‘Experiments in Modernity’: Ford and Pound

  • R. G. Hampson


When Ezra Pound arrived in London in August/September 1908, Ford Madox Hueffer was already an established figure in the capital’s literary life. He had published four volumes of poetry, nine novels (including two in collaboration with Joseph Conrad), as well as children’s fiction, ‘sociological impressionism’, art history and biography. Ford’s career had already passed through two distinct phases: there was a period of literary dilettanteism, starting in 1891 with the publication of the children’s story, The Brown Owl;2 and there was his apprenticeship to the literary profession (1898–1905) through his collaboration with Conrad. Above all, he had established his literary identity through the relative success of his books since The Soul of London (1905). According to Goldring, Ford’s ‘burst of productivity’ in the period 1905–7 established him ‘in the front rank of the younger generation of writers’.3 With his subsequent founding and editing of the English Review (from December 1908 to January 1910), Ford moved into the most influential position he was to hold in English literary life.4


Multiple Perspective English Poetry Concrete Fact Musical Phrase Monday Evening 
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  1. 1.
    Ford Madox Hueffer, ‘Beginnings’, Collected Poems (London: Max Goschen, 1914) pp. 160–1; hereafter cited as CP. Pound and Ford maintained friendly contacts from 1909 until Ford’s death in 1939; see P/F. This chapter concentrates on the early phase of that relationship, since that is the phase in which Ford had most impact upon Pound and in which Pound developed his poetics. Pound, in St Elizabeths, looked back on this time as ‘the high period of my life’; see Catherine Seelye (ed.), Charles Olson & Ezra Pound: An Encounter at St. Elizabeths (New York: Grossman, 1975) p. 86. For other accounts of the Pound/ Ford relationship, see Stanley K. Coffmann, Jr, Imagism: A Chapter for the History of Modern Poetry (Norman: Oklahoma University Press, 1951), hereafter cited as Coffmann; Ambrose Gordon, ‘Ford Madox Ford and the Prose Tradition’, unpublished dissertation, Yale University, 1952; Alun R. Jones, ‘Notes Towards a History of Imagism: An Examination of Literary Sources’, South Atlantic Quarterly, IX.2 (Summer 1961) pp. 262–85; K. L. Godwin, The Influence of Ezra Pound (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966) pp. 7–8; Forrest Read, ‘Pound, Joyce and Flaubert’, in Eva Hesse (ed.), New Approaches to Ezra Pound (London: Faber, 1969) pp. 125–44, hereafter cited as Hesse; Samuel Hynes, ‘Pound and the Prose Tradition’, Edwardian Occasions (1972) pp. 129–43; and Max Saunders, ‘Ford /Pound’, Agenda, 27.4/28.1 (Winter 1989/Spring 1990) pp. 93–102.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Douglas Goldring, The Last Pre-Raphaelite (London: Macdonald, 1948) p. 137, hereafter cited as Goldring. Romance had been quickly reprinted, while Ford’s ‘Fifth Queen’ trilogy and three monographs on England and the English seem to have been a ’succés d’estime both in the press and among his fellow writers’ (Goldring 137). Here, as elsewhere, Humphrey Carpenter’s account of Ford is marred by what A. S. Byatt calls ‘reverse hagiography’. See Humphrey Carpenter, A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound (London: Faber, 1988) pp. 109–10, hereafter cited as Carpenter; and A. S. Byatt, Possession (London: Chatto and Windus, 1990) p. 250.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The first issue of the English Review included work by Hardy, James, Conrad, Galsworthy, Hudson and Wells, and Ford was to go on to give Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Norman Douglas and others their first publication. According to Edgar Jepson, ‘[a]bout 1908 Letters seemed to come suddenly to life’, and this ‘Edwardian revival’ was ‘chiefly manifest in the group which gathered around Mr. Ford Madox Ford and his English Review’. See Edgar Jepson, Memories of an Edwardian (London: Secker, 1938) p. 131, hereafter cited as Jepson; Arthur Mizener, The Saddest Story (London: Bodley Head, 1971) pp. 154–88; R. H. Ruedy, ‘Ford Madox Ford and the English Review’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Duke University, 1976, hereafter cited as Ruedy; and Eric Homberger, ‘Ford’s English Review: Englishness and its Discontents’, Agenda 27.4/28.1 (Winter 1989/Spring 1990) pp. 61–6.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John Dixon Hunt, The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination, 1848–1900 (London: Routledge, 1968) p. 12; see also LE 367.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance (London: Duckworth, 1924) p. 16; hereafter cited as JC.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Ford was to recall this ‘pre-Raphaelite childhood’ in such works as Ancient Lights (London: Chapman and Hall, 1911), hereafter cited as AL; and Return to Yesterday (London: Gollancz, 1931, hereafter cited as RY. It also led to his monographs on Ford Madox Brown (London: Longmans, Green, 1896); Rossetti (London: Duckworth, 1902), here-after cited as R; and The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (London: Duckworth, 1907). Some sense of Ford’s achievement in these monographs is suggested by Francis L. Fennell’s description of the monograph on Rossetti as ‘the most extensive and intensive assessment of Rossetti as a painter at the time of its publication’. See Francis L. Fennell, D. G. Rossetti: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1982) p. 161. (I am grateful to my colleague Pamela Bickley for drawing this to my attention.)Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    ‘Two Minor Lyrists’, in John P. Frayne (ed.), Uncollected Prose of W. B. Yeats, vol. I (London: Macmillan, 1970) pp. 288–91. I am grateful to Warwick Gould for drawing this and other Yeats material to my attention.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See also Raymond Brebach, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford and the Making ofRomance’ (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985). Brebach’s analysis of the growth of the text supports Ford’s statement. He notes that, when the collaboration started, Ford had published only one novel, The Shifting of the Fire, which lacked ‘a firm grasp of basic fictional technique’ (p. 2), and there were similar failures in the 1898 typescript which Ford read to Conrad (pp. 19–26), but the development of the text shows ‘Ford’s increasing command of fictional technique’ (p. 30).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Richard M. Ludwig (ed.), Letters of Ford Madox Ford (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965) pp. 10, 15.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Guy de Maupassant, Stories from de Maupassant, translated by E. M., with a preface by Ford M. Hueffer (London: Duckworth, 1903), here-after cited as SM.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    This preface constitutes an early formulation of Ford’s conception of literary impressionism, which was most fully expounded in his 1913 essay ‘On Impressionism’ and in his memoir of Conrad, where Ford presents himself and Conrad as the impressionist heirs of Flaubert and Maupassant. Conrad’s sense of the limitations of impressionism is suggested by his description of Stephen Crane as ‘the only impressionist and only an impressionist’. See Frederick R. Karl and Laurence Davies (eds), The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) p. 416.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Harriet Zinnes (ed.), Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts (New York: New Directions, 1980) p. xii; and the psychiatric report by Dr Jerome Kavka of 14 January 1946; both quoted in Carpenter 93.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Peter Makin, Pound’s Cantos (London: Allen and Unwin, 1988) p. 7.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Robert O’Driscoll, ‘Yeats on Personality: Three Unpublished Lectures’, in Robert O’Driscoll and Lorna Reynolds (eds), Yeats and the Theatre (Toronto: Macmillan, 1975) p. 30. By 1905 Yeats was talking of the imperatives of ‘common idiom’ and ‘common passion’, which are evidenced in The Green Helmet.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Thomas H. Jackson, The Early Poetry of Ezra Pound (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968), hereafter cited as Jackson. See also Hugh Witemeyer, The Poetry of Ezra Pound: Forms and Renewals, 1908–20 (Berkeley: California University Press, 1969), hereafter cited as Witemeyer; and John Woolford’s essay “‘What’s left for me to do?’: Pound, Browning and the Problem of Poetic Influence’ (Chapter 1, above).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 27.
    Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (London: Faber, 1975) p. 79, hereafter cited as Kenner. Canzoni was published in July 1911. Pound outlined his plan for the volume in a letter to Dorothy Shakespear (16 July 1911): ‘a sort of chronological table of emotions: Provence, Tuscany, the Renaissance, the XVIII, the XIX centuries, external modernity (cut out), subjective modernity. finis.’ See EP/DS 37–8.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    First published in High Germany (London: Duckworth, 1911). As K. K. Ruthven points out, Pound responds similarly in Lustra in what is, perhaps, a private joke: ‘After Ch’u Yuan’, ‘Coitus’ and ‘The Coming of War: Acteon’ refer, respectively, to ‘the procession of maidens’, ‘a procession of festival’ and the’ silent cortege’. See K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Personae (1926) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973) p. 31, hereafter cited as Ruthven.Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    T. S. Eliot, ‘American Literature and the American Language’, To Criticize the Critic (London: Faber, 1965) p. 58.Google Scholar
  19. 39.
    N. Christoph de Nagy, Ezra Pound’s Poetics and Literary Tradition (Berne: Francke, 1966) p. 13, hereafter cited as Nagy. ‘Hermes of the Ways’ appeared in Poetry, January 1913, along with ‘Priapus, Keeper-of-Orchards’ and ‘Epigram (After the Greek)’, under the signature ‘H. D. Imagiste’. An alternative ‘birth-place’ is a tea-shop in Kensington, but with the same group present — Pound, Richard Aldington, and Hilda Doolittle.Google Scholar
  20. 42.
    See Ford’s affirmation in Rossetti (p. 96 above) and compare with Flaubert: ‘Il y a un rapport necessaire entre le mot musical et le mot juste’ (quoted Nagy 54). The connection between Ford’s poetics and imagiste doctrines has been commented on by H. N. Schneidau, Ezra Pound: The Image and the Real (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969), hereafter cited as Schneidau; Eric Homberger, ‘Pound, Ford and “Prose”: The Making of a Modern Poet’, Journal of American Studies 5, December 1970, pp. 281–92; and Ruedy 228. On the other hand, Ronald Schuchard has argued that the Yeats/Florence Farr experiments in chanting poetry, which began in 1890, were the major influence on the imagist concern with rhythm. See “‘As Regarding Rhythm”: Yeats and the Imagists’, in Richard J. Finneran (ed.), Yeats: An Annual of Critical and Textual Studies, vol. II (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984) pp. 209–26. But Florence Farr’s The Music of Speech (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909) shows clearly that her interest was in the little tunes ‘contained in every word’ (p. 19) rather than in ‘the musical phrase’, and the crucial difference between the two is corroborated by Ellmann’s observation that Yeats ‘liked the way Pound devised to recite verse so that it sounded like music, with strongly marked time’ and ‘credited it with being a better method than that of Florence Farr’ (Hesse 59). Pound’s work on Arnaut Daniel had involved exploration of the musical phrase (Kenner 82), and the formulation of the third rule is clearly derived from Georges Duhamel and Charles Vildrac, Notes sur la technique poetique (Paris, 1910): ‘nous pouvons chanter sans metronome’ (Nagy 84).Google Scholar
  21. 48.
    Compare Pound’s procedure in ‘Provincia Deserta’, Lustra (London: Elkin Mathews, 1916): ‘The poem is a litany, like the famous “Usura” Canto, based on a simple antiphon-and-response. The full line is answered by the inset half-line or dropped line.’ See Michael Alexander, The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound (London: Faber, 1979) p. 95, hereafter cited as Alexander.Google Scholar
  22. 53.
    See Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance translated by S. G. C. Middlemore (London: Phaidon, 1944) p. 46.Google Scholar
  23. 61.
    Charles Olson, Mayan Letters (London: Cape, 1968) pp. 26–7.Google Scholar
  24. 62.
    Leon Surette, A Light from Eleusis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979) p. 103, hereafter cited as Surette.Google Scholar
  25. 63.
    Kenner 33; see also J. B. Vickery, The Literary Impact ofThe Golden Bough’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976) and Robert Fraser (ed.), Sir James Frazer and the Literary Imagination (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990), for accounts of the literary impact of Frazer.Google Scholar
  26. 65.
    See, for example, Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (New York: Jargon/Corinth, 1960)Google Scholar
  27. Allen Fisher, Place Book One (London: Aloes, 1974) and Brixton Fractals (London: Aloes, 1985). For examples of ‘language-centred poetry’, see Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein (eds), The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  28. 67.
    V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1947).Google Scholar
  29. 68.
    This economic awakening encouraged Pound to rediscover the monetary reforms of his grandfather and to situate himself in the American populist tradition of William Jennings Bryan and its claimed descent from Jefferson and Jackson, the heroes of American liberalism. See Peter Brooker, ‘The Lesson of Pound’, in Ian Bell (ed.), Ezra Pound: Tactics for Reading (London: Vision, 1982) pp. 9–49Google Scholar
  30. Noel Stock, The Life of Ezra Pound (London: Routledge, 1970) pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
  31. 70.
    Jean-Michel Rabaté, Language, Sexuality and Ideology in Ezra Pound’s Cantos (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986) pp, 32–3, hereafter cited as Rabaté.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 75.
    See Robert Green, Ford Madox Ford: Prose and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981) p. 137. Parade’s End consists of four volumes, all originally published by Duckworth: Some Do Not (1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand Up (1926), Last Post (1928). All references are to Parade’s End (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), hereafter cited as PE.Google Scholar
  33. 76.
    Paul L. Wiley, Novelist of Three Worlds: Ford Madox Ford (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1962) p. 132.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

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  • R. G. Hampson

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