At age 28, after a gentlemanly education at Harrow and Oxford, and a training at law, Galsworthy settled into simultaneous careers as a novelist and a playwright. The Silver Box, Galsworthy's first successful drama, was staged in 1906, the year he published the first volume of what was to become The Forsyte Saga.
His one-word titles - Justice (1910), Strife (1909), Loyalties (1922)---suggest the nature of Galsworthy's artistic ambition: to generalize a social indictment, keeping faith with the objective methods of naturalism. In each, Galsworthy favors an austere irony and unresolvable situations, and balanced moral positions are displayed in the cabinetwork of "well-made" playwrighting. Reputed to have led to reforms in its time, his realism today seems contrived to produce aesthetic distance and a sense of resignation that is precisely what contemporary political dramatists strain hardest to avoid. Not surprisingly, critics have come away from revivals with the sense that (especially in his spare language) Galsworthy anticipates Harold Pinter rather than more socially engaged playwrights.
Galsworthy wrote novels and plays alternately throughout his life. His masterwork, The Forsyte Saga, begun in 1906 and finished in 1928, and consisting of six separate novels and two linking interludes, is the most famous example of the sequence novel in English literature. It is a study of the property sense, the possessive spirit, in different individuals and generations of English middle-class society. He also completed a second trilogy dealing with the Forsyte family, called A Modern Comedy (1928). His last trilogy, a study of the Charwell family, is called End of the Chapter (1933).
Galsworthy's later years brought him many honors, including the presidency of P.E.N. and honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and several other universities. After World War I, he was offered a knighthood, which he refused. He did, however, accept the Order of Merit in 1