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  • Ford & Everybody
  • J. H. Stape
Paul Skinner, ed. Ford Madox Ford’s Literary Contacts. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. 271 pp. Paper $76.00

Annuals are odd hybrids, falling somewhere between a beefed-up issue of a journal and a multiauthored book. To be successful they require an extraordinarily steady editorial hand to avoid overlap and ensure consistency. Previous annuals in this series, which began appearing in 2002 with a reappraisal of Ford, have dealt with Ford and modernity, Ford and the city, Ford and Englishness, and history and representation in his writings. For those lacking a keen nose for trends, the sheer volume of recent writing on Ford may come as a surprise.

Formed in 1997 in the wake of Max Saunders’s magisterial Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life (1996–1997), The Ford Madox Ford Society has been carefully tending the author’s flame. The next three volumes in this series have already been announced: Ford Madox Ford: Literary Networks and Cultural Transitions (2008), Ford Madox Ford: Visual Arts and Media (2009), and Ford Madox Ford as Editor (2010), deriving, respectively, from conferences held, or to be held, in Birmingham, Genoa, and Durham. The international character of Ford studies is [End Page 330] attested to in the 2007 annual with contributors including, in addition to the expected English and American ones, a German, a Greek, an Italian, an Irishman, a Norwegian, a Russian, and a Scot.

The present volume—prefaced by a genial and informative word from Max Saunders, the series’ general editor and the Ford Society’s chair, and introduced by the volume editor—contains twenty-one essays and notes (the latter not formally distinguished as such) on “contacts,” generously interpreted so as to include not only influences on Ford but also writers that Ford influenced.

Gathered more or less chronologically, the contributions fall under three headings: “Predecessors,” “Contemporaries and Confrères,” and “Successors.” Under the first heading come George Borrow, Trollope, George Eliot, and Turgenev. The second, not surprisingly the largest grouping, embraces Edward Garnett, Marie Belloc Lowndes (Hilaire’s sister), Proust, John Cowper Powys, Oliver Madox Hueffer (Ford’s brother), William Carlos Williams, Rebecca West, Herbert Read, and Hemingway. The last takes in to its purview Richard Hughes, Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, Harold Pinter, and A. S. Byatt. As well as influence studies broadly conceived, there are excursions into biography, and the annual publishes for the first time a brief memoir about Ford as well as a short piece by him on Turgenev.

This collection makes an able case for Ford’s centrality on the literary scene during the Edwardian period and for a good twenty years after it. As the general editor’s preface points out, the surprise here is that well-traveled terrain—Ford’s connections with Conrad, Crane, Pound, and Rhys—has largely been avoided (Conrad does figure in the essay on Garnett), with the emphasis falling on “less obvious but nonetheless revealing figures.” He himself offers an illuminating discussion of Ford and Turgenev, a figure whose major impact on English writing at the turn of the twentieth century echoes as well in the writings of Henry James and Conrad. After a deft survey of Ford’s critical observations on Turgenev, Saunders demonstrates how Turgenev’s Sportsman’s Sketches was crucial in the development of Ford’s “discursive impressionism.”

Methodologically similar to Saunders, Monica C. Lewis argues, through the prism of Ford’s admiration for the work of Anthony Trollope, for influence on Ford’s narrative technique and voice, finding The Good Soldier concerned with the storyteller’s function and with constructing character, particularly the English gentleman. For her part, Helen Southworth locates typically Fordian elements in George Borrow’s [End Page 331] revolutionary fictions, with Borrow’s picaresque qualities as well as his concerns with nationalism and internationalism providing models not only technically but also as a means to negotiating these topics. Ford and George Eliot are an unlikely pairing, but Sara Haslam compiles references to her in Ford’s criticism mainly to make the case that Ford was incapable of seeing her objectively. That is rather small beer, and more interesting are her survey of late-Victorian evaluations of George Eliot and...


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pp. 330-333
Launched on MUSE
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Will Be Archived 2021
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