war prose war world is quite another and calls for quite different treatment.’2
Ford was at Mary Borden Turner’s literary country-house party near Berwick-upon-Tweed when war was declared. Other guests included Wyndham Lewis and E. M. Forster. Ford was writing weekly ‘Literary Portraits’ at the time, and registered his shock at the conflict immediately. His wartime journalism was extraordinarily far-sighted. (Some excerpts are included here.) Within a few days of the outbreak, he was pondering the effects on his mind, on national psychologies, on literature and society. This moving between questions of war and questions of psychology and aesthetics is, as we shall see, deeply characteristic of all Ford’s war writings. Even before he saw active service, he realised that the war presented a new kind of challenge to literature, and to his own form of literary impressionism in particular.
Ford’s response to the war was as much European and transatlantic as it was English or British. His allegiances were cosmopolitan and complex. He was the son of a German father and English mother. He had tried to acquire German citizenship in 1912 (in order to get divorced). Like his father, Francis Hueffer, and his English grandfather, Ford Madox Brown, he had a deep love of France, and was appalled by the thought of its devastation. His multiple sympathies are evident in many of the pieces here, which remind us that Parade’s End too is an international work, adopting the techniques of European and American modernism to render France and Germany as well as Britain.
In his journalism Ford took a controversial stand against the prevailing rhetorical hysteria, urging that the war should be fought in chivalric mode: against a ‘gallant enemy’. This was brave for someone with a German surname. (He remained ‘Ford Madox Hueffer’ throughout the war, only changing his last name around the time of the Versailles peace treaty.) His anti-propaganda stance may have suggested that he would be a useful propagandist. Soon afterwards, he was recruited by his friend Charles Masterman, the Liberal Cabinet Minister put in charge of British propaganda. The ‘Literary Portraits’ turned into sketches of German and French culture, and these were revised into two large propaganda books in 1915, When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture, and Between St Denis and St George: A Sketch of Three
2 Ford to T. R. Smith, 27 July 1931: Cornell.