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149 John Galsworthy's The Man of Property; "now in the natural course of things" By David Leon Higdon (Texas Tech University) When John Galsworthy placed the manuscript of The Forsyte Saga in the British Museum, he included a brief note penned 19 August 1920; I originally called 'The Man of Property' by this name, and had no intention of continuing that book with sefuels . Some three years, however, after it was published 1906] I became haunted by the notion of Old Jolyon's Indian Summer which ultimately got itself written in the Spring of 1917. Not until one Sunday in July, I918, did the full scheme of development come to me. (That was the happiest day of my writing life.) And almost at once I began 'In Chancery' which, interrupted by Editorship of •Reveille,' and American tour, and the writing of 'The Skin Game,' was not finished until Nov. 4, 1919. The link between it and 'To Let' - 'Awakening' - was written in Paris and Biarritz at the end of that year and the first weeks of 1920. And then in Spain at Malaga, on January l6, 1920, I went straight on to writing the last act of the long drama ('To Let'); and finished it at Grove Lodge, Hampstead, on Aug. 15, 1920, the first day of my fiftyfourth year.l Here, with almost paradigmatic clarity, Galsworthy lays bare his underlying assumptions about time and the willingness of his imagination to structure a narrative in terms of time and space. He views the history of the work as a process originating in 19041905 and continuing until 15 August 1920. Precise dates, in chronological order, mark the various stages as the "scheme of development" unfolds in classic linear order. Actually, three orders of arrangement appear in the note, but the one has been suppressed and relegated to mere parenthetical status. The interpolated sentence "(That was the happiest day of my writing life.)" offers an alternative order to the then-and-then sequence and an excellent generalizing comment giving the other bits of information charged with significance, but Galsworthy chooses rather to stress a dynamic process of becoming begun in 1904 and developing through stages of growth ("originally," "continuing," "sequel," "finished," "link between") until the moment of completion in 1920. This order of becoming is supported, clarified, and enhanced by the nine specific time references. This concern for linear process evidences itself in Galsworthy's letters and his "Author's Preface" as well. He wrote to Edward Garnett; "I find it natural to think of life in my fiction as a sort of string" (FS, p. viii), and later wrote of the "Victorian era, whose ripeness, decline, and 'falliñg-off' is in some sort pictured in 'The Forsyte Saga*" (FS, p. xii) in "a dissolving 'Progress'" (FS, p. xiii). Although Galsworthy's satire perhaps deserves much of the censure bestowed on his works by D. H. Lawrence, Arnold Kettle, and others,2 150 there is nothing unsophisticated about his use of time or his concept of time. The image of organic growth evident in his descriptive note works as the most important structural motif in The Man of Property. Today, when a reader opens a volume of The Forsyte Saga, he immediately encounters an elaborate family tree stretching from 1741 to 1926 with numerous open dates continuing on into the 1930s. The births, marriages, and deaths of six generations of Forsytes stand before the reader emphasizing the family's movement "forward" through time. In the first chapter, the reader also learns that these public acts generate a communal spirit which makes the family a family; When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were present; when a Forsyte died - but no Forsyte had as yet died; they did not die; death being contrary to their principles, they took precautions against it, the instinctive precautions of highly vitalized persons who resent encroachments of their property, (p. 12)3 Each of these Forsyte actions requires expression in time; an engagement comes as the fulfillment of a courtship; marriage, especially a ceremony conducted according to Forsyte etiquette, as the culmination of an engagement; birth fulfilling a pregnancy ; and death at the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 149-157
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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