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Ford Madox Ford

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Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) is a key figure in the development of English and American Literature in the 20th century. His contributions and encouragement of experimentation within literature influenced many writers such as Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, and Ernest Hemingway He is most well known for his novel, The Good Soldier (1915).

Ford Madox Ford was born Joseph Leopold Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer. Ford changed his name to Ford Madox Ford to erase any associations with his German heritage after World War I.

A Biography of Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford was born on the 17th of December, 1873 in Surrey, England. He belonged to an artistic and literary family. His father was a music critic, his grandfather published the works of a Westphalian poet, and his other grandfather was a Pre-Raphaelite painter.

Ford Madox Ford published his first novel The Shifting of Fire (1892) at only the age of 18!

Ford Madox Ford, Surrey England, StudySmarterFord was born in Surrey, England in 1873, Pixabay

When Ford was a teenager, he moved with his mother and siblings to London. There he graduated from the University College School in London and converted to Catholicism. He eloped with his girlfriend Elsie Martindale in 1894 and had two daughters.

In 1901, Ford worked with Joseph Conrad on a few novels for nearly five years. Together they wrote The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), and The Nature of Crime (1924). At the same time, Ford was working on a trilogy of historical novels about Catherine Howard titled The Fifth Queen (1906-1908).

In 1904, Ford began to suffer from agoraphobia and ran off to Germany where he set up a home with the writer Isobel Violet Hunt.

Ford Madox Ford couldn't get divorced in England from his first wife, so he tried to obtain German citizenship so he could get divorced there. He tried to change his name as well to Ford Madox Hueffer which would cause issues during the First World War. His plan was unsuccessful.

There he began working on The English Review in 1908, which would become an influential literary magazine. In The English Review, he published many authors including Thomas Hardy, Joesph Conrad, and William Butler Yeats. In 1911, Ford wrote Ladies Whose Bright Eyes (1911) which included a unique twist on the time travel genre.

Ford Madox Ford, World War I, StudySmarterFord's experiences as a soldier in WWI greatly influenced his writing, Pixabay

During the First World War (1914-1918), Ford wrote one of his most recognized novels, The Good Soldier (1915). During the war, Ford also contributed to British war propaganda and even worked for the War Propaganda Bureau through which he wrote two books: When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture (1915) and Between St. Denis and St. George: A Sketch of Three Civilizations (1915).

Ford also enlisted in the British Army in 1915 to help the war effort. His experiences with war helped inspire a novel series he'd write nearly a decade later, Parade's End (1924-1928). After the war, Ford lived with Stella Bowen, an artist, and together they had a daughter. Ford moved to Avignon, France during this period. In 1929, Ford wrote The English Novel: From the Earliest Days to the Death of Joseph Conrad (1929) to chronicle the history of the English novel. By the 1930s, Ford was with Janice Biala who would illustrate many of Ford's books.

During the Spanish Civil War, Ford became once again embroiled in politics and heavily supported the efforts of the Republicans. He firmly stood against the fascist leadership of Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler.

As well as his literary contributions to literature, Ford's role as a literary critic helped raise many young writers to prominence. His editorials in The English Review and The Transatlantic Review helped authors such as George Seldes and Ernest Hemingway.

Ford Madox Ford, Papers and pen, StudySmarterFord's role as a literary critic helped many authors reach recognition, Pixabay

Ford appears as a character in Hemingway's novel, A Moveable Feast (1964) in which a young Hemingway, an ex-pat in Paris, runs into Ford at a café. It is set in the early 1920s. Ford also briefly appears in Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises (1926), but in a much more negative light.

Towards the end of his life, Ford took a position teaching at the Olivet College in Michigan.

Ford Madox Ford: Cause of Death

Ford Madox Ford died on June 26, 1939, penniless and sick in Deauville, France. He had spent the last few months before his death, warning about the rise of antisemitism and totalitarianism in Europe and tried to interest publishers to publish on these growing threats. He died before the outbreak of World War II. He lived to be 65 years old.

Novels by Ford Madox Ford

Here are Ford Madox Ford's most notable novels.

Ford Madox Ford, Novel, Ford Maddox Ford, open novel, StudySmarterFord wrote many novels including The Good Soldier, Pixabay

The Good Soldier (1915)

The Good Soldier follows the story of Edward Ashburnham and is narrated by John Dowell. Dowell's unreliable narration through a series of flashbacks and non-chronological order focuses on the dissolution of the marriages of Edward and two American friends, including Dowell. Nothing is quite as it seems as the perfect world seems to disintegrate the more Dowell tells his story. The novel was seen as pioneering as it included non-chronological flashbacks and an unreliable narrator which enhanced the work's literary impressionist qualities.

The Fifth Queen Trilogy (1906-1908)

The Fifth Queen Trilogy contains three books, The Fifth Queen: And How She Came to Court (1906), Privy Seal (1907), and The Fifth Queen Crowned (1908). It is a historical fiction novel that chronicles the life of Catherine Howard from her arrival in Henry VIII's court until her death. It is considered another of Ford's impressionist masterpieces and fictionalizes true events with liberties taken on dialogue and setting.

Parade's End (1924-1928)

Parade's End is made up of four distinct works, Some Do Not... (1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand Up-- (1926), and Last Post (1928). The stories follow the life of an English Gentry before, during, and after the First World War and are heavily inspired by Ford's experiences in the war. However, despite its setting being the war, it focuses less on the experience of war and more on the psychological effect of the war on soldiers and society. It is considered one of Ford's most modernist pieces.

Poems by Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford, writing poem, StudySmarterFord's most famous poem is "Antwerp", Pixabay

In addition to his influential novels, Ford Madox Ford was known for his modernist poetry. Ford often experimented with different forms of poetry but showed favorable interest in free verse, off-rhyme, repetition, and non-linear chronologies. Many of Ford's poems are on or surround the subject of war. Ford Madox Ford's most famous poem is the modernist Antwerp (1915) which depicts the resistance of Belgian forces to the German invasion of 1914.

For there is no new thing under the sun,Only this uncomely man with a smoking gunIn the gloom. . . .What the devil will he gain by it?Digging a hole in the mud and standing all day in the rain by itWaiting his doom;" (Stanza 2, 'Antwerp')

In this excerpt from Ford's Poem 'Antwerp', Ford questions the purpose of a man spending his days in the muddy trenches with guns waiting for the upcoming gloom of war, which ultimately leads to death, destruction, and trauma. Ford wants to know how anyone truly benefits from fighting in such wars.

In this excerpt from Ford's Poem 'Antwerp', Ford questions the purpose of a man spending his days in the muddy trenches with guns waiting for the upcoming gloom of war, which ultimately leads to death, destruction, and trauma. Ford wants to know how anyone truly benefits from fighting in such wars.

Other poetry by Ford includes:

  • New Poems (1927)
  • Collected Poems (1914)
  • High Germany (1911)
  • The Face of the Night (1904)

Analysis of Ford's Writing

Ford Madox Ford is often associated with the Imagist Movement of the early 20th century alongside authors such as Ezra Pound and the founder T.E. Hulme.

The Imagist Movement was a literary movement in the early 20th century that spread throughout English and American Literature. It emphasized clarity, precision, and simplicity with a focus on visual images. It rejected Romanticism and Victorian Literature and focused on creating concrete images that present the emotional and intellectual complexities of the time.

As a Modernist writer, Ford Madox Ford also heavily relied on the principles of Impressionism in his work. In his view of literary Impressionism, Ford believed that a writer should take all the opinions of the day and place them in writing truthfully, restraining from any form of exaggeration. Ford wanted to portray all the different peoples, places, and emotions that were occurring simultaneously rather than simply focus on one thing at a time. All the experiences felt in his novels, he wanted to be plausible in real life.

Ford Madox Ford, Impressionism, StudySmarterFord considered his work to be Impressionist which was also prominent in the art world, Pixabay

For, to every person on board the several steamers that they employed—to every person with whom he had so much as a nodding acquaintance, he gave an orange every morning," (Part 1, The Good Soldier).

By expressing interest in the different people on board the many ships sailing around the world and wondering about the connections one person has with all of them, Ford is exemplifying literary Impressionism. The reader is able to see multiple storylines progressing at once to give an idea of a constantly moving world.

Influence of Ford Madox Ford

In addition to his novels and poems, Ford founded two literary journals, The English Review and The Transatlantic Review. Ford founded The English Review because he wanted to publish a piece titled "A Sunday Morning Tragedy" (1904) by the English novelist, Thomas Hardy, which had been rejected by other publications. Ford wanted The English Review to discover and promote authors who experimented with their writing in search of new and innovative pieces. Ford headed The English Review until 1910 and helped authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Henry James, and H.G. Wells publish some of their pieces.

Later in his career, Ford founded The Transatlantic Review which, similarly to The English Review, searched for modern and innovative writers. Authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce, all significant writers in literature, were published in The Transatlantic Review. The list of authors Ford helped by publishing them in his journals is numerous, but Ford received very little credit for helping many young authors reach recognition for their work, including Ernest Hemingway. Only recently has the significance and influence of Ford Madox Ford on literature been recognized.

Quotes by Ford Madox Ford

Here are some Ford Madox Ford quotes.

For, it is possibleTo come out of a trench or a hut or a tent or a church all in ruins:To see the black perspective of long avenuesAll silent," (Stanza 2, "Claire de Lune", 1916)

Ford often wrote about the psychological experiences of war. In his poem, "Claire de Lune" Ford wishes to hear the silence of the moonlight without the sounds of war. He wishes to stand up from behind a place of protection and walk the war-ruined streets, without any more machine guns whirring by. The concrete images and emotions in this poem are examples of the Imagist movement to which Ford belonged.

Anyhow, it can't have been for me, for never, in all the years of her life, never on any possible occasion, or in any other place did she so smile to me, mockingly, invitingly. Ah, she was a riddle; but then, all other women are riddles. And it occurs to me that some way back I began a sentence that I have never finished... It was about the feeling that I had when I stood on the steps of my hotel every morning before starting out to fetch Florence back from the bath," (Part 3, The Good Soldier).

In this excerpt from Ford's The Good Soldier, the reader can see a glimpse into Ford's way of creating concrete images that convey a feeling. By describing the visual of a man standing on the steps of a hotel before fetching his woman, we can sense hesitancy in his actions.

The constatation interested him. He had been watching her intently and with concern for fear she should miss the hidden lower step, in which case she would certainly bark her shins. But she had jumped clear of the cart: with unreasonable pluckiness, in spite of his: 'Look out how you get down.' He wouldn't have done it himself: he couldn't have faced jumping down into that white solidity..." (Chapter 7, Some Do Not...)

Read this excerpt from Ford's novel Some Do Not... Try to analyze the excerpt knowing what you know now about Ford's writing style and the Imagist and Impressionist literary movements.

Ford Madox Ford - Key takeaways

  • Ford Madox Ford was born in 1873 in Surrey, England to a literary and artistic family. Ford began his writing career at a young age with his first novel published at just the age of 18.
  • Ford was incredibly influential to modern literature with his many novels and poems as well as his editorials in his literary magazines The English Review and The Transatlantic Review.
  • Ford's most famous novels include The Good Soldier, Parade's End Tetralogy, and The Fifth Queen Trilogy. His most famous poem is '"Antwerp".
  • Ford belonged to the Imagist Movement of the early 20th century and considered his writing to be part of the impressionist literary style.
  • Ford helped many authors reach recognition in his literary magazines including Ernest Hemingway.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford was a literary critic, novelist, and poet in the early 20th century. 

Ford Madox Ford is famous for his novel The Good Soldier (1915)

Ford Madox Ford died in 1939.

Ford Madox Ford is from Surrey, England. 

Ford changed his name to Ford Madox Ford to erase any associations with his German heritage after World War I. 

Final Ford Madox Ford Quiz

Question

What is Ford Madox Ford's real name?

Show answer

Answer

Joseph Leopold Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer

Show question

Question

Why did Ford Madox Ford change his name?

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Answer

Ford changed his name to Ford Madox Ford to erase any associations with his German heritage after World War I.

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Question

When was Ford Madox Ford born?

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Answer

1873

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Question

What was Ford's first published novel?

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Answer

The Shifting of Fire (1892)

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Which prominent writer did Ford collaborate with on many novels such as The Inheritors and Romance?

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Answer

Joseph Conrad

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What are the names of the literary magazines founded by Ford?

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Answer

The English Review and The Transatlantic Review 

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Which is Ford's most recognizable novel set right before the First World War?

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Answer

The Good Soldier (1915)

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When did Ford die?

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Answer

1939

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What is considered Ford's most famous poem?

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Answer

Antwerp (1915)

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What historical event inspired Antwerp (1915)?

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Answer

The resistance of Belgian forces to the German invasion of 1914. 

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What literary movement is Ford associated with?

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Answer

The Imagist Movement 

Show question

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What did the Imagist movement emphasize and focus on?

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Answer

 It emphasized clarity, precision, and simplicity with a focus on visual images.

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What literary and art style influenced Ford's writing style?

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Answer

Impressionism

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What did Ford believe a writer should be able to do under the principals of Impressionism?

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Ford believed that a writer should take all the opinions of the day and place them in writing truthfully, restraining from any form of exaggeration.

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Who is an example of a writer that benefited from Ford's literary critics?

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Answer

Ernest Hemingway or George Seldes

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Who wrote The Good Soldier

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Answer

Ford Madox Ford

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Who is the "soldier" in the novel's title? 

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Answer

Edward Ashburnham.

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True or false: The Good Soldier was not the original title of the novel and was actually a sarcastic comment taken seriously. 

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True.

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What events inspired Ford's The Good Soldier

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Ford's own experiences with adultery 

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When was The Good Soldier published? 

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1915

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Where do the couples become friends? 

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health spa in Nauheim, Germany

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Why does Florence claim she has a heart condition? 

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To avoid sex with John 

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Why does Edward claim he has a heart condition? 

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To get closer to Maisie Maidan, who is at the spa because she has a real heart condition.

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Who does Florence have an affair with? 

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Edward.

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Who does Edward ultimately fall in love with? 

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His ward, Nancy

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Why does Florence want to marry Edward? 

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Florence's ultimate objective is to be the lady of her ancestors' home in Fordingbridge, which Edward now owns.

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Who commits suicide? 

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Answer

Florence. 

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What happens to Nancy at the end of the novel? 

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She suffers a mental breakdown after learning of Edward's death and becomes catatonic. John takes care of her. 

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What are the main themes in the novel? 

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Answer

Reality vs. perception.

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What narration style does John embody? 

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Answer

The unreliable narrator. 

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