The Man of Property, 1906

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Soames Forsyte

Soames Forsyte, the son of James Forsyte and the grandson of the founder of the family fortune, Jolyon Forsyte (“Superior Dosset”). Soames cannot understand why his wife, whose every material need is met, is not happy with him. When he finds out about her affair with Philip Bosinney, Soames sues him, determined to drive him bankrupt. Asserting his marital rights, he rapes Irene.

Irene Heron Forsyte

Irene Heron Forsyte, Soames’s beautiful wife. After marrying Soames, she discovered that she found him sexually repellent. In the architect Philip Bosinney, she finds a man she can love. After the rape, she leaves Soames; however, when Bosinney is run over after she has told him about the rape, she feels responsible for her lover’s death. Near collapse, she returns home.

Jolyon Forsyte (Old Jolyon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Old Jolyon), an eighty-year-old man who is especially fond of children. Because of his love for his little granddaughter June Forsyte, he sided with his daughter-in-law against his only son, Young Jolyon. After not seeing him for fourteen years, however, Old Jolyon seeks out his son, reestablishes their old relationship of total trust, and becomes close to the two young grandchildren he has never known. To please June and to spite his brother James, he buys the house at Robin Hill, which Bosinney had built for Soames.

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon), the son of Old Jolyon, a painter, who like his father is not a typical Forsyte. When he left his wife for another woman, young Jolyon and his father became estranged. After they begin to see each other again, they soon become as close as before.

June Forsyte

June Forsyte, Young Jolyon’s daughter by his first wife. After her engagement to Bosinney has been formally announced, June is humiliated by his well-known involvement with Irene. Because she still loves Bosinney, she urges her grandfather to help him extricate himself from his financial difficulties.

“Indian Summer of a Forsyte,” 1922

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Jolyon Forsyte (Old Jolyon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Old Jolyon), now eighty-five years old. He lives contentedly at Robin Hill with his son and his three grandchildren. After a chance encounter with Irene, who has left her husband, Old Jolyon befriends her. During June’s absence, she often comes to visit him. He is happily anticipating her arrival at the time of his death.

In Chancery, 1920

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Soames Forsyte

Soames Forsyte, who yearns for a son to carry on the family name. Soames decides that he must obtain a divorce from Irene. He has selected a young, practical French woman, Annette Lamotte, as a suitable wife for him and the future mother of his child. He cannot, however, stay away from Irene, whom he still considers his property. A detective’s report on her involvement with Young Jolyon prompts Soames to sue for divorce, naming Young Jolyon as co-respondent. Soames marries Annette, and they have a daughter.

Irene Heron Forsyte

Irene Heron Forsyte, Soames’s estranged wife, who is determined to get away from Soames. In Young Jolyon, she has a dependable, understanding friend and, in time, a devoted lover. After the divorce, she marries Young Jolyon and moves to Robin Hill. They have a son, Jon.

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon), a widower. Appointed by his father as trustee of the large bequest to Irene, Jolyon feels compelled to protect her from Soames and his unwelcome attentions. Traveling together in Europe, Young Jolyon and Irene realize that they love each other.

Jolyon Forsyte (Jolly)

Jolyon Forsyte (Jolly), the older son of Young Jolyon. He is a student at Oxford when the Boer War breaks out. When Val...

(This entire section contains 289 words.)

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accuses him of being pro-Boer, he enlists. He dies of disease in South Africa.

Winifred Dartie

Winifred Dartie, Soames’s sister, who is deserted by her spendthrift husband and begins divorce proceedings. When he returns, she takes him back.

Publius Valerius (Val) Dartie

Publius Valerius (Val) Dartie, their son. He marries Holly Forsyte. He is wounded in South Africa and returns home.

Holly Forsyte

Holly Forsyte, Young Jolyon’s daughter and Val Dartie’s wife.

“Awakening,” 1922

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Jolyon Forsyte (Jon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Jon), the son of Young Jolyon and Irene. At the age of five, he is aware of his parents’ love for each other and his mother’s beauty.

To Let, 1921

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Soames Forsyte

Soames Forsyte, whose wife cares nothing for him and who loves only his daughter. He is appalled by the idea that she might marry Irene’s son.

Fleur Forsyte

Fleur Forsyte, Soames’s daughter. She is determined to marry Jon, but she has to settle for Michael Mont.

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Young Jolyon), who writes Jon a letter describing Soames’s mistreatment of Irene but dies before Jon finishes reading it.

Irene Forsyte

Irene Forsyte, who, seeing that Fleur has inherited Soames’s selfishness, begs Jon not to marry her.

Jolyon Forsyte (Jon)

Jolyon Forsyte (Jon), who has loved Fleur since he first met her. He nevertheless breaks off their engagement, telling her that he must respect his father’s last wishes.

Places Discussed

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*England. Country in which virtually all the action in the novels takes place. Although John Galsworthy was not comfortable with the characterization, many of his contemporaries considered him the era’s leading chronicler of England’s upper-middle class. He himself was the son of a lawyer who owned considerable real estate, so he knew that class intimately. His portrayals of the British aristocracy and of working-class people are considered less successful. In The Forsyte Saga Galsworthy sets many scenes and chapters in locations he personally knew. For instance, a chapter in To Let is set at the annual cricket match between the great public schools Harrow and Eton in London. A graduate of Harrow, Galsworthy regularly attended the event. Part of In Chancery is set at Oxford University, where Galsworthy studied law.


*London. Capital and largest city of Great Britain, in and around which much of the action takes place in scenes at various houses, clubs, streets, restaurants, art galleries, opera houses, parks, courtrooms, train stations, cemeteries, and theaters.

Robin Hill

Robin Hill. Small village near which Soames Forsyte—the title character of The Man of Property—decides to build a country house and engages Philip Bosinney to build, furnish, and decorate the house for him. He wants a large house within commuting distance of London in which to keep his collection of paintings and his wife, Irene. He regards Irene as his most precious possession and thinks he can control her better by keeping her out of London. When she and Philip fall in love, Soames seeks his revenge by suing Philip for going over budget on his house.

Soames never lives in the house, a two-story rectangular structure with a courtyard covered by a glass roof. Jolyon Forsyte buys the house and lives in it with his son, young Jolyon Forsyte, and his son’s family until his death a few years later. Later, Irene marries young Jolyon and lives with him in the Robin Hill house. At the opening of To Let, set twenty years later, Irene and Jolyon are still living at Robin Hill

Galsworthy based the grounds of Robin Hill, but not the building itself, on his boyhood home of Coombe Warren. The house is more than a plot device, however. Soames’s problems with the house parallel his problems with Irene and with life in general. Galsworthy believed that it was futile to try to control everything in a person’s life, especially the people in it. The more Soames tries to control his world and to plan other people’s lives, the worse his own life becomes.

Timothy’s house

Timothy’s house. Home of the aging bachelor Timothy on London’s Bayswater Road, in which, at the beginning of The Man of Property, Timothy lives with three sisters. The redbrick house overlooks a park and is a regular gathering place of the Forsyte clan. Timothy himself, a hypochondriac who lives to the age of one hundred, rarely leaves his bedroom. His funeral at London’s Highgate Cemetery takes place in the last chapter of the last novel, signifying that the saga has ended.


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Gindin, James. “Ethical Structures in John Galsworthy, Elizabeth Bowen, and Iris Murdoch.” In Forms of Modern British Fiction, edited by Alan Warren Friedman. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975. Concludes that the central concern of the Galsworthy trilogy is ethical and explores what it is that people do to themselves and others. The main struggle is often between property and beauty.

Johnson, Pamela Hansford. “Speaking of Books: The Forsyte Saga.” The New York Times Sunday Review of Books, March 12, 1967, pp. 2, 36. Discusses the reception of Galsworthy’s trilogy and the fact that the writer’s reputation had fallen but was on the rise because of the television production of The Forsyte Saga.

Sternlicht, Sanford. John Galsworthy. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987. Chapter 3 describes The Forsyte Saga as Galsworthy’s crowning achievement, an ironic account without heroes or epic battles and a fine portrait of the passing from power of England’s upper middle class.

Stevens, Earl. “John Galsworthy.” In British Winners of the Nobel Literary Prize, edited by Walter Kidd. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1973. Concludes that The Forsyte Saga alternates between satiric novel and lyric interlude and that Galsworthy seeks to teach readers to see the world more completely.

Stevens, Ray. “Mrs. Woolf and Mr. Galsworthy, and the Queer Case of Beyond.” English Liter-ature in Transition (1985): 65-87. Reexamines Virginia Woolf’s criticism of Galswor-thy and shows the nuances in the relationship between them, as well as their relationships with Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells.


Critical Essays