John Galsworthy Additional Biography


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

John Galsworthy was born into a wealthy family. His father was a lawyer and director of many companies. The elder Galsworthy provided the model for the elder Jolyon Forsyte in The Man of Property and “Indian Summer of a Forsyte.” Galsworthy attended Harrow, where he excelled at sports but not academics. He then studied law at Oxford. He was to practice little. At neither place did John show any literary talents or ambitions. His wealth allowed him to travel extensively as a young man.

The turning point in his life occurred when he met Ada Galsworthy, the wife of a cousin. It is not known why Ada married her first husband, but it was a loveless marriage. Learning her plight, John fell in love with Ada, who came to reciprocate his feelings. They carried on a relationship for several years until the death of John’s father. After they lived together openly in Dartmoor, Ada’s husband finally sued for divorce. Eventually, John and Ada married and remained together until his death. She provided the model for Irene Heron in The Forsyte Saga. At the heart of The Forsyte Saga is the plight of women as the property of men. The situation of the woman who became his wife made him sensitive to the second-class status of women in his society. Some critics have even argued that Galsworthy’s prowoman bias is excessive.

Before meeting Ada, Galsworthy made some attempts at writing. With her encouragement, he became more earnest and prolific, writing books and plays for nearly forty years. His best book is perhaps The Man of Property, a superb characterization of the new, prosperous class that arose from industrialization. The many characters are drawn from people in his family and others he knew.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Literary recognition came slowly but surely to John Galsworthy (GAWLZ-wur-thee), the English novelist, dramatist, poet, and essayist. By the time of his death in 1933, general opinion had accorded him first place among British novelists, and his most memorable creations, the Forsytes, were as warmly considered and discussed as if they had been people of flesh and blood.{$S[A]Sinjohn, John;Galsworthy, John}

Galsworthy, the second of four children of John and Blanche Bailey Galsworthy, came of Devonshire yeoman stock on his father’s side; his mother belonged to an old Worcestershire family of provincial squires and men of commerce. Galsworthy’s father, after moving to London, had achieved solid prosperity as a lawyer and director of many companies. The older generation of Forsytes probably owe many of their distinguishing traits to the senior John Galsworthy, who was said to have had a strong measure of tenacity and “the possessive instinct.” His love of the arts and his feeling for nature made him a natural progenitor of the sturdy and lovable Old Jolyon.

Galsworthy’s schoolboy days were unremarkable. At Harrow, where he went in 1881, he excelled in running and football rather than as a scholar, and neither there nor at Oxford did he show any tendency toward a literary career. In fact, real ambition in any direction seemed to be dormant. He was called to the bar in 1890 but showed little interest in practicing his profession. When he fell in love with an aspiring actress named Sybil Carr, his family, to break up the affair, sent him on a series of extensive journeys that carried him to such distant spots as Canada, the Fijis, Australia, and Russia. His first long voyage was marked by a chance meeting with Joseph Conrad, then chief officer of The Torrens, with whom he sailed from Australia to South Africa. This was the beginning of a strong friendship that ended only with Conrad’s death in 1924.

After his return to London, Galsworthy became acquainted with Ada Galsworthy, the wife of his cousin Arthur. Charming and intelligent, Ada was trapped by a tragic marriage that enlisted the sympathetic concern not only of her friends but also of her husband’s family. Out of consideration for the feelings of Galsworthy’s father, their love affair was concealed until after his death; in 1904, however, they went together to...

(The entire section is 969 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

A prolific novelist, playwright and short-story writer, Galsworthy is considered one of the most successful English authors of the early...

(The entire section is 609 words.)