liberal bias: in-conscience of a liberal

The quintessential bleeding heart liberal, the kind of perverse sensibility guided by blinders and unwilling and ineffective in bringing about meaningful change. The establishment liberal , who according to Joseph Conrad, was a “moralist who betrayed rather than revealed the very truth of things.” Ineffectual compassion mixed with a strong desire to maintain the status- quo and reinforce exiting social circumstances. It was a body of work satirizing the foibles of the privileged classes while partaking in its very pleasures and one of the early examples that showed the profitability and interest in criticizing mass society without attacking the consumerist root at the heart of invidious comparison among individuals. Since Galsworthy, we haven’t progressed too much….

George Elgar Hicks. The Barbershop.---...has tentatively suggested some resemblances between the work of Galsworthy and Woolf not because a case for equivalence is being made directly –- such an argument would require detailed comparison within a very specifically delineated framework –- but as a form of refutation of Woolf’s criticisms of Galsworthy (and Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells) in more than one essay for allowing life to escape him and with ‘immense skill and immense industry making the trivial and the transitory appear the true and the enduring’ (Woolf 1993, 7). In this context, it is worth noting that other modernist writers, such as D.H. Lawrence and Ford Madox Ford, recorded more nuanced critical responses to Galsworthy than Woolf. Lawrence criticised him, of course, for writing about social beings rather than human individuals but was also prepared to accept that Galsworthy’s purpose was precisely to show that the Forsytes had lost their humanity. He argued that The Man of Property had the makings of a great novel but that Galsworthy did not have the courage to see it through and ‘gave in to the Forsytes’ (Lawrence 1978, 65).---Read More: image:

…Galsworthy had eventually felt able to marry Ada in 1905, very soon after the death of his father and the safe accession of his inheritance. But five years later, forty-three years old and very famous, at least as a dramatist, he met in the Savoy Theatre, London, a nineteen year old artist dancer, Margaret Morris. A pupil of Isadora Duncan’s brother Raymond, she had designed the sets and costumes, and trained the actors in “Greek positions”, for a production of Gluck’s Orfeo, one of Galsworthy’s favorite operas. She was asked to lunch with the Galsworthy’s, and what at first seemed to her an idyllic relationship developed between the three of them. She was helped to start a school of movement and given a part in a new Galsworthy play.

L.S. Lowry. The Cripples. ---It is the final ‘beyond’ in conjunction with the initial ‘amazement’ that lets us know that while Ford did not particularly like what Galsworthy was doing, he could see that there was a powerful dynamic underlying it, which went beyond usual didacticism. Thinking about Galsworthy’s repetitive technique in this way invites comparison with a number of Freud’s ideas and, in particular, that of the analytic process, itself, which depends on the analyst inducing a compulsion to repeat in the patient, who then ‘acts’ out what has been repressed as a ‘piece of real life’ (Freud 1958, 150-2). In the same manner, it might be suggested that by doggedly putting the Forsytes, and Soames in particular, through an immense sequence of similar situations, Galsworthy was able to make them act out exactly that part of themselves which was repressed by their Victorian capitalist class status. --- Read More:

This led to an affair of which Ada knew; eventually the affair was worked out of his system through writing The Dark Flower. Ada was a hypochondriac par-excellence requiring constant attention along with becoming increasingly possessive and self-centered.He was unhappy. Paralyzed. The WWI hit.At forty-seven, he specualted miserably over whether, had he been younger, he would have enlisted or been a conscientious objector, coming to the conclusion that he probably would not have joined up  but would have been ashamed of himself in consequence.

Galsworthy did voluntary hospital work in France, but for the most part he became what Ada rightly called an “appeals writer par excellence.” It was an easy task for a campaigning reformer. The list of good causes Galsworthy championed is long and various running from divorce law, minimum wages, theatre censorship, help for prostitutes, the modification of solitary confinement and so on.

William Powell Frith. ---In conclusion, it seems possible to suggest, pacé Allen and Lawrence, that Galsworthy does not so much go over to the Forsytes as go beyond them. From this perspective, the driven, anti-heroic Soames is the ideal protagonist to demonstrate the emergence of a form of modern life fitting to the twentieth century from inside the shell of a moribund Victorian ‘social being’. In the process, Galsworthy goes beyond Lawrence’s human individualism and Ford’s sunlit modernism to demonstrate the emergence of what might be described as a ‘Londony’ modern consciousness –- the ability to look to the past while going forward with the flow and refusing to try and resolve the difference into certainty, but instead embracing it precisely as uncertainty –- which became central to twentieth-century Britain. --- Read More:

But there were limits. Galsworthy would not, for example, join an appeal for the abolition of capital punishment. He himself was always perfectly well aware of what later came as an unpleasant surprise to many of his radical admirers: though he wished to make the world a better place, he did not wish to make it a different one. He had acquired in some quarters , he noted, ” the reputation of a revolutionary- a quaint conceit,” adding that “the constant endeavor of his pen has merely been to show Society that it has had luck; and, if those who have had luck behave as if they knew it, the chances of revolution would sink to zero.” In any event, he disavowed his works were social critiques, instead placing them under the loop of “spiritual examination.”

John Sloan. ---Hubble:Looking back from the twenty-first century, it is easy to take that British wartime coalition for granted but, given the historical context in which the salaried clerical workers –- the new middle classes –- of interwar Europe generally, whether passively or actively, supported the political right (see Koshar 1990), it is actually necessary to account for the development of that national consensus. One of the factors in that development is the influence of British middlebrow culture. The historian Ross McKibbin has identified a transition within the British middlebrow tradition from a literature of conflict in the early 1920s to a self-conscious literature of modernity in the 1930s, in which a confident middle class represented itself as the modernising class (see McKibbin 2000, 483). While this transition can be charted, as McKibbin does, from more reactionary books, such as Warwick Deeping’s Sorrell and Son (1925), to more progressive ones, such as A.J. Cronin’s The Citadel (1937), it is also possible to detect a broader current running throughout middlebrow fiction that is aligned to a different axes of fairness and national unity, drawing on the legacies of Dickens and Victorian humanism. The Forsyte Saga is clearly part of this longer tradition and nowhere is this more foregrounded than in the passage above, which aligns its main protagonist with a perspective of gently comic humanism, as a subject for universal identification...Read More: image:

As with the world at large, so with his own world, which was the world of the Forsytes. When carrying the story onto the postwar world, with much interpolated sermonizing, he inevitably looked back to a more stable universe. He was able, when he came to write about the 1920′s , to describe without bitterness or self-righteousness, the younger Forsyte’s mobility within marriage, so different from the rigid social bonds that had controlled his own life and Ada’s.

As he lived majestically on, honors were showered upon him; degrees and doctorates fell as thick as autumn leaves, t

rder of Merit was followed by the Nobel prize. His acceptance speech was composed on his deathbed: “…I regret more than anything that I am barred – by temperament, habits of life, possessions- from the complete flow of sympathy…” ” I have made a sort of world with my pen, but has it any resemblance to the world we live in, either in England or anywhere else?…”

zinaida serebryakova--- The waters of change were foaming in, carrying the promise of new forms only when their destructive flood should have passed its full. He sat there, subconscious of them, but with his thoughts set resolutely on the past – as man might ride into a wild night with his face to the tail of his galloping horse. Athwart the Victorian dykes the waters were rolling on property, manners, and morals, on melody and the old forms of art –- waters bringing his mouth a salt taste as of blood, lapping to the foot of this Highgate Hill where Victorianism lay buried .... And only one thing really troubled him .... He might wish and wish and never get it –- the beauty and the loving in the world! (I: 906) This passage anticipates Walter Benjamin’s famous invocation in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ of the angel of history, whose face is turned back towards Paradise even as the storm of progress irresistibly propels him further and further into the future (see Benjamin 1992, 249). Like the angel, Soames is simultaneously aware that the world might be made whole –- a place of beauty and loving –- and that he is helpless to do anything about it. ...Read More: image:

Though Virginia Woolf said of him that he “writes of unimportant things…spend immense skill and immense industry making the trivial and the transitory appear the true and enduring,” skewring him along with Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells, all good Fabian Society members.

Galsworthy understood that Forsyte “instinct for possession” and balanced it perhaps with an instinct to be possessed. He came to know that in the postwar world there was little place for the Forsytes. In our own time there is almost none- the tribal Forsytes have been displaced by the non-hereditary organization men and women of the managerial revolution, who must make do with luxury in place of immense property. There was something Roman about those bleak yet vital Victorians of Galsworthy’s. If he needed a modest epitaph-well, he was the noblest Forsyte of them all.


Many believe that he successfully captured the spirit of his age. Yet, while some consider him a critic of the upper class, others assert that he admired it, especially later in his life. Some of his contemporaries, especially experimental modernists, disdained his work. Virginia Woolf, for instance, considered him a “stuffed shirt” and found him guilty of the same behavior and attitudes to which he objected in his writing. His style was variously faulted as overly sentimental and melodramatic or too analytical and pessimistic. His plays in particular were often criticized as social propaganda lacking dramatic intensity. However, many critics agree that as his style evolved it became less rigid and more subtle. Galsworthy’s earlier style showed similarities to French naturalism, shifting later to a more deliberate use of symbolism and mythology. Read More:

Hubble:The Forsyte Saga is clearly part of this longer tradition and nowhere is this more foregrounded than in the passage above, which aligns its main protagonist with a perspective of gently comic humanism, as a subject for universal identification. In the sentences immediately preceding the passage, the tank is described as both a ‘great primeval monster’ and a ‘huge, fantastic tortoise’ (II: 585); while Soames goes on to imagine: ‘Father and mother and baby tanks –- like –- like a family of mastodons, m – m?’ (II: 585). Here, the entry into the realm of the fantastic is more than just a comic technique to reduce the threat of the military by associating it with animals: it is also an attempt to symbolically remove weaponry from the realm of the modern, which is thereby maintained as a suitable environment for a peaceful, modernised middle class.

The mastodons, reminiscent of devices employed by Woolf in Mrs Dalloway, contribute to the Saga’s generation of temporal uncertainty, which in itself serves to undermine the political certainties of its present. As radical interventions go, this might not quite match up to the bombast of Benjamin’s notion of using a past filled with the presence of the now to blast open the continuum of history (see Benjamin 1992, 252-4), but it is still an effective manner of refusing to get ensnared in the ephemeral politics of the current order while implicitly suggesting the possibility that things can be different. Indeed, reminiscent of Woolf again, Galsworthy actually does go on to make that latter point explicitly, as Soames experiences a moment of being:

He took up a rose and sniffed at it deeply. So many different kinds now –- he had lost track … And at this reminder of the mutability of flowers and the ingenuity of human beings, Soames felt slightly exhausted. There was no end to things! (II: 646-7) Read More:

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