Monday, December 17, 2012

Ford Madox Ford wrote The Good Soldier

Ford Madox Ford
It is the birthday of innovative English novelist Ford Madox Ford (1873), whose book, The Good Soldier (1915), a story of two marriages, friendship and betrayal, is considered to be among the greatest literature of all time. He once wrote that a friend called his book "the finest French novel in the English language."

He was a friend and writing collaborator of Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway. He was born Ford Hermann Hueffer but changed his name to honor his grandfather, painter Ford Madox Brown. Hemingway wrote that he changed it because it sounded too German.

At the beginning of World War I, he worked in the British War Propaganda Bureau with popular writers such as G.K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, and Hilaire Belloc. Ford enlisted in the Welch Regiment in 1915, and was sent to France. His four-part work, Parade's End 1924-1928) was inspired by his wartime activities. It is set in England and not he Western Front before, during, and after the war.

He was editor of two literary magazines, The English Review (which published works of Conrad, Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, and H.G. Wells) and The Transatlantic Review (which published works of Hemingway, Jean Rhys, and Gertrude Stein, as well as James Joyce's Finnegans Wake).

Ford also wrote The Fifth Queen trilogy (1906-1908), about Henry VIII fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Critics say Ford went far beyond the known facts and even beyond reasonable probability, to create a fictional, and highly imaginative, account of Catherine as a beautiful, honest, stubborn, and saintly woman. Admirers say he captured the atmosphere of Tudor English life in a highly impressionistic work.

Ford was a prolific writer, who produced dozens of novels, essays, poetry, memoirs, and literary criticism. He collaborated with Joseph Conrad on The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), and The Nature of a Crime (1924). He also wrote Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911), which was inspired by Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Unlike Twain's hero, though, Ford's protagonist hasn't a clue about how to make himself more powerful than kings. The details of Medieval life, however, are presented much more realistically.

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