|John Galsworthy had a solid, happy, upper-middle-class upbringing, one of four children. His father was kind and lovable, his mother conventional and emotionally distant. Galsworthy became a barrister but loathed the practice of law, preferring to play the horses and pursue actresses--as a result of which he was frequently sent abroad to oversee the family's mining interests in Canada, Russia, South Africa, and Australia. On his travels he met Joseph Conrad, who became a lifelong friend, and through whom he also met the writers Ford Madox Ford and Edward Garnett. Even while practicing law back in London, Galsworthy wrote secretly, and published his first book of short stories just before his 30th birthday. His parents were of the class that considered artists lazy and degenerate; they were dubious about his literary career, but Ada, the unhappily married wife of his cousin Arthur, believed in his talents, and the two fell in love. Ten years later, she was divorced, and she and Galsworthy were married. He dedicated THE FORSYTE SAGA to her, and she served as the basis for many of his nobler heroines. In addition to novels, Galsworthy wrote 25 plays, many successful produced, and was known as a dramatist until THE FORSYTE SAGA came out and made him famous and wealthy. He donated vast sums to charity (particularly anti-vivisection societies) and, after 1914, to the war effort. Galsworthy was also, in his day, lavishly honored for his writing: He was the first president of PEN, and he received honorary degrees from many important universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton. His reputation faltered by the 1950s, though his novels began to sell again after the immensely popular 1969 Masterpiece Theatre broadcast of THE FORSYTE SAGA on the BBC. Galsworthy, who died of a brain tumor in 1933, was perhaps the last great Victorian writer--a master of complex narratives that raise moral issues and are crammed with intriguing characters.