Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Quality of Galsworthy

One of my favorite period authors -- not considered a mystery or gothic writer, but not far off, in certain respects -- is John Galsworthy. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932, the year before his death, Galsworthy was an English barrister turned novelist and playwright. He also wrote short pieces. I discovered him at the back of “The World’s One Hundred Best Short Stories” series, Volume Nine -- the ghost story collection (Funk & Wagnalls, 1927). His excellent, morose vignette of the Gessler Brothers, boot makers, is titled “Quality.” Quality was everything to the peculiar Gesslers, as it was to the writer.

Description was a particular forte of Galsworthy. Of the younger Gessler, he wrote: Himself, he was a little as if made from leather, with his yellow crinkly face, and crinkly reddish hair and beard, and neat folds slanting down his cheeks to the corners of his mouth, and his guttural and one-toned voice; for leather is a sardonic substance, and stiff and slow of purpose.

Dialogue was another. In “Quality,” most of the quotations were the words of the craftsman, and Galsworthy meticulously delivered them so that the reader can “hear” the old German’s imperfect English with perfect clarity. “Beople do nod wand good boods, id seems,” the wizened little man lamented.

And he told stories worth telling. Galsworthy was well-bred; his viewpoint was upper middle class; yet, with striking originality he effectively stirred sympathy for those who struggled economically.

Galsworthy’s brand of quality makes for exceptional reading, even today. (Especially today.)


Post a Comment

<< Home