In naming this second part of The Forsyte Chronicles "A Modern Comedy" the word Comedy is stretched, perhaps, as far as the word Saga was stretched to cover the first part. And yet, what but a comedic view can be taken, what but comedic significance gleaned, of so restive a period as that in which we have lived since the war? An Age which knows not what it wants, yet is intensely preoccupied with getting it, must evoke a smile, if rather a sad one.
To render the forms and colours of an epoch is beyond the powers of any novelist, and very far beyond the powers of this novelist; but to try and express a little of its spirit was undoubtedly at the back of his mind in penning this trilogy. Like the Irishman's chicken, our Present runs about so fast that it cannot be summed-up; it can at most be snapshotted while it hurries looking for its Future without notion where, what, or when that Future will be.
The England of 1886, when the Forsyte Saga began, also had no future, for England then expected its Present to endure, and rode its bicycle in a sort of dream, disturbed only by two bogles --Mr. Gladstone and the Irish Members.
The England of 1926--when the Modern Comedy closes--with one foot in the air and the other in a Morris Oxford, is going round and round like a kitten after its tail, muttering: "If one could only see where one wants to stop!"
Everything being now relative, there is no longer absolute dependence to be placed on God, Free Trade, Marriage, Consols, Coal, or Caste.
Everywhere being now overcrowded, there is no place where anyone can stay for long, except the mere depopulated countryside, admittedly too dull, and certainly too unprofitable to dwell in.
Everyone, having been in an earthquake which lasted four years, has lost the habit of standing still.
And yet, the English character has changed very little, if at all. The General Strike of 1926, with which the last part of this trilogy begins, supplied proof of that. We are still a people that can