The Forsyte Saga, Complete by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga, Complete

byJohn Galsworthy

Kobo ebook | October 30, 2013

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_"The Forsyte Saga" was the title originally destined for that part of it
which is called "The Man of Property"; and to adopt it for the collected
chronicles of the Forsyte family has indulged the Forsytean tenacity
that is in all of us. The word Saga might be objected to on the ground
that it connotes the heroic and that there is little heroism in these
pages. But it is used with a suitable irony; and, after all, this long
tale, though it may deal with folk in frock coats, furbelows, and a
gilt-edged period, is not devoid of the essential heat of conflict.
Discounting for the gigantic stature and blood-thirstiness of old days,
as they have come down to us in fairy-tale and legend, the folk of the
old Sagas were Forsytes, assuredly, in their possessive instincts, and
as little proof against the inroads of beauty and passion as Swithin,
Soames, or even Young Jolyon. And if heroic figures, in days that never
were, seem to startle out from their surroundings in fashion unbecoming
to a Forsyte of the Victorian era, we may be sure that tribal instinct
was even then the prime force, and that "family" and the sense of home
and property counted as they do to this day, for all the recent efforts
to "talk them out."
So many people have written and claimed that their families were the
originals of the Forsytes that one has been almost encouraged to believe
in the typicality of an imagined species. Manners change and modes
evolve, and "Timothy's on the Bayswater Road" becomes a nest of the
unbelievable in all except essentials; we shall not look upon its like
again, nor perhaps on such a one as James or Old Jolyon. And yet the
figures of Insurance Societies and the utterances of Judges reassure us
daily that our earthly paradise is still a rich preserve, where the wild
raiders, Beauty and Passion, come stealing in, filching security from
beneath our noses. As surely as a dog will bark at a brass band, so will
the essential Soames in human nature ever rise up uneasily against the
dissolution which hovers round the folds of ownership.
"Let the dead Past bury its dead" would be a better saying if the Past
ever died. The persistence of the Past is one of those tragi-comic
blessings which each new age denies, coming cocksure on to the stage to
mouth its claim to a perfect novelty.
But no Age is so new as that! Human Nature, under its changing
pretensions and clothes, is and ever will be very much of a Forsyte, and
might, after all, be a much worse animal.
Looking back on the Victorian era, whose ripeness, decline, and
'fall-of' is in some sort pictured in "The Forsyte Saga," we see now
that we have but jumped out of a frying-pan into a fire. It would be
difficult to substantiate a claim that the case of England was better in
1913 than it was in 1886, when the Forsytes assembled at Old Jolyon's to
celebrate the engagement of June to Philip Bosinney. And in 1920, when
again the clan gathered to bless the marriage of Fleur with Michael
Mont, the state of England is as surely too molten and bankrupt as in
the eighties it was too congealed and low-percented. If these chronicles
had been a really scientific study of transition one would have dwelt
probably on such factors as the invention of bicycle, motor-car, and
flying-machine; the arrival of a cheap Press; the decline of country
life and increase of the towns; the birth of the Cinema. Men are, in
fact, quite unable to control their own inventions; they at best develop
adaptability to the new conditions those inventions create.
But this long tale is no scientific study of a period; it is rather an
intimate incarnation of the disturbance that Beauty effects in the lives
of men.
The figure of Irene, never, as the reader may possibly have observed,
present, except through the senses of other characters, is a concretion
of disturbing Beauty impinging on a possessive world.
One has noticed that readers, as they wade on through the salt waters of
the Saga, are inclined more and more to pity Soames, and to think that
in doing so they are in revolt against the mood of his creator. Far
from it! He, too, pities Soames, the tragedy of whose life is the very
simple, uncontrollable tragedy of being unlovable, without quite a thick
enough skin to be thoroughly unconscious of the fact. Not even Fleur
loves Soames as he feels he ought to be loved. But in pitying Soames,
readers incline, perhaps, to animus against Irene: After all, they
think, he wasn't a bad fellow, it wasn't his fault; she ought to have
forgiven him, and so on!
And, taking sides, they lose perception of the simple truth, which
underlies the whole story, that where sex attraction is utterly and
definitely lacking in one partner to a union, no amount of pity, or
reason, or duty, or what not, can overcome a repulsion implicit in
Nature. Whether it ought to, or no, is beside the point; because in fact
it never does. And where Irene seems hard and cruel, as in the Bois de
Boulogne, or the Goupenor Gallery, she is but wisely realistic--knowing
that the least concession is the inch which precedes the impossible, the
repulsive ell.
A criticism one might pass on the last phase of the Saga is the
complaint that Irene and Jolyon those rebels against property--claim
spiritual property in their son Jon. But it would be hypercriticism,
as the tale is told. No father and mother could have let the boy marry
Fleur without knowledge of the facts; and the facts determine Jon, not
the persuasion of his parents. Moreover, Jolyon's persuasion is not
on his own account, but on Irene's, and Irene's persuasion becomes a
reiterated: "Don't think of me, think of yourself!" That Jon, knowing
the facts, can realise his mother's feelings, will hardly with justice
be held proof that she is, after all, a Forsyte.

Title:The Forsyte Saga, CompleteFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:October 30, 2013Publisher:WDS PublishingLanguage:English

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