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Thursday, 19 October 2017

WRITERS ON WRITING #100: Ford Madox Ford


Carefully examined, a good –– an interesting –– style will be found to consist in a constant succession of tiny, unobservable surprises.  If you write –– 'His range of subject was very wide and his conversation very varied and unusual; he could rouse you with his perorations and lull you with his periods; therefore his conversation met with great appreciation and he made several fast friends' –– you will not find the world very apt to be engrossed by what you have set down.  The results will be different if you put it, 'He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings; he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary nor tainted with self-seeking.'
  Or, let us put the matter another way.  The catalogue of an ironmonger’s store is uninteresting as literature because things in it are all classified and thus obvious; the catalogue of a farm sale is more interesting because things in it are contrasted.  No one would for long read:  'Nails, drawn wire, half inch, per pound…; nails, do., three-quarter inch, per pound…; nails, do., inch, per pound…'  But it is often not disagreeable to read desultorily:  'Lot 267.  Pair rabbit gins.  Lot 268.  Antique powder flask.  Lot 269.  Malay Kris.  Lot 270.  Set of six sporting prints by Herring.  Lot 271. Silver caudle cup…' for that, as far as it goes, has a quality of surprise.

Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance (1924)


THE FORD MADOX FORD SOCIETY is an international organization founded in 1997 'to promote knowledge of and interest in the life and works of Ford Madox Ford' which can be visited by clicking HERE.  You can also click HERE to watch a short clip from the new feature length documentary It Was The Nightingale: The Unreliable Story of Ford Madox Ford, directed by PAUL LEWIS for Subterracon Films.

You might also enjoy:
FORD MADOX FORD A Call: The Tale of Two Passions (1910)
JOSEPH CONRAD The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (1907)
WRITERS ON WRITING #50: Ford Madox Ford

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