Authors: John Galsworthy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist, short-story writer, and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Jocelyn, 1898 (as John Sinjohn)

Villa Rubein, 1900 (as Sinjohn)

The Island Pharisees, 1904

The Man of Property, 1906

The Country House, 1907

Fraternity, 1909

The Patrician, 1911

The Dark Flower, 1913

The Little Man, 1915

The Freelands, 1915

Beyond, 1917

The Burning Spear, 1919, 1923

Saint’s Progress, 1919

In Chancery, 1920

To Let, 1921

The Forsyte Saga, 1922 (includes The Man of Property, “Indian Summer of a Forsyte,” “Awakening,” In Chancery, and To Let)

The White Monkey, 1924

The Silver Spoon, 1926

Swan Song, 1928

A Modern Comedy, 1929 (includes The White Monkey, The Silver Spoon, Two Forsyte Interludes, and Swan Song)

Maid in Waiting, 1931

Flowering Wilderness, 1932

Over the River, 1933

End of the Chapter, 1934 (includes Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness, and Over the River)

Short Fiction:

From the Four Winds, 1897 (as John Sinjohn)

A Man of Devon, 1901 (as Sinjohn)

Five Tales, 1918

Captures, 1923

Caravan: The Assembled Tales of John Galsworthy, 1925

Two Forsyte Interludes, 1927

On Forsyte ’Change, 1930

Soames and the Flag, 1930

Forsytes, Pendyces, and Others, 1935


The Silver Box, pr. 1906

Joy, pr. 1907

Strife, pr., pb. 1909

Justice, pr., pb. 1910

The Little Dream, pr., pb. 1911

The Eldest Son, pr., pb. 1912

The Pigeon, pr., pb. 1912

The Fugitive, pr., pb. 1913

The Mob, pr., pb. 1915

A Bit o’Love, pr., pb. 1915

The Little Man, pr. 1915

The Foundations, pr. 1917

Defeat, pr. 1920

The Skin Game, pr., pb. 1920

A Family Man, pr. 1921

The First and the Last, pr., pb. 1921

Hall-marked, pb. 1921

Punch and Go, pb. 1921

The Sun, pb. 1921

Loyalties, pr., pb. 1922

Windows, pr., pb. 1922

The Forest, pr., pb. 1924

Old English, pr., pb. 1924

The Show, pr., pb. 1925

Escape, pr., pb. 1926

Exiled, pr., pb. 1929

The Roof, pr., pb. 1929


The Collected Poems of John Galsworthy, 1934 (Ada Galsworthy, editor)


A Commentary, 1908

A Motley, 1910

The Inn of Tranquility, 1912

A Sheaf, 1916

Another Sheaf, 1919

Tatterdemalion, 1920

Castles in Spain, 1927

Candelabra: Selected Essays and Addresses, 1932

Letters from John Galsworthy, 1900-1932, 1934 (Edward Garnett, editor)


The Works of John Galsworthy, 1922-1936 (30 volumes)


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.{$I[AN]9810001461}{$I[A]Galsworthy, John}{$S[A]Sinjohn, John;Galsworthy, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Galsworthy, John}{$I[tim]1867;Galsworthy, John}

John Galsworthy

(©The Nobel Foundation)

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 Dartmoor. Subsequently they were served with divorce papers and eventually were able to marry on September 23, 1905.

It was at Ada’s suggestion, early in their acquaintance, that Galsworthy began to write. Throughout the rest of his career her encouragement and understanding made a strong contribution to his success. His acknowledgment of this debt is most clearly expressed in the dedication of The Forsyte Saga, the best of his work, as the fittest to be dedicated to “the dearest and most lovely companion, the most faithful helpmate, and the best natural critic a man ever had.”

Success did not come immediately. His first four volumes, which appeared between 1897 and 1901 and were issued under the pseudonym of John Sinjohn–From the Four Winds, Jocelyn, Villa Rubein, and A Man of Devon–disclosed interesting potentialities, and here and there they revealed some of the author’s personal concerns, such as the strife between social classes and the mistreatment of animals. Introduced into these tales were even a few characters who later reappeared in The Forsyte Saga. It was fortunate for Galsworthy that during this time he made the acquaintance of the critic Edward Garnett, who was to become, in effect, his tutor. During the writing of The Island Pharisees, for example, Galsworthy sent the manuscript in installments to Garnett for his comments. Garnett’s criticisms of the first draft of The Man of Property persuaded Galsworthy to change the ending. Even as late as 1910 Garnett provided detailed criticisms of The Patrician.

The year 1906 marked Galsworthy’s literary coming-of-age. His arrival as a dramatist of stature was heralded by the initial performance in that year of The Silver Box. In this play, as in many to follow, Galsworthy adopted the course taken by Arthur Wing Pinero and George Bernard Shaw in dramatizing social problems. In Strife he pinpointed industrial troubles; in Justice he turned a spotlight on the wretched condition of prisons. The year 1906 also marked the appearance of the book that became the cornerstone of the author’s success, The Man of Property, which later became the first part of The Forsyte Saga. Galsworthy originally toyed with the idea of making the book the foundation of a series, but nothing came of that until 1917. By that time the world of The Man of Property had been destroyed, so Galsworthy was able to regard it with sympathy. “Indian Summer of a Forsyte” softened the ending of The Man of Property and provided Galsworthy with a springboard to continue the stories of the Forsytes in In Chancery and To Let.

The entire trilogy, generally considered to be the culmination of Galsworthy’s achievement, is a penetrating treatment of that new and prosperous middle class that had come in with industrialism. Galsworthy recorded, half sympathetically and always with interest, the worship of wealth, the clinging to family, and the arch conservatism of this class. Soames Forsyte, perhaps the most completely realized of the trilogy’s characters, is one of the many Forsytes through whom Galsworthy reveals different facets of English middle-class society. Later he extended the Forsyte story into two later trilogies, A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter.

After World War I, Galsworthy was offered a knighthood, which he refused. In 1929 he did, however, accept the Order of Merit, and in 1932 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and several other universities attest to the high esteem in which he was held in his later years.

BibliographyBarker, Dudley. The Man of Principle. New York: Stein & Day, 1969. Combines elements of autobiography and criticism, giving an impressive picture of the Victorian age and its mores and morals. It also shows how much Galsworthy’s work was a reflection of his times, and it explores the relationship between him and his wife, Ada, as well as her influence on his work. Short bibliography and index.Batchelor, John. The Edwardian Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. Begins by defining “Edwardian” literature and discusses Galsworthy in terms of his surprising similarities to D. H. Lawrence. Contains an excellent bibliography of Edwardian fiction.Dupre, Catherine. John Galsworthy: A Biography. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1976. A well-researched and thoughtful biography that is less impressive in its critical evaluations of the writings. Judgments of merit and influence are not substantiated by current developments.Frechet, Alec. John Galsworthy: A Reassessment. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1982. A sound, balanced assessment of Galsworthy’s career. Provides a good analysis of the stylistic qualities of the literary artist.Gindin, James. John Galsworthy’s Life and Art. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987. Utilizing original sources, Gindin writes a masterful literary biography, particularly appropriate since Galsworthy’s fiction is itself so closely tied to his personal life, social criticism, and historic times.Holloway, David. John Galsworthy. London: Morgan-Grampian, 1969. A concise but accurate and perceptive survey of the life and career of Galsworthy. Especially good in identifying ways that Galsworthy’s life is directly used in the fiction.Marrot, H. V. The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. Both the strengths and weaknesses of an authorized biography are evident in this work commissioned by Galsworthy’s widow. A personal friend of the author, Marrot had access to information unavailable to others. Yet Galsworthy is idealized in order to present an official portrait sanctioned by his family.Mottram, R. H. For Some We Loved: An Intimate Portrait of Ada and John Galsworthy. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1956. Though an uncritical, adoring portrait of Galsworthy, written by a disciple, this study is valuable for its glimpses of the author’s home life and his interactions with other persons of letters of his period. Highly readable. Admittedly “an intimate portrait of Ada and John Galsworthy.”Mottram, R. H. John Galsworthy. London: Longmans, Green, 1956. A concise introduction of forty pages, including notes and bibliography. Although basic facts are efficiently presented, Mottram’s work is uncritical.Rønning, Anne Holden. Hidden and Visible Suffrage: Emancipation and the Edwardian Woman in Galsworthy, Wells, and Forster. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. See chapter 1, “The Social Context of Edwardian Literature,” chapter 4, “Marriage in Galsworthy, Wells, and Forster,” and chapter 6, “Galsworthy’s View on Suffragism.” Includes notes and bibliography.Ru, Yi-ling. The Family Novel: Toward a Generic Definition. New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Examines Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga as an example of the family novel. Other authors, including Roger Martin du Gard and Chin Pa, are examined as well.Smit, J. Henry. The Short Stories of John Galsworthy. New York: Haskell House, 1966. An idiosyncratic little book, but with a number of brief comments on Galsworthy’s stories.Sternlicht, Sanford. John Galsworthy. New York: Twayne, 1987. A well-written, complete, yet concise survey of Galsworthy’s life and achievement. The best single introduction to the subject.Weiss, Rudolf. “John Galsworthy’s Strife: Striving for Balance or the Audience as Jury.” Theatre Research International 20 (Spring, 1995): 7-18. Discusses Galsworthy’s play from four different perspectives: theater history, textual history, dramatic analysis, and critical reception.
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