Ford Madox Ford, an appealingly talented and gossipy subject, has naturally attracted biographers. In 1971 Arthur Mizener's The Saddest Story seemed adequately exhaustive, but now Max Saunders comes along with two vast volumes, even more thorough and more than doubling the page count. Alan Judd, faithful to Ford's own lack of respect for academic pieties, brought out his footnoteless but still valuable life of Ford in 1990. Saunders, like Mizener, is an academic and has hundreds of scrupulous notes. Mizener had the advantage of being able to consult many surviving friends of Ford, including Allen Tate, Herbert Read, Jean Rhys and Rebecca West. He also had access to the papers of Ford's mistress Violet Hunt and the Ford collections in various American libraries, notably those of Cornell and Princeton. Judd and Saunders were denied by death of useful contemporary testimony, except for that of Janice Biala, Ford's widow, to whom all three biographers are properly grateful. With her consent they all had access to the archives, and the later writers also acknowledge their debts to Mizener, despite some sharp disagreements in interpretation.
LRB 6 February 1997 | PDF Download