John Galsworthy

On this date in 1867, John Galsworthy was born into an upper-class family in Surrey, England. Escaping the legal profession by travel, Galsworthy as a young man encountered Joseph Conrad on a trip to the South Seas. Conrad encouraged him to write and Galsworthy in turn later provided financial help for Conrad.

After self-publishing his first four books, Galsworthy wrote The Man of Property (1906), which established his reputation. It was the first of what would become “The Forsyte Saga,” made up of six novels plus a collection of stories written through 1931.

The candid and empathetically handled theme of marital rape, shocking to many would-be church censors, was reportedly inspired by the experiences of his wife, Ada Person Cooper, in her previous marriage. Galsworthy, always socially conscious, wrote 20 novels, 27 plays, poetry, more than 150 short stories and several books of essays.

He refused knighthood on grounds of principle in 1917, gave away half of his fortune and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932 “for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga.”

His plays in particular dealt with social issues such as economic inequities, prison reform, anti-Semitism and mining strikes. Escape, his 1926 drama, was made into a 1948 movie by 20th Century Fox starring Rex Harrison. He died of a brain tumor at age 65 in 1933.

Freedom From Religion Foundation