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Ford Madox Ford’s Novels

Ford Madox Ford’s Novels: A Critical Study

by John A. Meixner
Copyright Date: 1962
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Ford Madox Ford’s Novels
    Book Description:

    The name of Ford Madox Ford appears again and again in twentieth-century literature, in many different connections. He was especially renowned as a literary personality, as a brilliant editor, and as an encourager of talented and emerging writers -- “the Only Uncle of the Gifted Young,” as H G. Wells called him. But he was also a major novelist in his own right, a fact which has been increasingly recognized in recent years. In this book, Mr. Meixner, a former assistant professor of English at the University of Kansas, presents an illuminating study of Ford’s novels: descriptive, analytic, and evaluative. In particular he has been concerned -- since the novelist was a highly conscious craftsman -- with elucidating the techniques by which Ford gave (or failed to give) an intality. The reputations of The Good Soldier and of Ford’s Tietjens novels have steadily risen in the last decade. Mr. Meixner’s appraisals of these works are the fullest and probably the most perceptive yet published. A shortened version of his Good Soldier essay evoked much critical interest when it appeared in The Kenyon Review under the title “The Saddest Story.” Mr. Meixner also examines such interesting novels as the Fifth Queen trilogy, Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, Mr. Fleight, Mr. Apollo, A Call, and The Marsden Case. During his lifetime, from 1873 to 1939, Ford published 76 books, including not only novels but poetry, memoirs, history, travels, biography, and literary criticism. He collaborated on three novels with Joseph Conrad, was an early, constant champion of Henry James, introduced D. H. Lawrence to the literary world, and published the first sections of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. He was editor of both The English Review and the transatlantic review (on which he appointed Ernest Hemingway as his assistant editor).

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6369-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
    (pp. 3-26)

    The name of Ford Madox Ford runs through the fabric of the modern novel not unlike a master-thread, cutting importantly across the lives and careers of the chief novelists of his time. The list is almost a parade of twentieth-century fiction: Henry James — of whom Ford was disciple and persistent champion; Joseph Conrad — his intimate collaborator; D. H. Lawrence — whom Ford “discovered” and helped to launch so quickly; Ernest Hemingway — his editorial assistant on thetransatlantic review; and James Joyce — a respecting friend, for whoseFinnegans WakeFord provided the famous provisional title, “Work in...

    (pp. 27-82)

    Ford was an instinctive romancer. His first published book — it appeared when he was still seventeen — was a fairy tale, calledThe Brown Owl. And before he was twenty-one, he had issued two others, even more charming. A fourth would follow later. And during his career he was to write no less than ten books of historical fiction, and to subtitle two of his other novels “A Romance”— though not without irony. His first historical novel wasSeraphina, begun in 1896, but not to reach print until seven years later. By then it would be called — significantly...

    (pp. 83-128)

    Registering the life of one’s day — this to Ford was a basic task of the novelist. At bottom, his rationale was social. By making such aconstatation, the novelist would be displaying for his readers just how they and their society were actually conducting themselves — an extremely salutary accomplishment. In the works we now turn to —The Inheritors(1901),An English Girl(1907),Mr. Apollo(1908),The Simple Life Limited(1911),The New Humpty-Dumpty(1912), andMr. Fleight(1913) — this aim is particularly clear. Each holds Ford’s reflecting glass up to the age in which he...

    (pp. 129-189)

    Unlike the social satires, the works in this chapter carefully limit their dramatis personnae. Their focus is not so much on the public scene as on the private, tightly interacting, intensities of a few characters — or “small circles,” as Ford described them.¹ Beyond any so far examined, these books (with the unimportant exception ofThe Panel) are novels of character. They also include Ford’s most ambitious, artistically challenging work up to the war.A Call(1910) is a performance of considerable brilliance. AndThe Good Soldier(1915) is almost surely Ford’s greatest novel — an unmistakable masterpiece of twentieth-century...

    (pp. 190-256)

    The imaginative world which Ford created after the war of 1914–1918 — the world of Christopher Tietjens and of England — was the logical culmination of his fiction. Looking back over the earlier novels from the vantage point of the twenties, we can readily see the ways in which the Tietjens books — andSome Do Not, in particular — pull together the various strands of his pre-war production. In them are combined the large public canvas of the social satires and the characterization in depth of the novels of “small circles.” And from Ford’s absorption in his historical...

  10. vi AND AFTER
    (pp. 257-265)

    A major writer’s early and inferior novels are of considerable importance to the critic. They anticipate the future, and in nascent form they sound the themes and formulate the situations to which the greater novels to come will give life and body — as we have seen. But when in the canon of a novelist’s work there is a dying fall and a group of unsatisfactory productions follows the creative peak, the task of the critic becomes less fruitful and his temptation to dwell on them small. So it is with the five novels written by Ford after the Tietjens...

    (pp. 266-276)

    My dear friend; it is, our profession, truly a dog’s trade. … You will write, and you will write. … And no one, no one in the world will understand, either what you wish to say, or what you have given in effort, in blood, in sweat. And at the end you will say to yourself: It is as if I had rowed all my life in a boat, on an immense river, in an impenetrable fog. … And you will row and you will row and never, never, will you see a mark on the invisible banks that will...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 279-287)
    (pp. 288-293)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 294-303)