Image of John Galsworthy


Lifetime: 1867 - 1933 Passed: ≈ 91 years ago





John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy 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.

Galsworthy was born at what is now known as Galsworthy House (then called Parkhurst) 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, 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 shipping business. 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 in the village of Manaton on Dartmoor, Devon. In 1908 Galsworthy took a long lease on part of the building and it was their regular second home until 1923.

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),—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, 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.

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.

Galsworthy lived for the final seven years of his life at Bury in West Sussex. He died from a brain tumour at his London home, Grove Lodge, Hampstead. In accordance with his will he was cremated at Woking, with his ashes then being scattered over the South Downs from an aeroplane, but there are also memorials to him in Highgate 'New' Cemetery and in the cloisters of New College, Oxford, cut by Eric Gill. The popularity of his fiction waned quickly after his death, but the hugely successful black-and-white television adaptation The Forsyte Saga in 1967 renewed interest in his work.

Books by John Galsworthy

The Man of Property (Forsyte Saga Vol. 1) Cover image

The Man of Property (Forsyte Saga Vol. 1)

Fiction Novel

The first book in Galsworthy’s trilogy, The Forsyte Saga, The Man of Property revolves around the lives of the Forsytes, a self-conceited and cold family, who place a high value on propagating money and rising from their yeoman roots. The novel chron...

In Chancery (Forsyte Saga Vol. 2) Cover image

In Chancery (Forsyte Saga Vol. 2)

Fiction Novel
Family Sagas

In Chancery is the second novel of the Forsyte Saga trilogy by John Galsworthy and was originally published in 1920, some fourteen years after The Man of Property. Like its predecessor it focuses on the personal affairs of a wealthy upper middle clas...

To Let (Forsyte Saga Vol. 3) Cover image

To Let (Forsyte Saga Vol. 3)

Romance Fiction
Family Sagas

‘The Forsyte Saga’ is the story of a wealthy London family stretching from the eighteen-eighties until the nineteen-twenties.

Justice Cover image


Marriage Play Young Prison Death Court Money Jesus British

Justice is a 1910 play by the British writer John Galsworthy. It was part of a campaign to improve conditions in British prisons.

The Dark Flower Cover image

The Dark Flower

Fiction Novel
Marriage Love Young Romance Spring Fire General Fiction

Galsworthy's classic The Dark Flower is a study of love. Spring is the beginning when all is new and full of hope. However, the woman Lennan has fallen for is out of reach, a forbidden love. Can he overcome the challenges? As he matures, he discovers...

A Family Man Cover image

A Family Man

Family Love Happiness Dynasty Life Desire

The book tells the story of a man named Soames Forsyte and his quest to build a family dynasty. The novel is a character-driven exploration of the complexities of family life and the desire for legacy. Soames, the central character, is a wealthy and...

The Freelands Cover image

The Freelands

Love Self-Discovery Social Class Gender Family Life Emotion Relationships Literary Fiction

It is a captivating novel that explores the themes of family, love, and social change. This book takes readers on a journey through the lives of the Freeland family and their experiences in a rapidly changing society. Set in the early 20th century, "...

Saint's Progress Cover image

Saint's Progress

Fiction Novel
Family Morality Social criticism Exploration Class Human Nature Literary Fiction social commentary Expectation Social Inequality

In the captivating novel "Saint's Progress" by John Galsworthy, the clash between traditional values and the changing modern world takes center stage. Set in the early 20th century, this thought-provoking tale delves into the complexities of human re...

The Island Pharisees Cover image

The Island Pharisees

Fiction History
Family Drama Love Conflicts Relationships Social Dynamics

In the picturesque landscape of Edwardian England, where the air is filled with the scent of privilege and tradition, E.M. Forster takes us on a journey into the hidden depths of human nature in "The Island Pharisees." With a society that thrives on...

The Silver Box Cover image

The Silver Box

Play Future Comics Justice Act Society Revelation

In a world of stark contrasts, where wealth and privilege clash with poverty and desperation, a stolen silver box sets in motion a chain of events that exposes the deep-rooted injustices and inequalities that divide society. John Galsworthy's The Sil...

Five Tales Cover image

Five Tales

This 1918 book consists of five short stories or novelettes by Galsworthy. They are The First and Last (1914), A Stoic, The Apple Tree (1916), The Juryman, Indian Summer of a Forsyte (1918) This last became part of the trilogy The Forsyte Saga. (Intr...

Skin Game Cover image

Skin Game

A small play in three acts. A kind of comic tragedy. The plot tells the story of the interaction between two very different families in rural England just after the end of the First World War. Squire Hillcrist lives in the manor house where his famil...

Beyond Cover image


Gyp, the daughter of ex-Major Charles Claire Winton, at the age of 23 marries Fiorsen, a Swedish violin virtuoso. Her mother, the wife of another man, has been Winton's mistress; she had died when Gyp was born. A highly sensitive child, Gyp has grown...

Complete Essays of John Galsworthy Cover image

Complete Essays of John Galsworthy

This is a collection of essays by John Galsworthy. A multitude of subjects is covered, but the essays are connected by an artistic spirit, and they are written much more like short stories than in the classical style of essays. - Summary by Carolin

Patrician Cover image


The book revolves around the story of two love affairs. Miltoun (an aspiring politician) proposes to Mrs Audrey Noel, only to find that she is not a widow as everyone supposes, but that her husband is still alive and therefore the match is impossible...

Country House Cover image

Country House

In “The Country House”, John Galsworthy explores many of the themes he would later expand upon in his better known, nine-novel, “The Forsyth Saga”. This is a novel of English society as 1900 approaches. A divorce is being threatened in the Pendyce fa...

Fraternity Cover image


A satire of middle-class complacency and artistic aspiration. It is the story of a strange bohemian upper-class love triangle, and of a mystic tract. (Summary by Simon Evers)

Captures Cover image


Brief plot lines of these 16 stories by Nobel Prize winning author John Galsworthy: 01, 02, 03 "A Feud" The breaking of an engagement ignites a feud. 04 "The Man Who Kept His Form" Ruding’s financial prospects disappoint. He adjusts. 05 "A Hedo...