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The Forsyte Saga


THE FORSYTE SAGA - COMPLETE
JOHN GALSWORTHY
VOLUME I
TO MY WIFE:
I DE DICA TE THE FORSY TE SAGA IN ITS ENTIRE TY,
BELIEVING IT TO BE OF ALL MY WORKS THE LEAS T
UNWORTHY OF ONE WITHOUT WHOSE ENCOURAGEME NT,
SYMPATHY A ND CRITICISM COULD NEVER HAVE
BECOME EVEN SUCH A WRITER AS I AM.
PREFACE:
”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 ob jected 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 beat 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
eorts 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
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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 nat ure 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 thos e
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
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