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Ford, Ford Madox

Entry updated 20 September 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1873-1939) UK editor and author, born Joseph Leonard Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer into a literary family of German descent, and who signed his books Ford Madox Hueffer for the first thirty years of his career; he was in active service through almost the full extent of World War One, his experiences in the trenches directly inspiring On Heaven; And Poems Written on Active Service (coll 1918). In protest at German behaviour during the conflict he changed his name by deed poll to Ford Madox Ford, though with typical self-damaging insouciance he refrained from doing so until after hostilities had ended, in 1919, and only from 1923 did he begin to sign either reprints or original publications with his new name. A versatile man of letters, founder/editor of the English Review and the Transatlantic Review, he is best known for The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (1915), a central text in the creation of twentieth-century modernism, and the four Tietjens novels assembled as Parade's End (omni 1950), now thought to be one of the central fictional accounts of the Great War and its aftermath.

Ford's first book, The Brown Owl (dated 1892 but 1891), was a children's fantasy, the only tale of this sort he wrote. His several adult fantasies, all of them romances suffused with Sex, tend to literalize the time-shifts that mark the narrative strategy of his fiction in general, his best novels being well-known for their slidings in and out of back-story. The first of these fantasies is perhaps the most exorbitant: Mr Apollo: A Just Possible Story (1908) confusingly introduces an avatar of the eponymous god to clear slums (Apollonian enlightenment is here embarrassingly literalized) and cures the protagonist of atheism (by a similar means, it is presumed). Written around the same time, "The Future in London", in W W Hutchings's London Town Past and Present: With a Chapter on the Future of London by Ford Madox Hueffer (1909 2vols), proposes a Baroquely geometric Near Future Utopian London encircled by a ring road 60 miles in diameter: making possible not only slum clearance but a reduction in Pollution due to improved Transportation; no god is needed in this case.

The "Half Moon": A Romance of the Old World and the New (1909) is a complex story of seventeenth-century witchcraft, and Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911) is a Time-Travel tale whose protagonist, cast back to the fourteenth century, debates ownership of the Cross of St Joseph of Arimathea, and engages in a love affair with a woman named (significantly) Dionissia so intense that she is able to follow him back to the twentieth century. The Simple Life Limited (1911) as by Daniel Chaucer, which approaches sf, attacks the kind of utopianism espoused by William Morris and his heirs. And the murkily Ruritanian The New Humpty-Dumpty (1912), also as by Daniel Chaucer contains a rather savage caricature of H G Wells, who appears as Herbert Pett, a "cockney" Great Thinker and philanderer, with a high-pitched voice, who fatally intermixes Sex and revolution; Wells eventually took his revenge, portraying Ford as the inflated Theodore Bulpington in his nonfantastic novel The Bulpington of Blup: Adventures, Poses, Stresses, Conflicts and Disaster in a Contemporary Brain (1932). The Young Lovell (1913) is further tale of Time Travel involving passions that burn through the fibre of the real. Technically sf-like, though distant in spirit, Vive le Roy (1936) delineates a struggle for power in a future monarchical France.

The Inheritors: An Extravagant Story (1901) with Joseph Conrad is Satirical sf: cold, practical, manipulative humans of the future – Mysterious Strangers whose scheme to colonize Greenland echoes contemporary plans to develop the Belgian Congo, where Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" was set – arrive from the fourth Dimension and translate a spiritually swollen Britain into a Dystopia (see also Evolution).

Though he is not normally thought of as an sf writer, Ford does amply demonstrate a generic fluidity typical of adventurous authors of the early twentieth century, whose explorations in Fantastika have a freedom not recovered for a century. [JC]

Ford Madox Ford

born Merton, Surrey: 17 December 1873

died Deauville, France: 26 June 1939

works

Unless otherwise noted, works prior to 1923 are signed Ford Madox Hueffer and from 1923 on are signed Ford Madox Ford.

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