writing from the port side

These things happen. John Galsworthy became involved with a girl whom his family which to distance their son from at all costs. Since his father, who was to be the senior member of the Forsyte family in Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Sage- The Man of Property, was dominating his son through financial dependence, he arranged for his son to take a trip to Canada to cool the ardor. After this failed, the father now cunningly suggested that John’s prospects would be better if he were to switch from the Chancery Bar to the Admiralty Division and that it would be a splendid idea if, in order to learn about the practical background of this sort of law, he were to take a long voyage. A very long voyage. …

---Galsworthy was a representative of the literary tradition, which has regarded the novel as an instrument of social debate. He believed that it was the duty of an artist to examine a problem, but not to provide a solution. Before starting his career as a writer, Galsworthy read widely the works of Kipling, Zola, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Flaubert. "When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were present; when a Forsyte died - but no Forsyte has as yet died; they did not die; death being contrary to their principles, they took precautions against it, the instinctive precautions of highly vitalized persons who resent encroachments on their property." (from The Forsyte Saga) --- Read More:http://kirjasto.sci.fi/johngals.htm image:http://www.paintinghere.com/painting/The_Beautiful_Woman_Without_Mercy_96.html

In 1893 he met the writer Joseph Conrad while on a South Sea voyage. In a letter written while travelling home Galsworthy noted: “The first mate is a Pole called Conrad, and is a capital chap though queer to look at; he is a man of travel and experience in many parts of the world, and has a fund of yarns on which I draw freely.” This meeting convinced him to give up law and become a writer instead.Read More:http://www.classicreader.com/author/170/about/

…Along with Harrow schoolmate Ted Sanderson, who had helped him un-freeze his stiff necked and aloof persona, they set off: via Ceylon and Australia, to visit Robert Louis Stevenson on Samoa. He never got there, because his companion came down with dysentery in the interior of Suva: Galsworthy now exhibited the remarkable talent for nursing that was later to be worked so hard. Coming home he made the acquaintance of Conrad who was also working on a manuscript, a story called Almayer’s Folly which he secreted in his cabin, but made no mention of it to Galsworthy….

Nick Hubble:Galsworthy identifies the Forsytes’ ‘Colonial disposition to own oneself’ as the forerunner of imperialism and then equates this ownership of the self to a form of death drive as in the declining reproduction rate of the subsequent generations of the family. Irene, in turn, does not just represent all the stimuli to losing self-possession, she literally embodies loss of possession to Soames; and he never gets her back. While he remains the villain of this novel, a hint of the more utopian possibility latent in his original impulse to relocate to the suburbs with Irene is represented by the ‘interlude’, ‘Indian Summer of a Forsyte’, written in 1917. The house is sold by Soames, who can no longer bear the thought of living there and is bought by his uncle, Old Jolyon. However, the irony is that Jolyon then enters into an almost enchanted relationship with Irene, which sees her come to visit and spend time at the house after all. ...Read More:http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/hubble.html Painting: joseph Crawhall. image:http://goldenagepaintings.blogspot.com/2010/06/visions-of-poverty-lecture-lecture.html

Galsworthy’s “Saga” was really about adapting to the modern age. To drag the legacy of Victorian humanism beyond Edwardian England and into a confrontation with the militarism and totalitarianism forming soon after the conclusion of WWI. What Galsworthy was understanding was how does one co-exist with the new mass society which was dominated by a Clauswitz theory of war being an extension of politics which is now being weaned off this relationship by mass commercial considerations, consumer capitalism which finds expediency in scarificing reason for the irrational, volatile “war glands” where conflicts among peoples are beyond human control and the individual’s actions within the collective is guided by sex and psychology instead of rational men and women. The Sam Huntington nightmare of the clash of civilizations.

At a superficial level, the satirizing of upper crust life serves as a tacit acceptance and reinforces its insular values. But why should the baby be thrown out with the bath water. Why should there be a rupture with history? Marcel Duchamp and Dada reflected the nihilism inherent in the ready-made; not to disparage the freshness but the intent often enough to destroy the past. So, the transition Galsworthy was documenting was becoming part of mass society as opposed to defining themselves as implicitly against it. It was how to deal with the rise of a mass consumer culture that inexorably submerged the classical individualism which underpinned upper middle class Victorian subjectivity in all its virtues and flaws.


[mourning paper, letterhead:] 14, Addison Road, W., Littlehampton Sep. 30. 06.

Dearest Conrad

‘The Mirror of the Sea’ is magnificent. It ranks with your very highest work, and I think the episode in Initiation the finest thing you have ever written. I wept over it seated on a public seat & surrounded by natives. Altogethe

‘epic’ book, and if I don’t greatly mistake, the best selling book you have turned out. The style on the whole is in advance of anything you have done. It is terser & more varied. Honestly I am delighted–& astonished, because you’ve been so quiet about it. Your way of marshalling the stuff is extraordinarily ingenious and repaying; and the book breathes a single spirit–a loving spirit–out of its pages….

---Yet, it is not clear how Irene, who as we have seen is only ever portrayed as the object of the male gaze, can embody or signify the possibility of a different kind of living: ‘her identity remains the hermeneutic space at the centre of Galsworthy’s novel’ . It is only in ‘Indian Summer’, that Irene’s own consciousness is allowed to surface through her friendship with Old Jolyon. In particular, there is a process of intersubjective exchange as Irene tells him what has happened to her since she left Soames: ‘That night I went to the Embankment; a woman caught me by the dress. She told me about herself. When one knows what others suffer, one’s ashamed.’ ‘One of those?’ She nodded, and horror stirred within old Jolyon, the horror of one who has never known a struggle with desperation. Old Jolyon’s second-hand experience of this horror leads neither to revulsion nor attraction but to a new self-awareness. What he learns from Irene is the acceptance of the possibility of losing self-possession. In turn, this reconciles him to the modern mass society of the capital. For example, his concern at Irene having to depend for existence on giving piano lessons is expressed not in terms of horror or social disdain but through a telling quip: ‘You’re looking a little Londony’ . And if he cannot quite manage complete equanimity in the face of the discovery that most of these piano lessons are being given to the daughters of Jewish families, he certainly takes it in his stride. This transition in outlook from The Man of Property is seismic: it is nothing less than an acceptance that even a Forsyte is only a part of the greater mass of the city...Read More:http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/hubble.html image:http://artmarketmonitor.com/2009/02/12/whats-up-with-victorian-art/

…As I say, it is the epic of the sailing ship. My heartfelt admiration goes out to you. I’m certain Edward, Hudson and all the faithful will be bowled over by it. And the public too I guess, or we have lost the spirit of the sea which I am loth to believe.

Cobwebs & Gossamer, The fine Art–The weight of the Burden, Overdue & Missing, In Captivity, Initiation, & the Tremolino are the gems, but there is not one that could be missed. Read More:http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-80849900.html

---There is what might almost be described as Hegelian-Marxist logic at play here in the overall design of the Saga. In The Man of Property, the only obvious expressions of Soames’s inchoate yearning for a ‘different kind of modern life’, as identified by Hapgood, are his love for Irene and his desire to move out of the city, which is chiefly motivated by the idea that he might make her happy in this way. In the context of their marriage, understood as a form of property contract, the only way that Soames can act on his love, which is rejected by Irene, is to try and make her more his possession. So while that love might be the heart of the heartless world, represented by the Forsytes in general and Soames in particular, its net effect is to increase suffering. Yet once the property relations are overthrown by Irene leaving Soames, Soames’s love for Irene can no longer be expressed through acts of possession. In a form of negation of the negation, therefore, the continuation of this love in the later books of the first trilogy, serves not to extend his self-possession but to tear it apart and, in the process, liberate him from himself and allow him to float on the floodtide of modern life. --- Read More:http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/hubble.html image. James McNeill Whistler: http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/whistler_james_mcneill.html

—————————————————-Hubble:Ford was less enthusiastic about the satire, regarding it as already a step towards what he saw as the reformist didacticism of the later novels. In particular, he objected that the problem with The Man of Property was that a real-life Bosinney, which is to say a real-life early modernist, would have run away with Irene to Capri and lived in sunlit bliss: ‘But no, says Galsworthy, that would not prove that the middle classes are always cruel and victorious over the unfortunate’ . While Ford accepted that such ‘dogged determination to present antitheses’ was what made Galsworthy such a successful playwright because it allowed him to squeeze ‘the last drop of drama out of a situation’ (ibid), he argued that it was to the detriment of the art of the novel. The difference between himself and Galsworthy was that he believed that the business of art was not to elevate but to present life as it is in the terms of art, whereas Galsworthy believed in ‘propaganda for virtue’. This distinction, of course, has become familiar to us following critical work by people such as Stephen Spender and Malcolm Bradbury as the opposition between the ‘Modern’ and the ‘Contemporary’. However, Ford’s argument should not simply be seen as a critical putdown of Galsworthy:

Yet it used to fill me with amazement to see Galsworthy at work -– the grim persistence with which he made point after point, the dog-like tenacity with which he held to his thesis. He would ponder for hours and hours. Then the little rabbits would creep out to die after the battues; the law-parted lovers would feel their thumbscrews pinching tighter; the convicts batter on their cell doors until the cruel stupidity of men and their institutions was shown at its apogee –- and beyond.

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:http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/hubble.html

Henry Scott Tuke. The Run Home. 1902. ----Against his better judgement, dripping ironic disdain, and with his face set firmly against those around him, Soames nevertheless jumps out from the bank to the Victorian wreckage in the torrent and races into the future even while continuing to yearn for the past: 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! 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:http://www.literarylondon.org/london-journal/hubble.html image:http://tcaperton.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html

Read More:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm

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