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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Love, Death and Contracts in "The Forsyte Saga"

Galsworthy
John Galsworthy

A contract dispute powers A Man of Property, the first volume of John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, to its conclusion.  Now, I admit, the synopsis that follows is not based on the novels, which I have not read.  It is based on the 2002/2003 television mini-series.  I will happily stand corrected if any Galsworthy fans want to point out discrepancies between the film and novel accounts of the contracts case.

Soames Forsyte loved his wife Irene, but he wanted to possess her, and she only consented to marry him.  Difficulties arose when Irene took an interest in a young architect, Bosinney, who was to wed Soames's second cousin (I believe), June.  

Soames, unaware at this point of the connection between Bosinney & Irene, decides to build a country home to get Irene away from the distractions of London -- in particular he means to separate her from June.  Meanwhile, Bosinney and Irene become lovers, and at the same time, rather unwisely, Bosinney keeps raising the contract price for the home he builds for Soames.

Bosinney and Irene finally push Soames beyond all endurance, and he decides to sue Bosinney for breach of contract because Bosinney has exceeded the agreed-upon, adjusted contract price for the house.  Bosinney is in a bad spot.  He can't afford to pay Soames for the extra costs -- they approach Bosinney's annual income.  Nor can he afford to have a breach of contract claim hanging over him in connection with his first major project.  Indeed, based on the success of his first project, other well-bred Englishmen are beginning to approach him as potential clients, but when they learn of his dispute with Soames, all is put on hold.

From the outset, one senses that Soames has Bosinney cornered and will destroy him.  Bosinney believes, rather absurdly, that he can win the case, but Soames is a solicitor and he can hire the best trial lawyer in London.  Bosinney hasn't a chance.  Perhaps it's all for the best then when he is run over by a carriage and killed just before the case is lost.  Soames ends up selling the house to his Uncle.  The sale price might give us a better sense of the extent of the legal injustice wrought in Forsyte v. Bosinney.

[JT]

 

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