the Forsyte clan.
Take only the year 1906, when Soames, who was to live in the novelist's pages for twenty years, made his first bow in The Man of Property. Nearly contemporaneous was The Country House, not primarily concerned with Forsytes. Yet, Mr. Galsworthy could not get this under way without their assistance. On the third page of four subsequently deleted introductory chapters we meet James Forsyte, and soon we find ourselves also in the company of his brother George, and of both Old and Young Jolyon. With these excised pages, grouped under the title "Danaë" (Danaë Bellew, née Thornworthy), Mrs. Galsworthy opens her anthology from the unpublished sheets left by her husband. Those who feel that The Country House is also among his distinguished works will wish to see this omitted...
(The entire section is 706 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Forsytes, Pendyces and Others, in New York Herald Tribune Books, November 3, 1935, p. 12.
[In the review below, Paterson terms the stories in Forsytes, Pendyces and Others "incisive analyses of the middle-class temperament. "]
Several of the items included in this final miscellany from the pen of John Galsworthy come under the head of unfinished business, including two plays never completed. There are also two more "dramatic pieces," one a "cut" from "Escape," the other a one-act squib. A number of short stories, all rather slight, a fantasy, a few prefaces and speeches, graceful compliments to fellow authors: and several chapters entitled "Danae," originally written as the beginning of The Country House, but discarded at the time, make up the lot. Their main interest is associational. One of the short stories, "The Doldrums," rescued from a volume long since out of print, was written in 1896, and contains in fiction form a souvenir of Galsworthy's first meeting with Joseph Conrad, when Galsworthy was a passenger aboard a ship on which Conrad was first officer, and both unknown to fame.
It is interesting to note what a strong impression Conrad made. Though in this short story he appears only as a commentator, one feels that nevertheless it was written about him. He is the most striking character, with his "brown, almond-shaped Slav eyes, the eyes...
(The entire section is 689 words.)
SOURCE: "The Short Stories of Galsworthy and Other Studies," in The Art of Galsworthy and Other Studies, Vidyarthi Granthagar, 1963, pp. 53-60.
[In the following excerpt, Gupta provides a thematic analysis of Galsworthy's short stories, concluding that his body of work is "truly impressive in its range and compass. "]
Galsworthy wrote a large number of short stories of various lengths, some like "A Stoic" or "Salvation of a Forsyte," almost novelettes, others mere skits like "Nightmare Child," "Strange Things," "Expectations," or "A Woman." These are an organic part of his work as a writer of fiction and "help to fill in and round out" the corners in his work. They are, like the Interludes in the Forsyte Chronicles, pendents or "cameos" serving as essential ornaments in his work.
These stories follow the same technique of brooding, introspective writing which characterises the novels. It is as though his work, representing life such as he knows it, has been cut into various lengths, and some of it has been labelled as "novels", and some as "short stories". The essential temperament behind them, the mood, the craftsmanship are the same.
Fifty-six of these stories have been assembled together in Caravan. There are still others like On Forsyte 'Change and Forsytes, Pendyces etc. to be added to these. This by itself is impressive in volume and range, but when...
(The entire section is 2568 words.)
SOURCE: An excerpt from The Short Stories of John Galsworthy, Haskell House, 1966, pp. 43-6, 56-60, 143-46.
[Below, Smit explores stylistic aspects of certain stories by Galsworthy and discusses his contributions to the development of the short story genre.]
Stories belonging to the older school were more or less rounded off, had a beginning, contained dramatic action, and ended at a definite point, in a word contained plot.
With the earlier fiction we are well aware that the events narrated are over and done with. The first paragraphs rouse our curiosity, and from that moment the plot progresses with a singleness of purpose to the conclusion. The shapeless short story of the present age is a far different matter. Modern writers, especially the followers of Tchehov,
have tried to effect an illusion of present time, to produce a feeling of immediacy.
Using every device of artifice to generate an atmosphere of the real they have attempted to seduce the reader with a vivid sense of intimacy. Time and place grow up around the reader just as they surround the characters throughout the sequences of reading or action (Derek Stanford, "Elements of Modern Fiction," in Modern Reading 12).
Life because of its innumerable aspects seems blurred and devoid of all form. As experience is continuous...
(The entire section is 7631 words.)
SOURCE: "Another Way of Looking at a Blackbird," in Research Studies, Vol. 39, No. 2, June, 1971, pp. 152-54.
[In the following essay, Ramsey analyzes the role of the blackbird in "The Japanese Quince, " concluding that "the reader is left with the pathos of life missed, life here understood as dark, mysterious, dangerous, not quite proper. " ]
Laurence Perrine's brief analysis of John Galsworthy's "The Japanese Quince" seems to have begun and ended all consideration of that very short story. In Perrine's view, the two characters, Mr. Nilson and Mr. Tandram, "are clearly meant to be representative of a social class," the ordered and measured life style of the British upper crust as it is reflected in several images, especially the cuckoo clock [Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, 1970]. The quince tree itself is "a radiant symbol for beauty, joy, life, growth, freedom, ecstasy" [Perrine, assisted by Margaret Morton Blum, Instructor's Manual for Literature: Structural, Sound, and Sense, 1970]. The men confront the tree but fail to respond adequately to it, thus missing out on a great part of life. The story is therefore static, almost inert, and the other "symbol," the blackbird who sings in the tree, "functions simply as part of the tree symbol."
But there is another way of looking at this blackbird and consequently at the action of the story. In the first paragraph,...
(The entire section is 1119 words.)
SOURCE: "Galsworthy's Apple Tree and the Longus Tradition," in Studies in the Twentieth Century, No. 9, Spring, 1972, pp. 83-8.
[Gesner is a Panamanian-born American educator and critic. In the following essay, she determines the influence of classical Greek and Renaissance literature on Galsworthy's short story "The Apple Tree. "]
Galsworthy leaves his reader in little doubt of his intention to cast a Greek mood over his finest short story, "The Apple Tree." As the story opens, the dominant Greek chord is introduced. Ashurst, the leading character, is alone near a country roadside reading of the Cyprian (Aphrodite) in Murray's translation of the Hippolytus of Euripides, and meditating on the unachievable elysium of "the Apple Tree, the singing, and the gold," the elysium which may be perceived for brief moments of a human life, but which in reality may never be captured and held except in art. This reading announces the major theme of the story: the inexorable power and vengence of Aphrodite, and the helplessness of man to control his emotions and order his life against the will of the goddess. When the story has closed, the reader infers that the Cyprian's balm and bale underlay all of the action, all of the passion, all of the tragedy, which has been unfolded. He is assured of the correctness of his conclusion by the quotation of lines from the Hippolytus which serve as a...
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SOURCE: "Sinjohn becomes Galsworthy," in John Galsworthy: A Biography, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1976, pp. 66-71.
[Dupré is an English novelist and biographer. In the following excerpt, she investigates the satirical nature of the short stories in The Man of Devon.]
[It is in his] collection of stories, published under the title The Man of Devon in September 1901, that Galsworthy claims to have really found the satirical vein within himself. 'I owe Swithin much, for he first released the satirist in me, and is moreover, the only one of my characters whom I killed before I gave him life, for it is in the Man of Property that Swithin Forsyte more memorably lives' [Preface to the Manaton edition, Vol. IV].
Galsworthy's friend and biographer, R. H. Mottram, sees this story, 'The Salvation of Swithin Forsyte', as the real turning point in its author's career, and one of the most biographically significant that he ever wrote. I doubt if many modern readers would share this view; they would perhaps see Swithin Forsyte's greatest merit in his refusal to die, in his insistence on remaining instead lurking somewhere in his creator's mind, a fantasy of the future, a premonition of the great genealogy of Forsytes that was to come.
The Swithin Forsyte of the short story does die, but as he lies on his death bed his mind wanders into the past and relives...
(The entire section is 1691 words.)
SOURCE: "'I'm Not Such a Fool as I Seem'," in John Galsworthy's Life and Art: An Alien's Fortress, Macmillan, 1987, pp. 114-52.
[Gindin is an American educator and critic. In the following excerpt, he surveys the plots and major themes of Galsworthy's short stories.]
(The entire section is 6819 words.)
SOURCE: "The Short-Story Writer," in John Galsworthy, Twayne Publishers, 1987, pp. 87-100.
[Sternlicht is an American educator, critic, and poet. In the following excerpt, he traces the development in Galsworthy's short fiction from the earlier influence of French naturalism to a greater use of symbolism and references to classical mythology. ]
John Galsworthy considered the long short story to be "one of the best of all forms of fiction; it is the magic vehicle for atmospheric drama. In this form the writer . . . comes nearest to the poet, the painter, the musician. The tale rises, swells and closes, like some movement of a symphony" [Leon Schalit, John Galsworthy: A Survey, 1929]. The shorter story was a quick-flashing effort "over almost before form is thought of." Galsworthy wrote long short stories, short stories, and sketches, fairly brief descriptions of individuals representing a type or class of people, or personifying an idea, an ideal, or a value. The sketches are carryovers from Victorian literature, with a long ancestry back to the Renaissance writers and even to the ancient Romans and Greeks, but little seen by the time Galsworthy was writing his.
The main preoccupations of Galsworthy's short fiction are love, beauty, the glory of nature, social justice, hatred, old age, the poor, and care for animals. Few of his stories present high adventure. More are either mood...
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Stevens, Earl E., and Stevens, H. Ray. John Galsworthy: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings about Him. De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1980, 484 p.
Comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Barker, Dudley. The Man of Principle: A View of John Galsworthy. London: Heinemann, 1963, 240 p.
Examines the events that shaped Galsworthy's life and work.
Holloway, David. John Galsworthy. International Profiles, edited by Edward Stoner. London: Morgan-Grampian Books, 1968, 92 p.
Brief introductory biography of Galsworthy. Includes photographs from productions of Galsworthy's plays and the 1967 BBC adaptation of The Forsyte Saga.
Marrot, H. V. The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936, 819 p.
Official biography of Galsworthy which includes correspondence and photographs.
Mottram, R. H. John Galsworthy. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1953, 40 p.
An overview of Galsworthy's life and work.
Sauter, Rudolf. Galsworthy the Man: An Intimate Portrait. London: Peter Owen, 1967, 176 p.
Appreciative biography by Galsworthy's nephew.
(The entire section is 433 words.)