The Good Soldier

One of the many vices I cultivate is a weakness for biographies. An intelligent female once told me firmly that she didn't read biographies. She thought them depressing: the subjects got old and died. I tried to indicate that she was missing a lot, but she was adamant. I think now that if I were to renew my commendation of the pleasures of biography, I would point to Alan Judd's new life of Ford Madox Ford as perhaps an ideal place to start. Judd's book on Ford is a remarkable work about a remarkable man.

For me, Judd's book anticipated the remark another educated female let out in my hearing the other day: No, she had never read Ford because of his misrepresentations of his relationship with Joseph Conrad. Hers is a typical mistake. Ford was continually misconstrued during his lifetime, and the misunderstandings have outlived the man. Judd's life of Ford rectifies a host of errors and dissolves various prejudices. There can be no question that the reexamination of Ford's career and relationships with many literary people is justified, though it has been done before. Indeed, that is what provoked Judd's book: several times he feels obliged to correct the logic or the judgment of Arthur Mizener, for example.

On the other hand, Judd's Ford Madox Ford cannot be said to constitute or initiate a Ford revival if only because the best of Ford's work—The Fifth Queen, The...

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