Academic journal article International Ford Madox Ford Studies

Ford as Edwardian Author: Publishers, Trends, Markets

Academic journal article International Ford Madox Ford Studies

Ford as Edwardian Author: Publishers, Trends, Markets

Article excerpt

For some time now I have been looking for the opportunity to think in detail about what a book history approach to Ford might look like. A volume with the title The Edwardian Ford Madox Ford seemed the obvious prompt - given the changes in the publishing profession around the turn of the century, as well as the fact that Ford was published by some of the leading houses of the Edwardian period, old and new alike. Publishers as diverse as Blackwood, Heinemann, Duckworth, Constable, Methuen, Chatto, Macmillan and John Lane all established a professional stake in Ford from the time he was 26 years old through to the year of The Good Soldier. 1915. Consultation of the pages of just one publication, the Times Literary Supplement, issue 1 of which appeared on January 17th, 1902, shows Ford was a significant name, advertised in what must have been a relatively happy fashion alongside Wharton, Gissing, Conrad, Gorky, as well as more popular novelists, like Anthony Hope, in the brief lists of new fiction in 1903-1907. Good examples come in the issues of 30th October, 1903 (listed 1-7 under new fiction are Wharton's Sanctuary, Ford [Huefferj/Conrad's Romance, Morley Roberts' Rachel Marr, Beatrice Harraden's Katherine Frensham, Henry Dudeney's The Story of Susan, Algernon Gissing's An Angel's Portion and Charles Fielding Marsh's God's Scholars); 16th March, 1906 (listed 1-6 are Ford's The Fifth Queen, Charles Marriott's The Lapse of Vivien Eadty, M. A. Ross's For Which Wife?, G. F. Bradby's Dick: A Story Without a Plot, U. L. Silberrad's Curayl and Frankfort Moore's The Artful Miss Dill); and on 20th September, 1907, The Secret Agent heads the list and An English Girl is the tail at number 6.1

I am interested primarily in how the Edwardian world of publishing affected Ford together with and as opposed to his contemporaries - including Conrad. How was Ford the Edwardian author ?built', and what did he look like? Conrad, Kipling, and Bennett may all be described as initially ?peregrinatory' to some degree or other, but they all found a rewarding publisher's niche. Not so Ford. What can be deduced from this fact? Does it mean what we think it means, or even what Ford thought it meant a hundred years ago? He was not a happy Edwardian writer: in 1913 he looked back over what he termed a ?slump' that had gone on ?for years and aching years'.2 The sense of striving that one takes primarily from his reflections during and back on the period may well have been to do with the fact that he did not earn much money; but his experienced lack of ?fit' was driven by other important factors too. For reasons of time and space, I shall be focusing on Ford the writer, rather than Ford the editor, but his knowledge of publishing was developed by his work at the English Review - the essays republished as The Critical Attitude in 1911 reveal a nuanced understanding of contemporary industry issues and practices. I am struck by the similarities between Ford's analysis in ?The Two Shilling Novel', first published in September 1909 in the English Review, and the views of reader and later senior Chatto figure Frank Swinnerton in Authors and the Book Trade (1932), for example, on quality versus quantity, and the necessary balance between titles of literary merit and the more popular ?worthless work', as Ford memorably named it.3

?Three men are outstanding in the history of British publishing in the first half of the twentieth century' according to John Feather: Stanley Unwin, Victor Gollancz and Allen Lane.4 The first two published Ford, and Allen Lane's uncle, John, had done so too.5 In the States Albert and Charles Boni joined forces with Horace Liveright and published Hemingway, Faulkner and T. S. Eliot from 1917. In the twenties, Ford joined their list, which also included Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) and Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), both of whom received Pulitzers.6 The argument I shall set out here is that if this post Parade 's End Ford was unable fully to exploit such men's investment in him, the inability had its roots in the Edwardian period, a particularly turbulent time for the industry, notable for the unpredictable behaviour of publishers. …

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