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.
D. H. Lawrence's essay ‘Why the Novel Matters’ focuses on issues of communication and plurality as displayed by the effective novel. The relationship between Lawrence and Ford Madox Ford was sometimes close, and at times was difficult. It began when Ford first published Lawrence in the English Review and ‘introduced him to literary London’. What is communicated in Ford's novels, and how? This chapter examines the resultant dramatic thrust of the contemporary Fifth Queen trilogy, the eye for colour, for detail, for patterns. The psycho-political geography of Ford's writing is thus confirmed in its period of relative certainty, especially when compared with the suicides of Edward and Florence in The Good Soldier and the suicide of Christopher Tietjens's father in Parade's End. These later novels are distinguishable from the Fifth Queen trilogy primarily due to their more complex interweaving of levels. As another manifestation of modernist fragmentation, one fomented by psychoanalysis and sexology, the four main characters are read partly as four parts of the same psyche, individually and oppositionally gaining (at times violent) expression.
Ford Madox Ford admired Ivan Turgenev, so it is not surprising that one comes across ideas borrowed, perhaps, from him in the later writer's work. In this case, though, there is a development at work; a development precipitated by World War I. Turgenev's self-confessed nihilist Bazarov expresses amazement at the tenacity of human belief in words – words that, in his example, can diminish and deaden a feeling of catastrophe. Were he to find himself instead in the volumes of Parade's End (or one of a number of other war novels), Bazarov's amazement would be tempered. Ford, post-war, has lost belief in words. He is often unsatisfied with the capacity of language to express the totality of thought or experience; speech constantly ‘gives out’, to be replaced by his most characteristic grammatical tool: ellipsis. Two quotations provide a framework for an exploration into how and why sight functions in the fragmentation of war. The first is from John Keegan's book, The Face of Battle; the second from Frederic Manning's novel, The Middle Parts of Fortune.