The Good Soldier | Study Guide

Ford Madox Ford

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Ford Madox Ford | Biography

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Early Life and Relationships

The novelist, poet, and critic known as Ford Madox Ford was born Ford Hermann Hueffer on December 17, 1873, in Surrey, Great Britain. His family had an artistic background. His grandfather, Ford Madox Brown (1821–93), was a celebrated English painter. Ford wrote the first of over 80 works, The Brown Owl (1891), when he was only 18 years old. He married Elsie Martindale in 1894, and the couple had two daughters. Ford had his third daughter with the Australian artist Stella Bowen (1893–1947), with whom he lived from 1918 to 1927. Ford also had an affair with novelist Jean Rhys (1890–1979), whom he mentored in the 1920s.

Writing Success

Ford's career took off when he collaborated with novelist Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), whom he met in 1897. They wrote several works together, including The Inheritors (1901). Ford published his best-known work, The Good Soldier, in 1915, shortly before writing war propaganda books and enlisting in the British Army to fight in World War I (1914–18). The Good Soldier has been praised for its exemplary use of the unreliable narrator and for its cognitive impressionism. The latter is a modernist technique meant to engage the reader in confronting uncertainty while the reader attempts to create order from narrative chaos.

Mentor and Publisher

In addition to writing his own novels, Ford fostered the careers of other famous authors and created important outlets for modernist writing. At the English Review, a literary journal Ford founded in 1908, he published pieces by English poet D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930) and American poet Ezra Pound (1885–1972). Later, after Ford moved to Paris in 1922, he founded the Transatlantic Review. There he published up-and-coming writers such as James Joyce (1882–1941) and Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961).

Death and Legacy

Ford published his last major novel, The Rash Act, in 1933. His last publication, a volume of criticism, The March of Literature, came out in 1938. He died on June 26, 1939, in France and is remembered as a prolific novelist, poet, critic, editor, and storyteller.

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