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The 1st Half of the 20th Century
(14 August 1867 – 31 January 1933)
John Galsworthy was an English novelist and playwright. His most notable works include “The Forsyte Saga” (1906 – 1021) and its sequels ”A Modern Comedy” and “End of the Chapter”. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1932.
He was born and brought up in a wealthy family. In 1890 he got a diploma in law but instead of practicing law he travelled abroad to look after the family shipping business. During these travels he met Joseph Conrad and they became very close friends. In 1908 he settled in London.
At first he became known as a playwright with his play “The Silver Box”. In 1906 his first famous novel came out. It was “The Man of Property”, the first novel in the world-known trilogy “The Forsyte Saga”. Nowadays he is far better known for his novels which have a lot of film adaptations.
In 1921 Galsworthy was elected as the first president of the PEN International Literary Club and he also was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1929. He died of a stroke in 1933, was cremated according to his will and his ashes were scattered from an aeroplane. But still there is Galsworthy memorial in Highgate New Cemetery in London.
“The Forsyte Saga: The Man of Property”
Irene falls in love with Philip Bosinney, an architect who designed the house, and has an affair with him. Philip himself belongs to the Forsytes – he is the fiance of Irene’s friend June.
There is no happy ending: Irene leaves Soams after he rapes her. Bosinney dies under the wheels of a cab being driven frantic by this news. Soams’ cousin Jolyon tries to help Irene. The story cincludes with Soams shutting the door on Jolyon’s face.
The Forsyte extended family in the 1967 BBC Television Drama Series
“The Man of Property” (1906) is the first novel in a series of three, titled as “The Forsyte Saga”. All books give the chronicle of the members of an upper class British family. The main character Soams Forsyte sees himself as “a man of property” by virtue of his ability to gain money – but this doesn’t bring him pleasure.
Soams has a beautiful wife Irene, is jealous of her friendships and wants her to be his alone. He makes her move to their new house in the countryside.
(03 December 1857 – 03 August 1924)
Joseph Conrad was born in Berdichev, Imperial Russia in a family of the Polish nobleman. He travelled a lot all over Europe with his family.
In 1874 he started a merchant-marine career on a French ship as a crew member and finally achieved captain’s rank on a British ship. In 1886 he was granted the British citizenship.
Plots and characters of his stories and novels were mostly drawn from his seafaring career. He is regarded as one of the greatest English novelists.
His masterpieces are “Lord Jim” (1900), “The Second Agent” (1907), “Under Western Eyes” (1911) and “Chance” (1913). His writings made a great influence on such authors as William Golding, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.
He died of a heart attack at his house in Kent, England. He was buried at Canterbury Cemetery under his real Polish name Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowsky. During all of his life he considered himself as a Pole.
In April 2013 a monument to Conrad was unveiled in Vologda where he and his parents lived in exile in 1862 – 1863.
“Lord Jim” (1900)
He is taken to a court where he is stripped off his navigation certificate. His friends try to help Jim and place him in a remote settlement on one of Malay islands. There he acquires the title “Lord” among the natives. He fights enemies raids, wins love of a native woman.
Years later in one of the fights with marauders Jim fails to save the life of the natives chief’s son. Jim returns to the chief and willingly takes a fatal bullet as a retribution for the death.
Peter O’Toole as Lord Jim in Columbia Pictures film adaptation of “Lord Jim” (1965)
In 1998 the novel was ranked as No 85 in the list of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th century.
The main character Jim is a young British seaman and becomes first mate on a British ship. The ship is full of pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the hadj. When the ship starts taking on water, Jim leaves the ship with his captain and other crew members while the passengers are still on board.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
(29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936)
G.K. Chesterton was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, critic and biographer. He was often called “the prince of paradox”. He is mostly known for his fictional priest detective Father Brown although his talent went far beyond this limit.
He was born in London and wanted to be an illustrator after school. Instead he started working as a freelance journalist and a literary critic. In 1901 he married Francis Blogg and remained married for the rest of his life.
Chesterton was a large man, standing 1,93 m and weighing around 130 kg. He usually wore a cape and a crumpled hat, with a swordstick in hand, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He was very clumsy and absent-minded. On many occasions he telegraphed his wife from some remote places and asked where he had to be at the time.
Chesterton wrote around 80 books, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, numerous poems and several plays. His best novel is considered to be “The Man Who Was Thursday” (1908). He died of a heart failure in his house with words of greeting to his wife.
“Father Brown Stories”
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
Father Brown is s short priest with shapeless clothes and an uncanny insight into human evil. Unlike Sherlock Holmes Father Brown’s methods are more intuitive rather than deductive. He often puts himself in the place of criminals which helps him to solve crimes.
Critics are unanimous that Father Brown, due to his wide range of means in solving criminal cases, totally defeats Sherlock Holmes and makes him look like a pretentious little boy.
Mark Williams as Father Brown in a BBC One 2013 TV series.
Father Brown is a fictional character, who stars in 51 short stories, most of which were compiled in five books: “The Innocence of Father Brown” (1911), “The Wisdom of Father Brown” (1914), “The Incredulity of Father Brown” (1926), “The Secret of Father Brown” (1927), “The Scandal of Father Brown” (1935). Chesterton based the character on Father John O’Connor, a parish priest. The stories served as the source for numerous radio, film and TV adaptations all over the world.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet and novelist. He is mostly remembered for his tales and poems. He was born in Bombay and at the age of five was taken by his family to England.
He was regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story. His most notable works include “The Jungle Book” (1894), “Just So Stories” (1902), “Kim” (1901), a poem “If” (1910). In 1907 Kipling was awarded the Nobel prize in literature and was the first English writer to receive the prize.
At the age of 16 he returned to India and started working for a newspaper. It was then when his first stories were published. He left India in 1899 and in 1892 he got married in London. After the wedding he went to the USA with his wife and spent there four years. He regularly visited South Africa at the beginning of the century. Those years were the peak of his literary career.
Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s with less success than before. He died in 1936 at the age of 70. At the funeral he was given the highest state honours. He was cremated and his ashes were buried in Poets’ Corner at the Westminster Abbey, next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling
Soon Kim is separated from lama and is sent to school. The lama funds his education. They keep contact with each other throughout Kim’s studies. Kim is trained in espionage and after three years of schooling successfully performs an undercover operation of the British intelligence.
The novel ends with Kim competing his mission. The lama finds his aim of life. And now it’s time for Kim to decide, which way to choose for himself …
Ravi Sheth in a 1984 film version of “Kim” by London Films
In 1998 the novel was ranked No. 78 on the list of the 100 Best English language novels of the 20th century. “Kim” is notable for its detailed portrait of the people, culture and various religions of India.
The main character Kim lives in India and is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier and the poor Irish mother who have both died in poverty. Kim makes friends with the travelling Tibetan lama and his trip with a new friend is the first great adventure in the novel.
George Bernard Shaw
(26 July 1856 – 02 November 1950)
Shaw was an Irish playwright, journalist, short story writer, essayist and novelist. He was also a co-founder of the London School of Economics.
He wrote more than 60 plays, the best known of them are “Pygmalion” (1912), “Heartbreak House” (1919) and “The Apple Cart” (1929).
Bernard Shaw was the only man in history to have been awarded a Nobel prize in literature in 1925 and an Oscar in 1938 for his work on the film adaptation of his own play “Pygmalion”.
He was born in Dublin, his father was a grain merchant and his mother was a professional singer. When he was 16, his mother left the family and went to London. Later George joined her in London and that was where his writing career started.
He married an Irish heiress Charlotte Payne-Townshend in 1898. In 1906 the Shaws moved to a small house in the country in Hertfordshire, England, where they stayed till the remainder of their lives. He died at the age of 94. His ashes, mixed with his wife’s, were scattered along footpaths in the garden in Hertfordshire.
George Bernard Shaw
The plot of the play is set in London. Professor of phonetics Higgins makes a bet that he can train a low-class flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party. He intends to do this by giving her lessons in phonetics and good manners.
Eliza outperforms herself during her test. High society is fascinated by this young lady with impeccable manners. But her success turns out to be a reproach to Professor’s vanity and lack of sympathy to common people.
Audrey Hepburn as Eliza in a 1964 film version of the musical “My Fair Lady”
“Pygmalion” is the most popular play by G.B. Shaw. There are lots of film and TV adaptations, first starting in 1935. One of the most famous is “My Fair Lady”, a musical starring Audrey Hepburn.
“Pygmalion” is named after a Greek mythological character. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1912. In Greek Mythology a sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with his sculpture called Galatea, which then came to life.
William Somerset Maugham
(25 January 1874 – 16 December 1965)
He was born in the British Embassy in France. He lost his parents by the age of 10 and he was brought up by his uncle.
Maugham qualified as a doctor but after the success of his first novel “Lisa of Lambeth” in 1987 he gave up medicine.
By 1914 Maugham was famous with 10 plays produced and 10 novels published. During the 30s he was among the most popular and the highest paid writers of his era.
He was successful as a playwright, novelist and short story writer. His masterpiece is a semi-biographical novel “Of Human Bondage” (1915). Other main works are “The Moon and Sixpence” (1919), “Cakes and Ale” (1930) and “The Razor’s Edge” (1944).
He travelled a lot around the world in search of material for his novels and short stories – Switzerland, Russia, the Pacific, the USA. In 1946 he returned to his villa in France and lived there until his death. There is no grave for Maugham. His ashes were scattered in Canterbury, England.
“Of Human Bondage” (1915)
William Somerset Maugham
After his uncle’s death Philip gets back to England where he studies medicine and becomes a doctor. In England he meets Sally, his friends’ daughter, and falls in love with her.
The novel ends when back in London Philip and Sally get engaged and Philip concludes that "the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most perfect."
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard in the US film version “Of Human Bondage” (1934)
The main character Philip Carey after his parents’ death is brought up by his uncle. Instead of going to the University he leaves for Germany and France to study art.
He meets a young woman, Mildred, and falls in love with her. She has no warm feelings for him and goes away with other men. Time passes and he meets her again. She is extremely poor so he takes her home to stay there. But he doesn’t love her any more and Mildred leaves Philip with a scandal.
John Boynton Priestley
(13 September 1894 – 14 August 1984)
J.B. Priestley was an English novelist, playwright and broadcaster. Many of his plays are structured around a time-slip, and he went on to develop a new theory of time, with different dimensions that link past, present and future.
He was educated at grammar school, took part in the First World War, was wounded and received university education in Cambridge.
His first novel “The Good Companions” (1929) was a huge success which made him a national figure.
Later followed “Angel Pavement” (1930). His best-known play is ”An Inspector Calls” (1945). He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1977 and also served as a British delegate to the UNESCO conferences.
He married three times and had four daughters and a son from the first two marriages. His plays and novels were a constant source for film and TV adaptations all over the world. Only in the former USSR and Russia there were 13 adaptations produced.
He died in 1984 in Stratford-upon-Avon.
“The Good Companions” (1929)
John Boynton Priestley
They encounter each other and form a travelling troupe known as “The Good Companions”. Oakroyd is the odd-job man in the troupe. The company have various adventures round the Middle England.
After a sabotaged performance the troupe disband: Inigo becomes successful and famous in London; Miss Trant gets married to a long lost sweetheart; Jess Oakroyd emigrates to Canada.
Eric Portman and Celia Johnson in 1957 film version of “The Good Companions”
This is one of the most famous novels by J.B. Priestley and it established him as a national figure.
The plot is set in a fictional Yorkshire town. The main character is a middle aged discontented man named Jess Oakroyd. He leaves his family and starts looking for adventures. His story is intertwined with those of two more individuals, Miss Trant and Inigo Jollifant.