Part 1 out of 8
This eBook was produced by David Widger [email@example.com]
Extensive proofing for this edition was done by Fredrik Hausmann
[The spelling conforms to the original: "s's" instead of our "z's";
and "c's" where we would have "s's"; and "...our" as in colour
and flavour; many interesting double consonants; etc.]
I. THE MAN OF PROPERTY
By John Galsworthy
TO MY WIFE:
I DEDICATE THE FORSYTE SAGA IN ITS ENTIRETY,
BELIEVING IT TO BE OF ALL MY WORKS THE LEAST
UNWORTHY OF ONE WITHOUT WHOSE ENCOURAGEMENT,
SYMPATHY AND CRITICISM I COULD NEVER HAVE
BECOME EVEN SUCH A WRITER AS I AM.
"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 objected 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
efforts 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
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 nature 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 those
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
would be difficult to substantiate a claim that the case of
England was better in 1913 than it was in 1886, when the Forsytes
assembled at Old Jolyon's to celebrate the engagement of June to
Philip Bosinney. And in 1920, when again the clan gathered to
bless the marriage of Fleur with Michael Mont, the state of
England is as surely too molten and bankrupt as in the eighties
it was too congealed and low-percented. If these chronicles had
been a really scientific study of transition one would have dwelt
probably on such factors as the invention of bicycle, motor-car,
and flying-machine; the arrival of a cheap Press; the decline of
country life and increase of the towns; the birth of the Cinema.
Men are, in fact, quite unable to control their own inventions;
they at best develop adaptability to the new conditions those
But this long tale is no scientific study of a period; it is
rather an intimate incarnation of the disturbance that Beauty
effects in the lives of men.
The figure of Irene, never, as the reader may possibly have
observed, present, except through the senses of other characters,
is a concretion of disturbing Beauty impinging on a possessive
One has noticed that readers, as they wade on through the salt
waters of the Saga, are inclined more and more to pity Soames,
and to think that in doing so they are in revolt against the mood
of his creator. Far from it! He, too, pities Soames, the
tragedy of whose life is the very simple, uncontrollable tragedy
of being unlovable, without quite a thick enough skin to be
thoroughly unconscious of the fact. Not even Fleur loves Soames
as he feels he ought to be loved. But in pitying Soames, readers
incline, perhaps, to animus against Irene: After all, they think,
he wasn't a bad fellow, it wasn't his fault; she ought to have
forgiven him, and so on!
And, taking sides, they lose perception of the simple truth,
which underlies the whole story, that where sex attraction is
utterly and definitely lacking in one partner to a union, no
amount of pity, or reason, or duty, or what not, can overcome a
repulsion implicit in Nature. Whether it ought to, or no, is
beside the point; because in fact it never does. And where Irene
seems hard and cruel, as in the Bois de Boulogne, or the Goupenor
Gallery, she is but wisely realistic--knowing that the least
concession is the inch which precedes the impossible, the
A criticism one might pass on the last phase of the Saga is the
complaint that Irene and Jolyon those rebels against property--
claim spiritual property in their son Jon. But it would be
hypercriticism, as the tale is told. No father and mother could
have let the boy marry Fleur without knowledge of the facts; and
the facts determine Jon, not the persuasion of his parents.
Moreover, Jolyon's persuasion is not on his own account, but on
Irene's, and Irene's persuasion becomes a reiterated: "Don't
think of me, think of yourself!" That Jon, knowing the facts, can
realise his mother's feelings, will hardly with justice be held
proof that she is, after all, a Forsyte.
But though the impingement of Beauty and the claims of Freedom on
a possessive world are the main prepossessions of the Forsyte
Saga, it cannot be absolved from the charge of embalming the
upper-middle class. As the old Egyptians placed around their
mummies the necessaries of a future existence, so I have
endeavoured to lay beside the, figures of Aunts Ann and Juley and
Hester, of Timothy and Swithin, of Old Jolyon and James, and of
their sons, that which shall guarantee them a little life here-
after, a little balm in the hurried Gilead of a dissolving
If the upper-middle class, with other classes, is destined to
"move on" into amorphism, here, pickled in these pages, it lies
under glass for strollers in the wide and ill-arranged museum of
Letters. Here it rests, preserved in its own juice: The Sense
THE MAN OF PROPERTY
by JOHN GALSWORTHY
"........ You will answer
The slaves are ours ....."
-Merchant of Venice.
TO EDWARD GARNETT
'AT HOME' AT OLD JOLYON'S
Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the
Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight--an upper
middle-class family in full plumage. But whosoever of these
favoured persons has possessed the gift of psychological analysis
(a talent without monetary value and properly ignored by the
Forsytes), has witnessed a spectacle, not only delightful in
itself, but illustrative of an obscure human problem. In plainer
words, he has gleaned from a gathering of this family--no branch
of which had a liking for the other, between no three members of
whom existed anything worthy of the name of sympathy--evidence of
that mysterious concrete tenacity which renders a family so
formidable a unit of society, so clear a reproduction of society
in miniature. He has been admitted to a vision of the dim roads
of social progress, has understood something of patriarchal life,
of the swarmings of savage hordes, of the rise and fall of
nations. He is like one who, having watched a tree grow from its
planting--a paragon of tenacity, insulation, and success, amidst
the deaths of a hundred other plants less fibrous, sappy, and
persistent--one day will see it flourishing with bland, full
foliage, in an almost repugnant prosperity, at the summit of its
On June 15, eighteen eighty-six, about four of the afternoon, the
observer who chanced to be present at the house of old Jolyon
Forsyte in Stanhope Gate, might have seen the highest
efflorescence of the Forsytes.
This was the occasion of an 'at home' to celebrate the engagement
of Miss June Forsyte, old Jolyon's granddaughter, to Mr. Philip
Bosinney. In the bravery of light gloves, buff waistcoats,
feathers and frocks, the family were present, even Aunt Ann, who
now but seldom left the comer of her brother Timothy's green
drawing-room, where, under the aegis of a plume of dyed pampas
grass in a light blue vase, she sat all day reading and knitting,
surrounded by the effigies of three generations of Forsytes.
Even Aunt Ann was there; her inflexible back, and the dignity of
her calm old face personifying the rigid possessiveness of the
When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were
present; when a Forsyte died--but no Forsyte had 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
About the Forsytes mingling that day with the crowd of other
guests, there was a more than ordinarily groomed look, an alert,
inquisitive assurance, a brilliant respectability, as though they
were attired in defiance of something. The habitual sniff on the
face of Soames Forsyte had spread through their ranks; they were
on their guard.
The subconscious offensiveness of their attitude has constituted
old Jolyon's 'home' the psychological moment of the family
history, made it the prelude of their drama.
The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but
as a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added
perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an
exaggeration of family importance, and--the sniff. Danger--so
indispensable in bringing out the fundamental quality of any
society, group, or individual--was what the Forsytes scented; the
premonition of danger put a burnish on their armour. For the
first time, as a family, they appeared to have an instinct of
being in contact, with some strange and unsafe thing.
Over against the piano a man of bulk and stature was wearing two
waistcoats on his wide chest, two waistcoats and a ruby pin,
instead of the single satin waistcoat and diamond pin of more
usual occasions, and his shaven, square, old face, the colour of
pale leather, with pale eyes, had its most dignified look, above
his satin stock. This was Swithin Forsyte. Close to the window,
where he could get more than his fair share of fresh air, the
other twin, James--the fat and the lean of it, old Jolyon called
these brothers--like the bulky Swithin, over six feet in height,
but very lean, as though destined from his birth to strike a
balance and maintain an average, brooded over the scene with his
permanent stoop; his grey eyes had an air of fixed absorption in
some secret worry, broken at intervals by a rapid, shifting
scrutiny of surrounding facts; his cheeks, thinned by two
parallel folds, and a long, clean-shaven upper lip, were framed
within Dundreary whiskers. In his hands he turned and turned a
piece of china. Not far off, listening to a lady in brown, his
only son Soames, pale and well-shaved, dark-haired, rather bald,
had poked his chin up sideways, carrying his nose with that
aforesaid appearance of 'sniff,' as though despising an egg which
he knew he could not digest. Behind him his cousin, the tall
George, son of the fifth Forsyte, Roger, had a Quilpish look on
his fleshy face, pondering one of his sardonic jests. Something
inherent to the occasion had affected them all.
Seated in a row close to one another were three ladies--Aunts
Ann, Hester (the two Forsyte maids), and Juley (short for Julia),
who not in first youth had so far forgotten herself as to marry
Septimus Small, a man of poor constitution. She had survived him
for many years. With her elder and younger sister she lived now
in the house of Timothy, her sixth and youngest brother, on the
Bayswater Road. Each of these ladies held fans in their hands,
and each with some touch of colour, some emphatic feather or
brooch, testified to the solemnity of the opportunity.
In the centre of the room, under the chandelier, as became a
host, stood the head of the family, old Jolyon himself. Eighty
years of age, with his fine, white hair, his dome-like forehead,
his little, dark grey eyes, and an immense white moustache, which
drooped and spread below the level of his strong jaw, he had a
patriarchal look, and in spite of lean cheeks and hollows at his
temples, seemed master of perennial youth. He held himself
extremely upright, and his shrewd, steady eyes had lost none of
their clear shining. Thus he gave an impression of superiority
to the doubts and dislikes of smaller men. Having had his own
way for innumerable years, he had earned a prescriptive right to
it. It would never have occurred to old Jolyon that it was
necessary to wear a look of doubt or of defiance.
Between him and the four other brothers who were present, James,
Swithin, Nicholas, and Roger, there was much difference, much
similarity. In turn, each of these four brothers was very
different from the other, yet they, too, were alike.
Through the varying features and expression of those five faces
could be marked a certain steadfastness of chin, underlying
surface distinctions, marking a racial stamp, too prehistoric to
trace, too remote and permanent to discuss--the very hall-mark
and guarantee of the family fortunes.
Among the younger generation, in the tall, bull-like George, in
pallid strenuous Archibald, in young Nicholas with his sweet and
tentative obstinacy, in the grave and foppishly determined
Eustace, there was this same stamp--less meaningful perhaps, but
unmistakable--a sign of something ineradicable in the family
soul. At one time or another during the afternoon, all these
faces, so dissimilar and so alike, had worn an expression of
distrust, the object of which was undoubtedly the man whose
acquaintance they were thus assembled to make. Philip Bosinney
was known to be a young man without fortune, but Forsyte girls
had become engaged to such before, and had actually married them.
It was not altogether for this reason, therefore, that the minds
of the Forsytes misgave them. They could not have explained the
origin of a misgiving obscured by the mist of family gossip. A
story was undoubtedly told that he had paid his duty call to
Aunts Ann, Juley, and Hester, in a soft grey hat--a soft grey
hat, not even a new one--a dusty thing with a shapeless crown.
"So, extraordinary, my dear--so odd," Aunt Hester, passing
through the little, dark hall (she was rather short-sighted), had
tried to 'shoo' it off a chair, taking it for a strange,
disreputable cat--Tommy had such disgraceful friends! She was
disturbed when it did not move.
Like an artist for ever seeking to discover the significant
trifle which embodies the whole character of a scene, or place,
or person, so those unconscious artists--the Forsytes had
fastened by intuition on this hat; it was their significant
trifle, the detail in which was embedded the meaning of the whole
matter; for each had asked himself: "Come, now, should I have
paid that visit in that hat?" and each had answered "No!" and
some, with more imagination than others, had added: "It would
never have come into my head!"
George, on hearing the story, grinned. The hat had obviously
been worn as a practical joke! He himself was a connoisseur of
such. "Very haughty!" he said, "the wild Buccaneer."
And this mot, the 'Buccaneer,' was bandied from mouth to mouth,
till it became the favourite mode of alluding to Bosinney.
Her aunts reproached June afterwards about the hat.
"We don't think you ought to let him, dear!" they had said.
June had answered in her imperious brisk way, like the little
embodiment of will she was: "Oh! what does it matter? Phil
never knows what he's got on!"
No one had credited an answer so outrageous. A man not to know
what he had on? No, no! What indeed was this young man, who, in
becoming engaged to June, old Jolyon's acknowledged heiress, had
done so well for himself? He was an architect, not in itself a
sufficient reason for wearing such a hat. None of the Forsytes
happened to be architects, but one of them knew two architects
who would never have worn such a hat upon a call of ceremony in
the London season.
Dangerous--ah, dangerous! June, of course, had not seen this,
but, though not yet nineteen, she was notorious. Had she not
said to Mrs. Soames--who was always so beautifully dressed--that
feathers were vulgar? Mrs. Soames had actually given up wearing
feathers, so dreadfully downright was dear June!
These misgivings, this disapproval, and perfectly genuine
distrust, did not prevent the Forsytes from gathering to old
Jolyon's invitation. An 'At Home' at Stanhope Gate was a great
rarity; none had been held for twelve years, not indeed, since
old Mrs. Jolyon had died.
Never had there been so full an assembly, for, mysteriously
united in spite of all their differences, they had taken arms
against a common peril. Like cattle when a dog comes into the
field, they stood head to head and shoulder to shoulder, prepared
to run upon and trample the invader to death. They had come,
too, no doubt, to get some notion of what sort of presents they
would ultimately be expected to give; for though the question of
wedding gifts was usually graduated in this way: 'What are you
givin'? Nicholas is givin' spoons!'--so very much depended on the
bridegroom. If he were sleek, well-brushed, prosperous-looking,
it was more necessary to give him nice things; he would expect
them. In the end each gave exactly what was right and proper, by
a species of family adjustment arrived at as prices are arrived
at on the Stock Exchange--the exact niceties being regulated at
Timothy's commodious, red-brick residence in Bayswater,
overlooking the Park, where dwelt Aunts Ann, Juley, and Hester.
The uneasiness of the Forsyte family has been justified by the
simple mention of the hat. How impossible and wrong would it
have been for any family, with the regard for appearances which
should ever characterize the great upper middle-class, to feel
otherwise than uneasy!
The author of the uneasiness stood talking to June by the further
door; his curly hair had a rumpled appearance, as though he found
what was going on around him unusual. He had an air, too, of
having a joke all to himself. George, speaking aside to his
brother, Eustace, said:
"Looks as if he might make a bolt of it--the dashing Buccaneer!"
This 'very singular-looking man,' as Mrs. Small afterwards called
him, was of medium height and strong build, with a pale, brown
face, a dust-coloured moustache, very prominent cheek-bones, and
hollow checks. His forehead sloped back towards the crown of his
head, and bulged out in bumps over the eyes, like foreheads seen
in the Lion-house at the Zoo. He had sherry-coloured eyes,
disconcertingly inattentive at times. Old Jolyon's coachman,
after driving June and Bosinney to the theatre, had remarked to
"I dunno what to make of 'im. Looks to me for all the world like
an 'alf-tame leopard." And every now and then a Forsyte would
come up, sidle round, and take a look at him.
June stood in front, fending off this idle curiosity--a little
bit of a thing, as somebody once said, 'all hair and spirit,'
with fearless blue eyes, a firm jaw, and a bright colour, whose
face and body seemed too slender for her crown of red-gold hair.
A tall woman, with a beautiful figure, which some member of the
family had once compared to a heathen goddess, stood looking at
these two with a shadowy smile.
Her hands, gloved in French grey, were crossed one over the
other, her grave, charming face held to one side, and the eyes of
all men near were fastened on it. Her figure swayed, so balanced
that the very air seemed to set it moving. There was warmth, but
little colour, in her cheeks; her large, dark eyes were soft.
But it was at her lips--asking a question, giving an answer, with
that shadowy smile--that men looked; they were sensitive lips,
sensuous and sweet, and through them seemed to come warmth and
perfume like the warmth and perfume of a flower.
The engaged couple thus scrutinized were unconscious of this
passive goddess. It was Bosinney who first noticed her, and
asked her name.
June took her lover up to the woman with the beautiful figure.
"Irene is my greatest chum," she said: "Please be good friends,
At the little lady's command they all three smiled; and while
they were smiling, Soames Forsyte, silently appearing from behind
the woman with the beautiful figure, who was his wife, said:
"Ah! introduce me too!"
He was seldom, indeed, far from Irene's side at public functions,
and even when separated by the exigencies of social intercourse,
could be seen following her about with his eyes, in which were
strange expressions of watchfulness and longing.
At the window his father, James, was still scrutinizing the marks
on the piece of china.
"I wonder at Jolyon's allowing this engagement," he said to Aunt
Ann. "They tell me there's no chance of their getting married
for years. This young Bosinney" (he made the word a dactyl in
opposition to general usage of a short o) "has got nothing. When
Winifred married Dartie, I made him bring every penny into
settlement--lucky thing, too--they'd ha' had nothing by this
Aunt Ann looked up from her velvet chair. Grey curls banded her
forehead, curls that, unchanged for decades, had extinguished in
the family all sense of time. She made no reply, for she rarely
spoke, husbanding her aged voice; but to James, uneasy of
conscience, her look was as good as an answer.
"Well," he said, "I couldn't help Irene's having no money.
Soames was in such a hurry; he got quite thin dancing attendance
Putting the bowl pettishly down on the piano, he let his eyes
wander to the group by the door.
"It's my opinion," he said unexpectedly, "that it's just as well
as it is."
Aunt Ann did not ask him to explain this strange utterance. She
knew what he was thinking. If Irene had no money she would not
be so foolish as to do anything wrong; for they said--they said--
she had been asking for a separate room; but, of course, Soames
James interrupted her reverie:
"But where," he asked, "was Timothy? Hadn't he come with them?"
Through Aunt Ann's compressed lips a tender smile forced its way:
"No, he didn't think it wise, with so much of this diphtheria
about; and he so liable to take things."
"Well, HE takes good care of himself. I can't afford to take the
care of myself that he does."
Nor was it easy to say which, of admiration, envy, or contempt,
was dominant in that remark.
Timothy, indeed, was seldom seen. The baby of the family, a
publisher by profession, he had some years before, when business
was at full tide, scented out the stagnation which, indeed, had
not yet come, but which ultimately, as all agreed, was bound to
set in, and, selling his share in a firm engaged mainly in the
production of religious books, had invested the quite conspicuous
proceeds in three per cent. consols. By this act he had at once
assumed an isolated position, no other Forsyte being content with
less than four per cent. for his money; and this isolation had
slowly and surely undermined a spirit perhaps better than
commonly endowed with caution. He had become almost a myth--a
kind of incarnation of security haunting the background of the
Forsyte universe. He had never committed the imprudence of
marrying, or encumbering himself in any way with children.
James resumed, tapping the piece of china:
"This isn't real old Worcester. I s'pose Jolyon's told you
something about the young man. From all I can learn, he's got no
business, no income, and no connection worth speaking of; but
then, I know nothing--nobody tells me anything."
Aunt Ann shook her head. Over her square-chinned, aquiline old
face a trembling passed; the spidery fingers of her hands pressed
against each other and interlaced, as though she were subtly
recharging her will.
The eldest by some years of all the Forsytes, she held a peculiar
position amongst them. Opportunists and egotists one and all--
though not, indeed, more so than their neighbours--they quailed
before her incorruptible figure, and, when opportunities were too
strong, what could they do but avoid her!
Twisting his long, thin legs, James went on:
"Jolyon, he will have his own way. He's got no children"--and
stopped, recollecting the continued existence of old Jolyon's
son, young Jolyon, June's father, who had made such a mess of it,
and done for himself by deserting his wife and child and running
away with that foreign governess. "Well," he resumed hastily,
"if he likes to do these things, I s'pose he can afford to. Now,
what's he going to give her? I s'pose he'll give her a thousand
a year; he's got nobody else to leave his money to."
He stretched out his hand to meet that of a dapper, clean-shaven
man, with hardly a hair on his head, a long, broken nose, full
lips, and cold grey eyes under rectangular brows.
"Well, Nick," he muttered, "how are you?"
Nicholas Forsyte, with his bird-like rapidity and the look of a
preternaturally sage schoolboy (he had made a large fortune,
quite legitimately, out of the companies of which he was a
director), placed within that cold palm the tips of his still
colder fingers and hastily withdrew them.
"I'm bad," he said, pouting--"been bad all the week; don't sleep
at night. The doctor can't tell why. He's a clever fellow, or I
shouldn't have him, but I get nothing out of him but bills."
"Doctors!" said James, coming down sharp on his words: "I've had
all the doctors in London for one or another of us. There's no
satisfaction to be got out of them; they'll tell you anything.
There's Swithin, now. What good have they done him? There he
is; he's bigger than ever; he's enormous; they can't get his
weight down. Look at him!"
Swithin Forsyte, tall, square, and broad, with a chest like a
pouter pigeon's in its plumage of bright waistcoats, came
strutting towards them.
"Er--how are you?" he said in his dandified way, aspirating the
'h' strongly (this difficult letter was almost absolutely safe in
his keeping)--"how are you?"
Each brother wore an air of aggravation as he looked at the other
two, knowing by experience that they would try to eclipse his
"We were just saying," said James, "that you don't get any
Swithin protruded his pale round eyes with the effort of hearing.
"Thinner? I'm in good case," he said, leaning a little forward,
"not one of your thread-papers like you!"
But, afraid of losing the expansion of his chest, he leaned back
again into a state of immobility, for he prized nothing so highly
as a distinguished appearance.
Aunt Ann turned her old eyes from one to the other. Indulgent
and severe was her look. In turn the three brothers looked at
Ann. She was getting shaky. Wonderful woman! Eighty-six if a
day; might live another ten years, and had never been strong.
Swithin and James, the twins, were only seventy-five, Nicholas a
mere baby of seventy or so. All were strong, and the inference
was comforting. Of all forms of property their respective healths
naturally concerned them most.
"I'm very well in myself," proceeded James, "but my nerves are
out of order. The least thing worries me to death. I shall have
to go to Bath."
"Bath!" said Nicholas. "I've tried Harrogate. That's no good.
What I want is sea air. There's nothing like Yarmouth. Now,
when I go there I sleep...."
"My liver's very bad," interrupted Swithin slowly. "Dreadful
pain here;" and he placed his hand on his right side.
"Want of exercise," muttered James, his eyes on the china. He
quickly added: "I get a pain there, too."
Swithin reddened, a resemblance to a turkey-cock coming upon his
"Exercise!" he said. "I take plenty: I never use the lift at the
"I didn't know," James hurried out. "I know nothing about
anybody; nobody tells me anything...."
Swithin fixed him with a stare:
"What do you do for a pain there?"
"I take a compound...."
"How are you, uncle?"
June stood before him, her resolute small face raised from her
little height to his great height, and her hand outheld.
The brightness faded from James's visage.
"How are you?" he said, brooding over her. "So you're going to
Wales to-morrow to visit your young man's aunts? You'll have a
lot of rain there. This isn't real old Worcester." He tapped the
bowl. "Now, that set I gave your mother when she married was the
June shook hands one by one with her three great-uncles, and
turned to Aunt Ann. A very sweet look had come into the old
lady's face, she kissed the girl's check with trembling fervour.
"Well, my dear," she said, "and so you're going for a whole
The girl passed on, and Aunt Ann looked after her slim little
figure. The old lady's round, steel grey eyes, over which a film
like a bird's was beginning to come, followed her wistfully
amongst the bustling crowd, for people were beginning to
say good-bye; and her finger-tips, pressing and pressing against
each other, were busy again with the recharging of her will
against that inevitable ultimate departure of her own.
'Yes,' she thought, 'everybody's been most kind; quite a lot of
people come to congratulate her. She ought to be very happy.'
Amongst the throng of people by the door, the well-dressed throng
drawn from the families of lawyers and doctors, from the Stock
Exchange, and all the innumerable avocations of the upper-middle
class--there were only some twenty percent of Forsytes; but to
Aunt Ann they seemed all Forsytes--and certainly there was not
much difference--she saw only her own flesh and blood. It was
her world, this family, and she knew no other, had never perhaps
known any other. All their little secrets, illnesses,
engagements, and marriages, how they were getting on, and whether
they were making money--all this was her property, her delight,
her life; beyond this only a vague, shadowy mist of facts and
persons of no real significance. This it was that she would have
to lay down when it came to her turn to die; this which gave to
her that importance, that secret self-importance, without which
none of us can bear to live; and to this she clung wistfully,
with a greed that grew each day! If life were slipping away from
her, this she would retain to the end.
She thought of June's father, young Jolyon, who had run away with
that foreign girl. And what a sad blow to his father and to them
all. Such a promising young fellow! A sad blow, though there
had been no public scandal, most fortunately, Jo's wife seeking
for no divorce! A long time ago! And when June's mother died,
six years ago, Jo had married that woman, and they had two
children now, so she had heard. Still, he had forfeited his
right to be there, had cheated her of the complete fulfilment of
her family pride, deprived her of the rightful pleasure of seeing
and kissing him of whom she had been so proud, such a promising
young fellow! The thought rankled with the bitterness of a
long-inflicted injury in her tenacious old heart. A little water
stood in her eyes. With a handkerchief of the finest lawn she
wiped them stealthily.
"Well, Aunt Ann?" said a voice behind.
Soames Forsyte, flat-shouldered, clean-shaven, flat-cheeked,
flat-waisted, yet with something round and secret about his whole
appearance, looked downwards and aslant at Aunt Ann, as though
trying to see through the side of his own nose.
"And what do you think of the engagement?" he asked.
Aunt Ann's eyes rested on him proudly; of all the nephews since
young Jolyon's departure from the family nest, he was now her
favourite, for she recognised in him a sure trustee of the family
soul that must so soon slip beyond her keeping.
"Very nice for the young man," she said; "and he's a good-looking
young fellow; but I doubt if he's quite the right lover for dear
Soames touched the edge of a gold-lacquered lustre.
"She'll tame him," he said, stealthily wetting his finger and
rubbing it on the knobby bulbs. "That's genuine old lacquer; you
can't get it nowadays. It'd do well in a sale at Jobson's." He
spoke with relish, as though he felt that he was cheering up his
old aunt. It was seldom he was so confidential. "I wouldn't
mind having it myself," he added; "you can always get your price
for old lacquer."
"You're so clever with all those things," said Aunt Ann. "And
how is dear Irene?"
Soames's smile died.
"Pretty well," he said. "Complains she can't sleep; she sleeps a
great deal better than I do," and he looked at his wife, who was
talking to Bosinney by the door.
Aunt Ann sighed.
"Perhaps," she said, "it will be just as well for her not to see
so much of June. She's such a decided character, dear June!"
Soames flushed; his flushes passed rapidly over his flat cheeks
and centered between his eyes, where they remained, the stamp of
"I don't know what she sees in that little flibbertigibbet," he
burst out, but noticing that they were no longer alone, he turned
and again began examining the lustre.
"They tell me Jolyon's bought another house," said his father's
voice close by; "he must have a lot of money--he must have more
money than he knows what to do with! Montpellier Square, they
say; close to Soames! They never told me, Irene never tells me
"Capital position, not two minutes from me," said the voice of
Swithin, "and from my rooms I can drive to the Club in eight."
The position of their houses was of vital importance to the
Forsytes, nor was this remarkable, since the whole spirit of
their success was embodied therein.
Their father, of farming stock, had come from Dorsetshire near
the beginning of the century.
'Superior Dosset Forsyte, as he was called by his intimates, had
been a stonemason by trade, and risen to the position of a
Towards the end of his life he moved to London, where, building
on until he died, he was buried at Highgate. He left over thirty
thousand pounds between his ten children. Old Jolyon alluded to
him, if at all, as 'A hard, thick sort of man; not much
refinement about him.' The second generation of Forsytes felt
indeed that he was not greatly to their credit. The only
aristocratic trait they could find in his character was a habit
of drinking Madeira.
Aunt Hester, an authority on family history, described him thus:
"I don't recollect that he ever did anything; at least, not in my
time. He was er--an owner of houses, my dear. His hair about
your Uncle Swithin's colour; rather a square build. Tall? No--
not very tall" (he had been five feet five, with a mottled
face); "a fresh-coloured man. I remember he used to drink
Madeira; but ask your Aunt Ann. What was his father? He--er--
had to do with the land down in Dorsetshire, by the sea."
James once went down to see for himself what sort of place this
was that they had come from. He found two old farms, with a cart
track rutted into the pink earth, leading down to a mill by the
beach; a little grey church with a buttressed outer wall, and a
smaller and greyer chapel. The stream which worked the mill came
bubbling down in a dozen rivulets, and pigs were hunting round
that estuary. A haze hovered over the prospect. Down this
hollow, with their feet deep in the mud and their faces towards
the sea, it appeared that the primeval Forsytes had been content
to walk Sunday after Sunday for hundreds of years.
Whether or no James had cherished hopes of an inheritance, or of
something rather distinguished to be found down there, he came
back to town in a poor way, and went about with a pathetic
attempt at making the best of a bad job.
"There's very little to be had out of that," he said; "regular
country little place, old as the hills...."
Its age was felt to be a comfort. Old Jolyon, in whom a
desperate honesty welled up at times, would allude to his
ancestors as: "Yeomen--I suppose very small beer." Yet he would
repeat the word 'yeomen' as if it afforded him consolation.
They had all done so well for themselves, these Forsytes, that
they were all what is called 'of a certain position.' They had
shares in all sorts of things, not as yet--with the exception of
Timothy--in consols, for they had no dread in life like that of
3 per cent. for their money. They collected pictures, too, and
were supporters of such charitable institutions as might be
beneficial to their sick domestics. From their father, the
builder, they inherited a talent for bricks and mortar.
Originally, perhaps, members of some primitive sect, they were
now in the natural course of things members of the Church of
England, and caused their wives and children to attend with some
regularity the more fashionable churches of the Metropolis. To
have doubted their Christianity would have caused them both pain
and surprise. Some of them paid for pews, thus expressing in the
most practical form their sympathy with the teachings of Christ.
Their residences, placed at stated intervals round the park,
watched like sentinels, lest the fair heart of this London, where
their desires were fixed, should slip from their clutches, and
leave them lower in their own estimations.
There was old Jolyon in Stanhope Place; the Jameses in Park Lane;
Swithin in the lonely glory of orange and blue chambers in Hyde
Park Mansions--he had never married, not he--the Soamses in their
nest off Knightsbridge; the Rogers in Prince's Gardens (Roger was
that remarkable Forsyte who had conceived and carried out the
notion of bringing up his four sons to a new profession.
"Collect house property, nothing like it," he would say;
"I never did anything else").
The Haymans again--Mrs. Hayman was the one married Forsyte
sister--in a house high up on Campden Hill, shaped like a
giraffe, and so tall that it gave the observer a crick in the
neck; the Nicholases in Ladbroke Grove, a spacious abode and a
great bargain; and last, but not least, Timothy's on the
Bayswater Road, where Ann, and Juley, and Hester, lived under his
But all this time James was musing, and now he inquired of his
host and brother what he had given for that house in Montpellier
Square. He himself had had his eye on a house there for the last
two years, but they wanted such a price.
Old Jolyon recounted the details of his purchase.
"Twenty-two years to run?" repeated James; "The very house I was
after--you've given too much for it!"
Old Jolyon frowned.
"It's not that I want it," said James hastily; it wouldn't suit
my purpose at that price. Soames knows the house, well--he'll
tell you it's too dear--his opinion's worth having."
"I don't," said old Jolyon, "care a fig for his opinion."
"Well," murmured James, "you will have your own way--it's a good
opinion. Good-bye! We're going to drive down to Hurlingham.
They tell me June's going to Wales. You'll be lonely tomorrow.
What'll you do with yourself? You'd better come and dine with
Old Jolyon refused. He went down to the front door and saw them
into their barouche, and twinkled at them, having already
forgotten his spleen--Mrs. James facing the horses, tall and
majestic with auburn hair; on her left, Irene--the two husbands,
father and son, sitting forward, as though they expected
something, opposite their wives. Bobbing and bounding upon the
spring cushions, silent, swaying to each motion of their chariot,
old Jolyon watched them drive away under the sunlight.
During the drive the silence was broken by Mrs. James.
"Did you ever see such a collection of rumty-too people?"
Soames, glancing at her beneath his eyelids, nodded, and he saw
Irene steal at him one of her unfathomable looks. It is likely
enough that each branch of the Forsyte family made that remark as
they drove away from old Jolyon's 'At Home!'
Amongst the last of the departing guests the fourth and fifth
brothers, Nicholas and Roger, walked away together, directing
their steps alongside Hyde Park towards the Praed Street Station
of the Underground. Like all other Forsytes of a certain age
they kept carriages of their own, and never took cabs if by any
means they could avoid it.
The day was bright, the trees of the Park in the full beauty of
mid-June foliage; the brothers did not seem to notice phenomena,
which contributed, nevertheless, to the jauntiness of promenade
"Yes," said Roger, "she's a good-lookin' woman, that wife of
Soames's. I'm told they don't get on."
This brother had a high forehead, and the freshest colour of any
of the Forsytes; his light grey eyes measured the street frontage
of the houses by the way, and now and then he would level his,
umbrella and take a 'lunar,' as he expressed it, of the varying
"She'd no money," replied Nicholas.
He himself had married a good deal of money, of which, it being
then the golden age before the Married Women's Property Act, he
had mercifully been enabled to make a successful use.
"What was her father?"
"Heron was his name, a Professor, so they tell me."
Roger shook his head.
"There's no money in that," he said.
"They say her mother's father was cement."
Roger's face brightened.
"But he went bankrupt," went on Nicholas.
"Ah!" exclaimed Roger, "Soames will have trouble with her; you
mark my words, he'll have trouble--she's got a foreign look."
Nicholas licked his lips.
"She's a pretty woman," and he waved aside a crossing-sweeper.
"How did he get hold of her?" asked Roger presently. "She must
cost him a pretty penny in dress!"
"Ann tells me," replied Nicholas," he was half-cracked about her.
She refused him five times. James, he's nervous about it, I can
"Ah!" said Roger again; "I'm sorry for James; he had trouble with
Dartie." His pleasant colour was heightened by exercise, he swung
his umbrella to the level of his eye more frequently than ever.
Nicholas's face also wore a pleasant look.
"Too pale for me," he said, "but her figures capital!"
Roger made no reply.
"I call her distinguished-looking," he said at last--it was the
highest praise in the Forsyte vocabulary. "That young Bosinney
will never do any good for himself. They say at Burkitt's he's
one of these artistic chaps--got an idea of improving English
architecture; there's no money in that! I should like to hear
what Timothy would say to it."
They entered the station.
"What class are you going? I go second."
"No second for me," said Nicholas;--"you never know what you may
He took a first-class ticket to Notting Hill Gate; Roger a second
to South Kensington. The train coming in a minute later, the two
brothers parted and entered their respective compartments. Each
felt aggrieved that the other had not modified his habits to
secure his society a little longer; but as Roger voiced it in his
'Always a stubborn beggar, Nick!'
And as Nicholas expressed it to himself:
'Cantankerous chap Roger--always was!'
There was little sentimentality about the Forsytes. In that
great London, which they had conquered and become merged in, what
time had they to be sentimental?
OLD JOLYON GOES TO THE OPERA
At five o'clock the following day old Jolyon sat alone, a cigar
between his lips, and on a table by his side a cup of tea. He
was tired, and before he had finished his cigar he fell asleep.
A fly settled on his hair, his breathing sounded heavy in the
drowsy silence, his upper lip under the white moustache puffed in
and out. From between the fingers of his veined and wrinkled
hand the cigar, dropping on the empty hearth, burned itself out.
The gloomy little study, with windows of stained glass to
exclude the view, was full of dark green velvet and
heavily-carved mahogany--a suite of which old Jolyon was wont to
say: 'Shouldn't wonder if it made a big price some day!'
It was pleasant to think that in the after life he could get more
for things than he had given.
In the rich brown atmosphere peculiar to back rooms in the
mansion of a Forsyte, the Rembrandtesque effect of his great
head, with its white hair, against the cushion of his high-backed
seat, was spoiled by the moustache, which imparted a somewhat
military look to his face. An old clock that had been with him
since before his marriage forty years ago kept with its ticking a
jealous record of the seconds slipping away forever from its old
He had never cared for this room, hardly going into it from one
year's end to another, except to take cigars from the Japanese
cabinet in the corner, and the room now had its revenge.
His temples, curving like thatches over the hollows beneath, his
cheek-bones and chin, all were sharpened in his sleep, and there
had come upon his face the confession that he was an old man.
He woke. June had gone! James had said he would be lonely.
James had always been a poor thing. He recollected with
satisfaction that he had bought that house over James's head.
Serve him right for sticking at the price; the only thing the
fellow thought of was money. Had he given too much, though? It
wanted a lot of doing to--He dared say he would want all his
money before he had done with this affair of June's. He ought
never to have allowed the engagement. She had met this Bosinney
at the house of Baynes, Baynes and Bildeboy, the architects. He
believed that Baynes, whom he knew--a bit of an old woman--was
the young man's uncle by marriage. After that she'd been always
running after him; and when she took a thing into her head there
was no stopping her. She was continually taking up with 'lame
ducks' of one sort or another. This fellow had no money, but she
must needs become engaged to him--a harumscarum, unpractical
chap, who would get himself into no end of difficulties.
She had come to him one day in her slap-dash way and told him;
and, as if it were any consolation, she had added:
"He's so splendid; he's often lived on cocoa for a week!"
"And he wants you to live on cocoa too?"
"Oh no; he is getting into the swim now."
Old Jolyon had taken his cigar from under his white moustaches,
stained by coffee at the edge, and looked at her, that little
slip of a thing who had got such a grip of his heart. He knew
more about 'swims' than his granddaughter. But she, having
clasped her hands on his knees, rubbed her chin against him,
making a sound like a purring cat. And, knocking the ash off his
cigar, he had exploded in nervous desperation:
"You're all alike: you won't be satisfied till you've got what
you want. If you must come to grief, you must; I wash my hands
So, he had washed his hands of it, making the condition that they
should not marry until Bosinney had at least four hundred a year.
"I shan't be able to give you very much," he had said, a formula
to which June was not unaccustomed." Perhaps this What's-his-
name will provide the cocoa."
He had hardly seen anything of her since it began. A bad
business! He had no notion of giving her a lot of money to
enable a fellow he knew nothing about to live on in idleness.
He had seen that sort of thing before; no good ever came of it.
Worst of all, he had no hope of shaking her resolution; she was
as obstinate as a mule, always had been from a child. He didn't
see where it was to end. They must cut their coat according to
their cloth. He would not give way till he saw young Bosinney
with an income of his own. That June would have trouble with the
fellow was as plain as a pikestaff; he had no more idea of money
than a cow. As to this rushing down to Wales to visit the young
man's aunts, he fully expected they were old cats.
And, motionless, old Jolyon stared at the wall; but for his open
eyes, he might have been asleep.... The idea of supposing that
young cub Soames could give him advice! He had always been a
cub, with his nose in the air! He would be setting up as a man
of property next, with a place in the country! A man of
property! H'mph! Like his father, he was always nosing out
bargains, a cold-blooded young beggar!
He rose, and, going to the cabinet, began methodically stocking
his cigar-case from a bundle fresh in. They were not bad at the
price, but you couldn't get a good cigar, nowadays, nothing to
hold a candle to those old Superfinos of Hanson and Bridger's.
That was a cigar!
The thought, like some stealing perfume, carried him back to
those wonderful nights at Richmond when after dinner he sat
smoking on the terrace of the Crown and Sceptre with Nicholas
Treffry and Traquair and Jack Herring and Anthony Thornworthy.
How good his cigars were then! Poor old Nick!--dead, and Jack
Herring--dead, and Traquair--dead of that wife of his, and
Thornworthy--awfully shaky (no wonder, with his appetite).
Of all the company of those days he himself alone seemed left,
except Swithin, of course, and he so outrageously big there was
no doing anything with him.
Difficult to believe it was so long ago; he felt young still! Of
all his thoughts, as he stood there counting his cigars, this was
the most poignant, the most bitter. With his white head and his
loneliness he had remained young and green at heart. And those
Sunday afternoons on Hampstead Heath, when young Jolyon and he
went for a stretch along the Spaniard's Road to Highgate, to
Child's Hill, and back over the Heath again to dine at Jack
Straw's Castle--how delicious his cigars were then! And such
weather! There was no weather now.
When June was a toddler of five, and every other Sunday he took
her to the Zoo, away from the society of those two good women,
her mother and her grandmother, and at the top of the bear den
baited his umbrella with buns for her favourite bears, how sweet
his cigars were then!
Cigars! He had not even succeeded in out-living his palate--the
famous palate that in the fifties men swore by, and speaking of
him, said: "Forsyte's the best palate in London!" The palate that
in a sense had made his fortune--the fortune of the celebrated
tea men, Forsyte and Treffry, whose tea, like no other man's tea,
had a romantic aroma, the charm of a quite singular genuineness.
About the house of Forsyte and Treffry in the City had clung an
air of enterprise and mystery, of special dealings in special
ships, at special ports, with special Orientals.
He had worked at that business! Men did work in those days!
these young pups hardly knew the meaning of the word. He had
gone into every detail, known everything that went on, sometimes
sat up all night over it. And he had always chosen his agents
himself, prided himself on it. His eye for men, he used to say,
had been the secret of his success, and the exercise of this
masterful power of selection had been the only part of it all
that he had really liked. Not a career for a man of his ability.
Even now, when the business had been turned into a Limited
Liability Company, and was declining (he had got out of his
shares long ago), he felt a sharp chagrin in thinking of that
time. How much better he might have done! He would have
succeeded splendidly at the Bar! He had even thought of standing
for Parliament. How often had not Nicholas Treffry said to him:
"You could do anything, Jo, if you weren't so d-damned careful of
yourself!" Dear old Nick! Such a good fellow, but a racketty
chap! The notorious Treffry! He had never taken any care of
himself. So he was dead. Old Jolyon counted his cigars with a
steady hand, and it came into his mind to wonder if perhaps he
had been too careful of himself.
He put the cigar-case in the breast of his coat, buttoned it in,
and walked up the long flights to his bedroom, leaning on one
foot and the other, and helping himself by the bannister. The
house was too big. After June was married, if she ever did marry
this fellow, as he supposed she would, he would let it and go
into rooms. What was the use of keeping half a dozen servants
eating their heads off?
The butler came to the ring of his bell--a large man with a
beard, a soft tread, and a peculiar capacity for silence. Old
Jolyon told him to put his dress clothes out; he was going to
dine at the Club.
How long had the carriage been back from taking Miss June to the
station? Since two? Then let him come round at half-past six!
The Club which old Jolyon entered on the stroke of seven was one
of those political institutions of the upper middle class which
have seen better days. In spite of being talked about, perhaps
in consequence of being talked about, it betrayed a disappointing
vitality. People had grown tired of saying that the 'Disunion'
was on its last legs. Old Jolyon would say it, too, yet
disregarded the fact in a manner truly irritating to
"Why do you keep your name on?" Swithin often asked him with
profound vexation. "Why don't you join the 'Polyglot'? You can't
get a wine like our Heidsieck under twenty shillin' a bottle
anywhere in London;" and, dropping his voice, he added: "There's
only five hundred dozen left. I drink it every night of my
"I'll think of it," old Jolyon would answer; but when he did think
of it there was always the question of fifty guineas entrance
fee, and it would take him four or five years to get in. He
continued to think of it.
He was too old to be a Liberal, had long ceased to believe in the
political doctrines of his Club, had even been known to allude to
them as 'wretched stuff,' and it afforded him pleasure to
continue a member in the teeth of principles so opposed to his
own. He had always had a contempt for the place, having joined
it many years ago when they refused to have him at the 'Hotch
Potch' owing to his being 'in trade.' As if he were not as good
as any of them! He naturally despised the Club that did take
him. The members were a poor lot, many of them in the City--
stockbrokers, solicitors, auctioneers--what not! Like most men
of strong character but not too much originality, old Jolyon set
small store by the class to which he belonged. Faithfully he
followed their customs, social and otherwise, and secretly he
thought them 'a common lot.'
Years and philosophy, of which he had his share, had dimmed the
recollection of his defeat at the 'Hotch Potch'; and now in his
thoughts it was enshrined as the Queen of Clubs. He would have
been a member all these years himself, but, owing to the slipshod
way his proposer, Jack Herring, had gone to work, they had not
known what they were doing in keeping him out. Why! they had
taken his son Jo at once, and he believed the boy was still a
member; he had received a letter dated from there eight years
He had not been near the 'Disunion' for months, and the house had
undergone the piebald decoration which people bestow on old
houses and old ships when anxious to sell them.
'Beastly colour, the smoking-room!' he thought. 'The dining-room
Its gloomy chocolate, picked out with light green, took his
He ordered dinner, and sat down in the very corner, at the very
table perhaps! (things did not progress much at the 'Disunion,'
a Club of almost Radical principles) at which he and young Jolyon
used to sit twenty-five years ago, when he was taking the latter
to Drury Lane, during his holidays.
The boy had loved the theatre, and old Jolyon recalled how he
used to sit opposite, concealing his excitement under a careful
but transparent nonchalance.
He ordered himself, too, the very dinner the boy had always
chosen-soup, whitebait, cutlets, and a tart. Ah! if he were
only opposite now!
The two had not met for fourteen years. And not for the first
time during those fourteen years old Jolyon wondered whether he
had been a little to blame in the matter of his son. An
unfortunate love-affair with that precious flirt Danae Thorn-
worthy (now Danae Pellew), Anthony Thornworthy's daughter, had
thrown him on the rebound into the arms of June's mother. He
ought perhaps to have put a spoke in the wheel of their marriage;
they were too young; but after that experience of Jo's
susceptibility he had been only too anxious to see him married.
And in four years the crash had come! To have approved his son's
conduct in that crash was, of course, impossible; reason and
training--that combination of potent factors which stood for his
principles--told him of this impossibility, and his heart cried
out. The grim remorselessness of that business had no pity for
hearts. There was June, the atom with flaming hair, who had
climbed all over him, twined and twisted herself about him--about
his heart that was made to be the plaything and beloved resort of
tiny, helpless things. With characteristic insight he saw he
must part with one or with the other; no half-measures could
serve in such a situation. In that lay its tragedy. And the
tiny, helpless thing prevailed. He would not run with the hare
and hunt with the hounds, and so to his son he said good-bye.
That good-bye had lasted until now.
He had proposed to continue a reduced allowance to young Jolyon,
but this had been refused, and perhaps that refusal had hurt him
more than anything, for with it had gone the last outlet of his
penned-in affection; and there had come such tangible and solid
proof of rupture as only a transaction in property, a bestowal or
refusal of such, could supply.
His dinner tasted flat. His pint of champagne was dry and bitter
stuff, not like the Veuve Clicquots of old days.
Over his cup of coffee, he bethought him that he would go to the
opera. In the Times, therefore--he had a distrust of other
papers--he read the announcement for the evening. It was
Mercifully not one of those new-fangled German pantomimes by that
Putting on his ancient opera hat, which, with its brim flattened
by use, and huge capacity, looked like an emblem of greater days,
and, pulling out an old pair of very thin lavender kid gloves
smelling strongly of Russia leather, from habitual proximity to
the cigar-case in the pocket of his overcoat, he stepped into a
The cab rattled gaily along the streets, and old Jolyon was
struck by their unwonted animation.
'The hotels must be doing a tremendous business,' he thought. A
few years ago there had been none of these big hotels. He made
a satisfactory reflection on some property he had in the
neighbourhood. It must be going up in value by leaps and bounds!
But from that he began indulging in one of those strange
impersonal speculations, so uncharacteristic of a Forsyte,
wherein lay, in part, the secret of his supremacy amongst them.
What atoms men were, and what a lot of them! And what would
become of them all?
He stumbled as he got out of the cab, gave the man his exact
fare, walked up to the ticket office to take his stall, and stood
there with his purse in his hand--he always carried his money in
a purse, never having approved of that habit of carrying it
loosely in the pockets, as so many young men did nowadays. The
official leaned out, like an old dog from a kennel.
"Why," he said in a surprised voice, "it's Mr. Jolyon Forsyte!
So it is! Haven't seen you, sir, for years. Dear me! Times
aren't what they were. Why! you and your brother, and that
auctioneer--Mr. Traquair, and Mr. Nicholas Treffry--you used to
have six or seven stalls here regular every season. And how are
you, sir? We don't get younger!"
The colour in old Jolyon's eyes deepened; he paid his guinea.
They had not forgotten him. He marched in, to the sounds of the
overture, like an old war-horse to battle.
Folding his opera hat, he sat down, drew out his lavender gloves
in the old way, and took up his glasses for a long look round the
house. Dropping them at last on his folded hat, he fixed his
eyes on the curtain. More poignantly than ever he felt that it
was all over and done with him. Where were all the women, the
pretty women, the house used to be so full of? Where was that
old feeling in the heart as he waited for one of those great
singers? Where that sensation of the intoxication of life and
of his own power to enjoy it all?
The greatest opera-goer of his day! There was no opera now!
That fellow Wagner had ruined everything; no melody left, nor any
voices to sing it. Ah! the wonderful singers! Gone! He sat
watching the old scenes acted, a numb feeling at his heart.
From the curl of silver over his ear to the pose of his foot in
its elastic-sided patent boot, there was nothing clumsy or weak
about old Jolyon. He was as upright--very nearly--as in those
old times when he came every night; his sight was as good--almost
as good. But what a feeling of weariness and disillusion!
He had been in the habit all his life of enjoying things, even
imperfect things--and there had been many imperfect things--he
had enjoyed them all with moderation, so as to keep himself
young. But now he was deserted by his power of enjoyment, by his
philosophy, and left with this dreadful feeling that it was all
done with. Not even the Prisoners' Chorus, nor Florian's Song,
had the power to dispel the gloom of his loneliness.
If Jo were only with him! The boy must be forty by now. He had
wasted fourteen years out of the life of his only son. And Jo
was no longer a social pariah. He was married. Old Jolyon had
been unable to refrain from marking his appreciation of the
action by enclosing his son a cheque for L500. The cheque had
been returned in a letter from the 'Hotch Potch,' couched in
'MY DEAREST FATHER,
'Your generous gift was welcome as a sign that you might think
worse of me. I return it, but should you think fit to invest it
for the benefit of the little chap (we call him Jolly), who bears
our Christian and, by courtesy, our surname, I shall be very
'I hope with all my heart that your health is as good as ever.
'Your loving son,
The letter was like the boy. He had always been an amiable chap.
Old Jolyon had sent this reply:
'MY DEAR JO,
'The sum (L500) stands in my books for the benefit of your boy,
under the name of Jolyon Forsyte, and will be duly-credited with
interest at 5 per cent. I hope that you are doing well. My
health remains good at present.
'With love, I am,
'Your affectionate Father,
And every year on the 1st of January he had added a hundred and
the interest. The sum was mounting up--next New Year's Day it
would be fifteen hundred and odd pounds! And it is difficult to
say how much satisfaction he had got out of that yearly
transaction. But the correspondence had ended.
In spite of his love for his son, in spite of an instinct, partly
constitutional, partly the result, as in thousands of his class,
of the continual handling and watching of affairs, prompting him
to judge conduct by results rather than by principle, there was
at the bottom of his heart a sort of uneasiness. His son ought,
under the circumstances, to have gone to the dogs; that law was
laid down in all the novels, sermons, and plays he had ever read,
heard, or witnessed.
After receiving the cheque back there seemed to him to be
something wrong somewhere. Why had his son not gone to the
dogs? But, then, who could tell?
He had heard, of course--in fact, he had made it his business
to find out--that Jo lived in St. John's Wood, that he had a
little house in Wistaria Avenue with a garden, and took his wife
about with him into society--a queer sort of society, no doubt--
and that they had two children--the little chap they called Jolly
(considering the circumstances the name struck him as cynical,
and old Jolyon both feared and disliked cynicism), and a girl
called Holly, born since the marriage. Who could tell what his
son's circumstances really were? He had capitalized the income
he had inherited from his mother's father and joined Lloyd's as
an underwriter; he painted pictures, too--water-colours. Old
Jolyon knew this, for he had surreptitiously bought them from
time to time, after chancing to see his son's name signed at the
bottom of a representation of the river Thames in a dealer's
window. He thought them bad, and did not hang them because of
the signature; he kept them locked up in a drawer.
In the great opera-house a terrible yearning came on him to see
his son. He remembered the days when he had been wont to slide
him, in a brown holland suit, to and fro under the arch of his
legs; the times when he ran beside the boy's pony, teaching him
to ride; the day he first took him to school. He had been a
loving, lovable little chap! After he went to Eton he had
acquired, perhaps, a little too much of that desirable manner
which old Jolyon knew was only to be obtained at such places and
at great expense; but he had always been companionable. Always a
companion, even after Cambridge--a little far off, perhaps, owing
to the advantages he had received. Old Jolyon's feeling towards
our public schools and 'Varsities never wavered, and he retained
touchingly his attitude of admiration and mistrust towards a
system appropriate to the highest in the land, of which he had
not himself been privileged to partake.... Now that June had
gone and left, or as good as left him, it would have been a
comfort to see his son again. Guilty of this treason to his
family, his principles, his class, old Jolyon fixed his eyes on
the singer. A poor thing--a wretched poor thing! And the
Florian a perfect stick!
It was over. They were easily pleased nowadays!
In the crowded street he snapped up a cab under the very nose of
a stout and much younger gentleman, who had already assumed it to
be his own. His route lay through Pall Mall, and at the corner,
instead of going through the Green Park, the cabman turned to
drive up St. James's Street. Old Jolyon put his hand through
the trap (he could not bear being taken out of his way); in
turning, however, he found himself opposite the 'Hotch Potch, '
and the yearning that had been secretly with him the whole
evening prevailed. He called to the driver to stop. He would go
in and ask if Jo still belonged there.
He went in. The hall looked exactly as it did when he used to
dine there with Jack Herring, and they had the best cook in
London; and he looked round with the shrewd, straight glance that
had caused him all his life to be better served than most men.
"Mr. Jolyon Forsyte still a member here?"
"Yes, sir; in the Club now, sir. What name?"
Old Jolyon was taken aback.
"His father," he said.
And having spoken, he took his stand, back to the fireplace.
Young Jolyon, on the point of leaving the Club, had put on his
hat, and was in the act of crossing the hall, as the porter met
him. He was no longer young, with hair going grey, and face--a
narrower replica of his father's, with the same large drooping
moustache--decidedly worn. He turned pale. This meeting was
terrible after all those years, for nothing in the world was so
terrible as a scene. They met and crossed hands without a word.
Then, with a quaver in his voice, the father said:
"How are you, my boy?"
The son answered:
"How are you, Dad?"
Old Jolyon's hand trembled in its thin lavender glove.
"If you're going my way," he said, "I can give you a lift."
And as though in the habit of taking each other home every night
they went out and stepped into the cab.
To old Jolyon it seemed that his son had grown. 'More of a man
altogether,' was his comment. Over the natural amiability of
that son's face had come a rather sardonic mask, as though he had
found in the circumstances of his life the necessity for armour.
The features were certainly those of a Forsyte, but the expression
was more the introspective look of a student or philosopher.
He had no doubt been obliged to look into himself a good deal in
the course of those fifteen years.
To young Jolyon the first sight of his father was undoubtedly a
shock--he looked so worn and old. But in the cab he seemed
hardly to have changed, still having the calm look so well
remembered, still being upright and keen-eyed.
"You look well, Dad."
"Middling," old Jolyon answered.
He was the prey of an anxiety that he found he must put into
words. Having got his son back like this, he felt he must know
what was his financial position.
"Jo," he said, "I should like to hear what sort of water you're
in. I suppose you're in debt?"
He put it this way that his son might find it easier to confess.
Young Jolyon answered in his ironical voice:
"No! I'm not in debt!"
Old Jolyon saw that he was angry, and touched his hand. He had
run a risk. It was worth it, however, and Jo had never been
sulky with him. They drove on, without speaking again, to
Stanhope Gate. Old Jolyon invited him in, but young Jolyon shook
"June's not here," said his father hastily: "went of to-day on a
visit. I suppose you know that she's engaged to be married?"
"Already?" murmured young Jolyon'.
Old Jolyon stepped out, and, in paying the cab fare, for the
first time in his life gave the driver a sovereign in mistake for
Placing the coin in his mouth, the cabman whipped his horse
secretly on the underneath and hurried away.
Old Jolyon turned the key softly in the lock, pushed open the
door, and beckoned. His son saw him gravely hanging up his coat,
with an expression on his face like that of a boy who intends to
The door of the dining-room was open, the gas turned low; a
spirit-urn hissed on a tea-tray, and close to it a cynical
looking cat had fallen asleep on the dining-table. Old Jolyon
'shoo'd' her off at once. The incident was a relief to his
feelings; he rattled his opera hat behind the animal.
"She's got fleas," he said, following her out of the room.
Through the door in the hall leading to the basement he called
"Hssst!" several times, as though assisting the cat's departure,
till by some strange coincidence the butler appeared below.
"You can go to bed, Parfitt," said old Jolyon. "I will lock up
and put out."
When he again entered the dining-room the cat unfortunately
preceded him, with her tail in the air, proclaiming that she had
seen through this manouevre for suppressing the butler from the
A fatality had dogged old Jolyon's domestic stratagems all his
Young Jolyon could not help smiling. He was very well versed in
irony, and everything that evening seemed to him ironical. The
episode of the cat; the announcement of his own daughter's
engagement. So he had no more part or parcel in her than he had
in the Puss! And the poetical justice of this appealed to him.
"What is June like now?" he asked.
"She's a little thing," returned old Jolyon; they say she's like
me, but that's their folly. She's more like your mother--the
same eyes and hair."
"Ah! and she is pretty?"
Old Jolyon was too much of a Forsyte to praise anything freely;
especially anything for which he had a genuine admiration.
"Not bad looking--a regular Forsyte chin. It'll be lonely here
when she's gone, Jo."
The look on his face again gave young Jolyon the shock he had
felt on first seeing his father.
"What will you do with yourself, Dad? I suppose she's wrapped up
"Do with myself?" repeated old Jolyon with an angry break in his
voice. "It'll be miserable work living here alone. I don't know
how it's to end. I wish to goodness...." He checked himself, and
added: "The question is, what had I better do with this house?"
Young Jolyon looked round the room. It was peculiarly vast and
dreary, decorated with the enormous pictures of still life that
he remembered as a boy--sleeping dogs with their noses resting on
bunches of carrots, together with onions and grapes lying side by
side in mild surprise. The house was a white elephant, but he
could not conceive of his father living in a smaller place; and
all the more did it all seem ironical.
In his great chair with the book-rest sat old Jolyon, the
figurehead of his family and class and creed, with his white head
and dome-like forehead, the representative of moderation, and
order, and love of property. As lonely an old man as there was
There he sat in the gloomy comfort of the room, a puppet in the
power of great forces that cared nothing for family or class or
creed, but moved, machine-like, with dread processes to
inscrutable ends. This was how it struck young Jolyon, who had
the impersonal eye.
The poor old Dad! So this was the end, the purpose to which he
had lived with such magnificent moderation! To be lonely, and
grow older and older, yearning for a soul to speak to!
In his turn old Jolyon looked back at his son. He wanted to talk
about many things that he had been unable to talk about all these
years. It had been impossible to seriously confide in June his
conviction that property in the Soho quarter would go up in
value; his uneasiness about that tremendous silence of Pippin,
the superintendent of the New Colliery Company, of which he had
so long been chairman; his disgust at the steady fall in American
Golgothas, or even to discuss how, by some sort of settlement, he
could best avoid the payment of those death duties which would
follow his decease. Under the influence, however, of a cup of
tea, which he seemed to stir indefinitely, he began to speak at
last. A new vista of life was thus opened up, a promised land of
talk, where he could find a harbour against the waves of
anticipation and regret; where he could soothe his soul with the
opium of devising how to round off his property and make eternal
the only part of him that was to remain alive.
Young Jolyon was a good listener; it was his great quality. He
kept his eyes fixed on his father's face, putting a question now
The clock struck one before old Jolyon had finished, and at the
sound of its striking his principles came back. He took out his
watch with a look of surprise:
"I must go to bed, Jo," he said.
Young Jolyon rose and held out his hand to help his father up.
The old face looked worn and hollow again; the eyes were steadily
"Good-bye, my boy; take care of yourself."
A moment passed, and young Jolyon, turning on his, heel, marched
out at the door. He could hardly see; his smile quavered. Never
in all the fifteen years since he had first found out that life
was no simple business, had he found it so singularly
DINNER AT SWITHIN'S
In Swithin's orange and light-blue dining-room, facing the Park,
the round table was laid for twelve.
A cut-glass chandelier filled with lighted candles hung like a
giant stalactite above its centre, radiating over large
gilt-framed mirrors, slabs of marble on the tops of side-tables,
and heavy gold chairs with crewel worked seats. Everything
betokened that love of beauty so deeply implanted in each family
which has had its own way to make into Society, out of the more
vulgar heart of Nature. Swithin had indeed an impatience of
simplicity, a love of ormolu, which had always stamped him
amongst his associates as a man of great, if somewhat luxurious
taste; and out of the knowledge that no one could possibly enter
his rooms without perceiving him to be a man of wealth, he had
derived a solid and prolonged happiness such as perhaps no other
circumstance in life had afforded him.
Since his retirement from land agency, a profession deplorable in
his estimation, especially as to its auctioneering department, he
had abandoned himself to naturally aristocratic tastes.
The perfect luxury of his latter days had embedded him like a fly
in sugar; and his mind, where very little took place from morning
till night, was the junction of two curiously opposite emotions,
a lingering and sturdy satisfaction that he had made his own way
and his own fortune, and a sense that a man of his distinction
should never have been allowed to soil his mind with work.
He stood at the sideboard in a white waistcoat with large gold
and onyx buttons, watching his valet screw the necks of three
champagne bottles deeper into ice-pails. Between the points of
his stand-up collar, which--though it hurt him to move--he would
on no account have had altered, the pale flesh of his under chin
remained immovable. His eyes roved from bottle to bottle. He
was debating, and he argued like this: Jolyon drinks a glass,
perhaps two, he's so careful of himself. James, he can't take
his wine nowadays. Nicholas--Fanny and he would swill water he
shouldn't wonder! Soames didn't count; these young nephews--
Soames was thirty-one--couldn't drink! But Bosinney?
Encountering in the name of this stranger something outside the
range of his philosophy, Swithin paused. A misgiving arose
within him! It was impossible to tell! June was only a girl, in
love too! Emily (Mrs. James) liked a good glass of champagne.
It was too dry for Juley, poor old soul, she had no palate. As
to Hatty Chessman! The thought of this old friend caused a cloud
of thought to obscure the perfect glassiness of his eyes: He
shouldn't wonder if she drank half a bottle!
But in thinking of his remaining guest, an expression like that
of a cat who is just going to purr stole over his old face: Mrs.
Soames! She mightn't take much, but she would appreciate what
she drank; it was a pleasure to give her good wine! A pretty
woman--and sympathetic to him!
The thought of her was like champagne itself! A pleasure to give
a good wine to a young woman who looked so well, who knew how to
dress, with charming manners, quite distinguished--a pleasure to
entertain her. Between the points of his collar he gave his head
the first small, painful oscillation of the evening.
"Adolf!" he said. "Put in another bottle."
He himself might drink a good deal, for, thanks to that
prescription of Blight's, he found himself extremely well, and he
had been careful to take no lunch. He had not felt so well for
weeks. Puffing out his lower lip, he gave his last instructions:
"Adolf, the least touch of the West India when you come to the
Passing into the anteroom, he sat down on the edge of a chair,
with his knees apart; and his tall, bulky form was wrapped at
once in an expectant, strange, primeval immobility. He was ready
to rise at a moment's notice. He had not given a dinner-party
for months. This dinner in honour of June's engagement had
seemed a bore at first (among Forsytes the custom of solemnizing
engagements by feasts was religiously observed), but the labours
of sending invitations and ordering the repast over, he felt
And thus sitting, a watch in his hand, fat, and smooth, and
golden, like a flattened globe of butter, he thought of nothing.
A long man, with side whiskers, who had once been in Swithin's
service, but was now a greengrocer, entered and proclaimed:
"Mrs. Chessman, Mrs. Septimus Small!"
Two ladies advanced. The one in front, habited entirely in red,
had large, settled patches of the same colour in her cheeks, and
a hard, dashing eye. She walked at Swithin, holding out a hand
cased in a long, primrose-coloured glove:
"Well! Swithin," she said, "I haven't seen you for ages. How are
you? Why, my dear boy, how stout you're getting!"
The fixity of Swithin's eye alone betrayed emotion. A dumb and
grumbling anger swelled his bosom. It was vulgar to be stout, to
talk of being stout; he had a chest, nothing more. Turning to
his sister, he grasped her hand, and said in a tone of command:
Mrs. Septimus Small was the tallest of the four sisters; her
good, round old face had gone a little sour; an innumerable pout
clung all over it, as if it had been encased in an iron wire mask
up to that evening, which, being suddenly removed, left little
rolls of mutinous flesh all over her countenance. Even her eyes
were pouting. It was thus that she recorded her permanent
resentment at the loss of Septimus Small.
She had quite a reputation for saying the wrong thing, and,
tenacious like all her breed, she would hold to it when she had
said it, and add to it another wrong thing, and so on. With the
decease of her husband the family tenacity, the family
matter-of-factness, had gone sterile within her. A great talker,
when allowed, she would converse without the faintest animation
for hours together, relating, with epic monotony, the innumerable
occasions on which Fortune had misused her; nor did she ever
perceive that her hearers sympathized with Fortune, for her
heart was kind.
Having sat, poor soul, long by the bedside of Small (a man of
poor constitution), she had acquired, the habit, and there were
countless subsequent occasions when she had sat immense periods
of time to amuse sick people, children, and other helpless
persons, and she could never divest herself of the feeling that
the world was the most ungrateful place anybody could live in.
Sunday after Sunday she sat at the feet of that extremely witty
preacher, the Rev. Thomas Scoles, who exercised a great
influence over her; but she succeeded in convincing everybody
that even this was a misfortune. She had passed into a proverb
in the family, and when anybody was observed to be peculiarly
distressing, he was known as a regular 'Juley.' The habit of her
mind would have killed anybody but a Forsyte at forty; but she
was seventy-two, and had never looked better. And one felt that
there were capacities for enjoyment about her which might yet
come out. She owned three canaries, the cat Tommy, and half a
parrot--in common with her sister Hester;--and these poor
creatures (kept carefully out of Timothy's way--he was nervous
about animals), unlike human beings, recognising that she could
not help being blighted, attached themselves to her passionately.
She was sombrely magnificent this evening in black bombazine,
with a mauve front cut in a shy triangle, and crowned with a
black velvet ribbon round the base of her thin throat; black and
mauve for evening wear was esteemed very chaste by nearly every
Pouting at Swithin, she said:
"Ann has been asking for you. You haven't been near us for an
Swithin put his thumbs within the armholes of his waistcoat, and
"Ann's getting very shaky; she ought to have a doctor!"
"Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Forsyte!"
Nicholas Forsyte, cocking his rectangular eyebrows, wore a smile.
He had succeeded during the day in bringing to fruition a scheme
for the employment of a tribe from Upper India in the gold-mines
of Ceylon. A pet plan, carried at last in the teeth of great
difficulties--he was justly pleased. It would double the output
of his mines, and, as he had often forcibly argued, all
experience tended to show that a man must die; and whether he
died of a miserable old age in his own country, or prematurely of
damp in the bottom of a foreign mine, was surely of little
consequence, provided that by a change in his mode of life he
benefited the British Empire.
His ability was undoubted. Raising his broken nose towards his
listener, he would add:
"For want of a few hundred of these fellows we haven't paid a
dividend for years, and look at the price of the shares. I can't
get ten shillings for them."
He had been at Yarmouth, too, and had come back feeling that he
had added at least ten years to his own life. He grasped
Swithin's hand, exclaiming in a jocular voice:
"Well, so here we are again!"
Mrs. Nicholas, an effete woman, smiled a smile of frightened
jollity behind his back.
"Mr. and Mrs. James Forsyte! Mr. and Mrs. Soames Forsyte!"
Swithin drew his heels together, his deportment ever admirable.
"Well, James, well Emily! How are you, Soames? How do you do?"
His hand enclosed Irene's, and his eyes swelled. She was a
pretty woman--a little too pale, but her figure, her eyes, her
teeth! Too good for that chap Soames!
The gods had given Irene dark brown eyes and golden hair, that
strange combination, provocative of men's glances, which is said
to be the mark of a weak character. And the full, soft pallor of
her neck and shoulders, above a gold-coloured frock, gave to her
personality an alluring strangeness.
Soames stood behind, his eyes fastened on his wife's neck. The
hands of Swithin's watch, which he still held open in his hand,
had left eight behind; it was half an hour beyond his
dinner-time--he had had no lunch--and a strange primeval
impatience surged up within him.
"It's not like Jolyon to be late!" he said to Irene, with
uncontrollable vexation. "I suppose it'll be June keeping him!"
"People in love are always late," she answered.
Swithin stared at her; a dusky orange dyed his cheeks.
"They've no business to be. Some fashionable nonsense!"
And behind this outburst the inarticulate violence of primitive
generations seemed to mutter and grumble.
"Tell me what you think of my new star, Uncle Swithin," said
Among the lace in the bosom of her dress was shining a
five-pointed star, made of eleven diamonds. Swithin looked at
the star. He had a pretty taste in stones; no question could
have been more sympathetically devised to distract his attention.
"Who gave you that?" he asked.
There was no change in her face, but Swithin's pale eyes bulged
as though he might suddenly have been afflicted with insight.
"I dare say you're dull at home," he said. "Any day you like to
come and dine with me, I'll give you as good a bottle of wine as
you'll get in London."
"Miss June Forsyte--Mr. Jolyon Forsyte!... Mr. Boswainey!..."
Swithin moved his arm, and said in a rumbling voice:
He took in Irene, on the ground that he had not entertained her
since she was a bride. June was the portion of Bosinney, who was
placed between Irene and his fiancee. On the other side of June
was James with Mrs. Nicholas, then old Jolyon with Mrs. James,
Nicholas with Hatty Chessman, Soames with Mrs. Small, completing,
the circle to Swithin again.
Family dinners of the Forsytes observe certain traditions. There
are, for instance, no hors d'oeuvre. The reason for this is
unknown. Theory among the younger members traces it to the
disgraceful price of oysters; it is more probably due to a desire
to come to the point, to a good practical sense deciding at once
that hors d'oeuvre are but poor things. The Jameses alone,
unable to withstand a custom almost universal in Park Lane, are
now and then unfaithful.
A silent, almost morose, inattention to each other succeeds to
the subsidence into their seats, lasting till well into the first
entree, but interspersed with remarks such as, "Tom's bad again;
I can't tell what's the matter with him!" "I suppose Ann doesn't
come down in the mornings?"--"What's the name of your doctor,
Fanny?" "Stubbs?" "He's a quack!"--"Winifred? She's got too many
children. Four, isn't it? She's as thin as a lath!"--"What
d'you give for this sherry, Swithin? Too dry for me!"
With the second glass of champagne, a kind of hum makes itself
heard, which, when divested of casual accessories and resolved
into its primal element, is found to be James telling a story,
and this goes on for a long time, encroaching sometimes even upon
what must universally be recognised as the crowning point of a
Forsyte feast--'the saddle of mutton.'
No Forsyte has given a dinner without providing a saddle of
mutton. There is something in its succulent solidity which makes
it suitable to people 'of a certain position.' It is nourishing
and tasty; the sort of thing a man remembers eating. It has a
past and a future, like a deposit paid into a bank; and it is
something that can be argued about.
Each branch of the family tenaciously held to a particular
locality--old Jolyon swearing by Dartmoor, James by Welsh,
Swithin by Southdown, Nicholas maintaining that people might