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Social emphasis in the fiction and essays of John Galsworthy

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Department of English
The University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Marie Rabold Hightower
July 1941
UMI Number: EP44174
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ft it3S'
T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by
m H l E . . M B O L p . . H I M T O W E R .......
u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h.^.K. F a c u l t y C o m m it t e e ,
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been
presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on
G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l ­
m e n t o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f
D a te ..
F a c u lty Com m ittee
Chairm an
Women and the English Divorce Laws
. . . . . .
Women and Children
. . . . . . . .
. . .
The purpose of this study is to present the main
trends of social thinking found in the novels, short
stories and essays of John Galsworthy.. Since Galsworthy
was a man of broad sympathies and sensitive social con­
science, it is impossible in a paper of this length to
touch upon all the indictments or defenses of society that
he incorporated in his extensive non-dramatic writings.
This study, therefore, will confine itself to those aspects
which insistently appear and reappear throughout the works
under investigation*
For the sake of clarity, the study material has been
organized under the following headings:
1. The nature and purpose of the study
II. Galsworthy's life in relation to his literary
III. Some aspects of Forsyteism
IV. The place of women in English society
a: Women and the English divorce laws
b: Prostitution
e: Women and children
V. Industrialism and the land
VI. Comments on the First World War
•VII. Poverty and the social ideal
VIII. Summary of findings
Unless otherwise indicated in the text, the discus­
sions in this thesis involve Englishmen and the British
Galsworthy’s stage is his homeland, and it is with
the conditions of his own country and countrymen that he is
deeply concerned.
In the year 1941, an investigation of this kind takes
on a peculiar significance.
England fights for the life of
the Old Order, while her opponents struggle to crush the
Old so that they may make room for a New Order, as yet un­
In his writings, Galsworthy strongly indicated that
he believed England would be put to such a test.
He died
in 1933, but he had seen enough in World War I to crystal­
lize his conviction that a greater conflict was on the near
on sea
He painted vivid pictures of an England attacked
and in the air.
Of this he says:
The only things I cannot imagine wrecked or fired
are the British character and the good soil of Brit­
ain. These are sinister suggestions, but there is
really no end to what^might be done to us by any
country which deliberately sets its own interests
and safety above all considerations of international
be largely
question whether England will
long endurewill
determined by the tenacity of the Englishchar-
1 John Galsworthy, Another Sheaf. (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1919), ppT l70-l'7XI
acter and the strength of the social fabric which it has
It is of value, therefore, to study the criti­
cism of a thinking Englishman whose passionate love of
country made him searchingly critical of a land and people
for which he craved perfection.
At times, his words ring
out in anger, in compassion, or in confidence.
There are
occasions when his comments have the deep tones of prophecy,
especially in his analysis of democracy and its weaknesses.
Under Galsworthy*s hand, the novel and the short
story, as well as the essay, prove themselves to be highly
satisfactory as forms of social criticism.
He has already
proved himself outstanding in this respect in the medium of
the drama.
The more discursive quality of the prose ex­
pression Under discussion, however, lends him an even
broader basis for the play of his social interests.
Whether the novel and short story forms should be
employed for the purpose of teaching a lesson in social
relationships is a moot question.
Some critics may agree
with Sheila Kaye-Smith when she says:
His lack of complete success as a novelist is
partly due to those characteristics which have made
him so successful as a playwright. The drama is a
lawful means of propaganda, the novel is not.
Galsworthy*s plays gain enormously from the social
or moral problems at their base, while the same
problems have a tendency to constrict or Impede the
development of the novels*8
2 Sheila Kaye-Smith, John Galsworthy. (London: Nisbet
and Company, 1916), pp. 52-537
However, Galsworthy himself very definitely .subscribes
to a more catholic view.
For him, literature is life.
experience, therefore, is grist for the mill.
Close observer
of people that he was, Galsworthy wanted to pass on the rec­
ord of his impressions in the most effective means at his
He thought long and seriously upon the place of the
novelist in society.
His thoughts on the subject form an
ever recurring theme in such essays as "Faith of a Novelist”
in the Candelabra collection, and "A Novelist *s Allegory” in
the Inntof Tranquillity.
Again, he states his philosophy
in the introduction to Villa Rubein, and the foreword to the
Burning Spear.
A careful reading of his letters reveals it
No better statement of his evaluation of the novelist’s
place in society can be found than in the lawyer’s defense of
old Cethru who carried the lanthorn through the Vita Publics.
Here, he says:
And, if it be charged on this old man Cethru that
he and his lanthorn by reason of their showing not
only the good but the evil bring no pleasure in the
world, I ask, Sirs, what in the world is so dear as
this power to see— Whether it be the beautiful or
the false that is disclosed? ■
To make people see, that is the purpose of Galsworthy.
Beyond that he does not care to go, for he had none of the
Galsworthy, Inn of Tranquillity, *»A Novelist’s
Allegory," p. 185.
qualities of the rabid reformer.
This is indicated by the
following statement he makes:
The artist is no schoolmaster, and claims no teacher’s
temperament and no direct function. His contribution
(not inconsiderable) to social and ethical values must ^
be by way of the painting of character and environment.
Again, in his letters to John Garnett, he reiterates
that his chief strength w. . . lies in writing to a polemical
strain through character•**
Although Galsworthy’s probing eye unearths a tremen­
dous amount of human tragedy and social injustice, he offers
no schemes to better things.
rather than constructive.
His criticism is destructive
This inability, or lack of desire,
to find a way out has always been a favorite target for his
His sister, Mrs. Reynolds, in her book on his
life and work points out that he offered no mass panacea for
correcting the ills of society because
. of the convic­
tion that was the touchstone of his own life: a bedrock faith
in the power of character to solve the peculiar riddle of
each individual case.**®
* Galsworthy, Preface to Fraternity, p. viii, ix.
§ Edward Garnett, editor, Letters from John Galsworthy,
1900-195E. (London: Jonathan Gape, 1984], p. 8ITI
6 Mrs. Mabel Edith Reynolds, Memoirs of Johns Gals­
worthy by his Sister, M. E. Reynolds. (Hew York: Frederick
Stokes and Company, n. d.T, p. 42/
This statement is partially true.
Yet Galsworthy
frequently seems to share with the rest of humanity a cer­
tain hopelessness before the muddle of conflicting elements
in the social fabric.
He is like a man in a maze who con­
templates many different exits but cannot select with cer­
tainty the one which will lead him out.
His upper classes,
many times want to help the lower classes, but they can't
find a means which will not result in more harm than good
for the very ones they are attempting to aid.
And the lower
classes want to improve their own lot, but they do not know
how to begin.
Galsworthy himself says:
The emotional, social, or
of society pass the skill of
must be left to nature, who—
hour— administers a purge so
political extravagances
doctors, and their redress
generally at the eleventh
drastic that it kills or
This thesis, therefore, contains little material on
Galsworthian plans for social reform.
It does contain a
study of his analysis of life as he sees it, and his tenta­
tive suggestions for improvement, when mentioned.
The thesis, Social Emphasis in the Fiction and Essays
of John Galsworthy, is intended to advance the research of
The University of Southern California on two fronts.
it will complete the investigation of social elements in all
17 Galsworthy, Candelabra, "Faith of a novelist,w p. 244.
of John Galsworthy’s writings* dramatic and non-dramatic.
The dramatic material was covered in a thesis presented to
the University in 1918 by Sarah Bundy.
Second, it will
take its place as third of a series of studies of novels
with distinct social emphasis made by graduate students of
this University,
The two previously presented include the
works of Edith Wharton
I ft
and William Dean Howells.
® Sarah Bundy, Sociological Aspects in the Plays of
John Galsworthy (1918).
9 Esther Trueblood, Social Aspects of the Hovels of
Edith Wharton (1953).
10 Sytha Johnson, Social Conditions Deflected in the
Hovels of William Dean Howells (1937).
Come! let us lay a lance in rest,
And tilt at windmills under a wild sky!
For who would live so petty and unblest
That dare not tilt at something ere he die?
Rather than, screened by safe majority,
Preserve his little life to little ends,
And never raise a rebel cry!
John Galsworthy
To trace the evolution of the mental and spiritual
state which produces a profound and sincere social critic
Is a delicate matter in the case of any author.
It takes
on peculiar complexities when one deals with a man like
Galsworthy, whose native reticence made it difficult for
him to reveal himself to the world.
Galsworthy may be said, however, to be a product of
three subtly blended forces: first, certain life exper­
iences which sharpened his social perspective; second, the
tremendous impact of the events ineluding, leading up to,
and following World War I, the period during which he col­
lected material for the bulk of his creative work; third,
the steady growth of an unusually sensitive and acute
social conscience which demanded expression.
At first glance, the facts of his life add very
little to the evolution of Galsworthy, the social critic.
To read his ever-recurring indictments of the classes privi­
leged by wealth and pedigree, one might easily imagine that
he had suffered keenly at their hands.
But the facts re­
veal that he himself was born to wealth and position, that
a comfortable living was his to enjoy whether he cared to
labor and earn it or not.
Through background, parentage,
wealth and education, he had an entree into the best circles
of English society.
Of this, Leon Schalit remarks, "He
grew up, too, in full freedom, and has the most enjoyable
recollections of his youth.
Galsworthy’s father was a conservative Englishman
of the Yietorian period, a lawyer, and chairman of several
Although he had many of the typical English
middle-class qualities of rigidity and pride in material
possessions, which his son found so objectionable in many
of his own literary creations, Galsworthy senior was an
indulgent father, tolerant of the wishes of his children
as long as they did not make too deep an inroad on his Code.
Galsworthy’s forebears were all of the small farmer
class, but the third generation of the clan of which John
was a member moved up the ladder to the level of the wealthy
middle class.
The sons and daughters studied the profes-
Leon Schalit, John Galsworthy, a Survey, p. 3.
sions and the arts in place of the more humble pursuits,
Galsworthy’s parents wanted him to take up the Law, as a
great majority of other young Englishmen did.
This was a significant decision, for Galsworthy’s
association with the law at Oxford undoubtedly focused his
attention on the delicate problems of human relationships
and the administration of justice.
Here it was that he
saw the theme of "Man versus Society” in all its ramifi­
The fact that he first saw it through the eyes
of the legal student enabled him in later years to deal
with it more poignantly through the eyes of the humani­
To his friends, according to irrefutable testimon­
ials and letters presented by Mr. Marrot in The Life and
Letters of John Galsworthy, he gave little evidence of his
humanitarian interests during his stay at Oxford.
ing to them, he was a second rate scholar, mainly inter­
ested in racing.
Mr. G. M. Harris, one of his college
friends, says of him;
The only characteristic which he displayed during in London together which differentiated
him from the rest of our ’set’ was his fondness for
wandering about at night in the poorer districts,
listening to the conversations of the people, some­
times visiting doss houses. I suppose he must have
even then been gathering material for his knowledge
of mankind, but he gave no hint of hew he was feeing
to make use of it.x^
12 H. V. Marrot, The Life and Letters of John
Galsworthy, p. 65.
Despite these testimonials* however, one is forced
to conclude with Marrot that: "His were the adventures, not
of action nor of controversey, hut of the spirit and the
Galsworthy, at this time, was not yet twenty-one.
He was retiring to the point of shyness.
It is not likely
that he felt inclined to discuss his half-formulated ideas
with the members of his ’set,f who would probably have
laughed, or, at least, failed to understand him.
Galsworthy absorbed the technicalities of the law and
thought deeply upon them in relation to people, is amply
proved by such plays as Justice, Strife, and The Fugitive.
Realizing Galsworthy*s intense interest in the
"individual versus the mass,"^ as Ould expresses it, it is
not surprising that after his graduation Galsworthy dis­
covered that he was definitely not interested in the law
as a profession.
He minted to write.
His sister, Mrs.
Reynolds, includes a significant comment on this particular
phase of her brother*s career in her biography of him:
Our parents were both rather reserved and undemon­
strative, and my personal impression is that John’s
abandonment of the Law for the probably unluerative
profession of a writer was received by them in a
quiet and tactful manner that did credit to their
self control. For no "Forsyte" could be expected to
welcome such a change. , To any,Forsyte the question
whether his son was likely to ’make money* or no
would bring a pang of anxiety,,or,. if capable of
answer in the affirmative, an unconscious, volun­
tary increase of respect. If you were successful,
you ’made money.» If you did not make money, no
Marrot, Ibid., p. 3.
Herman Quid, John Galsworthy, p. 35.
matter what the quality of your work— you were not
a success; more because you had, as it were, failed
to stamp your achievement with the accepted hall­
mark, than because any value was placed on wealth
for its own sake,2-5
In this commentary, Mrs, Reynolds plainly indicated
that her parents leaned heavily toward the ideology of the
Forsyte clan.
Here is proof, then, that as a boy and as a
young man, Galsworthy came into intimate contact with those
smug, middle-class virtues which he later was to analyze
with devastating force in such works as the Forsyte Saga,
But his parents acquiesced eagerly in the next step
in the completion of a young man's education.
He wanted to
travel and to see people and life from a new angle of ob­
Wilbur Cross places this as the first signifi­
cant experience in the evolution of John Galsworthy, the
His development as a literary artist was to be a
long and painful one.
Cross states:
Galsworthy*s contact with many civilizations led
him to question the whole range of the English social
order as fixed in law and conventions by the Victorians.
If a man is to become an author, he has several times
said, a narrow selfhood must lose itself in the soul
of the world. Galsworthy and Conrad, each in his own
way, won their freedom of outlook in lands beyond the
sea. Galsworthy was thereby saved from becoming a
Soames Forsyte. Thenceforth all was not right with
sea-girt Britain. Galsworthy had gained the critical
attitude which he had contended is essential to the
man of letters."*
Reynolds, Memoirs of John Galsworthy by his
Sister. M. E. Reynolds, p. 5X7 ,
Wilbur Cross, Four Contemporary Novelists, p. 106.
In Europe, his alert, impressionable mind, still in
its formative stage, groped toward new evaluations of the
English social world for which he craved perfection and yet
in which he was to discover so many faults.
As in the letters and testimonials presented on the
period of John's legal training, the record of his travels
reveal very little of the ideas that were forming in his
His correspondence is amusing and chatty, filled with
the details that would interest the family at home*
Yet it
was on one of his trips across the Indian Ocean that he met
Joseph Conrad, who was first mate on the boat on which they
As the voyage was favored by ealm weather,
Galsworthy talked long and frequently with Conrad.
His two
letters from the Torrens, however, say very little about
his association with this exceptional character.
Yet Conrad certainly pointed his ambition more
strongly toward a literary career*
Their friendship did
not terminate with the voyage, bur rather grew and
strengthened until death ended it.
Conrad reveals through
his letters that he eneouraged Galsworthy to fulfill him­
self and frequently aebed in the capacity of a literary
Galsworthy was clearly approaching that period of
his life which his biographers love to term *?the turning
In a series of letters written "to Monica" he
speaks of the "what now” feeling that hung in the air,
"He was, as it were, swept and garnished for the paramount
formative influences of his life, . , , "What is a good
thing to quicken the sympathies?" he had written. "With
impressive speed the answer came, and left him with sym­
pathies quickened, indeed, into a burning and quenchless
pity for sorrows not his own."
In 1895, at the age of twenty-eight, he began his
career as a litterateur.
From the Four Winds, written
under the pen name of John Sinjohn, reveals little of the
marked social trend that later was to characterize his
His sister notes, however, that in it—
. . . there is a short tale already illustrating
his passionately chivalrous feeling toward woman­
hood in any state of oppression or distress, and his
loathing for that type of male mentality which ex­
tends the sense of property to its womankind.
At this period he lived the life of a wealthy, welleducated young gentleman of his time, seeing his friends,
frequenting the clubs, maintaining his own rooms in London.
I don*t think that anybody in 1900 could have
divined from Galsworthy*s quiet, correct manner
that he was inwardly seething against the Forsyte*s
world. He had himself passed through the upper
class mills of the Public School, the University,
17 Marrot, Ihe Life and Letters of John Galsworthy,
p. 99,
Reynolds, Memoirs of John Galsworthy, • . .
p . 33,
and the Bar, and to dissociate himself from their
convictions and valuations, while viewing them
objectively, as he did, needed great reserve force
and mental equilibrium*19
But sometime in the early part of the nineteenth
century, he crossed the Rubicon*
bachelor about town*
He ceased being the young
In 1906 he set his pace as a social
dramatist with The Silver Box*
Two years later, in 1908,
his awakening conscience bore bitter fruit in his first
social novel, The Island Pharisees* Perhaps no young author
has ever achieved a novel more vitriolic, more sincerely
scornful of the ways of his own country, more fundamentally
sad than this first major attempt of Galsworthy.
The novel
was like the tracing of the turmoil in Galsworthy’s mind
when it tried to contemplate at one time all of the injus­
snobberies, and idiocies of Shakespeare’s dear, dear
In it he sets forth all the indictments against
British society that he elaborates upon endlessly and tire­
lessly in later works*
Richard Shelton, the protagonist, is like the voice
of Galsworthy himself, moving through all strata of English
society, crying out alone against the smug complacency
which hedged about, protectively, all the customs and social
Edward Garnett, editor, Letters from John Gals­
worthy, pp. 5-6.
traditions which it had muddlingly built up*
insularity, conservatism, smugness, all palled over with
the cloak of benevolence-~these are the things against
which, through Shelton, Galsworthy rages I
■Hie subject on which Galsworthy writes with the most
conviction and the greatest insistence, however, is that
which deals with the place of woman in English society.
In particular, he criticizes the custom of the Englishman
in regarding his wife as property, her subserviency to man
before the law, her lack of freedom, the cruelty of the
whole procedure of divorce in England*
The facts of his
life indicate that this attitide had roots in his own
personal experience.
His wife, Ada, to whom he remained devoted until the
day of his death, was first married to a cousin of the
The marriage was a very unhappy one and she
finally left her husband*
Craving companionship, she took
a house near that of John Galsworthy’s family in order that
she might be near her dearest friend, John’s sister.
this close association a deep love grew up between John and
For them to marry, meant a divorce from her husband.
John’s father was a Victorian of the sternest order.
sister explains the situation thus:
. . . For twelve years (from first to last} she
and my brother waited for each other, rather than
bring to our dear old father, in his last ailing years,
the public scandal of a divorce, which he, with his
Yictorian traditions, would have felt as a deep
In those twelve years, John Galsworthy suffered as
well as Ada*
Irene in The Forsyte Saga, Mrs. Hoel in The
Patrician, and the many others who fill the pages of his
novels and short stories alike are vivid creations forged
from Galsworthy’s own emotional experiences.
Under life experiences aiding in the evolution of
John Galsworthy, the critic, four major influences are
clearly defined: first, his close association with English­
men of the wealthy middle class whose virtues and weaknesses
he could study at close hand; second, his law training which
aroused his social conscience and stimulated his sympathy
for the individual and his problems; third, his travels
abroad which enlarged his vision and gave him a new per­
spective on the insularity of English society; and, fourth,
his long and bitter wait for the woman he loved, a wait
which increased his already deep-rooted hatred of English
prejudice against divorce*
When Galsworthy was forty-eight years old, a period
at whieh he had reached full maturity, the first World War
was declared.
The impact of the war on Galsworthy was ter­
rific, both from the emotional and the critical standpoints.
Reynolds, op. cit*, p. 54.
It was a crucible for him, 3ust as niuch as if he had been
on the front line of battle.
Through the very faults of
mankind over which he had long been brooding— hypocrisy,
selfishness, egotism, stubbornness— the world was in chaos.
Traditional English society, as he knew it, was shaken to
its foundations.
Old ideas of politics, government, econom­
ics, investments, family, manners, and morals were going by
the board.
His quick, retentive mind filled itself with impres­
sions, fragments of ideas which he enlarged upon and organ­
ized in a stream of novels, essays, and short stories after
the war was over.
Concerning this, Ould remarks: "The years
which succeeded 1919 were certainly among Galsworthy’s rich­
Release from the nightmare of the war clearly set free
numberless ideas, and a fresh fund of energy.
The post-war effects on people and society particu­
larly occupied him.
Schalit states: " . . . Galsworthy’s
last six novels completing the Forsyte chronicles and rami­
fying into the Charwells, faithfully reflect this period of
disillusionment, scepticism, cynicism and idealistic grop22
Viewed as a group, they present as complete a
picture of English society of the 1920’s and early 1930’s
as a social historian could hope to find.
Ould, John Galsworthy, p. 35.
Leon Schalit, John Galsworthy, a Survey, p. 11.
A more' complete analysis of this second force in the
author*s evolution will be given in a later chapter, "Comments
on the First World War."
The influences discussed Under the first two con­
tributing forces in Galsworthy*s literary life would be
, meaningless, however, unless they had been subjected to the
peculiar chemistry of Galsworthy*s own heart and conscience.
Ould comments thus:
. . . it cannot be denied that he had his share
of that ingrained over-tenderness of soul under
which Shelton in The Island Pharisees groaned, and
that the sight or thought of suffering moved him
more profoundly than they move the average sensual
man. Being by nature both artist and reformer, it
was Inevitable that the drawing force of compassion
should influence his choice of subject and in part
govern his treatment of it. . . . Galsworthy, the
reformer, beholding the Iniquities perpetrated in
the name of justice, Nationalism, Society, Religion,
Property, and other gods, called up the artist and
bade him expose the iniquities, and he obeyed.23
His attitudes were largely due to a quality of mind
and heart which found fuel on every side.
His observations
in his own conservative Victorian household, speculations
on the lot of the poor farmer in his native Devon, the
pathetic and worn expressions of the under-privileged class­
es he saw In London, the filth and ugliness of the city
slums, early set the course of his sensitive mind.
Ould, Oj>. cit., p. 200.
By nature Galsworthy loved harmony, beauty, toleration
and rigid human administration of Right.
tune jarred on his nerves.
Everything out of
The more he saw, the more he
found that didn*t fit into this harmonious pattern.
Some men with consuming interests' like Galsworthy’s,
rave from soap-boxes and stumps; others run for public of­
fices so that they may actively work out their plans for
But Galsworthy reacted the only way he knew how.
He wrote.
His work had a peculiar power for, as Schalit
points out, there were always two spirits at work within
him, "that of lyric poet, wizard of atmosphere, worshipper
of beauty, and that of a reasoning, disintegrating critic,
ironist and satirist."
Through the exquisite blending
of his charming style and his message, he created a medium
which had the keenness of the rapier thrust in comparison
with the blunt power of the more common social treatise.
Galsworthy’s mind and heart were sensitized to every­
thing that lay at the bottom of human misery, of the spirit
or of the flesh.
His humanitarian eye was always looking
through and beyond the legal and social red tape in which
England had enmeshed itself during the centuries.
It is to these interests and sympathies as well as
Schalit, 0£. cit., p. 5.
to his life, that we must look for our explanation of the
deep and sincere social consciousness which revealed itself
in all of his writings*
Nowhere does Galsworthy indicate the set of his mind
more clearly than on the subject which occupies the third
chapter of this study— dforsyteism.
Early in his career Galsworthy established himself as
an Englishman who had the courage not only to look at the
weaknesses of his own countrymen, but to lash out strongly
against them.
The Island Pharisees (1904) contained mater­
ial that was so anti-British In sentiment that the publish­
ers hesitated to handle the book.
A tragic kind of bitter­
ness seeped through the plot which was too frail to offset
the effects of Galsworthy's heavy-handed criticism.
In 1906 he brought forth The Man of Property, which
later was to form the first part of The Forsyte saga.
subtly and artistically woven into a powerful plot pattern,
was the crystallization of Galsworthy's criticism against
the upper middle class of English society which he repre­
sented as being obsessed by its sense of property.
How he
had coined a label for the members of this class; he called
them the "Forsytes,'' and everything that related to them and
their activities he denoted as "Forsyteism."
The Forsytes, then, were more than characters in the
They were people typical of a great strata of English
life, and their characteristics were identical with Gals­
worthy's conception of the British national character.
Forsyteism, under Galsworthy's hands, assumed proportions
that were extremely broad in their scope.
This chapter will
confine itself to several aspects of it: first, a definition
of it and its evolution; second, Forsyteism in relation to
love and marriage; third, Forsyteism, Finance, and Family;
and fourth, a summary of the concept and its effect on.
English character and life.
Jolyon, speaking to Bosinney, gives a working defini­
tion of it:
We are, of course, all of us the slaves of property,
and I admit that it *s a question of degree, but what I
call.a ‘Forsyte* is a man who is decidedly more than a
slave to property. He knows a good thing, he knows a
safer thing, and his grip on property— it doesn*t mat­
ter whether it be^wives, houses, money, or reputation—
is his hall-mark.-^
The Forsytes by no means belonged to the class which
the French scornfully call **the nouveaux riche.**
thousands of their prototypes, they had their sturdy roots
well set in the eighteenth century.
The first Jolyon For-
JL l
syte was a small farmer from the county of Dorset.
says that he was typical of the Englishmen "before the In■
dustrial Revolution Which set in after the Napoleonic ?7arsf
The second Jolyon Forsyte, "Superior Dosset," forsook
the land, migrated to London, built houses and produced a
o r
Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, p. 187.
Schalit, John Galsworthy, a Survey, p. 46.
family of ten*
These are the ten that form the basic frame­
work of the early part of the Saga, bringing the family up
to the nineteenth century*
The third Jolyon, old Jolyon, made his money like a
gentleman, through his trade in tea.
He was a keen business
man, chairman of large companies, refined and cultured, but
basically a Forsyte*
His second brother, James, was founder
of important law firms.
From this astute, ascetic Forsyte
stems Soames, whom Galsworthy uses as the prototype of the
whole clan, which by now had raised itself to the profession­
al, property orwning level and had accrued unto itself stocks
and bonds, occasionally going so far as to dabble cautiously
in art*
It represented, as young Jolyon said to his son,
"Victorian England, with its principles of trade and indiv­
idualism at five per cent, and your money back— if you know
what I mean*”
The highest tribute that any Forsyte could pay to an­
other was to entrust him with his affairs concerning property*
. . * And those countless Forsytes who, in the
course of innumerable transactions concerned with
property of all sorts (from wives to water rights),
had occasion for services of a safe man, found it ««
both reposeful and profitable to confide in Soames.
Soames, then, as the"man of property," becomes worth a clos­
er scrutiny, especially as he exemplifies the Forsyte atti­
tude toward love.
Galsworthy, Gj>. cit., p. 445.
28 Galsworthy, Ibid*, p. 135.
Soames, with his clean-shaven face, and immaculate
appearance> was a Forsyte to his fingertips.
He had a fine
town house, a successful business yielding five per cent or
better, the complete confidence of his family and clientele,
and a bank account that was increasing steadily.
He had,
however, something beyond the mere possessive instinct of the
other members of his family.
only costly but beautiful.
He craved things that were not
Picture collecting became an
insistent hobby; first, because he delighted to test his
acuteness in detecting talent in its.primary stages and cash­
ing in on this ability later; and finally, because he grew to
love the pictures themselves.
This peculiar, distinguishing quality that Galsworthy
injects into the makeup of Soames, sets the stage for one of
the ideas that he tries to develop in.the Saga— the disinte­
grating effect that Beauty and Passion eventually have upon
the possessive instinct.
Soames came in contact with the
physical embodiment of loveliness in the form of woman.
He first saw Irene at the funeral of her father.
haunting beauty affected him strangely.
She was Beauty.
be satisfied to contemplate it from afar was not an attribute
of Forsyteism.
Soames craved ownership of this woman; he
wanted to make her his wife; to gown her exquisitely, to
wear her like a rare flower, this most exotic and desirable
of all his possessions.
To the alchemy of Irenes beauty,
Galsworthy added Poverty, this deciding ingredient that
frequently puts the untouchables at the mercy of those who
have money to buy,
Soames made Irene his wife.
In this intimate meeting of Forsyteism with Beauty
and Passion, Forsyteism receives its first major blow.
Money cannot buy love, nor tenderness, nor companionship
willingly given.
Irene, the"artistic, looked at the closed
face of Soames with its thin, stern lips, its record of a
lifetime of close, level-headed dealings with property, and
recoiled from his grasp.
From this situation evolves one of the tenets of
Forsyteism against which Galsworthy throws the full force
of his literary weight.
This tenet was that ownership in­
volved unequivocal ownership over everything that was
This included one’s wife.
When Irene recoiled from Soames to the extent that
she refused to accept him as a husband, Soames took it as an
affront to his vested rights.
locked out of one’s own house.
It was equivalent to being
He used the same tactics on
Irene that he would on any other thing that belonged to
him; he employed force, which he regarded as his legal right.
When Irene fell in love with, a poor architect who
was building SoamesT country home, the husband blamed every­
one except himself.
This is another quality of Forsyteism—
the belief that oneself i£ always without flaw,- that the
evil or weakness must exist in the other individual!
To what avail was Soames* plan to win the love of
his wife through giving her another possession, a home worthy
to enshrine her heauty?
unseeing eyes.
The gifts of Mammon were laid before
More significant to her were his eternal
bickerings with Bosinney over the additional pounds that the
architect deemed necessary to put the finest materials into
the house that was to match the loveliness that Irene em­
Irene was drawn to Bosinney for the very qualities
that a Forsyte so clearly lacked— for his love of beauty
for beauty*s sake; for the free sweep of his mind, unre­
strained by the limitations of Soames* more ordered world;
for his lovable capacity for making errors, which a For­
syte *s precise arrangements of his affairs made virtually
The inevitable divorce which loomed on Soames* hori­
zon put him into a fever of anger and humiliation.
What had
he ever done to deserve the unsavory publicity of a divorce?
His Forsyte soul recoiled at the thought of not only yield­
ing a possession which he really coveted, but of losing the
impeccable reputation that his name had enjoyed.
A good
name, like a wife, was another item of property.
Galsworthy comments:
. . . and after that half hour (of divorce proceed­
ings) all hearers of the Forsyte name would feel the .
bloom was off the rose. He had no illusions like
Shakespeare that roses by any other name would *smell as
sweet*. The name was a possession, a concrete unstained
piece .of property, the value of which would be reduced
some twenty per cent at least.29
In his first close brush with the non-Forsyte world,
Soames emerged badly shaken but not beaten.
Irene and
Bosinney disturbed his calm and feeling of security and well­
being for the time.
But his typical middle-class assurance
that he had done no wrong saved his faith in himself and his
At the back of his mind, however, remained the poig­
nant memory of the untouchable perfection of Irene, a memory
that dimmed his desire for the other women that his wealth
might have bought him.
There was, too, the bitter realiza­
tion that Irene had freely given her love to Bosinney, a
penniless architect, instead of to him, Soames, the man of
To the Forsytes, the progress of their investments
and the current rate of interest that Consols were bearing,
were matters of daily investigation and discussion.
distinguishing characteristic was a dogged determination to
continue amassing property and bank deposits until they died.
Strict observance of the most astute business technique was
necessary to maintain the respect of the rest of the Clan.
When Timothy put his money in Consols at three per cent, he
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 565.
never again regained M s former position with the family.
Galsworthy tells us that nby this act he had at once assumed
an isolated position, no other Forsyte being content with
less than four per cent for his money; „ . .**
Old Jolyon*s
decision to live off his money, definitely put himself out­
side the pale.
And when he laid down the business sheet of
The Times to listen to the call of the blackbird, Jolyon had
lost the esteem as well as the understanding of his family.
Wars were indecent; they were a menace to vested
The Forsytes applauded Imperialism, however, because
it opened up new fields for exploitation, new lands for the
accumulated capital that would bring lush returns in the
form of higher profits.
The Forsytes used their wealth to build substantial
homes, to dress well but modestly, to savor good wines in
moderation, to bolster up their prestige as solid middleclass Englishmen- the pillars of Society.
To weather For­
syte censorship everything had to pass the test of utility,
even their food!
Galsworthy^makes this plain in the fol­
lowing :
No Forsyte has given a dinner without providing a
saddle of mutton. There is something in its succulent
solidity which makes it suitable to people *of a
certain position.* It is nourisMng and tasty; the
sort of thing a man remembers eating. It has a past
and a future, like a deposit paid into a bank; and it
is something that can be argued about.
30 Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 10.
To anyone interested psychologically in Forsytes,
this great saddle-of-mutton trait is of prime im­
portance; not only does it illustrate their tenacity
both collectively and as individuals, but it marks
them as belonging in fibre and instincts to that great
class which believes in nourishment and flavor, and
yields to no sentimental craving for beauty.®*
So completely had the consideration of income and
expenditures regulated their lives that Timothy ruminated
one day that even the size of the Forsyte families was con­
ditioned by the interest rate.
Galsworthy tells us that he
spent an interesting hour figuring it out on a monetary
Thus, of the ten old Forsytes twenty-one young
Forsytes had been born; but of the twenty-one young
Forsytes there were as yet only seventeen descend­
ants; and it already seemed unlikely that there
would be more than a further uneonsidered trifle
or so. A student of statistics must have noticed
that the birth rate had varied in accordance with
the rate of interest for your money. Grandfather
’Superior Dosset’ Forsyte in the early nineteenth
century had been getting ten per cent, for his
hence ten children. Those ten . . . had averaged
from four to five per.cent for theirs, and pro­
duced accordingly. The twenty-one whom they pro­
duced were now getting barely three per cent, in
the Consols to which their father had mostly tied
the Settlements they made to avoid death duties,
and the six of them who had been reproduced had
seventeen children, or just the proper two and
five-sixths per stem.32
The character of the Forsyte mind has been demon­
's .
strated clearly enough in these instances to give us a
31 Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 40.
Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, p. 345.
basis for a sociological evaluation of their place in the
formation of the world that is England.
The impelling force of the Forsyte family progress
was representative of the growth of the dominant English
middle elass.
From its humble beginnings in the dawn of the
Industrial Era from the seed of the first lolyon, who was
very "small beer," the succeeding generations surged stead­
ily up the years toward the financial success and bulwarked
security of the Victorian period.
Their arrival at the
peak of financial success is symbolized in The Forsyte Saga
by the marriage of Fleur, the daughter of Soames, to a mem­
ber of nobility.
The sociological importance of this act
is stated by Galsworthy in the following words: "In the
union of the Great-Granddaughter of *Superior Posset* with
the heir of a ninth baronet was the outward and visible sign
of that merger of class and class which buttresses political
stability of a realm."
As far as the Forsytes were con­
cerned, this union of money and land was the natural right
of their possessive instinct and a kind of universally
recognized reward for it.
As far as England was concerned,
it presaged a tremendous strengthening of her social sol­
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 852.
Their concentration on the acquisition of material
wealth atrophied their emotions and overdeveloped the reason
and the sense of what was practical.
They sneered at June
Forsyte’s championship of the poor artists who were constant­
ly coming to her for aid—
June’s "lame dudes,** as they called
They regarded with indulgence Francis’s sale of driv­
elling lyrics, even if they were on the arty side; but they
viewed with disfavor the only sincere thing she ever wrote,
a sonnet, which they were convinced wouldn’t sell.
purchase of the pictures was considered a strange hobby, but
his collection-had increased enormously in value, so it was
good business; it was practical.
This impregnable philosophy, which was typical of a
large proportion of the English people, influenced the whole
character of English thinking and English life.
This Forsyte
quality of suppressing the emotional, or the unreasonable,
and elevating the idea of sanity raised to the nth degree,
became a national attribute, clearly setting its possessors
apart from other peoples of the world.
As Shelton says in
The Island Pharisees:
They fulfilled their duties, had good appetites,
clear consciences, all the furniture of perfect
citizens; they merely lacked feelers, a loss that,
he had read, was suffered by plants and animals
which no longer had a need for using them. Some
rare national faculty of seeing only the obvious
and materially useful had destroyed their power of
catching gleams or scents to right or left,34
When the emotions did struggle through, they emerged
as sentiment, "a yellow thing with blue spots, like a fungus
on a Stillton cheese,**
as the old actor put it so graphic­
ally in The Island Pharisees,
Complete satisfaction with the system which they had
evolved was their hall-mark, both as a class and as individ­
This developed smugness and an irritating complacency
which refused to be disturbed.
The attitude of satisfaction
with things as they were, made it difficult for them to view
slum conditions, or prison reform, or the evils of Imperial­
ism, or the decadence of the land with any real concern.
inbred conservatism, inert and heavy, dragged on the more
feeling members of England who were anxious for reform.
It cannot be said, however, that they turned deaf
ears to humanitarianism in any of its forms, but, after
they had given cautiously of money, their responsibility
as well as interest ceased.
Concern for people at large,
except as they happened to fit into their schemes for per­
sona.!, pecuniary ends, was non-existent.
Perhaps it was
a part of their philosophy of individualism*
Soames Illustrated their attitude perfectly in eon34 Galsworthy, The Island Pharisees, p. 40.
35 Ibid., p. 34.
Election with the building of the Sanitarium for tuberculars.
He was sorry for the people who were afflicted with the dis­
ease; he had contributed through taxes for their care.
that was enough!
Great was his alarm when he discovered that
the "Local Authorities” contemplated building near his home,
How it had become a dangerous scheme.
Galsworthy states
Soames* reaction thus:
It should be done farther away. He took, indeed,
an attitude common to all true Forsytes; that dis­
ability of any sort in other people was not his af­
fair, and the State should do its business without
prejudicing in any way the natural advantages which
he had acquired or inherited.36
Their insistence on the sancity of their possessions
penetrated their most private affairs.
The relationship of
Soames and Irene is typical of the Forsyte attitude toward
women and the marriage rights of the husband,
love, or love unwisely given, was something the Forsytes
with all their reasonableness could not understand.
worthy, whose sympathy for women possessed against their
will through the pressure exerted by husbands and Society
was unusually deep, expressed the case of Love versus For­
syteism in these words:
. . . in the security bred of many harmless
marriages, it had been forgotten that Love is no
hot-house flower, but a wild plant, born of a
Galsworthy, The Forsythe saga, p. 733.
wet night, horn of an hour of sunshine; sprung from
wild seed, blown along the road by a wild wind. . . .
And further-— the facts and figures of their own
lives being against the perception of this truth—
it was not generally recognized by Forsytes that,
where this wild plant springs, men and women are but
moths around the pale, flame-like blossom.*3'
And again, he says:
. . . for in spite of. the disapproval of that
great body of Forsytes, the Municipal Council— to
whom Love had long been considered, next to the
Sewage Question, the gravest danger of the commun­
ity— a process was going on that night in the
Park, and in a hundred other parks, without which
the thousand factories, churches, shops, taxes,
and drains, of which they were custodians, were as
arteries without blood, a man without a heart. 8
To give up a possession, to admit to the world his
lack of business acumen inthe selection of a
mate is repug­
nant to a middle class Britisher.From this attitude
much of the cruelty inherent in the relationship of men and
women and the status of divorce in England.
This ramifica­
tion of the Forsyte spirit of possessiveness into a social­
ized situation will be discussed at greater length in
Chapter IV.
Nor could Forsyteism be content with the dominance
of its personal affairs, nor its control of business within
England proper.
Such a tenaciousfforce could not stand still.
37 ibid., p. 124.
38 Ibid., p. 230.
Forsyteism on the march developed into Imperialism.
worthy depicts it as:
The historian of the English eighties and nineties
will, in his good time, depict the somewhat rapid
progression from self-contented and contained pro­
vincialism to still more self-contented if less con­
tained imperialism; in other words, the *possessive
instinct of the nation on the march.39
Back of England*s exploitation of other countries
which Galsworthy strikes at so savagely in The Island Phar­
isees lies the Forsyte spirit, eagerly searching for other
worlds in order to enrich its coffers.
And, as Gunther
points out in one of his studies of England, the geograph­
ical fact that the Forsytes were entrenched on an island
had a tremendous effect on their activities, for they were
"free from intrusion, and free to intrude."
The worst part of their imperialistic instinct, ac­
cording to Galsworthian criticism, was that they found moral
as well as financial justification for it.
Ylctorian essay­
ists and preachers, seeking to legitimatize the Forsyte ex­
pansion, claimed that it was a part of their Duty; it was a
Mission of the Elect People, or exploitation by a Superior
Shelton, in The Island Pharisees, has a great deal to
say on this point:
39 Ibid., p. 343.
40 John Gunther, Inside Europe, p. 470;
We (English) always think our standards best for
the whole world. It’s a capital belief for us. Read
the speeches of our public men. Doesn’t it strike
you as amazing how sure they are of being right?
It’s so charming to benefit yourself and others at
the same time, though, when you come to think of it,
one man’s meat is another’s poison. . . .
. . . It’s enough to make one bitter the way we
Pharisees wax fat, and at the same time give our­
selves the moral airs of a balloon.41
Working, acquiring, pushing tenaciously onward, over­
coming difficulties, the Forsytes built up their typically
English stoieism, and the conservatism that -sms to preserve
the system.
Deep and strong as their movements were, they
were effected with a certain careful unostentatiousness,
another characteristic of their class.
This made them seem
less dangerous than they really were.
But this way of life did not partake of immortality.
Forsyteism passed into a period of ferment during the years
of world War I.
Many of the attributeswhich had seemed like
virtues in the Tictorian age now became liabilities.
old concepts of carrying trade, foreign investments, unim­
peachable British credit had little meaning, but the process
of replacing them for others wasa long one.
had slowed England down, and she was tardy in adjusting her­
self to the new order.
The Forsyte mind had so long been a
41 Salsworthy, The Island Pharisees, p. 167.
closed corporation that it hated a good many things because
of a lack of understanding.
The great institution of the
Public School fostered and perpetuated the old forms.
expresses it thus:
In a world of exact progressive knowledge, when the
foundations not of belief only, but of daily habit
were perishing, the public schools overstressed and
standardized ideals which were becoming inadequate to
the eonduct of modern life, and they did not adjust
the balance by breadth of observation or fineness of
It was left to the younger Forsytes, the new vintage,
slowly to shake off the influence of the past generations
and adapt itself as best it could.
The older Forsytes re­
mained confused and disturbed in the midst of the moving
stream in which the old footholds had grown a bit mossy.
Even property, the old fortress of strength and security,
was being challenged.
Galsworthy, speaking through Soames,
The Forsyte age and way of life, thought Soames,
was when a man owned his soul, his investments, and
his woman, without check or question. And now the
State had, or would have, his investments, his woman
had herself, and God knew who had his soul.43
Soames comes to realize that property is a hollow victory.
The Forsyte way of life, with all of its deep hold on
English life, was wTo Let.**
42 G. M. Young, Yictorian England, p. 158.
Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, p . 869.
Galsworthy, at times, seemed to he torn between two
alternatives concerning the ultimate effect of Forsyteism
on England.
Would the essential qualities of grit and de­
termination and stability ineradicably impressed on the
country pull it through in the long run, or, as Cross ques44
tions, "Would their /blindness be their doom??*
Cross, Four Contemporary Movelists, p. 114
The note of interest in women and their status that
Galsworthy sounded in his first immature book, From the Four
Winds, continued in volume and range throughout his entire
literary career.
Interest is too pale a word, perhaps; it
was more accurately an obsession, a stubborn and impassioned
attempt to lay bare the inherent cruelty of the English
conception and treatment of womanhood.
Before attempting to go into the sociological import­
ance of Galsworthy^ analysis of the sex situation, this
chapter might well propose the question, what was the English
attitude toward women, this attitude against which Gals­
worthy* s own chivalric and spiritual conception constantly
struck fire?
In the first place, women fitted neatly and perman­
ently, as far as the English gentleman was concerned, into
a precise code.
She was inextricably bound down by consid­
erations of possession, morality, caste, religion, and in­
numerable other sacrosanct matters which constituted a
strangle-hold on her freedom of thought and action.
When a
man married her that relationship, satisfactory or other­
wise, was to continue until death severed it.
pected it and convention demanded it.
Society ex­
If she broke her
bonds and wilfully removed herself from her husband it was
as serious as a Forsyte*s loss of a business deal or a
nobleman*s loss of land, both very dangerous occurrences.
Gf course, if the husband had the real English doggedness
bred in him, he would react like the man in Villa Rube in
whose wife deserted him.
What is B- going to do?** asked one' of the char­
acters. nAh,** said Herr Paul. *^He is fond of her.
He is a chap of resolution. He will get her back.
He told me:’Well, you know, I shall follow her
wherever she goes, till she comes back.*45
And Mr. B- would have had all the force of the public*s
ideals of decency and justice fortifying him in his hunt.
If he didn*t win her back, he, as well as she, would lose
A man had a right to his wife’s services and society;
the whole concept goes back to the Forsyte’s preoccupation
with vested rights.
Under such a regime, divorce became a
highly difficult mode of exit from an unhappy situation.
The church, representing the religious viewpoint,
naturally insisted on the sanctity and permanency of mar­
The church administered the vows, and it expected
them to remain indissoluble.
were incompatible.
Suppose that a man and woman
Differences should be amicably settled;
society as well as the Church made that mandatory.
4:5 Galsworthy, Villa Rube in, p. 63.
would become of the stability of the realm if the women
exercised freedom indiscriminately?
Women were to give
their thoughts to considerations of motherhood.
"How do you
justify marriage if it is not to follow the laws of nature?"
asked the parson in The Island Pharisees.
The Chureh,
completely negating passion for its own sake, had firm
ground on which to stand when it argued the stability of
marriage and the denial of free choice on the part of woman
so that she might fulfill social ends.
Each social and religious force had its own madden­
ingly logical grip on woman, and Galsworthy was intent on
showing her painful struggle to free herself from it.
The French critic, Ghevrillon, in his study of
Galsworthy, tried to establish a philosophical basis for
this English viewpoint on women and marriage.
As part of
a culture which in many ways is far removed from that of
the Anglo-Saxon, he saw the situation with great clearness.
His first explanation of the English mind is geographical
and climatic.
Their insularity, combined with the unpleas­
antness of their perpetual fogs, drive them in upon them­
The mind and reason are overdeveloped at the
expense of their emotions; they have an intense interior
Galsworthy, The Island Pharisees, p. 177.
Emotion, or, at least, the outward demonstration of
emotion, must be curbed by the imposition of the will.
finer bred an Englishman is, the more fully is he able to
exercise this will, which soon becomes a sign of caste as
well as of controlled balance.
Emotion, then, as Chevrillon
so neatly states it, is "a rupture of the equilibrium.
This philosophy is vital for a comprehension of the stand of
the British on the woman question and for the social and
legal ramifications that were its natural results.
For in
no case must the heart speak louder than rationality in
their dealings with the members of the opposite sex.
Women and the English divorce laws.
Under the clear
light of Galsworthy’s reasoning, the social position of
women in England and the/red tape that had been manufactured
to hold them there, showed up as false and vicious*
belief that women were possessions, and the tragedy that
emanated from it, he thoroughly dissected in The Forsyte
Saga, which was discussed at length in Chapter III.
the combined forces of the possessive instinct, caste, and
religion developed the divorce laws of England, which
Galsworthy attacked with great vigor.
The laws of which Galsworthy wrote were so severe
that it was virtually impossible to accomplish a legal
Jmdre Chevrillon, Trois etudes de litterature
anglais, p. 213.
separation, and if one did, social ruin was the result.
When Gregory went to Mr. Paramor to see about Helen Bellew's
divorce, he learned that there must be something called
**collusiontt before a case could be brought.
evidence of misconduct.
There had to be
Gregory, supporting the individual­
ist's reasoning, eouldn't understand why the mutual under­
standing of the people directly affected was not sufficient.
Mr. Paramor, speaking for England and the Ghurch, replied
that the hurdles placed in the path of those who wished to
dissolve partnership were "for the preservation of morality.
What do you suppose?*
In order to secure evidences of
misconduct, spies had to be set on MT. Bellew.
In The For­
syte Saga, Soames was forced to have detectives set to watch
Irene and, ironically enough, he provided the necessary
evidence when he came out of her empty apartment where he had
been looking for her.
Clare, in One More Biver, had to under
go the same nerve-racking spy treatment.
Damning evidence was so hard to procure, and the de­
tails of the case were pursued with such precision, that
people unhappily mated were doomed either to eke out their
lives as best they could, or to seek love outside of matri­
As Miss Scott points out in her thesis on The Women
Galsworthy, The Country House, p. 78.
in Galsworthy’s Novels, of all the unhappy unions of which
he writes only two wives ever achieved divorce— Irene and
The women were either frightened or ashamed of bring­
ing such intimacies to a public trial or, like Winifred Darty,
they were unable to carry them to a successful conclusion,
although Galsworthy gives evidence that from the standpoint
of Justice, she merited freedom many times over*
Irene and Clare deserved and achieved freedom, but the
evidence on which they received it was a travesty of honest
presentation of causes.
Clare was determined not to air the
real basis for her loathing for her sadistic husband, so she
bore the brunt of the implications of infidelity that were
levelled at her.
But English law and its principles had been
Clare happened to be courageous enough to see the
thing through.
Few of Galsworthy*s women were.
What became of the other women who desperately wanted
divorces but who were unable to get them?
Winifred was
eventually released by the death of her husband, but the
others were not so fortunate.
Mrs. Noel, 4n The Patrician, lived out a pathetic
existence because she was unable to divorce her husband, a
minister in the Church of England.
She loved and was loved
by Lord Miltoun, but his life was bound down by considera­
tions of caste and traditional morality.
His family fought
desperately against his living with her out of wedlock, and
his position as a member of Parliament sent him into torment*
ing debates on his responsibilities to his constituents.
Both of them were eventually crushed by the difficulties in^volved in her freeing herself.
The divorce laws again had
prevented three people from living normal lives.
Mrs. Hoel
was left the consolation of her music, a healing force that
Galsworthy usually tried to provide for the broken hearts of
his women.
At least, Society allowed this harmless satis­
faction for its victims i
In Beyond occurred one of Galsworthy’s most poignant
examples of a young woman who could not force herself to
bring her troubles into the divorce court.
Gyp asserted her
mastery over what she considered her own life and her dis­
dain for society’s accusations by living with her lover,
But It built up to an intolerable situation,
largely through her own secret misgivings and the fear that
their unsanctified union would interfere with his career.
The accidental death of Summerday was a subtle accumulation
of sinister forces against which the two had put up brave,
but feeble resistance.
The Church, with its preachings on morality and Its
insistence on the perpetuation of the race, contributed to
the continuation of a social institution which badly needed
It talked largely of the moral basis of marriage,
but many of Galsworthy’s characters ask very properly what
does constitute its moral basis.
Disregarding Society for
the moment, is it moral, from the standpoint of the indiv­
idual, to keep on living with someone in the intimacy of
marriage when the whole relationship has become revolting?
When Olive Cramier continued the forms of matrimony, her
lover, Mark Lennan, could scarcely tolerate the thought of
It maddened, killed him, to think of that man
touching her when he knew she did but hate him.
It shamed all manhood? it could not be good to help
such things to be# A vow when the spirit of it was
gone was only superstition; it was wicked to waste
one *s life for the sake of that. Society— she
knew, she must khow— -only cared for the forms, the
outside of things# And what did it matter what
Society thought? It had no soul, no feeling,
nIt shamed all manhood**-^- a tragic phrase.
It was
the shame, and the desperation and the hopelessness of re­
lease for Irene under the English divorce laws that drove
Bosinney to his death,
The strong, contrasting argument of ’muddling through*,
Which apparently was at the base of traditional morality,
was exemplified by Soames In the following:
Like most of his countrymen and women, he held the
view that marriage should be based on mutual love,
but that when from a marriage love had disappeared,
or been found never to have really existed— so that
it was manifestly not built on love— you must not
admit it. There it was, and the love was not-but
there you were, and must continue to be? Thus you
Galsworthy, The Bark Flower, p. 175.
had it both ways, and were not tarred with cynicism,
realism and immortality like the French.50
But Annette, his French wife, who bore Soames no real love,
looked at him and commented sharply on the hypocrisy of the
It is certain that Galsworthy spoke through the
lips of Annette, even if she was "tarred with cynicism, real­
ism, and immortality," according to the English concept.
Galsworthy, then, discounted the harshness of English
divorce laws on all the defending fronts advanced by Society.
The idea of a mate as a possession was based on false prem­
ises, because an individual belongs to himself and is respon­
sible for his own conduct.
"If God is Universal Truth, He can­
not look hardly upon us for being true to ourselves.
And as
to the people, we shall just hold up our hands: I think they
generally take you at your own valuation."
The severe
routine of the law fostered fallacious evidence for those who
sought divorce, or discouraged the attempt so completely that
unnecessary unhappiness, or even tragedy, resulted.
The moral
arguments of the church urged the continuance of a relation­
ship which was unmoral when love and respect had ceased to
It was a form of "spiritual adultery,"®2 as Lord
50 Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, p. 645.
Galsworthy, Op. cit., p. 197.
Galsworthy, The Patrician, p. 535.
Miltoun calls It in The Patrician, and, therefore unsound,
judged by any humane tribunal.
Galsworthy is no self-appointed reformer; he doesn't
say what should be done to the divorce courts In England,
but he does show through tragic examples that the principles
of humanity and justice needed to be applied to the routine
of the law.
He by no means advocated free love, nor divorces
lightly given.
His women who sought release did so on
grounds that certainly would have met with the sympathy of
a Higher Tribunal.
He did advocate readjustment in the law
to allow for eases where incompatibility, with all of its
many interpretations, had reached a point where to go on was
to invoke extreme unhappiness, if not actual tragedy.
Something needed to be done, and Galsworthy, in his
capacity as a literary artist, had the courage to point the
He was shrewd enough to realize that, although he had
no power as a legislator, he carried a tremendous weight as
an awakener.
There were his arguments, inescapably woven
into compelling plot patterns, read by thousands of English
He incorporated them into one of his plays, The
Fugitive. His words rang out with peculiar force, sharpened
and pointed by his own experiences with tradition and divorce
laws in connection with his long wait for a wife— Ada.
England, as in America, public opinion must move in the van­
guard of the law.
Galsworthy helped to initiate the demo­
cratic process in regard to divorce.
In the latter part of The Forsyte gaga, one of his
characters indicated that the new wine was fermenting.
says, "Marriage without a decent chance of relief is only a
sort of slave-owning; people oughtn’t to own each other.
Everybody sees that now."
Galsworthy1s 'sympathy for women and
their problems was s.o wide and deep that his heart could
even encompass pity for those who had fallen to the level of
It seemed to him that the prostitutes were
more erred against than erring*
Their existence as a class
was directly attributable to the demands of men, yet the very
ones who expressed the need for such women deliberately and
cruelly debased them through legal as well as social means.
Shelton, in The Island Pharisees, summed up the injustice of
the whole situation.
*0ne or another of us,* he reflected, ’we make these
women what they are. And when w e ’ve made them, we
can’t do without them; we don’t want to; but we give
them no proper houses, so that they’re reduced to
prowl about the streets, and then - we run them in.* 4
The basic argument of this statement, which was
originally advanced in one of Galsworthy’s earliest books,
was repeated later in such short stories as "The Grand Jury,”
"Defeat,” and "Virtue."
By implication, rather than direct
53 Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, p. 731.
34 Galsworthy, The Island Pharisees, p. 207.
assertion, one must assume that Galsworthy believed that if
the prostitute filled a social need, she should be properly
domiciled and given the protection of the law.
treatment of the prostitute was another form of an insidious
hypocrisy which induced society and the law to push into a
dark corner what should have been recognized and regulated
for the best welfare of all concerned.
Women and children.
Galsworthy again took up arms
against the viewpoint of the male part of the citizenry that
woman was in duty bount to procreate.
Opinion followed
roughly that of Heverend Barter who gave a sermon on the
subject of fruitfulness— fruitfulness so that there would
be people to till the soil and smite the enemies of the
Like Shelton, in The Island Pharisees, Galsworthy
believed that productivity should be conditioned by a
woman's willingness, and the financial ability of the hus­
band to take care of his offspring— two revolutionary ideas
that had hever entered the head of the country parson to
whom Shelton conversed.
Their interplay of viewpoints on the
whole subject of women and children, and the male attitude
toward their place in Society, was never stated more forcibly
by Galsworthy than here.
It is worth studying.
Shelton and a friend stopped in at a minister's house
during a storm.
The obvious poverty of the parsonage and
the living conditions were depressing to Shelton.
The parson
mentioned that his predecessor had many children and that it
was difficult to exist on his stipend.
Shelton indicated that
he thought it wrong to have too many children.
I*in afraid that your theories are not cal­
culated to populate the world.
Have you ever lived in London? It always
makes me feel a bit doubtful whether we have
a right to have children at all.
Surely, you are leaving out duty towards
the country; national growth'is paramount.
I daresay I*m wrong, but it seems to me at
least an open question whether it's better
for the country to be so well populated as
to be quite Incapable of supporting itself.
I don't wish to dictate, but where it seems
to me that you are wholly wrong is, that
your ideas foster in women those lax views of
family life that are so prevalent in Society
Shelton thinks of the tired women he has seen drag­
ging around London with twelve or fourteen children, all
the vfetims of the "sanctity of marriage*”
What I hate is the way we men decide what
women are to bear, and then call them im­
moral, decadent, or what you will, if they
don't fall in with our views.
The questions of morality have always Iain
through God in the hands of-men, not women.
We are the reasonable sex.
The bigotry of that final statement, uttered by a
representative of the Church, preached and listened to
throughout the land, certainly set its mark on womanhood in
Galsworthy, The Island Pharisees, pp. 177-181.
Men were the masters; women were the dutiful, if
not willing, chattels*
That was as it should be, for the
unreasonable, or emotional side of the feminine sex made it
difficult for them to mate responsible judgments,
out of his male reasoning, thought Irene should bear him a
child to carry on his name and inherit his fortune, and
that after she had demonstrated her loathing of him by re­
moving herself from his house.
The fact that women, generally, submitted tamely to
the job of childbearing, not only weakened their status
among men but it brought on a sociological evil.
was not the only character in Galsworthy’s books who la­
mented over the pale, undernourished city children, fathered
by men who were unable to provide adequately for the wife
It is difficult to forget the baby, that frail little
scrap of humanity, that died in Fraternity, and the many
other pictures Galsworthy gives us of the pathetic London
children, offspring of the very poor.
Women pushed into
an inferior position, forced to become mothers against
their will— it made a vicious circle filled with deep
sociological significance.
Galsworthy’s purpose in analyzing the situation is
It was to show the stupidity of the Englishman’s
belief that his wife was of lesser degree than he; to plead
for a more spiritual interpretation of womanhood; to allow
her some freedom in her choice concerning motherhood; to in­
dicate to men that there was an economic as well as a social
responsibility involved in fatherhood.
To insure such a revolution of opinion, all such scenes
as this one in The Dark Flower had to cease.
Dr. stormer
looked down at his wife whom he believed to be sleeping, but
who was actually looking up at him through half closed eyes.
. . . Yes, his was the face of one looking at what
was unintelligible, and therefore negligible; at that
which had no soul; at something of an inferior species
and of no great interest to man.56
And his wife shuddered to think that identical look had been
-suffered by thousands of married women throughout the length
and breadth of England.
Galsworthy forcibly demonstrated that the whole aspect
of woman and her place in English society desperately needed
a re-examination.
The national philosophy, conventions,
moral considerations, the teachings of the Church, the divorce
laws, and inbred ideas concerning the perpetuation of the
species all needed drastic revision before Woman could move
into that new realm of respect and consideration that she
Such a revision, however, would set up beneficial
reforms that would be felt throughout the whole social fabric
of England.
Galsworthy, The Dark Flower, p. 26.
Close to the social conscience of John Galsworthy lay
the problems resulting from the growth of industrialism, the
movement of the farming classes to the centers of manufac­
turing and Forsyte dominance, and the monopoly of the good
soil of Britain by the landed gentry.
Essays and novels
alike bear the imprint of this ever present, rather perturbed
preoccupation in these conditions and their effect on England*
A Commentary. The Country House. The Freelands, The Patrician,
and The Modern Comedy contain highly pointed analyses and
criticisms, while many of his other essays and novels contain
material which reinforces the more detailed discussions of
the other works mentioned.
The great hegira from land to city began back in the
time when the first Jolyon of The Forsyte Saga packed up his
belongings and migrated with his family to London town, in
the early dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
The process
continued and grew in volume, but all of the migratory farm­
ers were not made of the stuff of the Forsytes, and their
concentration in crowded centers of population gave rise to
social problems that brought misery to them and a vast headache
to the legislators who feebly tried to ameliorate their lot.
Young, in his study of Victorian England, brings the
problem up to approximately the years at which Galsworthy
begins his serious consideration ot it.
This historian
places the period from 1879 to 1894 as the most significant
one in the decay of the rural strength of England.
It was
a calamitous stretch of years, marked by excessive rains and
excessive drought, more destructive of wealth than a war.
Great migrations from farms to city took place.
Never again was the landed proprietor to dominate
the social fabric. . . . For two generations, more­
over, the surplus profits .of the land had passed
into industry and commerce or foreign bonds. The
agricultural depression completed the evolution from
a rural to an industrial state which the application
of steam to machinery had begun, and it accelerated
the further,_avolution from an industrial to a finan­
cial state.57
The criticisms that Galsworthy offered against the
landslide of industrialism were few, but so fundamental
that they bore frequent repetition.
He recognized some of
the claims of the machine age advocation and appreciated
their basic aims.
I do not question the intentions of civilization—
they are most honorable. To be clean, warm, well
nourished, healthy, decently leisured, and free to
move quickly about the world, are certainly pure
benefits. If we attained those ideals, and stopped
there— well and good. °
57 G. M. Young, Victorian England, pp. 145-6.
Galsworthy, Candelabra, "Speculations," p. 90*
But he accused England of letting her industrial system run
away with her to the extent that her submersion in thoughts
of machines and money^getting were leading her to forget her
The final good of the mass of the people, especially
those humble folk: whose welfare was very close to Gals­
worthy’s thinking, was being shockingly neglected*
In 1917,
Galsworthy had feared that inventions were being made too
fast, and their manufacture and use were achieved under
conditions that were not compatible with the demands of
common humanity.
He insisted that the inventors were run­
ning the country, and in his feverish striving for some
means of stemming the tide of industrialism which they in­
voked, he suggested a Board of Scientific Control to re­
strain the use of new inventions until man had learned how
to use the old ones, wisely and well.
The conditions of labor bothered him and he felt
that social legislation was too slow in recognizing and
bettering them.
He proposed that the Board of Scientific
Control could be of aid in this matter, too.
It would
make judgments in this wise:
You are bringing in this new, and we daresay,
quite useful article (rubber). We shall, however,
first send out and see the conditions under which
you obtain it.
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 92.
Having seen, they would have added, "You will alter those
conditions, and treat your native labor humanely, or we will
ban your use of it.”
Galsworthy feared for the deterioration of health
and morality of the industrial workers crowded together in
the congested living areas or slums of the English cities.
Salaries were pitifully small to feed the large families,
contact with fresh air in "those corners of our land cano61
pied by the fumes of blind industry"
was totally inade­
quate, recreation was likely to take on a sordid character—
it multiplied endlessly into a frightening pyramid of con­
ditions that ate at the heart of England’s strength and
The women at the workers’ demonstration, "a
thousand and more of them, with faces twisted and scored
by those myriad deformings which a desperate town-toiling
and little food fasten on human visages,"
were typical of
the vast masses whose composite misery Galsworthy felt
Michael Mont, who, as a member of the nobility, took
60 Galsworthy, Loc. cit♦, p. 92.
Galsworthy, Inn of Tranquillity, "The Proces­
sion," p. 54.
62 Ibid., p. 60.
up the responsibilities of "noblesse oblige" in the House
of Lords, was deeply disturbed by his observations in Lon­
The over-bloated town conditions, the grimy ugliness
of it, the under-priviliged children, the unemployment, the
general hand-to-mouth quality of the whole situation, made
him a little sick.
Older members of the House had grown
accustomed to these things, and out of their callousness
had come stalemate.
Michael was young, and sensitive to
The hopeless, indifferent attitude that the
others adopted was repugnant to him.
Out of this concern
came his championship of Foggartism, a scheme whereby the
congestion of certain areas would be relieved by the emi­
gration of the "submerged tenth" to the colonies, where
they could be rehabilitated under healthful conditions
into a state of independence.
Michael’s scheme, naturally,
was laughed at by the Lords and viewed with indifference
by the very groups it was intended to aid.
Whether Galsworthy thought that Foggartism was a
genuine solution, or whether he created it merely to illus­
trate the inertia that any social plan would have to over­
come, is a moot question.
We may be sure, however, that
his agony of mind was identical with that of Michael, who,
out of his sincere love of his country, couldn’t bear to
think that such social evils must continue a part of it.
Galsworthy’s antidote for the disease of industrial-
ism was, unquestionably, a retrogression to the land,
Michael, as soon as he thought of his love for his homeland,,
was instantly reminded of the sweet, clean beauty of the
English countryside.
Galsworthy was passionately fond of
the deep, rich soil of his England, and the generous bounty
of flowers and trees that it yielded.
To him, it was proof
against poverty, ill health, vulgarity, and loss of the es­
sential appreciation of beauty for beauty's sake.
It was natural, then, that he should present a strong
case for the return to the land.
But there were great obsta­
cles obstructing the progress of any such movement.
If the
Forsytes controlled English business and trade, the Pendyees
and the Caradocs controlled the land.
Land to them was a
sign of caste, Just as possessions were a similar sign to
their city counterparts, the Forsytes.
Mr. Pendyce once made
the remark that his chief business was to keep his acres in­
tact and, if possible, pass them on enlarged to his son.
If the great landowners had made wise use of their
land for the advancement of the lot of the tenant farmer and
to increase England's ability to feed herself, ownership of
such acreage would not have been vicious in itself.
was not the case.
But that
Estates were put down in grass, for covert.
While thousands starved in the cities, the landed gentry was
still concentrating on the pleasures of the hunt and extend­
ing its fields and woods so that the sport would yield in­
creasing enjoyment.
Absentee ownership, a state of affairs
that caused serious trouble for England in Ireland, flourished
in her own country, with the inevitable mismanagement and
waste that it entailed.
Felix, in The Freelands, stated
the case precisely:
Next door to this estate I*m told there*s ten
thousand acres almost entirely in grass and covert,
owned by Lord Baltimore, who lives in Norfolk,
London, Cannes, and anywhere else that the whim takes
him. He comes down here twice a year to shoot. The
case is extremely common. Surely, it spells paraly­
sis. If land is to be owned at all in such great
lumps, owners ought at least to live on the lumps,
and to pass very high examinations as practical
farmers. They ought to be the life and soul, the
radiating sun, of their little universe; or else
they ought to be cleared out. How expect keen farm­
ing to start from such an example? It really seems to
me as if the game laws would have to go.®®
Galsworthy was not guilty of literary exaggeration
in the case of the size of the estates.
Masterman fully
substantiates the accusations of Felix:
The possession and overlordship of tracts of land
situated in half a dozen counties, many of which the
proprietor never saw from year to year, or perhaps
had never seen at all, presented a Landed System un­
equaled in Eurdpe for foolish waste. A certain fa­
mous peer came to consult his solicitor “about my
property in Shropshire.“
“I did not know,“ said his legal adviser, “that
you.had any property in Shropshire,n
“Nor did I until yesterday,” was the cheerful
Galsworthy, The Freelands, p. 7.
Charles Masterman, England After the War, p. 54.
To state the case even more forcibly, one could walk
for twenty or thirty miles and not come to the end of the
property of many of England*s landed gentry.
With reason,
Galsworthy asked how could such a. system fix itself on a
country that faced staggering problems of housing and pov­
erty and the definite knowledge that she was, agriculturally,
in bondage to the rest of the world.
The land system of which Galsworthy wrote in The
Country House and The Freelands, savored very strongly of
medieval feudalism.
The small part of the owner's acres
that were under cultivation were farmed by tenants, as sub­
merged socially and economically as the industrial group in
the cities.
Farms that were for sale were bought up in
large parcels by the gentry who had the ability to buy,
and the average poor tenant was never given a sporting
chance to become independent.
He was as truly bound to
the plot of ground rented him by the landowner, as his
feudal ancestor many centuries before him.
Horace Pendyee, talking to Mrs. Bellew, illustrated
the views of the landowner toward his tenants:
My tenants have everything they want, but it's
impossible to satisfy them. There's a fellow
called Peacock, now a most pig-headed, narrow­
minded chap. I don't give in to him, of course.
If he had his way, he'd go back to the old days,
farm the land in his own fashion. He wants to
buy it from me. old vicious system of yeomanry
farming. Says his grandfather had it. He's that
sort of a man.
I hate individualism; it's
ruining England.65
But it was the "old, vicious system of yeomanry farm­
ing," the kind that Peacock's grandfather had done, that
had made England, at one time, the best farmed country in
the world.
One cannot help feeling that Galsworthy intend­
ed English people to see and understand that it was the
Horace Pendyces who were pig-headed and narrow-minded, not
the chaps like Peacock.
In The Freelands, the entire plot is based on the
problem of the farm laborer.
The moving spirit of revolt
is Berek Freeland, son of Tod and Kirsteen Freeland, in­
dependent farmers of modest means.
Tod was a passionate
lover of the soil, and Kirsteen, a passionate believer in
From these two were born Derek and Sheila, two
young people who over-zealously and unwisely championed
the cause of the downtrodden laborers, especially one Bob
Tryst, a tenant farmer.
Although the trouble between Tryst
and the land-owning Mallorings began over a moral argument,
the matter stemmed out into larger considerations of super­
iority and dominance of the landed gentry which led to
serious difficulty.
Berek, in an attempt to show his sym­
pathy for Tryst, incited unrest and violence without being
able to get at the real cause and to move toward a sensible,
lasting compromise between the two factions.
In this example of Tod and Sheila, Galsworthy gives
65 Galsworthy, The Country House, p. 9.
another illustration of the foolishness of sincere, hut illconsidered attempts to help the downtrodden classes.
Hilary* s'
feeble efforts in Fraternity, to reduce the misery of the
poor and the unhappy results that were realized, are another
case in point.
Galsworthy implies that there must be an in­
telligent program, intelligently administered in order to
achieve genuine improvement.
The industrial versus the land problem was disturbing
to Galsworthy on more than the strictly sociological basis;
it was disturbing to him from the standpoint of the agri­
cultural vulnerability of England in time of war.
This is
an aspect that he treats in several of his later novels, The
White Monkey, and The Silver Spoon.
Through a dangerously
short-sighted policy, England had suffered the loss of her
peasant population, a lack which was particularly noticeable
when one studied France, or other continental states which
had encouraged the growth of a strong farming class*
But in
the green little isle the land lay fallow; in places, almost
England had gone industrial*
But Galsworthy saw
that the change was to be bought at a high price.
couldn't feed herself*
n* * * during the Great War, there
was real danger of starvation since much more than half the
nation*s food had to be i m p o r t e d . T o be sure, with true
Leon Schalit, John Galsworthy, p. 160.
British determination, machinery was set in motion that
enabled England to grow three-fourths of what was necessary
for home needs during the emergency.
The end of the World
War, however, found her food supplies frightfully near a
Yet, with this horrible experience safely behind
her, England allowed her countryside to revert to grass and
Galsworthy did not forget so rapidly as those who
guided the nationrs destiny.
He was haunted by the thought
that there might be another war, more damaging than the last
He envisoned airplanes and submarines preying upon
shipping, severing the vital life line.
His words ring out
prophetically for those who still remain to read them.
Michael, in his maiden speech before the House, said:
On our land policy depends, not only the pros­
perity of farmers, landlords, and laborers, desirable
and important though that is, but the very exist­
ence of England, if, unhappily, there should come
another war under the new conditions. Yes, and in
a fixed land policy lies the only hope of prevent­
ing the permanent deterioration of the British type.
Foggartism requires that we lay down our land policy
so that within ten years we may be growing up to
seventy per cent of our food.6”
Whether it was called Foggartism, or not, Gals­
worthy was pleading for a fixed land policy to remedy the
evils that were only too obvious to him.
Galsworthy, The Silver Spoon, p. 351.
In summarizing this chapter, some of the following
points should he noted:
Much as Galsworthy admired the stoicism of the Brit­
ish, he feltvthat it should have no part in perpetuating the
vicious elements of a short-sighted industrial and land
People were herded together in crowded cities, un­
der unhealthful and often unmoral conditions, while the soil
of Britain lay uncultivated.
Weak, under-nourished bodies
were fostered by industrialism as well as a certain element
of vulgarism which Galsworthy hated to see incorporate it­
self in the English strain.
Felix Freeland, who was pass­
ing a place hear Hyde Park, London, where a group of young
boys were jeering and trying to break up a suffrage meeting,
expressed GalsworthyTs feelings:
And he meditated: Culture! Could culture ever
make headway among the blind partisanships, the
hand-to-mouth mentality, the cheap excitements of
this town life? The faces of these youths, the
tone of their voices, the very look of their bowler
hats, saidl Hot You could not culturalize the im­
permeable texture of their vulgarity. And they
were the coming manhood of the nation— this inex­
pressibly distasteful lot of youths! The country
had, indeed, got too far away from "the Land."68.
The land, however, required the serious and wellconsidered attention of those in a position to legislate
before it could become a panacea for the ills of city life.
Galsworthy, The Freelands, p. 10.
The power of the gentry had to be broken, a highly diffi­
cult matter, since it involved a reversal of a philosophy
that had deep roots, and the new land system had to be made
attractive enough to entice back to it the one-time farm
Galsworthy attacked the.question vigorously and con­
stantly, for it was his belief that only through proper re­
forms could England attain a balanced economy which would
strengthen her internally and make her impregnable to her
Under life experiences conditioning the literary
viewpoint of John Galsworthy, Chapter II suggested the
first World War as a powerful force shaping his thoughts
and moving him toward a new type of creative expression.
During the avalanche of globe-rocking events through which
he lived, Galsworthy tried to keep his equilibrium and his
sanity of outlook.
There were few who made the effort:
it was easier to be carried along by the seemingly irre­
sistible currents which eddied about them*
All of the
characteristics which Galsworthy so admired as the ac­
coutrements of the typical Inglishman-balance, poise,
reasonableness,- he saw beaten down by the bludgeonings
of war hysteria.
The attempt of Galsworthy to see con­
ditions as they really were, and to write about them with
honesty and courage, unquestionably raises his stature as
a literary commentator of social conditions.
Chapter VI will review the main criticisms advanced
by Galsworthy in his books dealing with the war and post­
war period.
The Burning Spear, published anonymously in 1919,
recounts the mental and physical adventures of Mr. Laven­
der, an English gentleman who lived during the hectic war
days and who partook largely of the hysterical propaganda
of the time.
The story deserves attention as a brilliant
compendium of the extravagances and disproportions from
which the British public suffered and which Galsworthy was
trying so hard to analyze intelligently.
Closely modelled
in form and spirit after Cervantes* Don Quijote, the book
attempted to show to the English public in a quas i-humorous
style how it had been misled and rendered foolish by war
Galsworthy gave a clear indication of his
argument in his preface to the book:
But the fighting that was done with words often
seemed to drag our cause down, and to blur rather
than to sharpen its reality. All word dope and gas,
poisonous or not, was excused by the plea that it
was needed to raise and keep the national spirit
at the fighting level. Whether that was so is a
question we shall never be ablw to settle for cer­
tain. But my private opinion runs counter. I do
not believe it was necessary to M o p e ” and "gas”
in my country. I believe the management under- ,
'ities of the Public, as it almost
To show the evils of an overactive system of propa­
ganda, Galsworthy created two very unusual characters in the
aforementioned Mr. Lavender, who represented the misguided
and sadly muddled English public, and Joe, the chauffeur,
who symbolized the slender minority that saw through and
around the onslaught of verbiage which was levelled at it
The Burning Spear, pp. viii-ix
by the speakers and writers.
Galsworthy, it is assumed,
used Joe as his own rather ungrammatical mouthpiece.
Mr. Lavender, intoxicated by the flowery and im­
passioned words of the public men and columnists, ex­
pressed himself, even in his private ruminations, in the
most elevated language that could clothe his fervid sentiments.
Expressions such as "Vital Duty," "the avenging sword,"
"extermination of the criminal nation," "Steel my soul,"
words reflecting the war rant that filled public addresses
and the outpourings of the papers and magazines, figured
largely in his conversation.
What he read and heard tinged
his mind with an unhealthy quality, Just as it did the com­
posite mind that was England.
The usual type of war-time "dope" to which Mf. Laven­
der and his countrymen found themselves subjected, fell in­
to five classifications.
This "gas" or "dope", as Gals­
worthy called it, was administered to the English people
with cruel precision and persistency:
First, there was the vast collection of "horror"
stories, mostly without factual basis, which were em­
broidered and heightened in dramatic quality until they
assumed awesome proportions.
Constantly repeated and
passed around by word of mouth, they constituted a menac­
ing influence on clear thought as well as being highly
incendiary in their effect.
Second, there were the innumerable articles and
speeches incorporating the idea that women should bear more
children in order that the population might be increased
and the race saved from ultimate annihilation.
This item
of propaganda, of course, has passed beyond the point of
mental persuasion in Germany during World War IX and, under
government supervision, has progressed to a physical fact.
Third, There was the insistence on saving food and
being careful in the expenditure of money.
When every
housewife was challenged with the proposition that she could
'help win the war* by reducing the diet and finding new ways
to employ peelings and .leftovers, she frequently was led to
ridiculous lengths to cooperate, and derived a certain
amount of enjoyment from the thought that she was contribut­
ing to vanquish the Hun by her culinary craftiness.
Fourth, there was the propaganda which expressed it­
self in the slogan, *We require every man in the Army, for
that is the sine qua non of victory.*
Through the infil­
tration of this doctrine, pacifists, conscientious objectors,
and men with families to support, were imbued with the con­
viction that they were a vital and indispensable adjunct to
military success.
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 58.
Fifth, there was the oft-repeated instruction that all
German horn people should be regarded with suspicion, whether
they had been proved harmful or not*
Mr. Lavender found himself in complete accord with
all these points.
He particularly agreed with the fifth in­
junction concerning German people.
They were a definite
object of his wrath, a wrath which all the other four forms
of propaganda subtly inflamed.
He thoroughly identified
himself with all the articles he read on the subject of
German-bait ing:
How I venerate those good journalists and all the
great crowd of witnesses who have dominated the mor­
tal weakness, pity. The Hun must and shall be de­
stroyed - root and branch - hip and thigh - bag and
baggage - man, woman and babe - this is the sole
duty of the Great and humane British people. 7JOnce, when he had been reading an article on extermination
of the Hun by starving German prisoners, he was immediately
caught by the idea that here was a place he could help:
X shall translate words into action, he thought.
I shall at once visit a rural district where German
prisoners are working on the land, and see the
farmers do their duty.72
The farmer, fortunately, was not poisoned by the
same "dope" that Mr. Lavender had absorbed during the read­
ing of his morning papers.
But all such German-baiting, as
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 99.
Galsworthy, Ibid.» p. 89.
Galsworthy called it, did not meet with the indifference
displayed by the farmer*
In The Burning Spear, one can smile
at the inflated patriotism of Mr, lavender, which many times
spent itself in ridiculous and fruitless efforts to aid the
English cause.
Gne is not moved to laughter, however, by
some of the other examples which Galsworthy offers.
Bright Side presents an illustration of the publie*s hysteria
cruelly directed against two innocent people whose lives were
permanently distorted by it*
The story is a finely wrought
one concerning Mr. and Mrs. Gerhardt, she an Englishwoman,
and he a German craftsman who had lived peaceably in England
many years, had maintained a home and raised a family.
Since they identified themselves with the interests of Eng­
land, and in every way regarded themselves as loyal citi­
zens, the fact that Mr. Gerhardt was of German birth gave
the husband wife no cause for misgivings;
It was with an uneasy surprise that they began to
find their papers talking of the *Huns at large in
our midst,* of *spies,* and the national danger of
•nourishing such vipers,* and such sayings began to
awaken in both their breasts an humble sense of in­
justice, as it were.7^
Mrs. Gerhardt was particularly disturbed, because
she felt that the intolerance of her countrymen was direct­
ly aimed at one whom she loved.
p. 78*
Galsworthy, Tatterdemalion, "The Bright side,"
The story builds up to a crisis of anxiety and fear.
Then one day Mr. Gerhardt was removed to an internment camp
for the duration of the war.
herself and her children.
The wife was left to fend for
It was an agonizing struggle
which she tried to see through by looking on "the bright
side," an expression which came to emfrody a bitterness and
irony too subtle for description.
The full weight of this
uncontrolled and indiscriminate mass hatred revealed itself
in the wreckage of these pitifully small lives.
When Mr.
Gerhardt did come home at the end of the war, worry and con­
finement had placed their marks on him.
Mr* Gerhardt was
not violently insane, just unbalanced to the point where his
usefulness as a working member of society was crippled for­
Mrs. Gerhardt was left the doubtful comfort of her
wartime optimism of looking on "the bright side."
The greatcdiscrepancy between the tremendous force of
the mass German-baiting motive and the puny objects of its
anger is brilliantly brought out in all of its tragic as­
pects in this story.
The public wrath against Germans in England dipped
down even into the world of the prostitute.
The German girl
in "Defeat," had to change her name to sound faintly Russian
and affect a strange accent In order to prevent persecution
or actual starvation.
Her case was typical of many.
Joe, the chauffeur in The Burning Spear, blamed a good
many of the evils engendered by the previously mentioned five
basic forms of propaganda on the press,
Mr. Lavender, in his
arguments with his chauffeur, advanced the idea that the press
represented public opinion, and in that manner he justified the
stand that it took.
But out of the unschooled shrewdness of
the servant there came a penetrating ray of wisdom which un­
doubtedly was a reflection of Galsworthy's own evaluation of
the press.
"The people," replied Joe, "the People*s like a
gent in a lunatic asylum, allowed to *ave instinks but not
to express 'em."
On the specific question of public opin­
in the press, he remarked:
. . . the nearest opinion the Press get to expressin* is that of Mayors.
*Ave you never noticed that,
sir, that when the Press-is *ard up for support of an
opinion that the public don*t 'old, they go to the
Mayors and get 'em in the columns?
The sinister bolstering up of opinions of the press
by persons of authority, the spread of predigested ideas by
means of its agencies, the initial apathy of the people
quickened into convictions and mass activities, all of which
had been planned in advance by groups whose motives the
people did not suspect, all these things were suggested by Joe
as part and parcel of the whole vicious mesh of wartime propa­
Galsworthy, The Burning Spear, p. 189.
75 Galsworthy, Loo. Cit.
What was hack of these efforts of the editors and
officials to impress their ideas on the public?
Joe said it
was their aspirations:
Take the Press, take Parlyment, take Mayors - all
mad on aspirations. How it's free trade, now it's
Imperialism; now it's liberty in Europe; now it's
Slavery in Ireland; now it's sacrifice of the last
man an' the last dollar. And the 'ole point_Qf
aspiration is the sacrifice of someone else.
The truths which Joe phrased with a kind of pointed
humor were echoed In dramatic words of tragedy and suffering by Caford, the half-erazed French soldier:
let them allow the soldiers whose lives they spent
like water - "les camarades," on both sides - poor
devils who bled, and froze, and starved, and sweated let them suffer them to make the peace! Ahl what a
peace that would be - its first condition, all the
sacred politicians and pressmen hanging in rows in
every country; the mouth fighters, the pen fighter,
the fighters with other men's blood! ??
The social purpose of Galsworthy in presenting The
Burning Spear, and his short stories dealing with war propa­
ganda and its evil offspring, hysteria, is not hard to dis­
It was to show to the English people the lengths
to which war psychology, skilfully and constantly adminis­
tered, could bring them.
He himself was not a pacifist in
the strict sense of the word, for he has affirmed that stars
of conduct shine on nations as well as on men.
There was
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. 190.
r jr j
Galsworthy, Tattefdemalion, "Caford," p. 108.
such a thing as a war that was justifiable, but he did re­
gret the stupid emotionalism and the loss of reason which
came to characterize the war period.
He wanted to demon­
strate that the English people had allowed their minds to
be misused and to express the hope that ”. . .
when fresh
national crises arise (and arise they will), a reader here
and there will remember poor Mr. lavender and his intoxica78
tions, and pause before he joins the orgy of words.”
Galsworthy acted not only in the capacity of a
literary historian, who recorded the methods employed by
the war propagandists and analyzed the results of such
methods, but as a prophet who foresaw future conflicts.
Out of his wisdom and vision, he earnestly desired to warn
his countrymen against insidious and damaging war psychol­
ogy impelling them toward bloody battles between nations.
Back of the pointed humor of The Burning Spear lay
his ever present fear that England would again become involved
in war.
The fanfare and the flourish, the goings and the
comings, the whole confusing commotion of armed conflict
never succeeded in blinding Galsworthy to the essential
physical and mental horror of it.
His sensitive and sym­
pathetic mind lost itself in contemplation of the tragic
consequences which more cruelly and deeply affected the
Galsworthy, The Burning Spear, p. viii, ix.
living, since their suffering was long drawn out in compari
son with the brief moment of agony that the dying suffered.
In "The Muffled Ship," included in the Tatterdemalion col­
lection, he saw one troop ship, and then another, filled
with misty forms in all the accoutrements of war, forms
which strained hopelessly to embrace their mothers and
loved ones.
Keen student of combative human nature that he was,
he included war in the future picture of England;
And yet the ’green hill* where dwell beauty and
kindliness is still far away. Will it ever be near­
er? . . .
The beauty of day and night, the lark’s
song, the sweet-scented growing things, the rapture
of health and of pure air, the majesty of the stars,
and the gladness of sunlight, of song and dance and
simple friendliness, have never been enough for man.
We crave our turbulent fate. Gan wars, then, ever
cease? Look in men’s faces, read their writing, and
beneath masks and hypocrises note the restless creep­
ing of the tiger spirit! There has never been any­
thing to prevent the millenium except the nature of
the human being. There are not enough lovers of
beauty among men. It all come s. back to that. Hot
enough who want the green hill far away - who natur­
ally hate disharmony, and the greed, ugliness, rest­
lessness, cruelty, which are its parents and chil­
Since people lacked the essential stuff of which
peace was made, the best he could do was to try to fortify
them by showing them the evils of war "dope"; by urging a
retrogression to the land so that enough food stuff could
Galsworthy, Tatterdemalion, "A Green Hill Far
Away," p. 302.
be raised in England to carry them through any. emergency
that might arise (Chapter IT); by recommending the forma­
tion of a Board of Scientific Control so that the production
of airplanes and other similar inventions be limited and
their destructive power in future wars kept at a minimum.
Galsworthy's work on the war falls into two very marked
divisions,- the one containing comments on the actual war
period, and the second embodying material on social conditions
arising as an aftermath of war.
The novels included in The
M o d e m Comedy are particularly remarkable for the light they
throw on the second or post-war period, one of the most sig­
nificant and swiftly changeful decades in modern sociologi­
cal history.
What Galsworthy disclosed in these novels
shows his shrewdness as a social critic.
War in itself is so crude, so revealing of the savage
that lurks below the flimsy covering of culture and civili­
zation, that it pushes man back toward fundamental considera­
tions of life and society.
As the painter said to Noel;
War makes men simple, elemental; life in peace is
neither simple nor elemental; it is subtle, full of
changing environments, to which man must adapt him­
self; the cunning, the astute, the adaptable, will
ever rule in times of peace.^
The generation following the conflict, then, at­
tempted to go fundamental with a vengeance, . It had seen
Galsworthy, Saint's Progress, p. S37.
everything, experienced everything, and the bloom was defi­
nitely off the rose.
Why should it build up shams, as the
Victorian grandmothers and grandfathers did, to shield the
only too obvious realities of life?
The accepted attitude
was brilliantly and clearly stated by Wilfred Desert, poet
and soldier:
I lived so long with horror and death; I saw men
so in the raw; I put hope of anything out of my mind
so utterly, that I can never more have the faintest
respect for theories, promises, conventions, morali­
ties and principles. . . . Illusion is off. No re­
ligion and no philosophy will satisfy me - words, all
words. . . . The war's done one thing for me - con­
verted life to comedy. Laugh at it - there's nothing
else to do.81
The pieture of the white monkey, which dominated
the sitting room of Fleur Mont, daughter of Soames, fas­
cinating and repelling its owner as well as all those who
viewed it, set the mood for the whole decade.
Almost bra­
zen in its clear and unadorned lines, the picture repre­
sented a white monkey which had sucked the juice from an
orange, and having drained the last ounce of nourishment
from it, had cast the rind carelessly aside.
The face of
the animal itself was marked by ctnicism and a certain
"what now" quality.
The white monkey, according to Galsworthy, was an
artistic epitome of the war generation, which drained its
Galsworthy, The White Monkey, pp. 26-27.
fruit dry, too, and was in the act of throwing its rind aside.
Out of its questioning and the mental stress which accompan­
ied the deterioration or actual loss of the established forms
of conduct came superficiality, satiety, insincerity— forms
of a defense mechanism, really, which it triedoto build around itself and its sensibilities in order to provide pro­
tection against future onslaughts which it was determined
would not meet a state of vulnerability.
But with all the
seeming confidence in themselves that the members of the war
generation possessed, there was about them that same air
which distinguished the monkey, that "what now" auravof un­
certainty and puzzlement.
Galsworthy touched off the spirit of the age in his
preface to The M o d e m Comedy.
He said the period ending in
1926 was like a comedy in which the people ran about not
knowing what they wanted:
The England of 1886, when the Forsyte Saga began,
also had no future, for England then expected its
Present to endure, and rode its bicycle in a sort of
dream, disturbed only by the two bogies— Mr. Glad­
stone and the Irish members. . . . Everything now
being relative, there is no longer dependence to be
placed in God, Free Trade, Marriage, Consols, Coal,
or Caste.82
Everything had turned into sensationalism, a fever­
ish desire to experience and to feel everything while there
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. vii.
was yet time.
Revaluations of sex, morals, politics, eco­
nomics, an$ ethics took place.
All of the old familiar
guideposts to living were either thrown away or transformed.
It was concluded that there was very little future for
property, and less ahout living, so one should live now or
The change in the moral fabric was not the only post
war result to affect England deeply.
The deterioration of
land values, the devaluation of stocks and bonds, the loss
of vital world markets seriously damaged the entire economic
structure of England.
Accustomed as the English were to re­
alize vast profits from foreign trade and investments, the
irrefutable evidences that the Forsyte world was rapidly
disappearing, struck upon their consciousness with paralyz­
ing force.
They were like young Groom in One More River;
they could not understand economics any more.
And the more
they could not understand and remedy the evils of a failing
economy, the more the evils accumulated.
Sir Lawrence Mont
explained the matter succinctly:
There are dozens of causes of the present state of
things, and people are always trying to tie it to one.
Take England: There’s the knock-out of Russian trade,
the comparative independence of European countries;
the great shrinkage of Indian and Chinest trade; the
higher standard of British living since the war; the
increase of national expenditure from two hundred odd
millions to eight hundred millions, which means nearly
six hundred millions a year less to employ labour with.
When they talk of over-production being the cause,
it certainly doesn’t apply to us. We haven’t produced
so little for a long time past. Then there’s dumping,
and shocking bad organization, and bad marketing of
what little food we produce* And there’s our habit
of thinking it’ll be ’all right on the night,’ and
general spoiled-child .attitude* Well, those are all
special English causes, except the too high standard
of living«and the spoiled-child attitude are Ameri­
can, too.
As the pressure of an outworn financial system began
to be felt, the landed gentry, like the Cherrells, sold
some of their timber, and the daughters, like Dinny and
Glare, began to count over their abilities which had mar­
ketable value in the business world and could be tendered
in exchange for a salary.
The Forsytes had to adapt their
economy to a static bank balance and a falling rate of in­
The politicians were submerged by increasing
problems of unemployment and poverty.
Galsworthy attempted to reveal to England the brood
of difficulties with which the war had left her.
moral and economic in their nature, they had reverberations
in every corner of English society.
Uncertain as Gals­
worthy himself seemed to be about the ultimate solution of
these difficulties, he still had confidence in the charac­
ter of the English people, which he described as being
**endowed with a certain genius for recovery.”
he had no definite assurance that the war from which they
Galsworthy, One More River, p. 34.
Galsworthy, A Modern Comedy, p. vii.
emerged had made the world permanently safe for
Galsworthy commented thus:
The fact remains that for the moment, at least,
youth is balancing, twirling on the tiptoes of un­
certainty. What is to come? Will happiness.yet
be caught? . . .
Are there to borne fresh wars
and fresh Inventions hot-foot on those not yet
mastered and digested? Or will Fate decree an­
other pause, like that of Victorian times, during
which revaluated life will crystallize, and give
property and its.hrood of definite beliefs a
further inning? 85
Galsworthy, Ibid., p. x
Many biographers and literary critics have attempted
to explain Galsworthy’s intense interest in social condi­
tions, and to justify the considerable bulk of sociological
material which is to be fouhd in all of his prose writing,
fictional and dramatic.
The explanations of his motive in
incorporating such material range in type from that of Sheila
Kaye-Smith, who spoke of it as "Galsworthy’s propaganda,"
which he employed as part of his technical equipment of
story writing, to that of his sister, Mrs. Reynolds, who
suggested that it emanated from a keen sense of justice
which impelled him to present what he saw from as impartial
a standpoint as it is possible for a human observer to
However, when one studies Galsworthy’s fiction in
combination with his essays, where he reveals himself and
his mind more openly than he would, perhaps, to any biog­
rapher, one is convinced that the explanation more nearly
approximates the one offered in the introductory chapter
of this thesis*
Galsworthy, by nature, loved harmony, not
Sheila Kaye-Smith, John Galsworthy, p. IQS.
the limited kind of harmony which he could have provided in
his own immediate surroundings for the satisfaction of his
own eyes and tender sensibilities, but a harmony that would
reach out and touch the lowliest of mankind, in all of his
relationships with the world and society.
In a larger sense, he was a worshipper of beauty, and
he believed that a more universal appreciation and applica­
tion of it would lead all humanity toward a more fruitful
and satisfying life.
He said, "Beauty, alone, in the larger
sense of the word - the yearning for it, the contemplation
of it - has civilized mankind."
His definition of beauty from the standpoint of its
social significance is worth the consideration of any citi­
zen, statesman, or politician who believes that he would
like to better the conditions of his particular milieu:
By the love and cult of beauty he means: a higher
and wider conception of the dignity of human life;
the teaching of what beauty is to all— not merely to the
few; the cultivation of good-will; so that we wish and
work and dream that not only ourselves but everybody
may be healthy and happy; and above all, the foster­
ing of the habit of doing things and making things
for the joy of the work and the power of achievement,
rather than for the gain it will bring us.®®
His conception of beauty was so broad that it might
be considered a cornerstone of his social ideal for England*
87 Galsworthy, Candelabra, "Castles in Spain," p. 111.
88 Xbld.» P* H 6 *
For one who held such a humanitarian view of the application
of the principles of beauty, the England in which Galsworthy
lived was filled with nerve shattering sights and sensations*
Everywhere he looked, he saw the offshoots of ugliness rather
than the beauty which he wished to see.
No aesthetic coward,
Galsworthy constrained himself to look, and to look deeply.
The process elevated him, or lowered him, according to the
biographer one reads, to the snajsiak position of a social his­
torian employing literary channels of expression for the sole
purpose of awakening people to their responsibilities.
The social ideal which Galsworthy cherished for Eng­
land, although rather nebulous concerning the means for
achievement, was clear enough in its general outline.
were certain evils of English society which had grown and
festered for so long without remedy, that he felt that if
these could be done away with, beauty might have a fairer
chance for ultimate, victory.
He was thoroughly convinced
that unhealthy situations grew to ominous proportions be­
cause little or no conscientious, well-organized effort or
planning was applied by way of scientific cure.
One time when he was travelling in Spain, he stopped
to contemplate a beautiful cathedral.
He studied the ex­
quisitely proportioned building, the intricate carving, the
whole carefully considered beauty of it.
The aggregate human
hours of mental and physical labor which had been expended
on that building were almost staggering to the imagination.
Against the background of this perfection floated before him
an unsavory memory of London,- a London spawned from his own
beloved England*
grimy, stinking, unhealthy, the London of
his memory with its ugliness and poverty blotted out the beauty
of the cathedral.
Why could not men's minds and hands be
turned toward the creation of a city that would be as perfect
a piece of work for human needs as that cathedral, he asked
Would it not be as satisfying to God as an erection
of a church to His honor?
The most fundamental principle in Galsworthy's social
ideal for England was the improvement of the lot of the poor.
He never wearied of discussing it from the standpoint of the
aesthete and the humanitarian.
He pointed out repeatedly
that poverty had to be regarded as a definite problem, de­
manding human engineering, just as carefully and lovingly
considered as that which the Spanish cathedral received from
its makers.
It was a problem that had to be dealt with by
all the means that science, humanity, and good sense could
appiy to it, or England would never begin its march toward
what Galsworthy conceived to be an ideal state.
People repeated too glibly the hackneyed and illogical
explanation of poverty, "The poor are always with us.”
was too easy an excuse, deadening one's sense of sympathy
89 Ibid., pp. 105-119
and stifling all beneficial action*
A character in Fraternity
mouthed the type of alibis which stalemated the rehabilita­
tion of the poor:
My dear, we have had the same state of affairs
since the beginning of the world* There is no
chemical process, so far as my knowledge goes, that
does not make waste products. What your grandfather
(Mr* Stone) calls our ‘shadows* are the waste prod­
ucts of the social process. That there is a sub­
merged tenth is as certain as that there is an
emerged fiftieth like ourselves; exactly who they
are and how they came, whether they can ever be im­
proved away, is, I think, as uncertain as anything
can be*90
Felix Freeland called all of this kind of talk "hum­
bug” and claimed that while the Mallorings and Forsytes
dosed themselves with that kind of talk, the evils repre­
sented by London would continue forever.
That kind of
talk indicated something deeper and more vicious than
humbug, however; it indicated a certain callousness, a
lack of understanding, or a disposition to understand.
Stephen and Gecelia, and their thousands, knew
these ‘shadows* as ‘the people*; knew them as
slums or districts, as sweated,individuals, or
different sorts of workers, knew them in the
capacity of persons performing odd 3obs for them;
but as human beings possessing the same faculties
and passions with themselves, they did not, could
not, know them.9-1
Certainly, the poor themselves were too beaten down
to think or plan for themselves.
"No surprise, revolt,
90 Galsworthy, Fraternity, p. -39.
P» 169.
dismay, or shame was ever to be seen on those faces; in
place of these emotions a drab and brutish acquiescence or
mechanical coarse jocularity***
Some of the eab-runners,
newspaper.vendors, sellers of laces and flowers, and sandwichmen, whom Galsworthy described in "Courage** in The Mot­
ley collection, were too brutalized to even think of recov­
Many of them had suffered so long from lack of nour­
ishment that their stomachs would not accept food; so they
drank, and ate a bit, and slept.
do much more.
There wasn*t strength to
The under-privileged tenant farmers, men­
tioned in Chapter IV, presented the rural aspect of the same
conditions of grinding poverty that Galsworthy observed in
Felix, their champion, noticed how they lived, even
if the Mallorings didn’t.
He saw the pigsties in which they
existed, the peaked children, the overworked and underpaid
The point that was brought out in the chapter on
"Industrialism and the Land,** Galsworthy constantly reiter­
ated by subtle literary illustrations - that the poor could
not be materially benefited by the attention of a few kindly
citizens who, in their small way, were anxious to help.
Hilary made a dismal bungle of his attempt to assist the poor
little model and the Hughs family in Fraternity. Michael Mont
Loc. cit.
took three wretches from the London, slums and planned,
generously and joyously, how he could bring them back to a
state of health and independence by setting them up at farm­
ing on a corner of his fatherrs estate*
The men quarrelled
and proved themselves to be totally unfitted to carry on
small farming.
The plan.ended in tragedy and failure* just
like that of Hilary.
Craekbrained schemes of aid were no
more satisfying than the old haphazard system of "helping
the poor" by giving worn-out clothes, left-over food, and
stray coins.
The upper classes, as a group, had no real ability
for helping the lower classes.
They might plan superficial
remedies for the poor but there was an element of the ridicu­
lous, the hysterical and the ephemeral about them which es­
caped the fundamental considerations which were involved in
the problem.
The easiest way out for them was the best way.
A typical scheme was enlarged upon at a swank party at Clara
Freelands when a Bulgarian asserted that the feeding of
people on brown bread, potatoes, and margarine gave very
satisfactory results.
The guest, imbibibg such delicacies
as champagne, thought that this was a wonderful diet for
the poor to adopt:
There will be no more of that perrible pinching
by the mothers to feed the husband and children
properly, of which one heard so much; no more lamenta­
ble deterioration in our stock; . . . And what was more
delieious than a well-baked potato with margarine of
good quality?9^
Galsworthy, The Freelands, p. 243.
Among the upper classes, too, there were men like Mr.
Stone, the old and eccentric philosopher of Fraternity, who
had his idea of improving the lot of the poor.
He believed
that the whole problem of the inequality of the masses stem­
med from a lack of fraternity among men.
His theory was
Christlike and beautiful, going back as it did to the in­
junction of the Bible that humanity should practice brother­
ly love and then such problems as the London poor would never
arise for consideration in the first place, for they would
be non-existent.
But if Mr. Stone was a fundamentalist, he
was also an impractical dreamer whose fine ideals were doomed
to defeat in a self-centered and rather cruel world.
worthy demonstrated his evaluation of this type of social
remedy by conceiving Mr. Stone as an old and erratic ideal­
ist, irretrievably sunk in a state of unreality which shut
him away from the world as it really was.
The panacea of­
fered by the fulfillment of fraternal practices was as un­
satisfactory as the scheme of Hilary and Michael, and as
basically stupid from the achievement angle as the dietary
plan advanced by the Bulgarian writer.
**I have seen a vision
of fraternity, a barren hillside in the sun, and on it a man
of stone talking to the wind.
I have heard an owl hooting
in the daytime; a cuckoo singing in the night."
Galsworthy, Fraternity, p. 301.
these rather cryptic words, Galsworthy sadly laid aside the
dreams of Sir* Stone and his school.
It is not to be concluded from this dreary picture of
the juvenile and foolish flutterings of the English to com­
bat poverty that Galsworthy's thinking on the problem was
entirely negative and destructive.
He frequently presented
the drab side in order to shock his countrymen out of that
maddening, stultifying complacency and acceptance which so
irritated Ferrand in The Island Pharisees.
What he was
trying to show them was that there were conditions existing
in England which would justify movements toward Communism
or Socialism in other countries not too far distant from
their own.
The only thing that saved England from revolu­
tion from the bottom was that the same apathy and the same
disease of "bucking it", whatever "it" happened to be, had
permeated the lower classes as thoroughly and as insidiously
as it had the upper classes.
What angered Galsworthy was the indisputable fact
that the democratic agencies, properly delegated with the
power to act, failed to respond to their only too obvious
To Galsworthy, it was a challenge to
the democratic ideal to recognize inequalities and social
sore spots and to work on their extinguishment or cure as
assiduously as the artists and builders of the cathedral
in Spain.
"True progress would mean levelling up and
gradually extinguishing the disproportion between manor and
hovel, residence and back s t r e e t h e said in one of his
Who was to carry on this levelling up process?
His answer lies in this quotation from his work:
Democracies must not be content to leave the ideals
of health and beauty to artists and a leisured class;
that is the way into a treeless, waterless desert. It
has struck me forcibly that we English-speaking democ­
racies are all right underneath, and all wrong on the
surface; our hearts are sound, but our skin is in a
deplorable condition.96
!fhe duly elected leaders of a properly functioning democracy
were to carry on the necessary work.
That was his solution.
How that Galsworthy had segregated the leaders as the
responsible people of a democracy, his analytical mind be­
gan to probe the reasons for their lack of response to situ­
ations which desperately needed their attention.
Why aid
the House register a kind of tolerant amusement (granted
because of his youth and political inexperience) when Michael
Mont presented Foggartism and slum clearance for the consid­
eration of this august body which could certainly be accord­
ed the recommendation of being fitted by education, culture,
and political background to deal with such problems?
should have shown alertness, eagerness to examine the plans
for strengths and weaknesses, and to formulate a system of
95 Galsworthy, Candelabra, "Castles In Spain," p.108.
96 Galsworthy, Candelabra, "Speculations," pp. 1, 99.
its own which would fit the country*s needs.
Were there too
many Caradocs and Forsytes among them who lifted the skeptic­
al eyebrow and curled the lip because matters of Trade, and
Imperialism and Finance, things which touched their own in­
terests too closely, demanded too large a portion of their
political allegiances?
Were they, as Joe, the chauffeur,
hinted, all sold out to their own private "aspirations?**
seemed as if the representatives of the people in the English
democracy were congealed by the sheer, immovable weight of
their unresponsive minds and the institutions which they
built about themselves.
The institutions of this country, like the insti­
tutions of all other countries, are but half-truths;
they are the working, daily clothing of the nation;
no more the body*s permanent dress than a baby’s
frock. Slowly but surely they wear out, or are out­
grown; and in their fashion they are always thirty
years at least behind the fashions of those spirits
who are concerned with what shall take their place.
The conditions which dictate our education, the dis­
tribution of our property, our marriage laws, amuse­
ments, worship, prisons, and all other things, change
imperceptibly from hour to hour; the moulds contain­
ing them, being inelastic, do not change, but hold
on to the point of bursting, and hastily, often
clumsily, enlarge.9?
Galsworthy believed that the minds in a democracy,
and the organizations which they created, had to be flex­
Institutions which held on to the point of ’burst­
ing, * frequently did so at their own risk.
Russia had gone
Galsworthy, The Island Pharisees, pp. x, xl.
through that method of changing her social disproportions;
other countries had set the stage for the advent of dicta­
Democracy, if it was to work, had to he made genuine.
The Fendyces who snorted huffily when their tenants wanted
to buy a piece of land, the Forsytes who regarded with dis­
taste the thought of a real process of democratization be­
cause it would involve loss of property and the privacy and
sense of well-being which accompanied such ownership - all
the people of England who hated this scratching of the sur­
face of their privileges, would they not impell England
toward her doom, if they were not made to yield?
A social ideal could only be realized through demo­
cratic procedures, said Galsworthy, by sinking motives of
personal gain in the good of the group.
back to his ideal of beauty.
His theory goes
Good had to be universal!
How could the elevation of one human being and the almost
complete submergence of another bring about a condition of
The individualism which Galsworthy observed in
England, worried him profoundly from a combined aesthetic,
economic, and political standpoint.
He studied the matter
historically and drew his own rather disquieting conclusions:
The individualism, however, which, according to
Dr ..Spurrell, dissolved the Empires of the past, ex­
ists already, in a marked degree, in every modern State;
and the problem before us is to discover how democracy
and liberty of the subject can be made into enduring
props rather than dissolvents. It is the problem of
making democracy genuine. And certainly, if that can­
not be achieved and perpetuated, there is nothing to
prevent democracy drifting into anarchism and dissolv­
ing modern States, till they are the prey of ponncing
dictators, or of States not so far gone in dissolu­
If the elected leaders of democracy could only attune
their thinking to a creed of sincere social service in the
broadest definition of the phrase; if they could only pool
the finest products of the life of liberty that democracy
allowed them for the highest and noblest attainment of the
democratic principle, there would be brought about a genuine
Perhaps Galsworthy*s conception of the leader
in the struggle toward an ideal state, followed the lines
of Binny Gherrell,s uncle, the rather obscure London minis­
ter, whose face and figure and life radiated an inward hap­
piness created by his years of service for those who needed
his help.
He and his wife could have given Michael*s House
of Lords the most advanced and practical schemes of slum
clearance and the construction of sanitary and livable
apartments to replace the tenements.
And Martin, the ex­
uberant young doctor in Fraternity, could have presented
some interesting and workable details on the socialization
of medicine so that everyone, even the under-nourished,
sick baby of the Hughs* family, could receive the benefits
of the progress of science.
p. 104#
Galsworthy, Another Sheaf, "American and Briton,”
Galsworthy thought that the leaders needed first of all
to get control of Finance, Science and the Press, and to over­
come the dominating selfishness of their shortsighted individ­
And, finally, they needed to employ all of the tre­
mendous and various energies and genius of a democracy toward
the creation of a State free from the cankers which
eat at
the heart of every organized society.
Some writers who took to heart, the bitter comments
that Galsworthy sometimes was moved to make about England
and her management, thought that perhaps there was a bit of
the socialist about him.
Certainly, that was not true ac­
cording to the rather obnoxious meaning which the word has
taken on.
Out of his passionate attachment to beauty, and
his belief in it as a universal principle of Good, Gals­
worthy wished to see it embodied in all of its manifesta­
tions in his beloved England.
He had confidence in
the nor­
mal channels of government, but he believed, advocated, and
prayed that they be modernized and made efficient enough to
bear the flux and change of conditions.
It was as simple
as that.
Howhere has Galsworthy stated his.ideal for England
more sincerely and completely than in these words which he
recorded as a part of the thinking of Lord Miltoun as he was
strolling along a London street:
. ... he meditated deeply on a London, an England,
different from this flatulent hurly-burly, this omi­
nous gathering, this great discordant symphony of
sharps and flats. A London, an England, kempt and self
respecting; swept and garnished of slums, and pluto­
crats, advertisement, and jerrybuilding, of sensation­
alism, vulgarity, vice, and unemployment. An England
where each man should know his place, and never change
it, but serve it loyally in his own caste. Where each
man, from nobleman to labourer, should be an oligarch
by faith, and a gentleman by practice. An England so
steel-bright and efficient that the very sight should
suffice to impose peace. An England whose soul should
be stoical and fine with the stoicism and fineness of
each soul among her many millions of souls; where the
town should have its creed and the country its creed,
and there should be contentment and no complaining in
the streets."
Galsworthy, The patrician, pp. 84-85
At this point in the concluding chapter of the present
.investigation of Galsworthy's social emphasis in his fiction
and essays, the study resolves itself into an examination of
the general trends of his thinking.
Various as his interests
were in the social scene, contradictory as some of his argu­
ments grew as he achieved maturity and modified his views,
complex as his Illustrations of his social criticism became
in his considerable literary output, certain lines of thought
emerge clearly.
Dominating and acting as a basis for all his criti­
cisms of England, and the world that was England, were the
indictments which he launched very early in his career under
the inclusive heading of Phariseeism.
Phariseeism was the
dangerous, blind spot in an organized state which rendered
its victim incapable of turning the inward eye upon itself
to discover its own flaws and deficiencies.
England had
been suffering from the 'blind spot* for many years.
she was afflicted, was not the deepest concern of Galsworthy.
Her inability to recognize the weakness was what awakened
him to furious and impassioned efforts to develop the power
of sight in her behalf,
He tried to awaken his countrymen to the realization
that Forsyteism, with all of its myriad social manifestations
engendered by its cosmic selfishness,, self-satisfaction, con­
servatism, and individualism was, in a large measure, respon­
sible for the continued, inadequate social and political
vision of England.
Its insistence on the dignity and impreg^
nability of ownership, and. the possessive instinct, brought
about many of the social evils emphasized by Galsworthy.
debased position of women, the inflexibility of the divorce
laws, the treatment of the criminal class, the fallacy of
Englandfs imperialistic urge, all these various ills Gals­
worthy laid at the door of the Forsytes.
Sunk in their own
complacency and rendered incurable on this account, they kept
perpetuating the insidious philosophy of their system.
The landed gentry of the ilk of the Pendyces and the
Mallorings were as blind to the problems of the rural areas
as the Forsytes were in the centers of population.
lished prerogatives of caste and customary procedure dimmed
the sight for the problems presented by humanity.
The voice
of the multitude crying out to them was like a temporarily
disturbing breeze idly fluttering the delicate petals of a
hybrid rose in the Pendyce conservatory.
That their land
system was unjust and definitely detrimental to the welfare
of England, that their debasement of the farmer to the status
of a tenant with no hopes of ever becoming an owner, retard­
ed agricultural England internally and weakened her in time
of war, never seriously disturbed their social conscience.
Phariseeism, as Galsworthy revealed, was hard to com­
bat, for its momentum gave it power, power which was regener­
ated and recreated through the teachings of the Public School,
the legislation of their own kind who occupied the seats of
the mighty in the law and in Parliament, the inbred, stoical
quality of the English character itself which looked askance
upon the new and untried.
Against this wall of resistance, Galsworthy felt con­
strained to batter with all the force and energy of which
he was capable.
He was not content with things as they were,
nor was he satisfied to follow the precedent of the paltry
dissenters who carefully kept their opinions out of print in
order to escape censure.
Galsworthy was not stricken with
His vision was keen enough to see the hypoc­
risy and fraud existing in England, and farseeing enough to
carry him into considerations of an improved state.
Much as he criticized the democratic leaders of Eng­
land for their inability to make the teachings of democracy
genuine, it was certainly to them, and to the millions who
supported the political ideal represented by the leaders,
that he directed his pleas for practical fulfillment of the
social ideal.
He believed, as we do in America, that the
State exists for the individual; that is the basic creed
of democracy!
Galsworthy, idealist though he was, subscribed to no
beautiful but wishful dream of fraternity within England
which would bring about the desired situation.
Maturity and
observation had impressed on him, as well as on many others,
that the inherent nature of man forbade it.
He looked, how­
ever, to the legally constituted, universally accepted chan­
nels of a democratic state to erase cruel inequalities among
the classes, and to organize its activities on a scale that
would look toward the economic, political, and moral eleva­
tion of all groups.
In such a democracy, all would be work­
ing toward a preconceived goal,- the attainment of which all
believed would effect a universal Good.
In that way, Gals­
worthy, the idealist, hoped to see his countrymen move to­
ward his conception of the harmonious state, with the gen­
ius, energy, and enthusiasm which a freedom-loving democra­
cy fostered.
Thus, Galsworthy could see no reason why the
future would not hold such an actuality for England.
Typical of the ebb and flow of Galsworthy*s hopes
and fears for England, is the significant comment which
concludes this discussion of Galsworthy*s thinking.
England would awaken from her Phariseeism, mold her pattern
of life to the contour of changing conditions and strength­
en her frailties, or she would be obliterated by the march
of the dictatoships.
He prayed, along with Michael Mont,
that England would not be "slow in the uptake.**
Against the vigor of his criticisms, many students
of Galsworthy place the tentativeness of his suggestions for
reform and cite it as a serious form of weakness.
In his de­
fense, let it be said that he was not a savant, nor a teacher.
He was a man of brilliant, literary ability who used the so­
cial scene as a basis on which to-erect the structure of hu­
man passions and frailties.
Only the hand of a master could
have preserved the delicate balance of literary excellence
and social emphasis as subtly and expertly as he.
He pre­
sented the facts as he saw them, honestly and clearly; out
of his love for England and his deep interest in her welfare,
he made tentative suggestions for reform.
the Forsyte dogmatism about Galsworthy.
the prerogative of choice.
There was none of
He left his reader
Galsworthy*s was the truly
democratic method!
Primary Sources
Galsworthy, John, A Man of Devon.
The Country House,
London: Blackwood, 1901.
London: William Heinemann, 1907.
. A Commentary. - London: Richards, 1908.
.., , Fraternity.
London: William Heinemann, 1909.
A Motley. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910,
, The Patrician. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
, The Dark Flower. London: William Heinemann, 1913.
The Little Man. and Other -Satires.
Scribner's Sons, "1915.
Hew York: Charles
Beyond. London: William Heinemann, 1917.
, Saint's Progress. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
, Another Sheaf. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
-------, Tatterdemalion. London: William Heinemann, 1920.
, Silent Wooing.
London: William Heinemann, 1920.
. , The Forsyte Saga_(Contents: Man of Property; In
Chancery; To Let; Awakening; Indian Summer of a
Forsyte). .Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922.
, Captures. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924.
, The Burning Spear. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
i9'23. (published anonymously, in Great Britain, 1919)
, A Modern Comedy. Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
T 9 M : ---------
, Inn of Tranquillity. Hew York: Charles Scribner's
------- S o n a T ^ S * .
Galsworthy, John, Tilla Rube in, and Other Stories.
Charles Scribner*s Sons, 192$.
, The Island Pharisees.
Sons ," X9S6.
New York:
New York: Charles Scribner*s
, The Freelands. New York: Charles Scribner*s Sons,
Satires. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927.
Swan Song.
. »On Forsyte *change.
Sons, I93Q..
New York: Charles Scribner*s Sons, 1928.
. Maid in Waiting.
New York: Charles Scribner*s
New York: Charles Scribner*s Sons.
, Flowering Wilderness. New York: Charles Scribner*s
Sons, 1952*
, Over the River.
London: William Heinemann, 1933.
, One More River. London: William Heinemann, 1933.
, ,Candelabra. Selected essays and addresses.
York: Charles Scribner*s Sons, 1933.
, , Glimpses and Reflections. London: William Heinemann, 193^.
Devon Edition of The Novels, Tales, and Plays of John
Galsworthy. Nine volumes. New York: Charles Scrib­
ner’s Sons, 1926.
Secondary Sources
Allsopp, Henry, An Introduction to English Industrial His­
tory. London: G. Bell andSons, 1912.
Bundy, Sarah Elizabeth, "The Sociological Content of John
Galsworthy’s Dramas,** Unpublished thesis, The University
of Southern California, Los Angeles, April 27, 1918. 55 pp.
Chevrillon, Andre, Trols Etudes de litterature anglais, Paris
Libraire Plon, 192X7 "John Galsworthy," pp. 163-237*
Cooper, Frederic Tabor, Some English Story Tellers. "John
Galsworthy,* pp. 177-205. New York: Henry Holt and
Company, 1912.
Cross, Wilbur 1., Four Contemporary Novelists. New York: The
Macmillan Company, 19&0. (Chapter on John Galsworthy,
pp. 101-153.)
Garnett, Edward, editor, Letters from John Galsworthy, 19001932.
London: Jonathan Cape, 1934. 255 pp.
Gunther, John, Inside Europe» Chapter xvi, pp. 213-224, John
Galsworthy, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1936.
Kaye-Smith, Sheila, John Galsworthy.
Company, 1916.
London: Nisbet and
Marrot, H. V., A Bibliography of the Work of John Galsworthy.
London: E. Matthews and Marrot’, 1.928.
, The Life and Letters of John Galsworthy. London:
William Heinemann, 1935.
Masterman, Charles, England After the War.
court, Brace and Company, 1923.
Quid, Hermon, John Galsworthy.
1934. 244 pp.
New York: Har-
London: Chapman and Hall,
Reynolds, Mrs, Mabel Edith, Memoirs of John Galsworthy by his
Sister, M. E. Reynolds.
New York: Frederick Stokes and
Company, n. d. 126 pp.
Schalit, Leon, John Galsworthy, a Survey.
Heinemann, 1929. 333 pp.
London: William
Weygandt, Cornelius, A Century of the English Novel. New York:
Century Company, T925. 504 pp.
Young, G. M., Victorian England. Portrait of an Age (subtitle)
London.: Humphrey Milford, publisher for the Oxford Univer­
sity Press, 1936.
BJorkman, Edwin, "Galsworthy: an interpreter of Modernity,"
Review of Reviews, Vol. 43: pp.634-36, June, 1911.
Bodgener, J. H., "John Galsworthy Looks at Life," London
Quarterly Review, Vol. 152, pp. 75-81, July, .1929.
Cooper, Frederic Tabpr, Review of "Villa Rubein," Bookman,
Vol. 28-29, p. 47, September 1908.
Findlater, Jane H.,nSoeIal Problems in Fraternity,*1 Living
Age, Vol. 264, p. 607, January-March 1910.
(From a
section called "Three Sides to a Question."
Ford, Madox Ford, "Contrasts. Memories of John Galsworthy and
George Moore," Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 151, pp. 559-569,
January-June, 19S3.
(Anonymous) - Fraternity? a review. Atlantic Monthly, Vol.
103, p. 706. January-June, 1909.
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Monthly. Vol. 108, p. 559, January-June, 19331
Review of Findings of the
investigation of Dramatic Material
Correlated with Those of the Present Thesis
Through the mediums of fiction, essay and drama, John
Galsworthy has demonstrated to England, and as~much of the
rest of the world as cared to read or listen, his intense
and extensive interest in matters dealing with social condi­
tions existing within his own country*
The first study of
the social content of John Galsworthy’s work for The Univer­
sity of Southern California was made In 1918 when Miss Sarah
Bundy reviewed his plays in a thesis presented to the Sociol
ogy Department*
The present thesis completes the analysis
of social content in the other important forms of literary
expression which he employed— novels, short stories and
Strangely enough, both studies were attempted during
periods of great social and political unrest; Miss Bundy’s
during the first World War, and the present one during the
second World War, which Galsworthy clearly envisioned many
years before his death in 1932.
Viewed in the revealing
light of a period of actual conflict, his criticisms of the
social fabric and its obvious frailties ring out with re­
doubled power; and his fears as to the final destination of
organized society, at least as the past generations have
known it, find unwelcome echoes within our own hearts.
In order to bring together in one place a eondensed
survey of the social aspects of all of Galsworthy’s work,
the appendix of the present thesis will include the major
points presented by the study of Galsworthy’s dramas as well
as those dealing with his fiction and essays.
In some in­
stances, problems which he treated in his plays, he mentioned
but infrequently in his other types of writing.
In other
cases, certain social conventions and institutions obsessed
him to the point that he recreated new backgrounds for the
identical situations and presented them by means of every
medium of expression over which he claimed mastery.
Out of Galsworthy’s background of legal training,
there grew a definite interest in the whole subject of Jus­
tice and the inequalities existing within the law as de­
veloped by the courts*
In his dramatic material, especially,
he called society’s attention to crime, the treatment of the
criminal by the State, and the individual’s responsibility
in creating the criminal class*
The Silver Box and The
Fugitive have long since taken their place as social docu­
ments of tremendous significance.
The former contains a
scathing denunciation of the court’s interpretation of Jus­
tice when it came in contact with wealth and poverty, aris­
tocrat and plebeian.. Two men, one of a wealthy and respected
family, the other of nondescript lineage, committed identical
Both were induced to theft while they were under the
influence of intoxicants.
As far as the actual circum­
stances of the crimes were concerned, both should have been
granted equal status before the law.
The intricacies of
the law, however, in the presentation of the facts, and the
subtle considerations proffered the wealthy and aristocratic
defendant, favored money and position rather than poverty.
The relentless process of the law, in the case of the in­
dividual from the lower strata of society, took on an added
element of injustice and irony when the results of this
apparent inequality of the law were reflected in the tragic
consequences for the family of the poor man who received
conviction for his misdeed.
In Justice, Galsworthy again approached the subject of
crime and the criminal, this time with a more determined at­
tempt to show the cruelty of the legal machine.
and artistically woven into the plot structure in compelling
colors were all the intricate patterns of criminology - the
complexities of the motivation toward crime, the pressure
of society and its mandates, the evils of confinement, the
inability of the released prisoner to find his place in a
state whose rigid code for a human being seeking rehabili­
tation broke his will and his spirit, and the ultimate
wrecking of the lives of those dependent upon the individ­
ual cast out by society.
In this drama, Galsworthy deliberately sought the
most tragic consequences for the wrongdoer.
Unable to cope
with the emotional agitation which he suffered at his fail­
ure to help the woman he loved from an intolerable situation,
combined with the tight clutch of the law, and the unjusti­
fied suspicion of society for one who wanted to go straight,
young Falder sought and attained the oblivion which Death
offered him.
Galsworthy clearly indicated in this play, just as he
did in his short story, "The Grand Jury," that society had a
tremendous responsibility toward the criminal, because it it­
self, through its practices, set the stage for those who
The juryman in the short story spoke for Galsworthy
when he wanted to cry out to Jenny Pilson, a young woman ac­
customed to a vicious environment from her childhood, "Jenny
Pilson! Jenny Pilson! It was I who bred you and surrounded
you with evil! It was I who eaught you for being what I made
you! I brought your bill In true! I judged you and I caged
Falder committed a theft to aid a woman who, like
Jenny Pilson, was inextricably caught in a net of society's
own making.
Galsworthy*s indictment of society's treatment of the
ex-criminal was clearly illustrated in the matter of Falder*s
inability to get a job without recommendations.
Since these
1 Galsworthy, Inn of Tranquillity, "The Grand Jury,«
p. 111.
were unattainable under the circumstances, he forged his own,
thus committing another evil against the social and business
In the field of fiction, Galsworthy matched this
criticism in "late - 99."
When "Late t 99,” a doctor who was
imprisoned for performing an illegal operation, returned h6me,
his family received him with undisguised hostility.
were not particularly ashames of what he had done or that
they had been living on the money he earned..
They were ter­
rified at the thought of the reaction ofotheir social set
toward this unwanted intruder with the smell of the prison
still heavy upon him.
His wife, too, had already announced
to everyone that she was a widow, and the children had fitted
their fabrications into this story.
The difference between
the doctor and Falder was that the doctor had built up a
strong defense mechanism against such treatment.
He could
match the cruelty of the world with irony and spirit.
tally he had fortified himself against succumbing to its pity
or its inhumanity.
In this way he preserved his equilibrium,
even if he did have to become brittle and hard to accomplish
it. .
Another theme which Galsworthy emphasized in justice,
as well as in several of his stories, was the evil and
fruitlessness of long periods of solitary confinement.
Falder, physically sick, his emotions and nerves ofi edge,
suffered It without the benefit it was intended to induce.
The pathos of confinement, Galsworthy stressed in "The Prison
er," a short story describing a man who had been in solitary
confinement so long that he had almost lost the faculty of
His thoughts seemed to stick in his mind,
finally issuing forth in faltering words and sketchy senten­
The visitor who saw the old man recorded his impres­
sions of that meeting,
"When I think of him there still,
for all I know - I feel a sort of frenzy rising in me against
my own kind,
X feel the miserable aching of all the caged
creatures in the world."
Convicted of arson, Bob Tryst, in The Freelands,
threw himself under the wheels of a passing vehicle while
he was being taken to prison rather than endure the torture
of confinement.
Galsworthy was particularly fitted to de­
pict the horrors of being shut away from the world of the
blue sky and the sunshine, for as a devout lover of nature
he believed in its power to revive and restore the spirit*
As Miss Bundy suggested, depressing as these plays
and stories were, there was a genuinely constructive side
to them.
This thesis has emphasized this phase of Gals­
worthy *s work in the chapter summaries.
The inhumanitarian
standards of legal determinism called loudly for revision.
Galsworthy, A Motley, "The Prisoner," pp. 59-60.
Principles of humanity and moderation, as well as advanced
ideas of penology, needed to be applied to the machinery of
the law.
Adult probation was hinted at by Galsworthy and
the incorporation of definite plans for the social and eco­
nomic redemption of released prisoners.
That Galsworthy’s cry for reform is evidenced in the
salutary changes which have been made in English law is
without argument.
The impact of Justice and The Silver Bor
alone on the criminal problem and movement toward specific
improvements was not inconsiderable.
It was no accident, happy or otherwise, that Mr.
Winston Churchill*s recentvprison reforms sprang
from M r . Galsworthy *s drama, *Just ice.* JTot often
in the annals of literature has a play.conferred
an immediate and practical benefit on a nation and
less often still in the clear-cut, decisive way
’Justice* has done. Mr. Galsworthy pictured the
inhumanity of long, solitary confinement and the
impossibility of the released prisoner making a
new beginning. And Mr. Churchill’s reforms limit
solitary confinement to one month and make very
efficient arrangements %o help the prisoner on his
fresh start in society.3
Another situation discussed in the thesis on socio­
logical aspects of Galsworthy’s dramatic work was the rela­
tionship of—capital and labor.
This is a theme which he
used but slightly in his fiction and essays, except as it
3 Sarah Bundy, The Sociological Content of John
Galsworthy’s Dramas, pp. 45-49, citing Isabel SEelton, "John
Galsworthy.— An Appreciation," in The World Today,
21:995-998, pp. 995-996.
might be interpreted as a subsidiary note in his treatment of
It played a dominant part in the social content of
one of his plays, however.
Strife portrays the struggle be­
tween these powerful, opposing, industrial forces.
The drama
is significant in that it climaxed its argument on the side
of arbitration*
Filled with high import for observers of the
most recent developments in our modern American society, was
his solution for the deadlock in Strife.
Miss Bundy has this to say;
Concerning Strife,
"The chief laborer and the chief
capitalist both met defeat in the triumph of the Union leader.
And again, she states, in the final analysis:
Strife presents the need of a closer unity, a study
of conditions on the part of the owners and interchange
of ideals and policies between men and directors. A
leading demand of labor unions is representation on
boards of directors. Because Galsworthy so clearly
presents the lack of understanding between workmen and
stockholders, his solution seems undoubtedly to lie
along the adoption of some such policy.4
In the treatment of the labor problem, Galsworthy
urged justice tempered with mercy; he urged, also, the ap­
plication of the truly democratic principle of concern for
the welfare of the whole, rather than for the good of cer­
tain economic groups whose motivating force was pecuniary,
not humanitarian.
® Bundy, The Sociological Content of John Galsworthy*s
Dramas, p. 4.
In several of the other plays reviewed by Miss Bundy,
it is clear that Galsworthy followed and reinforced at least
two of the themes which he used so consistently in his fic­
tional writing.
It has already been pointed out in this the
sis that he had an obsessing concern for women and their
status in the conventional world of society and the law.
His drama, The Eldest Son, presents a highly unusual treat­
ment of the age-old problem of Illegitimacy.
True to his
established habit of rejecting the worn-out palliatives of
the rest of the world, Galsworthy refused to legitimize the
irregularity by a marriage sanctified by the law.
A sum­
mer's infatuation could not provide the proper foundation
for a long and satisfying marital union, especially when the
two people concerned~#ere not of the same social level.
Galsworthy demonstrated clearly in this drama that a forced
marriage Is a fallacious solution of the problem, one which
could not bring happiness even though it did give the child
a name.
In the field of fiction, he treated a slightly dif­
ferent phase of this theme in Saint's Progress.
Here, Noel
Pierson, daughter of a clergyman, became the unmarried moth­
er of a baby whose father was killed in the war.
Noel re­
fused to enmesh herself in a web of lies by denying she was
the mother of the child, and her honesty inevitably brought
about the dismissal of her father by the congregation which
had worshipped under his tutelage for countless Sabbaths.
Unjust as this reaction on the father appeared on the sur­
face, it showed him clearly that his efforts to make that
particular group Christlike and forgiving had fallen on
barren ground.
Almost with a sense of relief, he changed
his field of service outside of England where the people*s
minds and hearts were less atrophied by conventional pat­
terns of conduct.
Noel herself did not marry until she felt
that she could bring a definite contribution of companion­
ship and affection to the man who offered her his name.
Both the play and the novel emphasized the intoler­
ance of the mob toward the unwed mother and definitely ne­
gated the established custom of a legal union contracted
primarily to save face.
The Fugitive, presented another aspect of the sex
question, one which has become thoroughly familiar to all
students of Galsworthy*s novels.
In this play, Galsworthy
attacked the conventional marriage which countenanced man's
ownership of his wife.
Clare Dedmond, in this drama, was a
shadow of all the fictional prototypes of Irene.
She suf­
fered mental and sometimes physical agony in a relationship
which had lost its sanctity.
Finally driven to leave home,
she became a fugitive in society, pursued by her husband,
by other men who coveted her, and by her own fears as to the
final outcome of the whole tragic business.
Again, Galsworthy evidenced the severity of the divorce
laws by making legalseparation for Clare impossible.
husband wanted her back; he himself had committed no moral
indiscretion sufficient to warrant a divorce, and Clare was
left to make an exit
herself asbest she could.
sued relentlessly by the hounds of society which seemed to
hedge her in on all sides, Clare, like Falder, another weary
fugitive, ended her life.
The second theme touched upon in the plays which
found numerous reverberations in the novels, was that deal­
ing with philanthropy*
The Pigeon showed conclusively that
indiscriminate alms-giving, like that indulged in by Hilary
in Fraternity, was foolish, as well as demoralizing to the
Sentimental theories which based the elimina­
tion of poverty on the cultivation of brotherly love, Gals­
worthy branded as impractical and worthless.
The Canon and
Professor Calway in The Pigeon were very closely related,
dramatic counterparts of the eccentric Mr. Stone of Frater­
Miss Bundy concluded from her study of the play that
“obviously, the course lies somewhere in the combination of
all these systems, and by his refutation of each, in itself,
Galsworthy merely evidences his adherence to such a compos­
ite method."^
5 Ibid»» P- 37
As they were presented in Chapter 7X1, the conclusions
of the present thesis go somewhat beyond those derived from
the analysis of The Pigeon.
In the novels, Galsworthy indi­
cated that the social causes of poverty are so deep-rooted
in complex contributing conditions, and the permanent cure
of these causes present a matter for such intelligent and
sincere planning, that the problem called for all the genius
and wisdom of a functioning democracy to grapple with it.
According to the Galsworthian ideal for a perfect state,
there would be no situations which would necessitate the use
of the words "charity" and "philanthropy."
Each individual
would be an independently functioning unit, capable of pro­
viding for his own needs in a world which knew how to dir­
ect all of its human energy toward creative, purposeful work.
Then there would be no *shadows,1 no waste products of the
social system.
In Galsworthy’s Utopia, every individual, out
of the consciousness of his own worth and dignity, would be
able to hold up his head before God and man, and there would
be "no complaining in the streets."
Although Galsworthy’s presentation of poverty through
fiction leads the reason and the imagination deep into the
shadowy realms of an ideal social philosophy, his basic argu/ both mediums of expression remains the same.
submerged tenth requires organized effort on the part of re­
sponsible agencies definitely working toward a pre-established
and highly attainable goal.
Despite the rather dismal qual­
ity of all of Galsworthy*s thinking on this problem, he had
enough faith in the basic tenets of the democratic state to
hope that at some future date it would make itself and its
principles genuine from a practical standpoint.
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