John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy

3PB is one of the few sets of barristers' Chambers to count a Nobel prize winner among its former members.

John Galsworthy, the famous author of the Forsyte Saga, was the son of a City Solicitor. He joined Chambers in 1894 at the age of 26. In those days a young man had to wait a long time for work and in a later novel, In Chancery (1920), Galsworthy made a rather ironical reference to this when describing how Soames Forsyte, a solicitor and the central character of many of his novels, briefed junior counsel (i.e. those who were not QCs):

Mr Bellby, the junior - not as junior as he might have been, for Soames only employed barristers of established reputation; it was, indeed, something of a mystery to him how barristers ever managed to establish that which made him employ them...

While waiting for briefs, Galsworthy took to writing fiction. In 1897 he had a collection of short stories, From the Four Winds, published under a pseudonym. The first novel of the Forsyte Saga, The Man of Property, was published in 1906. He is said to have refused a knighthood in 1918. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1929.

Perhaps Galsworthy was always to be a writer. In another of the Forsyte Saga novels, To Let (1921), Jolyon Forsyte - an artist - is trying to find a career for his son, Jon.

...he knew that Jon would never be a painter, and inclined to the conclusion that his aversion from everything else meant that he was going to be a writer. Holding, however, the view that experience was necessary even for that profession, there seemed to Jolyon nothing in the meantime, for Jon, but University, travel, and perhaps the eating of dinners for the Bar. ...

John Galsworthy letterWe have a letter written by Galsworthy in 1922. Evidently a lady had asked him if she could obtain a copy of one of his books from her library. He wrote:

Feb 15, 1922

My dear Madam

I am sorry about ‘Awakening’. It is only a 7000 words book illustrated, the story of Jon as a little boy. The libraries apparently don’t stock this kind of book.

The whole Forsyte Saga will come out in one volume at 7/6 [i.e. £0.375] in two or three months time. Apply for that at your library & you will get the first run of it when it is published.

With appreciation of your letter

I am very truly yours

John Galsworthy

John Galsworthy signatureIn 1932 John Galsworthy was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. In his acceptance speech he wrote:

I recall a little narrow room in the Inner Temple in London dignified as "my Chambers" and endowed with the services of some small portion of a clerk, whose name I remember was George. In that somewhat monastic room did I pen my first pages, and curiously enough the remaining pages, of my first story.

The 'monastic room' is still a part of our Chambers.