British novelist and playwright. He was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Literature, having been appointed to the OM in 1929.
The son of a prosperous lawyer, Galsworthy was born in Coombe, Surrey, educated at Harrow, and took a degree in law at New College, Oxford (1889). Called to the bar in 1890, he specialized in marine jurisprudence. To gain experience he travelled (1893) to the Far East on a merchant ship, encountering Joseph Conrad, who later became his friend.
Galsworthy's first novels and stories were published under the pseudonym John Sinjohn: From the Four Winds (1897), Jocelyn (1898), Villa Rubein (1900), and The Island Pharisees (1904). His first major success, however, was with The Man of Property (1906), which later became the first volume in The Forsyte Saga, first published in its complete form in 1922 (the other volumes are In Chancery, 1920; and To Let, 1921). In the Forsyte novels Galsworthy cast a critical eye over the new monied class in Victorian and Edwardian society. The trilogy A Modern Comedy (1929), comprising The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), and Swan Song (1928), embodied a more sympathetic view.
In 1906 Galsworthy enjoyed a triumph with his first play, The Silver Box. Like the plays that followed it – Strife (1909), Justice (1910), and The Skin Game (1920) among them – The Silver Box succeeded by reason of its naturalistic dialogue and straightforward construction, with the dramatist content to let his characters act out their own destinies without his obviously taking sides or manipulating them to expound a message. Galsworthy's Collected Plays appeared in 1929. Among his posthumously published works was a volume of poems (1934). The theme of Justice had demonstrated Galsworthy's concern with the plight of prisoners. He also took an active interest in various literary causes, becoming the first president of PEN (International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists) when it was founded in 1921 and president of the English Association (1924).