The English author Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) is best known for his novels The Good Soldier and Parade's End. An outstanding editor, he published works by many significant writers of his era.
Ford Madox Ford was born Ford Madox Hueffer in Merton, England, on Dec. 17, 1873, the son of Dr. Francis Hueffer, a German, who was once music editor of the Times. His maternal grandfather, Ford Madox Brown, the painter, had been one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and an aunt was the wife of William Rossetti. In 1919 he changed his name from Hueffer to Ford, for reasons that were probably connected with his complicated marital affairs. He was educated in England, Germany, and especially France, and it is said that he first thought out his novels in French.
By the age of 22 Ford had written four books, including a fairy tale, The Brown Owl, written when he was 17 and published when he was 19. In 1898 Joseph Conrad, on the recommendation of William Ernest Henley, suggested that Ford become his collaborator, and the result was collaboration on The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), parts of Nostromo, and The Nature of a Crime. Ford's Joseph Conrad (1924) discusses the techniques they used.
In 1908 Ford began the periodical English Review in order to publish Thomas Hardy's "The Sunday Morning Tragedy," which had been rejected everywhere else. Other contributors included Conrad, William James, W. H. Hudson, John Galsworthy, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Norman Douglas, Wyndham Lewis, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, and Anatole France. After World War I Ford founded the Transatlantic Review, which numbered among its contributors James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway.
In 1914 Ford published what he intended to be his last novel, The Good Soldier. Out of his experiences in wartime England and service in a Welsh regiment, he then wrote the series of novels that is chiefly responsible for his high reputation: Some Do Not, No More Parades, and A Man Could Stand Up, published in 1924-1926, and the final volume, The Last Post, published in 1928. The view of war in these has been described as detached and disenchanted, and the novels are innovative as well as traditional. His novels were not widely read, but a revival of interest in his work began with New Directions 1942, a symposium by distinguished writers, dedicated to his memory. His war tetralogy was republished in 1950-1951 as Parade's End, along with The Good Soldier.
In his later years Ford preferred life in Provence and the United States, spending his last years as a teacher at Olivet College in Michigan with the professed aim of restoring the lost art of reading. Ford wrote more than 60 books. Among these works were volumes of poetry, critical studies (The English Novel: From the Earliest Days to the Death of Joseph Conrad, 1929; Return to Yesterday, 1932), and memoirs (It Was the Nightingale, 1933; Mightier Than the Sword, 1938). Ford Madox Ford died at Beauville, France, on July 26, 1939.
Further Reading on Ford Madox Ford
An excellent critical study of Ford's career is R. W. Lid, Ford Madox Ford: The Essence of His Art (1964). Arthur Mizener, The Saddest Story: A Biography of Ford Madox Ford (1971), is a thorough study. See also Douglas Goldring, The Last Pre-Raphaelite: A Record of the Life and Writings of Ford Madox Ford (1948; published as Trained for Genius, 1949); John A. Meixner, Ford Madox Ford's Novels: A Critical Study (1962); Paul L. Wiley, Novelist of Three Worlds: Ford Madox Ford (1962); and H. Robert Huntley, The Alien Protagonist of Ford Madox Ford (1970). For discussions of particular novels see Robie Macaulay's introduction to Parade's End (1950) and Mark Schorer's introduction to The Good Soldier (1951).
Additional Biography Sources
Ford, Ford Madox, It was the nightingale, New York: Octagon Books, 1975, 1933.
Judd, Alan, Ford Madox Ford, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.
Saunders, Max, Ford Maddox Ford: a dual life, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.