This book is about Ford Madox Ford, a hero of the modernist literary revolution. Ford is a fascinating and fundamental figure of the time; not only because, as a friend and critic of Ezra Pound and Joseph Conrad, editor of the English Review and author of The Good Soldier, he shaped the development of literary modernism. But, as the grandson of Ford Madox Brown and son of a German music critic, he also manifested formative links with mainland European culture and the visual arts. In Ford there is the chance to explore continuity in artistic life at the turn of the last century, as well as the more commonly identified pattern of crisis in the time. The argument throughout the book is that modernism possesses more than one face. Setting Ford in his cultural and historical context, the opening chapter debates the concept of fragmentation in modernism; later chapters discuss the notion of the personal narrative, and war writing. Ford's literary technique is studied comparatively and plot summaries of his major books (The Good Soldier and Parade's End) are provided, as is a brief biography.
novelist’s ability to see, and to remember, in order that a picture
(which would then of course have to be compared with another
example) is presented. The critical doctrine at work here is primarily
regenerative, then, so long as memory allows; others do not agree, as
the following debate illustrates.
Trevor, in his foreword to Stang’s book, The Presence of FordMadoxFord, states that ‘Ford shatters the surface of things and even out of the
fragments creates an extra pattern of truth’.69 He uses violent imagery
to reflect the crucial nature of the issue, and
advisedly; the look is ‘mortifying’ because it sees
to the depths of his asexual, dead, soul. I discuss this moment in The Good
Soldier in Chapter 2.
3 See Chapter 5.
4 See the Introduction for discussion of this central modernist image as
employed by Ford.
5 FordMadoxFord, ‘Sologub and Artzibashef’, Outlook, 35 (26 June 1915),
6 Saunders I, p. 382.
7 With Brigit Patmore, originally a friend of Violet Hunt, and married to
Coventry Patmore’s grandson, Deighton.
8 FordMadoxFord, The Young Lovell (London, Chatto & Windus, 1913),
9 Caroline Gordon, The Good
The title of this book, Fragmenting Modernism, describes my dual
intention in relation to its subject: novelist, poet, editor and critic FordMadoxFord.1 Isaiah Berlin writes in Four Essays on Liberty that ‘historians of ideas cannot avoid perceiving their material in terms of some
kind of pattern’.2 Where modernism is credited with a pattern, and it
usually is, it is more than likely that the concept of fragmentation is
prominent in it.3 I put Ford in context in what follows, and this necessitates placing him in this movement, in which, as editor
used to communicate an
alternative version of this novelistic task. The extent of the threat posed
by women is explored, and the individual battle with sexual identity is
1 D. H. Lawrence, ‘Why the Novel Matters’ in Anthony Beale (ed.), Selected
Literary Criticism D. H. Lawrence (London, Heinemann, 1967). This essay
was published posthumously in 1936.
2 Christopher Gillie, Movements in English Literature 1900–1940
(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 11.
3 Alan Judd, FordMadoxFord (London, HarperCollins, 1990), p. 169.
I had destroyed life, and that I was exceedingly sinful [. . .]. [I]t
was my misfortune to have from this gentle personality my first conviction – and this, my first conviction, was one of great sin, of a deep
Despite the obvious significance of this passage (Thomas Moser quotes
it in full in his autobiographical study of Ford’s fiction, The Life in the
Fiction of FordMadoxFord, as do Sondra Stang in her Reader and Max
Saunders in his biography), especially to those of psychoanalytic intent,
there seems to be very little in Ford’s description of
in A Call were further and
more conclusively fragmented by the sustained bombardment that was
the First World War. How did this international event extend already
mutating literary techniques? How does the writing it provoked express
and augment the fragmented nature of existence at the beginning of the
twentieth century? Is sight still so significant to this fictional struggle?
These questions, amongst others, will be addressed in the chapter that
1 Arthur Mizener, The Saddest Story: A Biography of FordMadoxFord (New
York, Carroll & Graf, 1985), p
that can be
celebrated. The splintering nature of desire and of war is countered by
fictional worlds that free and articulate the unconscious entirely, and
Ford’s protagonists are allowed to be present at their investiture.
1 Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991),
2 FordMadoxFord, It Was the Nightingale (1934) (New York, Ecco, 1984),
3 Ezra Pound, ‘Affirmations . . .VI. Analysis of this Decade’, New Age, XVI
(11 February 1915), p. 410.
4 FordMadoxFord, The Good Soldier (New York, Norton, 1995), p. 25.
Gay’s writing of the end of the Victorian era concentrates on
The narrative push
purely personal geography, in contrast to Pick’s approach. ‘All cultures
[. . .] place boundaries around the passions’, he suggests; ‘they
construct powerful defences against murder and incest, to say nothing
of derivative transgressions’.44 But, as he shows in his analysis, the
personal map is being forced to change: what before was uncharted
territory is now being talked about, by scientists, analysts and psychologists, and simultaneously, novelists such as FordMadoxFord. H. G
existential despair it offered the
modern subject an opportunity for renewal. 96 Jack London, for example, in the
tradition of the urban traveller explored the abyss, recording his
observations in The People of the Abyss . 97 And FordMadoxFord, in the same
journey of self-discovery, produced one of the first modernist texts
– The Soul of London – which rendered
impressionistically the urban landscape