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Forsyte Saga, The

The Man of Property, In Chancery, To Let, Awakening, The Forsyte Saga, A Modern Comedy

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso

a sequence of novels by J. Galsworthy, published in 1922. Previously published separately as three novels (The Man of Property) 1906; In Chancery, 1920; and To Let, 1921), and two interludes (‘Indian Summer of a Forsyte’, 1918, and Awakening, 1920), the sequence chronicles the social, financial, and emotional vicissitudes of the Forsyte family whose paterfamilias, Soames Forsyte, epitomizes both the shrewd entrepreneurial virtues and the sexual hypocrisies of late Victorian bourgeois society. The Man of Property opens as Soames, a prosperous solicitor, decides to marry the beautiful but impoverished Irene. As a wedding gift to his bride he commissions a young architect, Bosinney, to build a country house at Robin Hill: Irene, however, falls in love with Bosinney and the two begin an affair. Discovering that his wife feels only revulsion for him, Soames asserts his marital rights over his ‘property’ by raping her. She attempts to leave him but when Bosinney is killed in a street accident she is forced to return to Soames. In Chancery concerns the developing love between Irene and Soames's cousin, ‘young Jolyon’ (so named to distinguish him from his father, ‘old Jolyon’), and Irene's decision to divorce Soames and marry Jolyon. Further complexities are introduced into the saga when Irene gives birth to a son, Jon, and Soames, who has married Annette Lamotte, becomes the father of a daughter, Fleur. In the final part of To Let, which is set in the 1920s, Fleur and Jon, both ignorant of their parents' unhappy histories, meet and fall in love. Before they marry, Jon learns of his mother's past from Jolyon and breaks off his engagement to Fleur. Bitterly hurt, she marries Michael Mont, a young aristocrat whom she does not love; Jon goes to America where, after Jolyon's death, Irene joins him. Soames meanwhile discovers that his wife, Annette, has been unfaithful and that Irene, the woman he still loves, is lost to him. In the novel's ironic closing episode he discovers that the house, Robin Hill, which has been the scene of so much unhappiness, is not ‘to let’. The Forsyte Saga was adapted for television in 1967. A further Forsyte sequence was published as A Modern Comedy (1929).

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