Ford Madox

Return to Yesterday

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Ford Madox Ford can never quite keep out of it. The more self-effacing he seems, the more his the writing becomes: scenes of preternatural clarity. 'Memory doesn't work like that,' said one critic. Well, Ford's does. 'Truth to the impression' was his aim. How it seemed, how memory took it in, is more alive than how it 'actually' was, whatever that means. Memory is for Ford as for Wordsworth re-creation. His memoirs have the authority of fiction because they are half way between fiction and fact. Return to Yesterday (1931), his most fascinating memoir, follows on Ancient Lights and covers the years from 1894 to the outbreak of World War I – his transition from privileged godson of the Pre-Raphaelites to the great Modern writer and editor he became. Here he evokes England at large, and London in particular, its literary community, the political world of anarchists (the world of his friend Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent). If the Rossettis, Ford Madox Brown, Swinburne and Morris gave their blessing to his youth, it was Pound and Lawrence, Joyce and Rhys, who were blessed by his maturity. C.H. Sisson writes: 'Ford remains a profound influence on the poetry as on the prose of the century, for he found English literature poetical and left it spare.'
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507 printed pages
Original publication
2013

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