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.)


(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.)