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Galsworthy, John

forsyte saga soames family

(British, 1867–1933)

Galsworthy studied law and travelled widely before beginning to write. He was prolific, but his best-known work is The Forsyte Saga (1906–21). The sequence, made up of three semi-autobiographical novels linked by two shorter ‘interludes’, is a satirical exposure of the greed and hypocrisy of upper-middle-class London in the early years of the twentieth century. As a chronicle of changing times, the saga details the rivalries, loves, and failures of three generations of a family, beginning with The Man of Property (1906), an account of the materialistic, emotionally repressed Soames Forsyte's reaction to his unhappy wife's affair with an architect, and continuing in In Chancery (1920) with her later relationship with Soames's younger, more socially aware cousin, Jolyon.

Galsworthy's work often highlights injustice, sympathetically portraying the situation of those held back by poverty, class, gender, or by superficial moral codes. His plays were particularly didactic; Justice (1910) dealt with the unnecessarily harsh treatment of a minor convict, and was thought to have been instrumental in contemporary penal reforms. The Silver Box (1906) considered the different ways in which a poor and an affluent thief were treated. Galsworthy was the founder of the writers' organization, PEN. He turned down a knighthood, but was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932.

Anthony Trollope, George Gissing, John Collier. See FAMILY SAGA  SR

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