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Title: John Galsworthy
Author: Kaye-Smith, Sheila
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
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                           WRITERS OF THE DAY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                   GENERAL EDITOR: BERTRAM CHRISTIAN



                            JOHN GALSWORTHY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         _By SHEILA KAYE-SMITH_

                                _NOVELS_

_THE TRAMPING METHODIST_
_STARBRACE_
_SPELL LAND_
_ISLE OF THORNS_
_THREE AGAINST THE WORLD_
_SUSSEX GORSE_

                            _BELLES LETTRES_

_SAMUEL RICHARDSON_

                                  ---

_WILLOWS FORGE AND OTHER POEMS_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: JOHN GALSWORTHY]

                                  JOHN
                               GALSWORTHY

                                   By

                           SHEILA KAYE-SMITH



[Illustration: colophon]



                                NEW YORK
                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY



                       _First Published in 1916_



                                CONTENTS

                                                  PAGE

                 INTRODUCTION                        9

                 THE PLAYS. I.                      17

                 THE PLAYS. II.                     35

                 THE NOVELS. I.                     52

                 THE NOVELS. II.                    69

                 THE SKETCHES                       86

                 GALSWORTHY THE ARTIST             100

                 BIBLIOGRAPHY                      115

                 AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY             118

                 INDEX                             121



                              INTRODUCTION


A characteristic of every age is its group of popular writers. These
writers at once concentrate and give out the spirit of their age—they
are representative. Literature has many names of pioneers and apostles,
who were ahead of or out of sympathy with their times, but these were
never popular. The popular writer is essentially a man who conforms to
his period; it is true that his conformity must have life and vigour, it
must have nothing in it of the echo or the slave, it may even be
disguised rather transparently as revolt—but whatever enterprises and
excursions he allows himself, he remembers that there are certain bases
which he must keep, and to which after every expedition he must come
back. These bases are either the conventional ideas of his time, or the
conventional methods of attacking them—the two are for such purposes the
same.

So a glance at our most popular modern writers ought to give us a clue
as to the spirit of to-day. But here there is something baffling—we find
names as far apart as H. G. Wells and Florence Barclay, Arnold Bennett
and Hall Caine. Surely the spirit of the age is not broad enough to
include both Joseph Conrad and Marie Corelli. This brings us face to
face with a modern complication: we have two publics. The spread of
education, with other causes, has brought into being a mob-public, and
the approved of the mob-public have a popularity which could hardly have
been realised two generations ago. The most popular writer of to-day is
he whose appeal is to the man in the street, and the largest sales are
made by those who are most successful in catering for this newly
enfranchised reader—with whom literature and art have not hitherto had
much truck, but with whom they will have to reckon more and more as time
goes on.

There is, however, a public above the street, and this is large and
important enough to allow those who write for it to call themselves
popular. This public grants its favour on grounds literary as well as
emotional--it is not enough to stir its feelings, one must tickle its
taste. It is fundamentally the same as the mob in its ideas, but it is
very different in its methods of criticism. The mob likes to see its
prejudices upheld, this public above the street—which is the public that
most writers of any “literary” aspiration supply—while holding the same
prejudices as strongly at heart, rather enjoys seeing them overthrown on
paper. At the same time it demands artistic quality, reality, and an
occasional shock. While not actually _gourmet_, it is fastidious in the
matter of literary fare, and it is characteristically split up into
cliques or smaller publics, each swearing by a particular writer, just
as men who are nice as to food swear by a particular restaurant. There
is a Wells public, differing slightly if not essentially from the
Bennett public; there is a Kipling public—with democratic foundations;
there is a Conrad public, and a Galsworthy public—and the Galsworthy
public is perhaps the smallest of all.

Indeed Galsworthy can hardly be called a “popular” writer. I am not
using the word in a contemptuous sense, but to describe a writer who is
widely read. Galsworthy will never be widely read, for he alienates two
important sets of readers—those who insist that a book shall teach them
something, and those who with equal force insist that it shall teach
them nothing. He fails the first class because, while supplying its
demands, he does not satisfy the conditions it imposes. He undoubtedly
has something to teach, but he avoids the direct appeal, which is what
the public wants. Direct and open championship is the only way of making
a cause popular—let us be broad-minded, by all means, but agreeing that
“there may be something to say on the other side” is very different from
finding out what that something is, and saying it. Also he is too
sensitive, too moderate, too well balanced to please the
“improvement-above-all-things” reader, whose perceptions are not of the
subtlest.

On the other hand, he puts himself out of touch with those who do not
want to be taught, because he undoubtedly has a propaganda, and is not
an artist purely for art’s sake. Between himself and the numbers who
would unhesitatingly admire him as a man of letters he raises the
barrier of ideas which, while too subtly expressed to satisfy those who
clamour for instruction, are quite decided enough to cut off those who
object to it.

Thus Galsworthy’s public is whittled down to those who either are in
sympathy with his aims and methods—and there must be few who understand
both—or are able to swallow a small amount of propaganda for the sake of
art. He sets out to write deliberately for no man—he does not recruit
his readers, they are volunteers. They come to him from widely different
camps, and concentrate in an admiration which is perhaps as full of
reserves as its object.

He has deliberately rejected all public-snatching tricks, revealing his
personality in his work alone, avoiding the light of popular curiosity
and journalistic enterprise. He has treated his private life as his own
concern, not as a bait for readers. A judicious use of his own
personality and private affairs is, broadly speaking, indispensable to
the seeker after popularity. Galsworthy, by disliking this, has
necessarily limited his public to those who read him for his work’s
sake.

In the bare facts of his life that he chooses to give we shall find
nothing so interesting as what we find in his books and plays. Born in
1867, at Coombe in Surrey, he was educated at Harrow and at Oxford. He
was called to the Bar in 1890, but practised very little.

He has travelled a great deal, and widely—America and Egypt, Canada and
the Cape, British Columbia and Australia, Russia and the Fiji Islands.
It was on the sailing ship which carried him from Adelaide to South
Africa twenty-two years ago that he made friends with a sailor who now,
as Joseph Conrad, has a fame equal to Galsworthy’s own. It is remarkable
that, in spite of these wide wanderings, his plays and novels should
almost invariably have an English background. Seldom, if ever, does he
go afield, and then it is only to some place more or less known to
everyone, such as Austria in _Villa Rubein_, _The Dark Flower_, and _The
Little Dream_. He has never, like Conrad, given us the fruit of his
voyagings on the far seas, or his tracks over Russian and Canadian
plains.

Perhaps this may be due to the fact that no matter how far he may have
wandered, his roots are English. Though born in Surrey, he is a Devon
man. Galsworthy is of course a well-known Devon name, and for many years
now he has lived in Devon, on the eastern rim of Dartmoor.

Again and again he gives Devon to us—there is _A Man of Devon_, with its
tender freshness of the Devon soil sweetening the strength of Devon
hardihood; there is _A Bit o’ Love_, with its living and poetic
conception of Place; and there is _The Patrician_, with all the breadth
of the moors in contrast with the littleness of human passion and human
reasoning. Again, too, in _Riding in Mist_, we have a picture of a mood
of the Devon tors which has seldom been equalled and never surpassed.
Also his _Moods, Songs and Doggerels_ is full of the county, its
scenery, its men and women, its dialect, its rains, its “heather gipsy”
wind. Though Galsworthy is certainly not an interpreter of place, though
his great novels and plays deal with the mysteries of human nature
rather than with local subtleties—and the atmosphere he sheds over his
work is general rather than particular, the spirit rather than the
ghost—one feels that Devon is the background of his dreams.



                               THE PLAYS
                                   I


Galsworthy takes his place in modern literature chiefly by virtue of his
plays. Criticism may to a certain extent damage him as a novelist, but
the most searching critics cannot leave him anything less than a great
playwright. His talents are specially adapted to the dramatic form,
which at the same time does much to veil his weak points. His mastery of
technique nowhere shows to greater advantage than on the stage, nor has
he better scope for his true sense of situation; on the other hand, the
stage is a legitimate field for propaganda, and the occasional failure
of the human interest in his work can be made good by the ability of the
actor.

For Galsworthy’s plays have the advantage of acting well—unlike much
literary drama, they are as effective on the stage as in the study; in
fact, they gain by acting, because, as I said, he has a tendency now and
then to subordinate the human interest to the moral, and this the actor
can make good.

He stands midway between the purely literary and the purely popular
playwright, and he also occupies middle ground between drama which is
entirely for instruction and that which is for amusement only. Poles
apart on one hand from the light comedies of H. H. Davies and Somerset
Maugham, he has very little in common with stage preachers such as Shaw
and Barker. More polished and more subtle than Houghton, he is less
clear-eyed and heroic than Masefield. Undoubtedly his most striking
quality as a dramatist is his sense of form and craft, but he is far
removed from that school of playwrights, of which Pinero and H. A. Jones
are leaders, whose technique amounts to little more than a working
knowledge of the stage.

Galsworthy loves, in his novels as well as his plays, to deal with
situations. This is to a certain extent detrimental to the novelist, as
it hampers development, and a novel which does not develop along some
line or other has a tendency to stale or solidify. But it is obvious
that a sense of situation is one of the first essentials of a dramatist,
and Galsworthy has it in full measure. It shows pre-eminently in his
central ideas, and subordinately in his apt management of his curtains,
which in his best plays are situations in themselves, epitomising the
chief issues of the act or scene.

His central situation is the moral or social problem at the bottom of
the play. He carries on his propaganda almost entirely by situation, and
this is what lifts his art above that of Shaw and other missionary
dramatists. He practically never relies on dialogue for introducing his
theories, except so far as dialogue develops and explains the situation.
He depends on his characters and their actions to enforce his moral, and
it is to this he owes his artistic salvation.

Having chosen his situation, he proceeds to balance it with two
contrasting groups, one on either side. Each group consists of various
types, embodying various points of view, which, while differing to a
slight extent, are yet subordinate to the Point of View of the group.
The fact that his characters are types rather than individuals is all to
his good as a dramatist, though we shall see later that it is a drawback
in the novels. Types are always more convincing on the stage than
individuals, the necessary personal touch being given by the actor.
There is no use criticising a play apart from the acting—the two are
inextricably bound together, so that the author is in a sense only the
collaborator; a play which was not written to be acted can scarcely be
called a play—it is a novel in dialogue.

Perhaps the best example of Galsworthy’s technique, and at the same time
his finest achievement as a playwright, is _Strife_. Here we have the
central situation, the contrasting of groups, the combination of
types—the whole so perfectly balanced, and so smooth-working, that it
does not creak once. The central idea is the dispute between the
directors of the Works and their employees, but it is impossible to
consider this in itself, apart from the attitude of the two parties
towards it. Indeed we are given a very vague idea of the nature of the
difference; all we know is that it has reduced many of the workers to
starvation, while the directors have to face angry shareholders and
failing dividends. Harness, the trades-union delegate, acts as a
go-between, and gradually both groups begin to see the allurements of
compromise. Various circumstances drive them towards it, with the
exception of their respective leaders, Roberts, and old Anthony. The end
is pitiful—for the two sides surrender to each other simultaneously,
breaking their leaders’ hearts. These men are of extraordinary character
and ability, and of the most splendid courage, but they are betrayed by
their cowardly followers, who have not grit or faith enough to see that
their only chance lies in “no compromise.” There is a powerful scene
between Roberts, the men’s leader, and Anthony, chairman of the
directors, when they have both been abandoned by their supporters:


ROBERTS [_to_ ANTHONY]. But _ye_ have not signed them terms! They can’t
make terms without their chairman! Ye would never sign them terms!
[ANTHONY _looks at him without speaking_.] Don’t tell me ye have! for
the love o’ God [_with passionate appeal_] I reckoned on ye!

HARNESS [_holding out the Directors’ copy of the terms_]. The _Board_
has signed.

ROBERTS. Then you’re no longer Chairman of this Company! [_Breaking into
half-mad laughter_.] Ah, ha—Ah, ha, ha! They’ve thrown ye over—thrown
over their Chairman: ah—ha—ha! [_With a sudden dreadful calm._]
So—they’ve done us both down, Mr Anthony.


There is also a social problem at the bottom of _Justice_, but this time
it is in connection with the English law. In _Justice_ we have a bitter,
tragic indictment of the penal system. We are given the psychology of a
crime, but not so much of its committal as of its expiation. We are
shown the effect of prison life on the clerk Falder, and of its
consequences following him after his release, and driving him at last to
suicide. It is a wonderfully temperate statement of cruel facts.
Throughout it Galsworthy retains a perfect command of his art; above all
he avoids any cheap identification of the ministers of a system with the
system itself. The officials of the court and of the prison are all
shown as wise and humane men; they do their best, according to their
powers, for those wretches whose lives are harassed by the system they
administrate. It is the system alone which is in fault.

Perhaps Galsworthy has made a mistake in choosing Falder as his victim.
The man is of a type which would go under with a very slight push, weak
and changeable, an extreme case. On the other hand, he shows the effect
of Law on the poor and weak it is ostensibly there to protect. He is one
of those for whom Justice, as understood in this country, and indeed
most countries, makes no provision. He is a special case, and it is
characteristic of systems and institutions that they ignore—are to a
certain extent forced to ignore—the special case, which is almost always
better worth considering than the general mass to which the system is
adapted. Galsworthy suggests no remedy, no alternative. He does not hint
anywhere that Falder has been badly treated. He has been treated as well
as Justice will allow; as many men are the victims of injustice, so is
he the victim of justice itself.

The play is not quite so well constructed as _Strife_. The first and
second acts cover mostly the same ground, and the action is not so
compact or the climax so inevitable. On the other hand, there are some
fine scenes, and some particularly arresting characters. Cokeson, the
little kind-hearted, humble-minded clerk, is a lovable person, and the
relations between Falder and Ruth Honeywill are studied with exquisite
delicacy and pathos. The scene of Falder’s arrest, of his trial, and
that terrible silent scene, in which not a word is spoken, but in which
we are shown far more powerfully than by any words, the horror, the
misery, the madness, of solitary confinement—are all memorable, and make
us forgive a certain scrappiness in their succession. The play ends on a
fine note of tragedy, when Falder, re-arrested for obtaining employment
by a forged character, throws himself downstairs rather than go back to
gaol:


                [RUTH _drops on her knees by the body_.]

RUTH [_in a whisper_]. What is it? He’s not breathing. [_She crouches
over him._] My dear! my pretty!.... [_Leaping to her feet._] No, no! No,
no! He’s dead.

COKESON [_stealing forward, in a hoarse voice_]. There, there, poor dear
woman.

                      [RUTH _faces round at him_.]

COKESON. No one’ll touch him now! Never again! He’s safe with gentle
Jesus.

      [RUTH _stands as though turned to stone in the doorway, staring
        at_ COKESON, _who, bending humbly before her, holds out his hand
        as one would to a lost dog_.]


_Justice_ and _Strife_ both deal with social and economic questions in
the larger sense, but in the majority of the plays the issues are more
personal. _The Silver Box_ and _The Eldest Son_, for instance, both show
the different standards of morality expected from the poor and from the
rich. _The Fugitive_ is a study of the helplessness of a beautiful
woman, not specially trained, when she is driven to make her own way in
life. _Joy_ shows the essential selfishness which we all bring into our
relations both with one another and with problems of conduct.

_The Silver Box_ runs _Strife_ close as Galsworthy’s masterpiece. There
is a strong resemblance between its central idea and that of _The Eldest
Son_, a far inferior play. In _The Silver Box_ the charwoman’s husband
is sent to gaol for stealing, whereas the M.P.’s son, who has also
committed a theft, under far more unforgivable circumstances, escapes
because of his superior position and wealth.... In _The Eldest Son_, the
poor gamekeeper is threatened with dismissal if he will not marry the
girl he has betrayed, while the eldest son of the house brings his
father’s wrath upon his head for standing by the lady’s maid he has put
in the same position.

_The Silver Box_ is much the clearer-sighted of the two plays; in the
second the issues are occasionally confused, and both the construction
and dramatic effect are inferior. _The Silver Box_ is practically
flawless. The two contrasting groups, the rich and important Barthwicks,
and the poor, good-for-nothing Joneses, are perfectly balanced. There is
no crude over-emphasis of the situation, nor inopportune enforcement of
the moral, though perhaps in the trial scene Galsworthy is a little too
anxious to point out the similarity of the positions of Jack Barthwick
and Jem Jones, and the difference of their treatment: “Dad! that’s what
you said to me!” says young Barthwick, more pointedly than naturally,
when the magistrate tells Jones he is “a nuisance to the community.”

The characters are drawn with great vividness and restraint. Mrs Jones
is particularly successful—pale, quiet, down-trodden, she has about her
a certain dignified pathos which is perfectly human and natural. She
does not pose as a martyr, she does not pretend that she would not leave
her husband if she could and dared; the fact is not hidden from us that
her sad-eyed silences must be particularly irritating to him. She does
not complain over much, but she has nothing of stoical endurance—she
endures rather because she has been battered into submission and sees
the uselessness of revolt. She would revolt if she could.

One of the most direct and convincing scenes in the play is that between
these two, in their home, when Mrs Jones discovers that her husband has
stolen the silver box.


JONES. I’ve had a bit of luck. Picked up a purse—seven pound and more.

MRS JONES. Oh, James!

JONES. Oh, James! What about oh, James! I picked it up, I tell you. This
is lost property, this is.

MRS JONES. But isn’t there a name in it or something?

JONES. Name! No, there ain’t no name. This don’t belong to such as ’ave
visitin’ cards. This belongs to a perfec’ lidy. Tike an’ smell it. Now,
you tell me what I ought to have done. You tell me that. You can always
tell me what I ought to ha’ done.

MRS JONES. I can’t say what you ought to have done, James. Of course the
money wasn’t yours; you’ve taken somebody else’s money.

JONES. Finding’s keeping. I’ll take it as wages for the time I’ve gone
about the streets asking for what’s my rights. I’ll take it for what’s
_overdue_, d’ye hear? I’ve got money in my pocket, my girl. Money in my
pocket! And I’m not going to waste it. With this ’ere money I’m going to
Canada. I’ll let you have a pound. You’ve often talked of leavin’ me.
You’ve often told me I treat you badly—well I ’ope you’ll be glad when
I’m gone.

MRS JONES. You have treated me very badly, James, and of course I can’t
prevent your going; but I can’t tell whether I shall be glad when you’re
gone.

JONES. It’ll change my luck. I’ve ’ad nothing but bad luck since I took
up with you. And you’ve ’ad no bloomin’ picnic.

MRS JONES. Of course it would have been better for us if we had never
met. We weren’t meant for each other. But you’re set against me, that’s
what you are, and you have been for a long time. And you treat me so
badly, James, going after that Rosie and all. You don’t ever seem to
think of the children that I’ve had to bring into the world, and of all
the trouble I’ve had to keep them, and what’ll become of them when
you’re gone.

JONES. If you think I want to leave the little beggars you’re bloomin’
well mistaken.

MRS JONES. Of course I know you’re fond of them.

JONES. Well then, you stow it, old girl. The kids’ll get along better
with you than when I’m here. If I’d ha’ known as much as I do now, I’d
never ha’ had one o’ them. What’s the use o’ bringin’ ’em into a state
o’ things like this? It’s a crime, that’s what it is; but you find it
out too late; that’s what’s the matter with this ’ere world.

MRS JONES. Of course it would have been better for them, poor little
things; but they’re your own children, and I wonder at you talkin’ like
that. I should miss them dreadfully if I was to lose them.

JONES. And you ain’t the only one. If I make money out there—--[_Looking
up he sees her shaking out his coat—in a changed voice._] Leave that
coat alone!

      [_The silver box drops from the pocket, scattering the cigarettes
        upon the bed. Taking up the box, she stares at it; he rushes at
        her, and snatches the box away._]

MRS JONES. Oh, Jem! Oh, Jem!

JONES. You mind what you’re sayin’! When I go out I’ll take and chuck it
in the water along with that there purse. I ’ad it when I was in liquor,
and for what you do when you’re in liquor you’re not responsible—and
that’s Gawd’s truth as you ought to know. I don’t want the thing—I won’t
have it. I took it out o’ spite. I’m no thief, I tell you; and don’t you
call me one, or it’ll be the worse for you.

MRS JONES. It’s Mr Barthwick’s! You’ve taken away my reputation. Oh,
Jem, whatever made you?

JONES. What d’you mean?

MRS JONES. It’s been missed; they think it’s me. Oh, whatever made you
do it, Jem?

JONES. I tell you I was in liquor. I don’t want it; what’s the good of
it to me? If I were to pawn it they’d only nab me. I’m no thief. I’m no
worse than what young Barthwick is; he brought ’ome that purse I picked
up—a lady’s purse—’ad it off ’er in a row, kept sayin’ e’d scored ’er
off. Well I scored ’im off. Tight as an owl ’e was! And d’you think
anything’ll happen to him?

MRS JONES. Oh, Jem! It’s the bread out of our mouths.

JONES. Is it, then? I’ll make it hot for ’em yet. What about that purse.
What about young Barthwick.

      [MRS JONES _comes forward to the table, and tries to take the
        box_; JONES _prevents her_.]

JONES. What do you want with that. You drop it, I say!

MRS JONES. I’ll take it back, and tell them all about it. [_She attempts
to wrest the box from him._]

JONES. Ah, would yer?

      [_He drops the box, and rushes on her with a snarl. She slips back
        past the bed. He follows; a chair is overturned...._]


In _The Eldest Son_ we have the same idea not quite so effectively
handled—the contrast between the codes of ethics required from the poor
and from the rich. There are some good scenes in the play, notably that
between Bill and Freda in the first act, and that towards the end, when
the whole Cheshire family is brought into action against Freda and her
sturdy old father, who at last suddenly solves the difficulty by saying:
“I’ll have no charity marriage in my family,” and leading his daughter
away. Also the characters of Sir William Cheshire and of his wife are
great achievements, both strong and delicate. But the play has not the
grip or the reality of _The Silver Box_.

The failure lies in a certain lack of cohesion and inevitableness in the
whole. The rehearsal of _Caste_, which is introduced in the second act,
points the moral rather too obviously. Also the central idea is hampered
by the fact that the two illustrative cases are not really parallel. In
_The Silver Box_ the theft by young Barthwick is just as blameworthy as
that by Jones. Their positions are quite the same, except that, indeed,
it is the man of wealth who is the more despicable and deserving of
punishment. But no one can say that Bill Cheshire and Freda Studdenham
are in the same position as the gamekeeper and the village girl. There
are objections to the marriage of Bill and Freda which do not exist in
the other case. Certainly there are objections to that too, but the fact
remains that the two examples are not parallel.



                               THE PLAYS
                                   II


There are social and economic ideas at the bottom of _The Fugitive_,
which is to a certain extent symbolical—a study of woman’s position
when, for any reason, she is separated from the herd. But in this, as in
other of his later plays, Galsworthy’s command of his art is not equal
to his enthusiasm for his subject. Moving and forcible as it all is, it
has not the balance, the inevitableness, of _Strife_ or _The Silver
Box_. We feel that events are being arranged to suit the basic theory.
The career of Clare Dedmond, from her revolt to her downfall, is not a
thing foreseen, a thing of fate. We feel somehow that her end is
arbitrary—at all events we are not shown the steps that lead to it. The
actual catastrophes we witness do not demand it.

None the less the study of Clare is arresting—the woman who is “fine,
but not fine enough.” She alienates our sympathies a little in the first
act; there is no denying that she behaves childishly, and her husband,
uncongenial as he may be, is not quite such a bounder as Malise, in
whom, apparently, she finds satisfaction. But somehow that whole first
act has an air of unreality about it, a remoteness from life, and a
staginess we do not expect from Galsworthy. Later on the movement
becomes swifter, and we have the sense of impending tragedy, which is
realised in the scene where Clare leaves Malise, though she loves him
and he is her only protector, because she discovers that she has become
a drag on him and is spoiling his career.

The scene at the Restaurant, too, has its fine points, though it is
spoilt by a riot of symbolism and a tendency towards false sentiment.
The continuous singing of “This Day a Stag must die” by the revellers at
another table is rather an obvious and cheap effect, so too the
courtesan’s kiss as the curtain falls. On the whole one feels that _The
Fugitive_ is a play in which the author’s plan has been better conceived
than carried out.

The central situations of _Joy_ and of _The Mob_ have nothing to do with
any social or economic problem, even in a narrowed, personal sense. They
deal with conduct, and special cases of conduct. _Joy_ and _The Mob_,
with _A Bit o’ Love_, stand at the bottom of the scale at the top of
which are _Justice_ and _Strife_. The interest of the two latter is
centred in the social and industrial problems they are built on; then
come _The Silver Box_, _The Eldest Son_, and _The Fugitive_, in which
the social problem undoubtedly exists, but which depend for interest on
its personal variations; then come _Joy_, _The Mob_, and _A Bit o’
Love_, in which the interest is purely personal and unconnected with any
social idea.

_Joy_ is a play built round an attitude rather than a problem. “A Play
on the Letter I” is the sub-title, and from first to last we see how the
consideration of self is the governing motive of widely different
characters. We see it working openly, in characters that are frankly and
aggressively egotistic; we see it acting more subtly in characters of a
different stamp. The one person who is free from it is the old
governess, Miss Beech, who lives only in her interest in those around
her. Somehow, as is often the case with characters purposely in contrast
with his general scheme, Galsworthy is occasionally artificial in
dealing with Miss Beech. Her “devilishness” is more than once a trifle
forced—the author so obviously wants her to be original, unlike both the
conventional stage governess, and the conventionally selfless person.
She fills to a certain extent the position of Chorus, and her vocation
takes from her humanity. She becomes, as the play goes on, more and more
of a Voice.

On the other hand, there is a great deal of humanity about Joy herself
and her mother. Mrs Gwyn’s lover, Maurice Lever, is also real enough,
though the same cannot always be said of Joy’s Dick. The scenes between
the young people ring true, but the boy loses reality when away from
Joy; he becomes more a part of stage machinery.

In spite of some languors, the play is quick-moving and closely knit,
and the author keeps the central situation well in hand. There are one
or two haunting scenes—the scenes of young love between Joy and Dick,
the scenes of older, sadder love, more passionate and more
disillusioned, between Mrs Gwyn and Lever—and one particularly good
scene between Mrs Gwyn and Joy, after the girl has discovered her
mother’s secret.


JOY [_covering her face_]. I’m—I’m ashamed.

MRS GWYN. I brought you into the world; and you say that to me? Have I
been a bad mother to you?

JOY. Oh, mother!

MRS GWYN. Ashamed? Am _I_ to live all my life like a dead woman because
you’re ashamed? Am I to live like the dead because you’re a child that
knows nothing of life?... D’you think—because I suffered when you were
born and because I’ve suffered since with every ache you ever had, that
gives you the right to dictate to me now? I’ve been unhappy enough, and
I shall be unhappy enough in the time to come. Oh, you untouched things,
you’re as hard and cold as iron.

JOY. I would do anything for _you_, mother.

MRS GWYN. Except—let me live, Joy. That’s the only thing you won’t do
for me, I quite understand.

JOY [_in a despairing whisper_]. But it’s wrong of you—it’s wicked.

MRS GWYN. If it’s wicked, _I_ shall pay for it, not _you_.

JOY. But I want to save you, mother!

MRS GWYN. Save me? [_Breaking into laughter._]

JOY. I can’t bear it that _you_—if you’ll only—I’ll never leave you ...
oh, mother! I feel—I feel _so awful_—as if everybody knew.

MRS GWYN. You think I’m a monster to hurt you. Ah! yes! You’ll
understand better some day.

JOY [_in a sudden burst of excited fear_]. I won’t believe
it—I—I—can’t—_you’re deserting me_, mother.

MRS GWYN. Oh, you untouched things! You—--

      [JOY _looks up suddenly, sees her face, and sinks down on her
        knees_.]

JOY. Mother—it’s for _me_!

MRS GWYN. Ask for my life, Joy—don’t be afraid!

      [JOY _turns her face away_. MRS GWYN _bends suddenly and touches
        her daughter’s hair_; JOY _shrinks from that touch, recoiling as
        if she had been stung_.]

MRS GWYN. I forgot—I’m deserting you.

      [_And swiftly without looking back she goes away._ JOY _left alone
        under the hollow tree crouches lower, and her shoulders shake_.]


_The Mob_ is rather an irritating, unsatisfactory play. It is meant to
be a study in ideals, but it is astonishing how blunderingly and at the
same time how coldly Galsworthy puts these ideals before us. The title
is also a mistake. The attitude of the mob towards Stephen More is
merely of secondary and artificial importance. He meets his death at its
hands, it is true, but it plays little part in the spiritual fight he
wages. The exhibition, in a final tableau, of its changing fancy—in the
statue it erects to his memory—is dangerously near anti-climax, and no
integral part of the whole. One cannot see that the mob is anywhere a
dominant force—it is an incident, far less important here than in
_Strife_, though there is one scene in which Galsworthy shows again, as
he showed in _Strife_, his power of dealing with stage crowds:


      [MORE _turns and mounts the steps_.]

TALL YOUTH. You blasted traitor.

      [MORE _faces round at the volley of jeering that follows; the
        chorus of booing swells, then gradually dies, as if they
        realised that they were spoiling their own sport_.]

A ROUGH GIRL. Don’t frighten the poor feller.

      [_A girl beside her utters a shrill laugh._]

MORE. Well, what do you want?

VOICE. A speech.

MORE. Indeed! That’s new.

ROUGH VOICE. Look at his white liver. You can see it in his face.

A BIG NAVVY. Shut it. Give ’im a chanst.

TALL YOUTH. Silence for the blasted traitor?

      [_A youth plays on the concertina; there is laughter, then an
        abrupt silence._]


... and so on.

The whole of this scene is vigorous and convincing, so too the scene of
More’s death; but again and again we are irritated by the way Galsworthy
misses his chances. Take, for instance, the scene in which Katherine
uses her beauty and his love for her to tempt More from his ideal—it is
full of magnificent opportunities, and there is some fine stuff in it,
but somehow it misses fire. This may be partly due to the fact that in
his later plays Galsworthy’s restraint occasionally seems to lose its
force. Economy of words and emotion is effective only when used to
control the riches of both.

_A Bit O’ Love_ is in a sense the most personal of all the plays—I say
in a sense, because, for the first time, we find Galsworthy definitely
exploiting Place. The importance of Place in literature is a
comparatively new discovery, for we must not count the descriptive and
local novels which have been with us more or less from the first.
Studies in Place, which set out deliberately to bring forward the
personality—if I may use the term—of Place, are only just beginning, and
Galsworthy, with _A Bit O’ Love_, comes among the pioneers. It is his
latest play, and it will be interesting to watch if he chooses to
develop along this line.

We have the Devonshire village as a central character in the piece—the
various types which compose it are just so many parts of the whole, and
it would be a mistake to treat them as separate persons. The village is
at once sturdy and sweet and foolish, it is curious, it is pig-headed—it
is built of the wisps of moon-and-dew cobwebs, and of the sty-door
stakes from which they float. It is the common life of the village which
is dealt with here, rather than subtleties of atmosphere—the actual
locality has no definite existence apart from its inhabitants, which is
a milder practice of the art of Place. But the central idea is the same
as in all Place studies—the effect of the Place on the Man.

The man here is Michael Strangway, curate of the village, “a gentle
creature burnt within,” who plays the flute, and loves dumb animals, and
acts St Francis without the adorable Franciscan coarseness. His wife
pleads with him not to ruin her lover’s career by bringing a divorce,
and for love of her he promises. Unfortunately the interview is
overheard by a little gossiping village girl who has a grudge against
him because he had set free her imprisoned skylark. The news is spread,
and the village is righteously indignant, wrath culminating when the
curate crowns his impious toleration by falling upon the man who has
used a few plain words about his wife in a public-house. Attacked and
shunned on all sides for his attempt at a literal gospel, and betrayed
within by the ache and emptiness of his heart, the curate resolves on
suicide, but is rather tritely saved at the last moment by the little
che-ild of such occasions, who offers him “a bit o’ love.”

There is some good work in the play, an atmosphere of beautiful
wistfulness, tenderly combined with the bumpkin clump and flit. The
dance in the big barn has its full effect of mystic and rustic beauty;
there is infinite pathos in Strangway and Cremer setting out for a long
tramp together in the link of their bruised hearts—and Galsworthy has
done nothing more kindly-humorous than the meeting at the village inn,
with Sol Potter uneasily in the chair.

The play is beautifully written, but it would seem as if the author had
scarcely a clear idea himself of Strangway, and a little more planning
might have saved him from one or two banalities. The extreme
individuality, so to speak, of the curate’s problem—for no one can deny
that his was an exceptional case—is a bit in the way of a writer whose
chief concern is the social and general. But we must give a particular
welcome to _A Bit o’ Love_, because it is Galsworthy’s first real
experiment in Place, and one has a feeling that here is a grand new road
for him to tread.

There remain two plays, which are called respectively “A Fantasy” and
“An Allegory”—_The Pigeon_ and _The Little Dream_.

The first is a fantasy based on sober facts. Indeed it would be rightly
called a satire. It is a study—carried through in a spirit of comedy, in
spite of drunkenness, vice, poverty, and suicide—of three
irreclaimables, and of those who would reclaim them. Old Timson, the
drunkard; Mrs Megan, born light of love, who even while drowning thinks
of dancing; Ferrand, the vagabond, the wanderer of quaint
philosophy—they are a fantastic trio, because the sorrow and sordidness
of their lives is all hazed over by this half-comic, half-satiric glow
in which their creator chooses to see them. In themselves more hopeless
and tragic than any of the characters in _Strife_ or _Justice_, they
raise smiles instead of tears. It would seem almost as if the tragedy of
the outcast had stirred in Galsworthy those depths beyond sorrow, which
can find no expression save in laughter.

Various theorists argue about these three outcasts, and one good-natured
man befriends them. Wellwyn is a kindly study, and his easy methods,
however much his practical little daughter may blame him, do more to
humanise the poor wretches than the sterner tactics of Professor Calway
or Sir Thomas Huxton. But as a matter of fact no generosity will meet
the case, no theory. We can only laugh, and through laughter learn a
little more of pity.

There is some delightful humour in _The Pigeon_. As a rule Galsworthy’s
humour is too deeply tinged with bitterness to ring true; when it is not
embittered it is often ineffective or trivial, as in _Joy_ or _The
Eldest Son_. In _The Pigeon_, however, there are scenes of genuine
humour and fine satire, both in situation and in dialogue. The various
conceptions of character too are essentially humorous, which is seldom,
if ever, the case in the other plays. It is a sharp stroke which right
at the end of the play avenges the kindly Pigeon whom everyone has
plucked.


CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN [_in an attitude of expectation_]. This is the larst of
it, sir.

WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! Yes!

      [_He gives them money; then something seems to strike him and he
        exhibits certain signs of vexation. Suddenly he recovers, looks
        from one to the other, and then at the tea-things. A faint smile
        comes on his face._]

WELLWYN. You can finish the decanter.

                       [_He goes out in haste._]

CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN [_clinking the coins_]. Third time of arskin’! April
fool! Not ’arf. Good old Pigeon!

SECOND HUMBLE-MAN. ’Uman being, _I_ call ’im.

CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN [_taking three glasses from the last packing-case, and
pouring very equally into them_]. That’s right. Tell you wot, I’d never
’a’ touched this unless ’e’d told me, I wouldn’t—not with ’im.

SECOND HUMBLE-MAN. Ditto to that! This is a bit of orl right! [_Raising
his glass._] Good luck!

THIRD HUMBLE-MAN. Same ’ere!

      [_Simultaneously they place their lips smartly against the liquor,
        and at once let fall their faces and their glasses._]

CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN [_with great solemnity_]. Crikey! Bill! _Tea!_... E’s
got us!

                     [_The stage is blotted dark._]


_The Little Dream_ is rather a bitter allegory of the adventures of the
soul in search of life and happiness. Seelchen, the little mountain
girl, hears the call of the Wine Horn, typifying the delights of the
town and the world, and the Cow Horn, typifying the pleasures of her
mountain home, but there is a strange resemblance in the hard
disillusions they are bound to offer after their gifts, and only the
lonely Great Horn behind points to something finer and higher. There is
really not much interest, or indeed, much originality in the little
sketch, but there is some beautiful language, and Galsworthy is able to
give free rein to his sense of words and poetic faculty. There is real
poetry in some of the lyrics, and by them, rather than by his published
volume of verse, one judges him poet as well as playwright.

               “O flame that treads the marsh of time,
                  Flitting for ever low,
                Where, through the black enchanted slime,
                  We, desperate, following go—
                Untimely fire, we bid thee stay!
                  Into dark air above,
                The golden gipsy thins away—
                  So has it been with love.”



                               THE NOVELS
                                   I


Though undoubtedly Galsworthy owes his position as an artist and as a
thinking force to his plays, he still carries considerable weight as
both in his novels. That his novels have not the value, whether social
or literary, of his plays—that indeed his position as a novelist is
largely due to his fame as a playwright—does not make away with the fact
that he has given us some half-dozen novels of standing, which are worth
consideration in themselves, apart from anything their author may have
done in other fields.

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 his novels. A play is dependent mainly on its craft, for
this is a point which lies solely with the author, in which no actor,
however skilful, can help him; on the other hand, a novel depends
chiefly on its human interest, and this the author must supply himself,
since he has no intermediaries to make good where he fails. There is
little doubt that abstract ideas do not help the human interest of a
novel. It is remarkable how small a part the abstract plays in the lives
of even the most thoughtful of us, and anything in the nature of a
problem or an idea, of anything belonging to the brain rather than to
the heart, has a tendency to destroy the illusion of real life which it
is the chief object of a novelist to create.

Another reason why Galsworthy is more successful in his plays than in
his novels is that most good plays are founded on a situation, most good
novels on the development of a situation, and development is not a
characteristic of Galsworthy’s art. He likes to take a situation,
examine it from characteristic and conflicting points of view, and show
the effect it has on different lives, but he never attempts to develop
it, to start a chain of events from it, mould characters by it.
Practically every character in a Galsworthy novel, with the possible
exception of _The Dark Flower_, is the same at the end as at the
beginning. This means that in his novels he is still a playwright as far
as both situation and character are concerned. He develops neither, he
never goes forward, he goes round. The result is that his novels are
mostly plays in novel form, and they suffer in consequence.

In fact all the drawbacks of the novels may be said to arise from
defects in the human interest so essential to a novelist. It is not that
Galsworthy does not feel, and most passionately, for his characters,
neither is it that they are not flesh and blood, nor that their stories
are not real and moving. It is rather because they are types, not
individuals, and types chosen to fit some particular situation which has
been already selected. They are never mere pegs or mere puppets, but
somehow there is nothing creative about them; they lack the individual
touch which the actor can impart to a character in a play, but which the
author alone can give in a novel. Also they repeat themselves, there is
not enough diversity; the same groups arrange themselves in different
novels. Of course there are exceptions—Lord Miltoun in _The Patrician_,
Mr Stone in _Fraternity_—but these, on examination, prove to be only a
fining down of the type till it is almost an individual; there is no
definite creation.

However, against this defect, which is due to the intrusion of the
playwright into the novelist’s sphere, we must set a wonderful and
seldom-failing craft, which goes far to justify that intrusion. There
are few novelists with a finer sense of form than Galsworthy, few with a
finer sense of style—the conciseness of the dramatist teaches him the
need of arrangement and the full value to be wrung out of a word. In one
point only does the dramatist fail the novelist, and that, strange to
say, is in dialogue. Again and again the dialogue in the novels falls
flat, or is stilted, or irrelevant—and it is curious, when we remember
how strong the plays are in this respect.

There is a certain inequality about the seven novels: _The Island
Pharisees_, _The Man of Property_, _The Country House_, _Fraternity_,
_The Patrician_, _The Dark Flower_, and _The Freelands_. In every way
the first is the weakest, but, on the other hand, the last is not the
most successful. The finest are _The Man of Property_ and _Fraternity_.
Undoubtedly Galsworthy is at his best when his technique is at its
highest pitch of excellence, and weakest when his sense of form most
fails him. Form is never used by him to cover defects of interest,
beauty, or reality. _Fraternity_, which is very nearly his masterpiece,
almost reaches technical perfection, while _The Island Pharisees_—which
is as near as he can go to writing a thoroughly bad novel—is also the
most faultily constructed.

_The Island Pharisees_ shows perhaps more than any of the novels the raw
edges of his art. He is burning with indignation at the
self-righteousness of the British middle classes, and his power as a
novelist is as yet too undeveloped to cope with his zeal as a reformer.
He lacks too that subtlety of warfare which in the plays and later
novels makes his propaganda so effective and at the same time is one of
his truest safeguards as an artist—the exposure of a cause out of the
mouth of its own champions. He attacks crudely—through a series of
events which are not always above the suspicion of pre-arrangement,
through dialogue which is often manœuvred and artificial. None of his
characters, except Ferrand, the vagabond, has much of the breath of
life, and over the whole hangs a fog of bitterness which is scarcely
ever dispelled by those illuminating phrases and flashes of insight into
his opponents’ cause, which elsewhere make him so appealing.

There is little doubt that if _The Island Pharisees_ were Galsworthy’s
average instead of his low-water mark, his position as a novelist would
be negligible. But his other novels, without exception, are so superior
in technique, in human interest, in beauty, and in force, that we cannot
consider _The Island Pharisees_ as anything but the first uncertain step
of one who is feeling his way. In _The Man of Property_ we have the same
idea—the satire of a class—but it is brought before us so differently
that comparison is impossible.

The Forsyte family are representatives of that section of the middle
class whose chief aim is Possession. The Forsytes possess many
things—they possess money, they possess artistic treasures, houses,
wives, and children, they even possess talents; but with them the verb
“I have” is of more importance than its object. “This interests me, not
in itself, but because it is mine”—is their motto. In many ways they are
less heartless, less hypocritical than the country Pharisees; the
consciousness of possession brings a certain stamina, a worth and
solidarity, which compel admiration. Also Galsworthy has been far more
tolerant in their portrayal. The Forsytes are human, they are not like
the Dennants; they are undoubtedly types, even their differentiations
are typical, but they are types of flesh and blood, not merely of points
of view. There is something in the grouping of them too which is
impressive. These six old brothers whose god is property have a certain
greatness; though they and their lust of possession are satirised in
many telling episodes, we feel that nevertheless the nation would do
badly without them.

The chief representative of Forsytism belongs, however, to one of the
younger branches of the family. Soames Forsyte is essentially the Man of
Property, because we see the lust of possession working in him not only
through the splendid house he is building, but through his wife Irene.
It is in his attitude towards Irene that he declares himself most
definitely the Man of Property. He is not unkind to her, he is not
untrue to her, but she is his in the sense that the Robin Hill house is
his, and it is this realisation which fills her with bitterness and
loathing.

Irene belongs to the contrasting group which Galsworthy uses in his
novels as in his plays. She and her lover Bosinney stand for all that is
antagonistic to the Forsytes. In many ways Irene is one of Galsworthy’s
most vivid creations. She is a type we meet elsewhere in the novels, yet
she has about her certain elements of originality. Something individual
creeps into the magnetic softness, the passion-haunted quietness, which
are characteristic of so many Galsworthy women. She is human, and she is
in revolt—but not strenuously or effectively. Galsworthy has little
sympathy for the strong successful woman, who either defeats
circumstances or handles them with capable cunning. In his delineation
of June Forsyte, who belongs to this class, he is sometimes reluctantly
admiring, but never sympathetic.

June Forsyte, with her decided chin and managing ways, is the antithesis
of Irene, strong only in her softness. It is easy to understand how this
very contrast would have switched Bosinney’s love from one to the other,
but the change itself is not very convincingly brought about. Perhaps
this is partly due to the fact that Bosinney himself is not a success.
He is the representative of the contrast group; property to him is
nothing, he spends his time and talent—in the end risking his career—on
the house which is Soames Forsyte’s. On the other hand, it is his sudden
knowledge that another also owns the woman of whom he had thought
himself the sole possessor that drives him to madness and suicide.
Property makes its appeal even to him.

There is throughout the book a depth of gloom, as if the shadows of
great possessions lay over it. None of the characters is really
attractive, except, perhaps, old Jolyon Forsyte; there is something
subtly caddish about them all, and the author’s lack of sympathy sours
the whole. Studied in the light especially of his novels, it is a
strange error to call Galsworthy “detached.” The side he takes is always
apparent, in spite of what he says on the other, and his lack of
sympathy with the human representatives of the opposite point of view is
often so great as to put them out of drawing. Fine as the Forsytes are,
they would have been much finer if the author had penetrated in some
degree beneath their outer skin, shown sympathy with the springs of
their nature as well as understanding of their mental attitude. His
sympathies in _The Man of Property_ are undoubtedly with Irene Forsyte
and with Bosinney—though it would seem that this character sometimes
repelled and baffled even his creator.

On the whole there is something haunting about the book—something in the
gloom of its ending which makes us shudder after it is closed. Property
triumphs. Bosinney is beaten and killed by the Man of Property, and
Irene is brought back to the slavery from which she revolted.

  “Huddled in her grey fur against the sofa-cushions, she had a strange
  resemblance to a captive owl, bunched in its soft feathers against the
  wires of a cage. The supple erectness of her figure was gone, as
  though she had been broken by cruel exercise; as though there were no
  longer any reason for being beautiful, and supple, and erect.”

Thus the curtain rings down on Irene Forsyte, crushed under the heel of
prosperity, robbed of her love by a sudden awakening of the sense of
property in the heart of the man she had thought clean of it....

_The Country House_ also deals with a class, and it is the country
equivalent of the Forsytes. The Pendyces are big country proprietors,
but the property is to them a good deal more than material possession.
It is their Position in the county that they think of, their Standing;
Dignity is with them almost as important as Land, and more important
than Money. Also they are not quite so much a type as the Forsytes—in
certain broad characteristics they may be found in dozens of country
manors, but in others they are unique. They do everything with the
greatest amount of unnecessary trouble to themselves and other people.
“Pendyce,” says Paramor to Vigil, when discussing the threatened
divorce, “he’d give his eyes for the case not to come on, but you’ll see
he’ll rub everything up the wrong way, and it’ll be a miracle if we
succeed. That’s ’Pendycitis’!”

Even George, who in some ways breaks free from the family tradition, is
afflicted by it. It is largely owing to Pendycitis that he loses Helen
Bellew. He tires her with that dogged quality of his, which spares
neither himself nor her, but sends him plodding and muddling on in the
face of impossible circumstances. He cannot yield, and he is not really
strong—he is a Pendyce; and it is with luxurious relief that she finds
herself free of him at last.

Helen Bellew is only lightly sketched in, her presence is almost always
merely physical. She has many of the outward essentials of the
Galsworthy heroine, that particular dower of ripe, seductive, yet
delicate, beauty which we find in Irene Forsyte, Audrey Noel, and Olive
Cramier. But she is heartless—which those others are not—and hence we
seem to find a certain reluctance on the author’s part to probe into
her. What is heartless cannot be truly beautiful, according to his
creed, and he wants us to realise how beautiful Helen Bellew was, so
that she became a force, a moulding-stamp, to the hard, unimpressionable
George Pendyce.

The real heroine of _The Country House_ is George’s mother, Margery
Pendyce, and she is, practically without exception, the most charming
character in Galsworthy’s novels. She is the Mother—not the Mother in
her elemental form, but the Mother as civilisation and education and
pain have made her; not very different from the primitive type, perhaps,
but dainty with a score of sweet refinements. Quieted by her long
subjection in the school of Pendyce, she yet has the invincible courage
of gentleness; accustomed for years to yield where her own comfort and
happiness only are concerned, she takes an impregnable stand at last
when her children’s welfare is at stake. There is something heroic in
this gentle, soft-gowned, lavender-scented figure, moving so peacefully
among her roses, caring so dutifully for her household and her husband,
and then suddenly putting them all from her, to take her place beside
her outcast son.

  “I have gone up to London to be with George” (she writes simply to
  Pendyce), “you will remember what I said last night. Perhaps you did
  not quite realise that I meant it. Take care of poor old Roy, and
  don’t let them give him too much meat this hot weather. Jackman knows
  better than Ellis how to manage the roses. Please do not worry about
  me. Good-bye, dear Horace; I am sorry if I grieve you.”

Margery Pendyce is the chief of the contrast group in this novel; with
her is Gregory Vigil, the idealist, who looks at the sky when it would
be better if he looked at the street and saw where he was going.
Unselfishness, quietness, and idealism are the contrasts of Pendycitis.
The Reverend Hussell Barter, who is a kind of clerical Pendyce, is one
of Galsworthy’s most successful attempts at humour. He is drawn with
many a memorable satiric flick, and doubtless this is a reason why he
succeeds, for Galsworthy’s humour without irony is apt to be trivial.

Another striking character is the Spaniel John—here Galsworthy has
succeeded in giving a dog a very definite personality. John is not only
a dog, he is a spaniel—the distinct psychology of the spaniel works in
him, and we could never think of him as a terrier or a collie. Indeed
the author has taken as much trouble over the Spaniel John as over any
character in the book, and been as successful.



                               THE NOVELS
                                   II


One can say without much fear of contradiction that after _The Man of
Property_ the finest of Galsworthy’s novels is _Fraternity_. Indeed it
comes as near being a perfect work of art as any novel ever written.
There have been many novels with a stronger appeal, a wider
comprehension, a greater depth and force, but few of which it can be
said that they fulfil more completely the canons of novel-writing. And
this is to be understood not only of the letter but of the
spirit—_Fraternity_ is no mere triumph of technique, it is a moving,
human and beautiful story, about people who are real, if drawn in pale
colours, and situations which are Life, in spite of their elusiveness.

In its perfection of balance, _Fraternity_ reminds one of the plays.
There is a central situation, flanked by two contrasting groups. It is
not of mere industrial or moral significance, nor is it the satirisation
of any particular class; it is a problem which has always occupied human
minds, and will do so till the end of time—the problem of the rich and
the poor. It is embodied in old Mr Stone, with his great unfinished—and,
we suspect, ever to be unfinished—work on Brotherhood. “Each one of us
has a shadow in those places—in those streets.” Mr Stone is one of
Galsworthy’s finest achievements. In him the author shows what few have
even attempted to show, the infinite pathos of moral greatness. There is
no denying the greatness of Mr Stone, in spite of his mental kink, and
his pathos is as evident. He is alone, it is his own doing; he cannot,
if he would, bind himself up with others. He writes of Fraternity, but
in life he never touches a brother’s hand—he does nothing to unite those
two brothers whose embrace he writes of, and his own life is equally
remote from either. They come near him, they put out tentative,
appealing hands—and with a wistful sigh he turns to his book.

The Classes are represented by the two Dallison families, the Masses by
the Hughes, Creed, and the little model. It is remarkable how tightly
the whole fabric is drawn together—Hilary and Stephen Dallison have
married two sisters, Bianca and Cecilia, and their Shadows live together
under the same roof. We know what would be, with an average novelist,
the result of such an effort at concentration, but nothing could be more
natural, more inevitable, than the knitting up of these groups.

The little model is not a common Galsworthy type; in fact, she stands
almost alone in his novels. Quiet and soft she undoubtedly is, like most
of his women, but the meek vulgarity of her little mind is something
new. She is drawn with a wonderful sympathy, as indeed are all the
characters in the book; for in _Fraternity_, Galsworthy does not seem to
have been so much struck by the irony of his theme as by its pathos.
There is one beautiful account of her, leaving Hilary’s house, which
sheds a tender light like a spring sunset over her figure, making it at
once terribly pathetic and terribly young.

  “She kept turning her face back as she went down the path, as though
  to show her gratitude. And presently, looking up from his manuscript,
  he saw her face still at the railings, peering through a lilac bush.
  Suddenly she skipped, like a child let out of school. Hilary got up,
  perturbed. The sight of that skipping was like the rays of a lantern
  turned on the dark street of another human being’s life. It revealed,
  as in a flash, the loneliness of this child, without money and without
  friends, in the midst of this great town.”

The Hughes group is in its units to be found in many of Galsworthy’s
works: the bullying husband, gross, selfish, an animal—but an animal
broken—the meek wife who complains and nags, but has at the bottom of
her heart an unreasoning dog-like quality which will let her make no
effective efforts for freedom; the poor old man, fallen on evil days,
yet with a philosophy, and a self-respect which is almost pride.
Galsworthy never sees the poor and outcast in an aureole of false
idealism. If he sadly confesses that the classes do not know how to help
the masses, he also confesses that the masses do not know how to help
themselves. If the Dallisons are timid and inefficient, Hughes is an
undeserving brute, and Mrs Hughes a scold who is largely responsible for
her own ills. The little model is forlorn, but she is also designing.
The result is that an atmosphere of deep depression hangs over
_Fraternity_. One might say that its moral was “For rich is rich and
poor is poor, and never the twain shall meet”—except in the unfinished
book of a cranky idealist.

  “Like flies caught among the impalpable and smoky threads of cobwebs,
  so men struggle in the webs of their own natures, giving here a start,
  there a pitiful small jerking, long sustained, and falling into
  stillness. Enmeshed they were born, enmeshed they die, fighting
  according to their strength to the end; to fight in the hope of
  freedom, their joy; to die, not knowing they are beaten, their
  reward.”

_The Patrician_ is scarcely equal to _Fraternity_. In it the bitterness,
which seemed to have slumbered for a while, awakes, and helps to distort
the picture. Also in no novel, I think, is more obvious Galsworthy’s
lack of sympathy with certain of his characters. The book suffers in
having for its central figure a man whom the author admires but does not
really understand. Lord Miltoun is a noble conception, but Galsworthy
does not get to the bottom of his struggle. One feels all the way
through that he admires him, but cannot sympathise with him, and the
result is that the real grounds of Miltoun’s actions are seldom
displayed. We never penetrate beneath the surface of this character,
whose inner mind we nevertheless would know rather than many whose
workings are shown us.

There is also a group, the Valleys group, whom Galsworthy is
passionately wanting to treat fairly, but for whom he cannot conceal a
bitterness not unflavoured with contempt. Lord Valleys, his wife, his
sons, his daughters, are drawn with a painstaking effort to hide his
real feeling towards them, but the effort often breaks down; even
Barbara, splendid and brave, has a repelling hardness in which stick one
or two ironic arrows of her creator. Courtier, who represents the Other
Point of View, is sometimes rather vaguely drawn, and suffers in the
opposite way to Miltoun, for Galsworthy, while apparently sympathising
with his attitude, does not seem to have the same admiration for his
character.

The only person in the book who is both admired and understood is Mrs
Noel. Here we have a very appealing figure, tragic yet quiet, courageous
yet soft, made for love, vibrant with passion, full of an infinite
delicacy and self-respect. Self-respect is an unfailing characteristic
of Galsworthy’s good women; he has no sympathy with the woman who in
times of stress loses her personal dignity, and forgets all those little
trivial refinements of body which are part of her greatness. Audrey Noel
“incorrigibly loved to look as charming as she could; and even if no one
were going to see her, she never felt that she looked charming enough.”
He realises that for a woman who respects herself it is not enough to be
merely clean and tidy, she must be as beautiful as circumstances will
allow—it is not vanity but her dignity which demands it. Mrs Noel
appeals because her courage is so infinite, and because it is so
essentially a woman’s courage, a thing of gentleness and soft endurance,
not of the stiff but of the smiling lip.

There is a certain unsatisfactoriness in the tragedy of her relations
with Miltoun. He falls from his ideal, but only half-way, so to
speak—the rest of his difficulty is solved by her abnegation. One is
given the impression, in spite of much talking between the characters,
that the vital heart of the matter has never been reached. “If the
lark’s song means nothing—if that sky is a morass of our invention—if we
are pettily creeping on, furthering nothing—persuade me of it, and I’ll
bless you.” That desperate cry of Miltoun seems to give more of the
essence of his struggle than any arguments about Religion and Authority.
One feels that both were only names on lips—it was not merely a respect
for authority that made Miltoun first deny himself Audrey, and then when
he had taken her, believe himself bound to throw aside his public life.
The appeal of Authority is not made convincing enough, the appeal to
Religion not spiritual enough, for a man of Miltoun’s type—one sees him
acting, generally at least, according to the dead letter of both; one
knows there must have been a quickening spirit behind to drive such a
man, but one is not shown it.

_The Dark Flower_ is in some ways a departure from his usual methods. It
lacks the central problem, with its balanced and contrasted groups. It
is not a study of a situation nor of a class; it is a study of passion.
There has always been plenty of passion in Galsworthy’s books; he is not
a cold writer, and though his central idea is often social or
intellectual, in his treatment of it he never loses sight of the fact
that human emotions are stronger than human intellects, and play a more
important part in all situations, no matter how purely technical and
general these may appear. But in _The Dark Flower_, passion is not an
incident or a moulding force, it is the central theme. We are shown its
growth in three different stages—its first kindling in the heart of a
boy, its consummation in the young man and woman, its last flicker in
the man who sees old age approaching and to whom youth calls.

To carry out his idea Galsworthy is forced to put aside much of that
compactness which is so effective in his other novels. Indeed _The Dark
Flower_ is really three separate stories, of which the hero, Mark
Lennan, is the connecting link. A really fine character might have held
these three episodes together, but Lennan is vaguely drawn. He is most
convincing as boy and middle-aged man; in the central part he is swamped
in the vehemence of his own love. Indeed the passion of Lennan and Olive
Cramier is far the greatest thing about them—taken apart from it they
are both a little colourless. Olive is much less life-like than Audrey
Noel, Irene Forsyte, and others of her kind; she is vague and shadowy
beside the heroines of the two other episodes, Anne Stormer and Nell
Dromore.

These women are in many ways the best-drawn characters in the book. Anne
Stormer, caught on the fringe of middle age by the gust of her passion
for a boy of eighteen, swept by it, rocked by it, but conscious all the
time of its hopelessness with regard to herself, its cruelty with regard
to him, in the end gives him up to the little girl of his own age, with
whom he climbs trees, and in whose presence he forgets the dark flower
whose scent in her bosom had given him his first staggering draught of
life. She is a character fine through her pathos, through the
inevitableness of her renunciation, which is not made from any high
spirit of courage or self-sacrifice, but simply because she must.

Very different is Nell Dromore, who sends the mocking cry of youth after
Lennan when, having passed through the storm of his love for Olive
Cramier, and married his boyhood’s playfellow, Sylvia Doone, he sees old
age creeping towards him, passionless and adventureless. She is an
extraordinary study of mingled abandonment and innocence. She leads him
on by methods which would not disgrace a courtesan if they had not about
them all the delicious shamelessness of a child. In the end he has the
strength to wrench himself from her, knowing that she brings him but a
false hope, for which his wife’s broken heart must pay. Sylvia, though
winning and sweet in the first episode, is rather shadowy here, where
she has such an important part. No doubt her ineffectiveness is to a
certain extent deliberate, but for all that it should not be unreal, or
we lose sight of it as a force in Lennan’s struggle.

On the whole it must be said that Galsworthy is at his best when most
characteristic, and here, where he turns to the methods of the more
ordinary novelist, he loses some of his strength. There are, however,
some impressive scenes in the book, and he has again shown his peculiar
successfulness in dealing with youth and young love. There are
delightful pictures of the boy Mark, in which his growing,
half-understood infatuation is never allowed to drown the frankness of
his youth; and the scenes between him and Sylvia remind us of similar
scenes in _Joy_.

In _The Freelands_, Galsworthy reverts to the more characteristic mood;
indeed the book is reminiscent—in a stimulating, legitimate way. Its
structure reminds one of _The Man of Property_, and its environment of
_The Country House_. As in the first of these the web was spun over the
framework of the six brothers Forsyte, so here we have the four brothers
Freeland to serve as pegs—and they live in circumstances that recall the
Pendyces and their problems. Not that they are all four country
people—Felix is a successful author and lives at Hampstead, and John is
in the Home Office; but the family meets at Becket, where Stanley who
has made a fortune by exporting ploughs, has an estate, and Tod, the
eccentric and revolutionary, lives the simple life, freehold.

Then there is the old mother, one of those tender, sturdy, odd
patricians whom the author can draw so clearly, and there is the young
generation as represented by Nedda, Felix’s inquiring daughter, and
Tod’s anarchistic Derek and Sheila—also the wives of three Freelands,
especially Tod’s Kirsteen.

These characters are not considered so much in relation to each other as
in relation to the central problem, which is The Land—and The Land with
Galsworthy is, of course, not the good earth but the slaves that toil on
it. He studies the labouring man in connection with his employers, the
petty tyrannies of Manor, Parsonage, and Farm. Bob Tryst is evicted
because his marriage with his deceased wife’s sister displeases the
Squiress, Lady Malloring, and the poor Gaunts are hounded from pillar to
post because the daughter has “got into trouble.” Galsworthy pillories
Feudalism, which he sees rampant over English rusticity, and parts of
_The Freelands_ read like a Gladstone League pamphlet.

However, to any one who loathes “the People,” whether of fields or
streets, the central interest of _The Freelands_ is Galsworthy’s study
of a modern English family. He is rather fond of this especial study—we
have it in _The Man of Property_, _The Country House_, and _The
Patrician_; we see it hovering near _Fraternity_. The combinations and
permutations of blood relationship seem to interest him enormously—the
modern push and individualism, half attacking, half combining with
old-fashioned ideas of kinship and unity. He shows how the family Idea
survives, in spite of actual disruptions, and can outlive even an utter
lack of common life, interest, or sympathy—so that the unloved brother
must come somehow before the loved stranger, simply because he is One of
the Family. It is probably a lurking of the primitive clan instinct, and
one would like to see it treated of even more thoroughly than Galsworthy
has done. It is interesting to watch him with these Freelands, linked by
their family tie, and also, in this case, by the wise, kindly, foolish
old mother of them all—who is, however, Tod’s in particular.

In other matters _The Freelands_ makes its predecessor, _The Dark
Flower_, stand out even more as an exception or parenthesis. In his
latest novel we have all his early, usual traits: all his old defects of
too general a characterisation, too careful a balance, too deliberate a
sacrifice of the artist to the moralist, but at the same time the
virtues of these defects—restraint, craft, and purpose, and, besides,
those intrinsic qualities which are the real building-stuff of his work.

The characters of these four brothers, their wives and children and
associates, are drawn with a firm touch lightened by much satire of the
kinder sort. There is that sense and grasp of beauty which we find so
inevitably in Galsworthy’s treatment of even the stuffiest theme. We
have, too, a sense of aloofness which, if it is sometimes irritating, is
occasionally majestic, and lit by warm, sudden flashes of penetration
into characters one would have thought, by other signs, to be beyond his
sphere of understanding. The book may not be so good as _Fraternity_, it
is certainly not so great as _The Man of Property_, but it is,
nevertheless, among the best he has given us, which is encouraging,
since it is, though only temporarily, one hopes, the last.



                              THE SKETCHES


_Villa Rubein_ and four short stories under the title of _A Man of
Devon_ were published anonymously. All early efforts, they are not on a
line with Galsworthy’s later work, but they have about them a certain
beauty and individuality which makes them worth considering. Perhaps
their chief characteristic is delicacy: they are water-colours, in many
ways exquisitely conceived and shaded, but perhaps a trifle pale and
washed out, a trifle—it must be owned—uninteresting.

_Villa Rubein_, describing with much sensitive charm the life of a
half-Austrian household, is full of tenderness, but lacking somehow in
grip. The characters are more attractive than most of Galsworthy’s—in
fact, in no work of his do we meet such a uniformly charming group of
people. They are sketched, even the less pleasing, with an entire
absence of bitterness, and the heroine, Christian, and her little
half-German sister are delightful in their freshness and grave
sweetness. Miss Naylor and old Nic Treffry are also drawn with a loving
and convincing hand. The book seems to have been written in a mellow
mood which passed with it. Yet we pay for any absence of bitterness,
propaganda or pessimism, by a corresponding lack of force. It must be
confessed that Galsworthy is most effective when he is most gloomy, most
penetrating when he is most bitter, most humorous when he is most
satirical.

The short stories call for no special comment except _The Salvation of a
Forsyte_, where we meet for the first time Swithin Forsyte, later to
figure in _The Man of Property_. We are introduced to an early adventure
of his, which is treated with some technical skill and an impressive
irony. The tale has grip, and is not far off French excellence of craft.
The other stories are too long for their themes, which, if not actually
thin in themselves, are dragged out in the telling.

Of very different stuff are the four volumes of sketches—_A Commentary_,
_A Motley_, _The Inn of Tranquillity_, and _The Little Man_. In these,
except, perhaps, in the last, we have some of Galsworthy’s best work,
much of it equal, in its different way, to the finest of the plays and
novels.

_A Commentary_ deals chiefly with the life of the very poor, showing the
intimacy of the author’s knowledge, and the depths of his sympathy. Some
of the sketches are indictments of the social order which favours those
who have money and tramples those who have none. _Justice_, for
instance, is a fresh exposure of the oft-exposed inequality of the
divorce laws where rich and poor are concerned. _A Mother_ is a piteous
revelation of those depths of horror and humiliation which form the
daily life of many. Continually, in the plays and in the novels,
Galsworthy reveals the utter brutishness of some of these submerged
ones. He never attempts to enforce his social ethics by glorification of
those he champions. Such men as Hughes, in _Fraternity_, or the husband,
in _A Mother_, are absolutely of the lowest stuff and, it would seem,
unworthy of a hand to help them out of the mud in which they roll. But
here lies the subtlety of the reproach—it is the social system with its
cruelties and stupidities which is responsible for this. There is
something more forceful than all the sufferings of the deserving in this
grim picture of utter degradation, the depths of bestialism into which
mismanaged civilisation can grind divine souls.

In other of the sketches we are shown the opposite side of the
picture—the selfishness of the prosperous, their lack of ideals and
imagination. Now Galsworthy becomes bitter; with a steely hardness he
describes the comfortable life of the upper middle classes, of the
fashionable and wealthy. The bias of _A Commentary_ is obvious
throughout, and throughout propaganda takes the first place. The
fragments are held together by the central idea, which is the
exposure—ironic, indignant, embittered, infinitely pitying—of the
inequalities between the poor and the rich. True, there is atmosphere,
style, a sense of character; but in _A Commentary_ the artist takes
second place.

_A Motley_ is, as the title implies, a collection linked up by no
central view-point. Character sketches, episodes of the streets and of
the fields, reflections on life, art, manners, anything, and all widely
different in style and length, crowd together between the covers,
without any definite scheme. They show extraordinary powers of
observation and intuition, and at the same time a certain lack of grip,
which is always the first of Galsworthy’s weaknesses to come to light in
a failing situation. Some of the sketches are too slight, over-fined. On
the other hand, some have true poetry and true pathos in their
conception. The style is more polished, the pleading less special, the
knowledge less embittered than in _A Commentary_. Particularly
successful is _A Fisher of Men_, in which Galsworthy is at his best,
giving us a sympathetic and tragic picture of a type with which we know
he has little sympathy—there is no bitterness here, just pathos. _Once
More_ is a study of lower-class life slightly recalling _A Mother_, but
here again is far more tenderness, due partly, no doubt, to the
wistfulness of youth that creeps into the story. Then there are sketches
of life and the furtive love of the London parks; no one has realised
more poignantly than Galsworthy all the tragedy of hidden meetings and
hidden partings with which our public places are filled.

_The Inn of Tranquillity_ is also a mixed collection, and in it we see
far more of Galsworthy the poet and the artist than of Galsworthy the
social reformer. There are in the book fragments of sheer beauty which
would be hard to beat anywhere in modern prose. Take, for instance, the
painting of dawn in _Wind in the Rocks_:

  “That god came slowly, stalking across far over our heads from top to
  top; then, of a sudden, his flame-white form was seen standing in a
  gap of the valley walls; the trees flung themselves along the ground
  before him, and censers of pine gum began swinging in the dark aisles,
  releasing their perfumed steam. Throughout these happy ravines where
  no man lives, he shows himself naked and unashamed, the colour of pale
  honey; on his golden hair such shining as one has not elsewhere seen;
  his eyes like old wine on fire. And already he had swept his hand
  across the invisible strings, for there had arisen the music of
  uncurling leaves and flitting things.”

Take also just this sentence from _A Novelist’s Allegory_: “those pallid
gleams ... remain suspended like a handful of daffodils held up against
the black stuffs of secrecy.”

Galsworthy allows himself to play with words, blend them, contrast them,
savour their sweet sound and the roll and suck of them under the tongue
... he becomes a poet in prose. But it is not only words that make his
poetry. He seizes aspects of beauty and gives them to us palpitating,
fresh from their capture, a poet’s prey. Such is _Riding in Mist_, a
consummate study of the misty moor, damp, sweet, and dangerous. There
is, too, a wonderful sense of locality in _That Old-Time Place_—it
throbs with atmosphere.

But we have many studies besides of words and place. There is
_Memories_, in which Galsworthy uses his real understanding of
dog-nature, faithful and true. There is _The Grand Jury_, in which he
shows the fullness of his sympathy for the human dog, the bottom dog, so
generally and necessarily ignored by laws which are inevitably made for
the upper layer of humanity. We have, too, some illuminating comments on
the world of letters. In _About Censorship_ there is fine irony, and in
_Some Platitudes Concerning the Drama_ plenty of illumination. Indeed,
in this article we are given a plain enough statement of the rules which
evidently govern Galsworthy’s own work. For instance: “A good plot is
that sure edifice which slowly rises out of the interplay of
circumstance on temperament and temperament on circumstance, within the
enclosing atmosphere of an idea.” There could be no clearer definition
of the plan governing _Strife_ and _The Silver Box_. The pronouncement
on dramatic dialogue, too, applies admirably to much of Galsworthy’s own
achievement:

  “The art of writing true dramatic dialogue is an austere art, denying
  itself all license, grudging every sentence devoted to the mere
  machinery of the play, suppressing all jokes and epigrams severed from
  character, relying for fun and pathos on the fun and tears of life.
  From start to finish good dialogue is hand-made, like good lace;
  clear, of fine texture, furthering with each thread the harmony and
  strength of a design to which all must be subordinated.”

In his last book of sketches—_The Little Man and other
Satires_—Galsworthy has made a deliberate sacrifice of beauty. He has
left the luminous Italian backgrounds of _The Inn of Tranquillity_, the
rustling English twilights of _A Motley_, for the midnight lamp on his
study table. This is why, perhaps, _The Little Man_ depresses me.
Galsworthy has not stood the test—he has grown bitter. His satire is
more akin to that of Swift than Samuel Butler, but without Swift’s
redeeming largeness, his tumbling restlessness. Galsworthy’s bitterness
is the well-bred bitterness of the pessimist at afternoon tea; Swift is
the pessimist in the tavern, raging round and breaking pots.

However, an author’s point of view is not a fair subject for criticism,
any more than the shape of his head; he probably cannot help it. But it
may be deplored.

The most striking thing about the book itself is the subdivision titled
_Studies in Extravagance_. Here we have some remorseless, if only
partial, truth—the fierce glow of the searchlight, more concentrated
though more limited than the wide shining of the sun. We have _The
Writer_, _The Housewife_, _The Plain Man_, etc., all pierced through to
their most startling worst. Galsworthy will make no concessions—he will
not show us a single motherly redeeming virtue in that woman of schemes
and covert horribleness whom he presents as a possible variety of
British matron. So too with his Writer—those flickers of amiable naivety
which occasionally humanise the writers most of us know are shut out
from this portrait of an ape playing with the ABC. It is clever, fierce,
vindictive, and partly true.

There are some gentler sketches in the book—for instance, the
name-piece, in which we have a really witty and typical picture of an
American, with his God’s own gift of admiring good deeds he will not do
himself. There is also _Abracadabra_, in which the satire is
fundamentally tender, and with little significant bitterness—though in
time one comes to resent Galsworthy’s inalienable idea that every woman
is ill-used in marriage. There is also such genuine wit, terseness, and
point in _Hall Marked_ that one can afford to skip the humours of the
parson’s trousers. _Ultima Thule_ is more in _The Motley_ and
_Commentary_ vein. We are glad to meet the old man who could tame cats
and bullfinches. But why sigh over him so much? He was happy and to be
envied, even though he lived in a back room on a few farthings. This
misplaced pity is becoming irritating in Galsworthy. His earlier
works—_Strife_, _The Man of Property_—are innocent of it, but lately it
has grown to be a habit with him. He cannot resist the temptation to
weep over everyone whose clothes are not quite as good as his own.

It is scarcely surprising that a writer with Galsworthy’s sense of words
and atmosphere should have written a book of verse—the only surprise is
that his solitary experiment in poetry should not have been more
successful. When we remember the exquisite prose of his plays, novels
and sketches, the admirable description, the sense of atmosphere, not
forgetting also the genuine poetry of much of _The Little Dream_, we are
surprised not to find in _Moods, Songs and Doggerels_, anything of
permanent quality, or worthy to stand beside his other work. There are
some delightful songs of the country, of Devon, one or two little
fragrant snatches, like puffs of breeze. But the more ambitious pieces,
the _Moods_, are for the most part wanting in inspiration. They are just
prose, and not nearly such fine prose as we have a right to expect from
Galsworthy. One or two stand out as poetry, and these are mostly studies
in atmosphere, such as _Street Lamps_:

                 “Lamps, lamps! Lamps ev’rywhere!
                  You wistful, gay, and burning eyes,
                  You stars low-driven from the skies
                  Down on the rainy air.

                  You merchant eyes, that never tire
                  Of spying out our little ways;
                  Of summing up our little days
                  In ledgerings of fire—

                  Inscrutable your nightly glance,
                  Your lighting and your snuffing out,
                  Your flicker through the windy rout,
                  Guiding this mazy dance.

                  O watchful, troubled gaze of gold,
                  Protecting us upon our beats—
                  You piteous glamour of the streets,
                  Youthless, and never old!”



                         GALSWORTHY THE ARTIST


Galsworthy is an artist before he is a social reformer. It is a mistake
to consider him chiefly from the second point of view; for he is not so
much a thinker spreading his propaganda by artistic methods as an artist
whose excellence is grounded in ideas. _Strife_, for instance, was not
written to expose the evils of our present industrial system so much as
from the impulse to create, grounding itself in an economic
problem—which the artist displays and analyses, just as others, and he
at other times, would display and analyse any problem of love, manners,
life, or human nature, in the name of “plot.”

For this reason his propaganda interferes very little with his art.
Moreover, it is a general propaganda, which lends itself more directly
to artistic purposes than a particular one. It would be far more
difficult, for instance, to write a human and artistic novel on the
evils of leaded glaze than it would be to write one on the selfish
stupidity of which leaded glaze is the result. Galsworthy does not
attack, at least in force, any definite abuses, he attacks those cruel
and stupid powers which are at the bottom of them all—the love of
property for property’s sake, the false respectability of the
unassailed, the lack of comprehension of one class for another,
Pharisaism, materialism, selfishness, and cowardice. He is the champion
of the bottom dog, whether human or animal. He pleads passionately for
sympathy with the abused and downtrodden and outcast. His throbbing pity
vitalises his propaganda, so that it not only ceases to constrict his
art, but positively enriches it.

When he is at his best we find a perfect blending of art and idea. The
second is bound up in the first, an essential part of it. As he himself
says in _Some Platitudes concerning Drama_: “A drama must be shaped so
as to have a spire of meaning. Every grouping of life and character has
its inherent moral; and the business of the dramatist is so to pose the
group as to bring that moral poignantly to the light of day.”

This ideal is completely fulfilled in _Strife_ and _The Silver Box_,
also in _Fraternity_, _The Man of Property_, and some of the
sketches—hence it is in these that we must look for his best work. Now
and then the idea carries away the artist, warping his vision, and we
have instances of special pleading, such as _Justice_, _The Fugitive_,
and _The Island Pharisees_.

In a sense Galsworthy’s propaganda is a part of his technical equipment.
He uses it chiefly in laying his bases; the solidity and centralisation
of his work is due largely to the economic and social ideas on which he
rears the structure of human passion and frailty. He does not make
Shaw’s mistake of using dialogue, rather than situation, as a means of
propaganda, neither does he rely much on character. His moral is
inherent in his situations, and he fails only when he lets it stray from
the basic idea into the super-structure of character and dialogue.

As an artist pure and simple his chief assets are a sense of situation,
a sense of atmosphere, and the power of presenting both beautifully. His
sense of character is not particularly wide or profound. He deals with
types rather than individuals, and the same types repeat themselves a
trifle monotonously. Though he has great gifts of intuition, and
occasional penetrating flashes, he does not work much below the surface.
It is astonishing, when one considers the force and passion of so much
of his work, to realise that it is all got from surface-workings—not
that he ever suggests the shallow or superficial, it is simply a
reluctance to dig.

Take, for example, Miltoun, in _The Patrician_; here he has attempted to
draw a character whose actions spring from the inmost recesses of his
being, and the result is a certain unconvincingness marring a fine
achievement, for Galsworthy can penetrate only in swift spasms of
intuition, and the delineation of a character like Miltoun’s requires no
spasmodic descent, but a perpetual working in the buried and profound.
Galsworthy is a psychological analyst of some skill; he is sensitive to
psychological variations, but he catches these only in their exterior
manifestations, and the result is not so much a lack of profundity as a
lack of grip. For this reason his characters, charming as they sometimes
are, interesting as they always are, never succeed in being absolutely
Life—we never come to know them really intimately, they are more
acquaintances than friends.

This surface-working in character is liable to impair situation, since
the two are interdependent. Galsworthy is a master of situation, but
occasionally, when the depths ought to be sounded, we are put off with a
consummate skill of arrangement, a perfection of combination and
interplay. This is so splendidly done that it is generally not till
afterwards that we realise the lack, and this only because Galsworthy’s
work so often leaves an after-taste of aloofness, that, as every lover
of Galsworthy knows he is not aloof, one sees that something must be
wrong with the art which gives such an impression.

Critics speak of Galsworthy’s detachment, but the true lover knows this
is not so. The sense of aloofness is due partly to his scrupulous
fairness in examining every point of view, partly to an exaggerated
restraint, and a shrinking from analyses which are not purely
intellectual. One often wishes that he would give himself rein. It is
not from lack of power that he holds himself in, it seems to be rather
from a certain shyness, a fastidious shrinking from troubling the depths
or breaking the gates. On the rare occasions he gives himself freedom,
we are struck by the force and vitality of it all. Strange as it may
seem in one who has been so often accused of coldness, he is masterly in
conveying the charged atmosphere of passion. It is true that he writes
with restraint, with almost too much restraint, but he has a wonderful
power of suggesting the heavy sweetness of passion, its joys, its
languors, its delicacies rather than its ferocities.

Take, for example, the scene in _The Man of Property_, when Irene
returns to her husband, after having for the first time met Bosinney as
a lover:

  “He hardly recognised her. She seemed on fire, so deep and rich the
  colour of her cheeks, her eyes, her lips, and of the unusual blouse
  she wore. She was breathing fast and deep, as though she had been
  running, and with every breath perfume seemed to come from her hair,
  and from her body, like perfume from an opening flower.... He lifted
  his finger towards her breast, but she dashed his hand aside. ‘Don’t
  touch me!’ she cried. He caught her wrist; she wrenched it away. ‘And
  where have you been?’ he asked. ‘In heaven—out of this house!’ With
  those words she fled upstairs.... And Soames stood motionless. What
  prevented him from following her? Was it that, with the eyes of faith,
  he saw Bosinney looking down from that high window in Sloane Street,
  straining his eyes for yet another glimpse of Irene’s vanished figure,
  cooling his flushed face, dreaming of the moment when she flung
  herself on his breast—the scent of her still in the air around and the
  sound of her laugh that was like a sob?”

Next to a sense of situation Galsworthy must be granted a sense of
atmosphere. This is due to the extraordinary sensitiveness he brings
into his work, as distinct from penetration.

  “Strong sunlight was falling on that little London garden, disclosing
  its native shadowiness; streaks and smudges such as Life smears over
  the faces of those who live too consciously. The late perfume of the
  lilac came stealing forth into the air faintly smeethed with
  chimney-smoke. There was brightness but no glory, in that little
  garden; scent, but no strong air blown across golden lakes of
  buttercups, from seas of springing clover, or the wind-silver of young
  wheat; music, but no full choir of sound, no hum.”

This passage from _Fraternity_ shows Galsworthy’s peculiar grasp of
subtleties, those pseudo-expressions of emotion in Nature, which only
the sensitive can find in their less obvious aspects. For the more
obvious aspects, he has not so much attention. He deals little with
storms and furies, with nature as a power. Nature to him is rather an
influence, a thing of crafty workings; and he loves above all others
hours of pale sunlight, faint dawn, or, more still, twilight languid and
hushed, full of troubled perfumes:

  “All things waited. The creatures of night were slow to come forth
  after that long bright summer’s day, watching for the shades of the
  trees to sink deeper and deeper into the now chalk-white water;
  watching for the chalk-white face of the sky to be masked with velvet.
  The very black plumed trees themselves seemed to wait in suspense for
  the grape-bloom of night. All things stared, wan in that hour of
  passing day—all things had eyes wistful and unblessed.”[1]

-----

Footnote 1:

  _The Dark Flower._

-----

In the matter of style, Galsworthy is not a purist. One finds a split
infinitive spoiling a procession of beautiful words, and one
occasionally loses patience over a squad of panting verbless sentences
all beginning with “And.” But he has a gift worth more than grammatical
perfection, and that is a real sense of words. In their combinations,
contrasts, and values, he marshals them with a poet’s strategy. He loves
those words which hold their meanings as soldiers their weapons; one
sees him apportioning the place of honour in a sentence, ranking the
subordinates. He is so absolute a craftsman that we see in his
occasional lapses more of a deliberate disregard than ignorance, and
certainly nothing of the slipshod.

His dialogue in the plays is masterly—not always so effective in the
novels. He is at his best in the dialogue of the lower classes.
Sometimes, even in the plays, the conversation of his “gentlefolk” is
apt to be stilted or to drag. On the other hand, the speech of the poor
is always both spontaneous and significant. He has a wonderful power of
economy in words. Throughout the plays, and in the most memorable
dialogues in the novels, there is not a word too much, and yet there is
nothing jerky or scrappy in the general impression.

Galsworthy is not a writer who owes much to outside influence. The first
thought of “influence” in his case calls up ideas of French and Russian
literature, but it would be surer to say that the resemblance is due to
French and Russian qualities in the author’s outlook and state of mind
than to discipleship either unconscious or deliberate.

Certainly he has that infinite pity, almost reverence, for suffering
which characterises Russian ideas. But the same pity and reverence are
not expressed in the large, straightforward manner of Tolstoy or
Dostoevsky, but with Gallic subtlety and irony, recalling Flaubert. The
writer with whom he has greatest affinity, to whom he may be said to be
to a certain extent indebted, is Turguenev. In Turguenev we see the
meeting ground of French and Russian art. There is the breadth, the
tenderness, the mysticism of the Slav, mingling with the Frenchman’s
sense of humour and sense of form. Every writer who sets store on form
must expect to be credited with French influences. English art is
essentially naïve in technique. Galsworthy has few, if any, English
affinities. But, on the other hand, he has anglicised the foreign
influences. The Russian pity is shorn of its mysticism, the French irony
of its gaiety. These two combinations are characteristic of the
countries of their origin, and Galsworthy splits them, choosing the pity
and the irony, leaving the mysticism and the gaiety—thus asserting both
his personality and his race.

Galsworthy is a pessimist—not in the spirit of fire and revolt, but in
the spirit of an artist, sad, rather hopeless, and compassionate.
Everywhere he sees ills—the trampling of the weak and poor, the conflict
of instinct and civilisation, the pariahdom of the enlightened, the
tyranny of unimaginativeness, hypocrisy and greed. He suggests no
remedy—in fact, he insists continually on the difficulty of finding any
remedy which shall be at once permanent and adequate—he just exposes the
sore, and shows at the same time his burning pity for it, kindling our
own.

But if he realises with painful vividness the evil and sorrow of life,
and if a certain tired hopelessness and dislike of interference keep him
from dreaming a brighter future, his eyes are not blind to beauty, to
tenderness, and charm. Though his fine characters are almost always in
revolt, though his beauty is always softened with pathos, his rare
humour twisted with satire, we must acknowledge that he has a true sense
of the splendour, the loveliness, and the fun of life. He sees them, so
to speak, through a mist of tears, but he does not miss them altogether.
It is because he is so much more than a social reformer, because he is
an artist and a sensitive, that he cannot glibly set down remedies for
the world’s wrongs. The genuine reformer is never content with pointing
out the evils of a system, he has an improving plan. Galsworthy only
shows us the shadows, with the lights that lie beside them, not those
lights which shall scatter them at last. He is an artist, and the
artist’s vision is not of the future, but of to-day. [Blank Page]



      A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF JOHN GALSWORTHY’S PRINCIPAL WRITINGS


[The date is given of the first edition of each book. “New edition”
signifies a revision of text, change of format or transference to a
different publisher.]

[A] From the Four Winds [stories] (_Unwin_). 1897.

[A] Jocelyn (_Duckworth_). 1898.

[A] Villa Rubein (_Duckworth_). 1900.

[A] A Man of Devon [and other stories] (_Blackwood_). 1901.

The Island Pharisees (_Heinemann_). 1904. New edition, 1908.

The Man of Property (_Heinemann_). 1906. New editions: 1907. (_Hodder
    and Stoughton_). 1911. (_Heinemann_). 1915.

The Country House (_Heinemann_). 1907. New edition, 1911.

A Commentary (_Richards_). 1908. New edition (_Duckworth_). 1910.

Fraternity (_Heinemann_). 1908.

Plays. Volume I. [The Silver Box; Joy; Strife] (_Duckworth_). 1909.

Villa Rubein [and other stories] (_Duckworth_). 1909. New edition, 1911.
    [This contains the stories previously issued in the two volumes
    enumerated above, “Villa Rubein” and “A Man of Devon.”]

The Silver Box [separate issue] (_Duckworth_). 1910.

Joy [separate issue] (_Duckworth_). 1910.

Strife [separate issue] (_Duckworth_). 1910.

Justice [play] (_Duckworth_). 1910.

A Motley (_Heinemann_). 1910.

The Patrician (_Heinemann_). 1911.

The Little Dream [play] (_Duckworth_). N.D. [1911.]

The Pigeon [play] (_Duckworth_). 1912.

Moods, Songs and Doggerels (Heinemann). 1912.

The Inn of Tranquillity: Studies and Essays (_Heinemann_). 1912.

The Eldest Son [play] (_Duckworth_). 1912.

Plays. Volume II. [The Eldest Son; The Little Dream; Justice]
    (_Duckworth_). 1912.

The Fugitive [play] (_Duckworth_). 1913.

The Dark Flower (_Heinemann_). 1913.

The Mob [play] (_Duckworth_). 1914.

Plays. Volume III. [The Fugitive; The Pigeon; The Mob] (_Duckworth_).
    1914.

Some Slings and Arrows from John Galsworthy. Selected by Elsie E. Morton
    (_Elkin Mathews_). 1914.

Memories [an illustrated reprint of a single study from “The Inn of
    Tranquillity”] (_Heinemann_). 1914.

The Little Man, and other Satires (_Heinemann_). 1915.

A Bit o’ Love [play] (_Duckworth_). 1915.

The Freelands (_Heinemann_). 1915.

Footnote A:

      These four books were written under the pseudonym “John Sinjohn.”



                         AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY


The Island Pharisees (_Putnam_). 1904. New edition, 1908.

The Man of Property (_Putnam_). 1906.

The Country House (_Putnam_). 1907. New edition (_Scribner_). 1914.

Villa Rubein (_Putnam_). 1908.

A Commentary (_Putnam_). 1908.

Fraternity (_Putnam_). 1909.

Plays: First Series (_Putnam_). 1909.

Joy [play] (_Scribner_). 1910.

A Motley (_Scribner_). 1910.

Justice [play] (_Scribner_). 1910.

The Patrician (_Scribner_). 1911.

The Little Dream [play] (_Scribner_). 1911.

The Pigeon [play] (_Scribner_). 1912.

Moods, Songs and Doggerels (_Scribner_). 1912.

The Eldest Son [play] (_Scribner_). 1912.

The Inn of Tranquillity (_Scribner_). 1912.

Plays: Second Series (_Scribner_). 1913.

The Fugitive [play] (_Scribner_). 1913.

The Dark Flower (_Scribner_). 1913.

The Mob [play] (_Scribner_). 1914.

Plays: Third Series (_Scribner_). 1914.

Memories [an illustrated reprint of a single study from “The Inn of
    Tranquillity”] (_Scribner_). 1914.

The Little Man, and other Satires (_Scribner_). 1915.

A Bit o’ Love [play] (_Scribner_). 1915.

The Freelands (_Scribner_). 1915.



                                 INDEX


    _About Censorship_, 93
    _Abracadabra_, 96

    Barclay, Florence, 10
    Barker, Granville, 18
    Bennett, Arnold, 10, 12
    _Bit o’ Love, A_, 16, 37, 44–47

    Caine, Hall, 10
    _Caste_, 34
    _Commentary, A_, 88–90, 97
    Conrad, Joseph, 10, 12, 15
    Corelli, Marie, 10
    _Country House, The_, 56, 63–68, 82, 83

    _Dark Flower, The_, 15, 54, 56, 78–81, 84, 109
    Davies, H. H., 18
    Dostoevsky, 110

    _Eldest Son, The_, 26, 27, 33–34, 37, 49
    _Fisher of Men, A_, 90
    Flaubert, 111
    _Fraternity_, 55, 56, 69–74, 83, 85, 89, 102, 108
    _Freelands, The_, 56, 81–85
    _Fugitive, The_, 26, 35–37, 102

    _Grand Jury, The_, 93

    _Hall Marked_, 96
    Houghton, Stanley, 18
    _Housewife, The_, 96

    _Inn of Tranquillity, The_, 88, 91–94, 95
    _Island Pharisees, The_, 56, 57, 58, 102

    Jones, H. A., 18
    _Joy_, 26, 37–41, 49, 81
    _Justice_, 23–26, 37–48, 102
    _Justice_ (in _A Commentary_), 88

    Kipling, 12

    _Little Dream, The_, 15, 47, 50, 51, 98
    _Little Man, The_, 88, 94–97

    _Man of Devon, A_, 16, 86
    _Man of Property, The_, 56, 58–63, 69, 82, 83, 84, 87, 102, 106
    Masefield, John, 18
    Maugham, Somerset, 18
    _Memories_, 93
    _Mob, The_, 37, 41–43
    _Moods, Songs and Doggerels_, 16, 98, 99
    _Mother, A_, 89, 91
    _Motley, A_, 88, 90–91, 94, 97

    Novelist’s Allegory, A, 92

    _Once More_, 91

    _Patrician, The_, 16, 55, 56, 74–77, 83, 103
    _Pigeon, The_, 47–50
    _Plain Man, The_, 96

    _Riding in Mist_, 16, 93

    _Salvation of a Forsyte, The_, 87
    _Silver Box, The_, 26–33, 34, 35, 37, 94, 102
    Shaw, Bernard, 18, 19, 102
    _Some Platitudes Concerning the Drama_, 93, 101
    _Street Lamps_, 98, 99
    _Strife_, 21, 22, 24, 26, 35, 37, 42, 48, 94
    _Studies in Extravagance_, 95

    _That Old-Time Place_, 93
    Tolstoy, 110
    Turguenev, 111

    Ultima Thule, 97

    _Villa Rubein and Other Stories_, 15, 86

    Wells, H. G., 10, 12
    _Wind in the Rocks_, 91, 92
    _Writer, The_, 95

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Transcriber’s Note

    Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected,
    and are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the
    original. The following issues should be noted, along with the
    resolutions.

  36.19    though[t] it is spoilt by a riot of symbolism  Removed.
  51.18    So has it been with love.[”]                   Added.
  82.19    young gener[er]ation                           Removed.





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