British and Irish Literature Ford Madox Ford
Mark Larabee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0073


Ford Madox Ford (b. Ford Hermann Hueffer, 1873–d. 1939) wrote over eighty books, including novels, short stories, historical fiction, sketches, poetry, history, biography, propaganda, and criticism. However, he is best known for just one novel—The Good Soldier (1915), regarded as his greatest achievement and a monument of modernism. He collaborated with Joseph Conrad and worked in a circle of literary acquaintances that included Stephen Crane, Henry James, and H. G. Wells; while editor of two literary journals, he had a keen eye for talent and promoted or even discovered such authors as D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound. Yet in some respects, other writers whom he furthered have tended to overshadow him. He grew up in the world of Pre-Raphaelite art and later served as an officer in the British army in the First World War. With Conrad, he developed theories of literary impressionism that significantly informed his best-known novels. His personal relationships with women authors Violet Hunt and Jean Rhys, and artists Stella Bowen and Janice Biala, extended his influence in literary and artistic worlds, while those relationships and his eccentricities led to tensions among his circle of collaborators and friends. These complex circumstances also point to the difficulties facing those studying Ford—the intertwined aspects of his life and work defy neat separation. Critics recognized the significance of The Good Soldier as early as the 1940s, while attention to his war tetralogy Parade’s End (1924–1928) has followed further behind, and scholarly writing on his other work has yet to catch up in quantity. Ford’s fiction has also come into view of the general public through the medium of film, with an adaptation of The Good Soldier produced by Granada Television in 1981, and an acclaimed and widely seen five-part television series of Parade’s End first broadcast by the BBC in 2012. If Ford were remembered solely for The Good Soldier, his place as an author of consequence would be secure. Given the scope and depth of his contributions to literature as an author, editor, critic, and chronicler of his times and culture, however, he is sure to be studied with ever-greater interest.

General Overviews

As introductions to Ford’s life and works, both Stang 1977 and Hoffmann 1990 are comparatively brief but useful both for students and instructors. While Stang 1977 begins with biography and treats Ford’s writing in categories, Hoffmann 1990 starts with Ford’s collaboration with Joseph Conrad (see also Ford and Joseph Conrad) and then proceeds chronologically. Charles Hoffmann emphasizes Ford’s novels at the expense of discussing his other writing, and neither book addresses the poetry. Both include bibliographies, however, with Hoffmann’s partly annotated. Smith 1972, much shorter than Stang 1977 or Hoffmann 1990, takes a substantially different approach (because it is more philosophically integrated), beginning with Ford’s character and beliefs about art as the key entries into understanding Ford’s writing. Young 1970, brief like Smith 1972 and suitable for students, provides a short introduction to Ford’s life along with some commentary on the principal novels. Lid 1964, which is likewise aimed at students and general readers, differs in focusing on the development of Ford’s narrative style as central to his artistic aims. Fowles 2002, the most recent entry, is aimed particularly at students and offers a lively introduction to Ford’s main fiction, as well as vivid depictions of Ford’s sensibilities and influence. Stang 1986 is a convenient one-volume collection of material by Ford, offering an overview of his broad writing interests and genres through sets of excerpts from his novels and other works. The Ford Madox Ford Society (founded in the United Kingdom, with a North American chapter) publishes the International Ford Madox Ford Studies series, and several of those volumes are cited under nearly all the other sections. Both students and instructors will find the website of the society a useful place to begin learning about Ford’s life and works, to conduct research into Ford scholarship, and to learn about upcoming conferences and publications.

  • Ford Madox Ford Society.

    Aimed at students and established scholars. Usefully provides biographical and bibliographical information on Ford, along with information about upcoming conferences and society activities. Includes an updated online bibliography of Ford criticism since 2000 and information about the ongoing publication of the International Ford Madox Ford Studies series.

  • Fowles, Anthony. Ford Madox Ford: The Principal Fiction. Greenwich Exchange Literary Series. London: Greenwich Exchange, 2002.

    A lively and frankly argued student guide that focuses on The Fifth Queen trilogy, The Good Soldier, Parade’s End, three other novels, and some later works, framed by discussions of Ford’s autobiographical sensibility, literary techniques, and influences. Includes a chronology of Ford’s life and a brief select bibliography.

  • Hoffmann, Charles G. Ford Madox Ford. Twayne’s English Authors 55. Boston: Twayne, 1990.

    Good both for students and instructors. Chronological but begins with collaboration with Conrad. Emphasizes a broad consideration of Ford’s novels and is therefore a useful introduction to those works, although it does not address Ford’s biography or his poems or other writing. Updates 1967 edition (New York: Twayne) to include more-recent criticism.

  • Lid, R. W. Ford Madox Ford: The Essence of His Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.

    Aimed at the serious student and general reader. Takes the development of Ford’s style and impressionism as its central concern, devoting the most attention to The Good Soldier and Parade’s End. Lack of an index makes it less helpful for browsing.

  • Smith, Grover. Ford Madox Ford. Columbia Essays on Modern Writers 63. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

    At forty-eight pages, including a brief selected bibliography, this is an extended essay rather than a work of summary or reference. Nevertheless useful for its introduction to Ford’s writing and thinking through the author’s character and philosophy. No index.

  • Stang, Sondra J. Ford Madox Ford. Modern Literature Monographs. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1977.

    Brief biography and discussion of major works, organized by category. The Good Soldier and Parade’s End each get a chapter; historical novels, autobiographical writing, and books on culture appear together in a single chapter. Includes a bibliography and a chronology of events in Parade’s End.

  • Stang, Sondra J., ed. The Ford Madox Ford Reader. Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 1986.

    Useful collection of excerpts from much of Ford’s writing—several novels (except The Good Soldier and Parade’s End); reminiscences (including No Enemy); Ford’s literary, cultural, and art criticism; a half-dozen poems; miscellaneous essays and other passages; sixty letters; and a chronological list of Ford’s books.

  • Young, Kenneth. Ford Madox Ford. Rev. ed. Harlow, UK: Longmans, Green, 1970.

    Useful for students: has a brief introduction and chapters on Ford’s life, the trilogy of Tudor novels, The Good Soldier, and Parade’s End. Select bibliography with some annotations. Revised edition; first published in 1956.

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