Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ford Madox Ford: December 17, 1873 – June 26, 1939

Born on this day in 1873 is one of my favorite novelists, Ford Madox Ford. His novel The Good Soldier is permanently installed in my top ten favorite novels list. His WWI tetralogy Parades End is one that I have read several times and will continue to reread regularly.

His importance or effect on English literature is not limited to the works he himself wrote. The following is a quote from the Wikipedia entry:

"In 1908, he founded The English Review, in which he published Thomas Hardy, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, John Galsworthy, and William Butler Yeats, and gave debuts to Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence, and Norman Douglas. In the 1920s, he founded The Transatlantic Review, a journal with great influence on modern literature. Staying with the artistic community in the Latin Quarter of Paris, France, he made friends with James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Jean Rhys, all of whom he would publish (Ford is the model for the character Braddocks in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises). In a later sojourn in the United States, he was involved with Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Porter and Robert Lowell (who was then a student). Despite his deep Victorian roots, Ford was always a champion of new literature and literary experimentation."

His collaboration with Joseph Conrad produced two novels, Inheritance, a novel about aliens from another dimension who are gradually taking control of England, and Romance, a swashbuckling novel set mostly in the Caribbean and features pirates, buried treasure, damsels in distress, and last minute rescues. Apparently it was made into a film in 1927 under the title of The Road to Romance, starring Ramon Navarro. Ford and Conrad also collaborated on a shorter work, The Nature of a Crime, a work I believe neither could have written alone. In fact, Conrad later denied having even heard of the work and was convinced of his part in it only when Ford showed him drafts in Conrad's handwriting.

If you haven't read it yet, I would strongly recommend reading at least Ford's The Good Soldier. I would also recommend Parades End and various works by Conrad, including their collaborations.


  1. This is on my "to be read" pile. I'm glad to see it'll be worth reading. Is his style of writing anything like Conrad's?

  2. Cheryl,

    If you are referring to _The Good Soldier_, then yes, it's definitely worth reading.

    No, I wouldn't say Ford's style, in spite of their collaboration, is similar to Conrad's. Ford was influenced more by Conrad's use of narrative technique while Conrad got help with his control of the English language.

    One of the yahoo groups I'm in will be reading and discussing Ford's _The Good Soldier_ in February.

  3. Fred,

    Which group will be reading "The Good Soldier"? I am at a loss in finding a discussion group that will actually DISCUSS books. ( I don't feel qualified to start one on my own, as you had previously suggested. I join in order to learn about books.) Could you post a link to the group, please?


  4. Cheryl,

    Do a search for "Classic_Books" from the yahoo groups home page. It came up 20th of 47 listed.

    Right now we are discussing _The Good Soldier Svejk_ by Hasek. Next in January will be _The Bridge on the San Luis Rey_ and in Feb will be _The Good Soldier_ by Ford.

  5. Fred,

    I read "The Good Soldier" over the holidays. Wow! "The saddest story I have ever heard" pretty much sums it up. I loved the non-linear plot that the author used. It made it very suspenseful. It also had me changing my opinions of the characters as more info about them was revealed. This story kind of reminded me of "Brideshead Revisited" because of Leonora's view of marriage and her faith. Very tragic all around. Thanks for recommending it to me.

  6. Cheryl,

    I'm glad you enjoyed _The Good Soldier_. The slow revelation was what made the book so interesting to me also.

    Were you able to find the Classics Group on Yahoo?

    There is a film version out now, with Jeremy Brett. It's in my netflix queue, and I will watch it when we discuss the book in February.

  7. Fred,

    Yes, I found the group. I'll be joining in on the discussions. I hope you'll report on the movie version of "The Good Soldier". I wonder if it will have the non-linear plot like the book does?