Ford Madox Hueffer Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ford Madox Ford’s father was a music critic of German origin, Franz Xaver Hueffer; his mother was Catherine Ernely Madox Brown, the daughter of the pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown. He was a privileged child who grew up in a home where he was exposed early to artistic and literary influences; he received his formal schooling at Praetoria House and University College School, London. At the age of eighteen he traveled on the Continent and became a Roman Catholic to please his rich German relatives.{$S[A]Hueffer, Ford Madox;Ford, Ford Madox}{$S[A]Haig, Fenil;Ford, Ford Madox}

The Brown Owl, a fairy story, marked Ford’s debut in print in 1891. After his early marriage Ford settled in Kent, where he devoted himself to writing. Here he met Joseph Conrad and discovered that they shared a fundamental agreement upon the role of technique in the novel. Over a period of five years the two fledgling authors collaborated in a partnership and produced two novels, The Inheritors and Romance.

Between 1892 and 1902 Ford published nine volumes of biography, fiction, poetry, and travel. Just before his thirtieth birthday the strain of such productivity resulted in a nervous breakdown. Despite his illness he worked on a fictional treatment of the ill-starred Catherine Howard; this eventually became the clever trilogy The Fifth Queen, Privy Seal, and The Fifth Queen Crowned. In 1905 the reception of his The Soul of London gave his recovery a physical and...

(The entire section is 625 words.)

Ford Madox Hueffer Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ford Madox Hueffer was born in Merton, now a borough of London, on December 17, 1873; he was named for his maternal grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). Brown had two daughters: The elder married William Michael Rossetti (brother to the poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti); the younger daughter, Catherine, married the German journalist Francis Hueffer, music critic for The Times of London, who wrote many books and had a serious scholarly interest in Richard Wagner, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Provençal poetry. Ford was born to this couple and grew up in an intellectual hothouse of painters, musicians, artists, and writers with advanced ideas.

His family expected him to be a genius, which led him to acquire, early in his life, a sense of inadequacy and failure. Ford tended later to falsify information in his biography and to have difficulty separating reality from fantasy in his recollections. He attended the coeducational Praetorius School in Folkestone, apparently an institution with very modern ideas of education. One of his schoolmates there was Elsie Martindale, a young woman whom he married, against her parents’ wishes, in 1894. Perhaps this elopement by the impetuous young lovers shows Ford’s tendency to play out in reality the conventions of courtly love, a subject of intense study by Ford’s father and a preoccupation of the author himself in all his fiction, evident even in his final book, the critical survey...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Ford Madox Hueffer Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ford Madox Ford was born Ford Hermann Hueffer in Merton, Surrey, a suburb of London, England, on December 17, 1873, the eldest son of Francis Hueffer, a musicologist and critic, and Catherine Brown Hueffer, daughter of the renowned painter Ford Madox Brown. He was given the upbringing appropriate to the scion of an artistic family; lessons in languages, in music, and in painting preceded entry into an experimental school, Praetorius. There he remained until his father died in 1889, leaving the family penniless; they had to be taken in by Ford’s grandfather.

Fordie, as he was known to his friends, roamed the streets of London for the next few years, associating with aesthetes and decadents, anarchists and artists. Aided by his grandfather, he published three books of fairy tales by the time he turned twenty-one and began working on a serious novel; these accomplishments emboldened him to elope with Elsie Martindale, whom he had met years before at Praetorius, in 1894.

After two very uncomfortable years, Elsie’s parents forgave their daughter and agreed to help support the young couple; by that time, Ford’s own career was progressing with the publication of Ford Madox Brown (1896) the official biography of his late grandfather, and his introduction to Joseph Conrad, the Polish-born novelist, with whom Ford would be connected for the next decade. Although the value of this relationship has been much debated, it is undeniable that Ford (who was by now calling himself Ford Madox Hueffer) provided Conrad with vital information about English idioms and customs, in addition to psychological support during the latter’s frequent bouts of despondency. Nevertheless, the products of this collaboration—The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), and The Nature of a Crime (1909, serial; 1924, book)—are markedly inferior to the works each wrote on his own during this period, such as Conrad’s Lord Jim (1900) and Ford’s Fifth Queen trilogy (1906-1908).

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Ford was best known as a writer of nonfiction. His study of the English Channel towns, The Cinque Ports, appeared in 1900; The Soul of London appeared in 1905, and two further books on English country life followed in 1906 and 1907. Interspersed with these were collections of fairy tales, biographies of artists such as Hans Holbein, and a weekly newspaper column. Though these works made little money for Ford, they kept his name before the public; meanwhile, he was preparing his brilliant re-creation of the life of Katherine Howard, fifth queen of King Henry VIII, published as The Fifth Queen (1906), Privy Seal (1907), and The Fifth Queen Crowned (1908). In this trilogy, Ford for the first time successfully fused...

(The entire section is 1155 words.)