Dangerous Liaisons

Frank Kermode

  • Ford Madox Ford by Alan Judd
    Collins, 471 pp, £16.95, June 1990, ISBN 0 00 215242 8

Attitudes to Ford Madox Ford (né Hueffer) vary; some think he wrote some very good novels, and some do not; some aren’t bothered by his lies, and some are. And while some find his personal conduct endearing others demur. He was in many respects a mess, a creator of chaos. Ezra Pound, who liked and admired him, once said ‘that if he were placed naked and alone in a room without furniture, I would come back in an hour and find total confusion.’ Though on the whole he seems to have enjoyed his life, his health was not good and he was subject to nervous breakdown. He was remarkably and on the whole uncomplainingly unlucky. One can understand why some liked and some pitied him (Arthur Mizener’s biography is called The Saddest Story, the title Ford had wanted for The Good Soldier) but also why some have always found him irritating.

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[*] Agenda: Ford Madox Ford (Special Double Issue, 1989/90). An unpublished piece of Ford’s on ‘Pure: Literature’ is a weak specimen, but there are good contributions by Philip Davis, Carol Jacobs and David Trotter. Sondra Stang and Carl Smith have an authoritative essay on Ford’s musical compositions. There is also a touching poem by Dachine Rainer which incidentally throws some light on the way women can fall for Ford, even posthumously.