Love & writing according to Ford Madox Ford

Bitterness, rejection, suffering, loss. Must one crush broken dreams underfoot with the smell of death in one’s nostrils to produce good writing?

That’s one road. The dramatic road.

But confidence and productivity can also spring from the support and security provided by those around one. That’s my road.

I’ve been reading Ford Madox Ford‘s The Good Soldier. This passage caught my eye. He talks about love and achievement or creativity:

…the real fierceness of desire, the real heat of a passion long continued and withering up the soul of a man is the craving for identity with the woman that he loves. He desires to see with the same eyes, to touch with the same sense of touch, to hear with the same ears, to lose his identity, to be enveloped, to be supported. For, whatever may be said of the relation of the sexes, there is no man who loves a woman that does not desire to come to her for the renewal of his courage, for the cutting asunder of his difficulties. And that will be the mainspring of his desire for her. We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.

So, for a time, if such a passion come to fruition, the man will get what he wants. He will get the moral support, the encouragement, the relief from the sense of loneliness, the assurance of his own worth.

I identify with a lot of that. Sure it’s possible and in some ways admirable to stoically ignore both the siren blandishments of easy praise and the inviting wallows of failure along the way. To go it alone. To not be dependent on outside assurance of one’s worthiness to exist. (He overstates his case to make his point.)

Ford‘s support structure isn’t a option for me, but it seems an unbeatable combination of love and encouragement. Luckily less intimate relationships bring riches too. It’s to old familiar faces and new unseen internet friends that I have turned.

Your response has been constructively specific or spiritually uplifting. And very welcome and much appreciated. It has made all the difference. Thank you.

Ford seems to have women confined to supporting roles. (The character, Dowell, from whose mind the above stream of consciousness emanates is a gullible, unobservant prig.) I part company from him here. The women and men could be swapped around in the passage above. Or to put it simply, it goes both way. It should be about mutual support.

The appealing picture he paints is of passion both intense and lasting. Love that’s neither boring nor fleeting.

But before you run away with the idea that Ford is a man for happy endings, he suggests that such relationships inevitably wither.

(He’s wrong.)

And title of The Good Soldier was almost quite different. The Saddest Story was the earlier alternative.

But, too much melancholy. Here’s one of my favourite love poems. I have it stuck on the wall of the room in which I write. It’s by Kobus Moolman:


If I could build you a house

o love I would fetch you a

waterfall for the front door

windows of the lighest wind

and walls as deep as shadows

Silence would cover you

from summer’s lightning and twilight

light the way to your bed

Aah… I like it. And it reminds me of sneaking behind or stepping under waterfalls in south Wales, Powerscourt in Ireland and the littoral forest of Venezuela. All of which I recommend.

Meanwhile, here’s some music I heard for the first time today over on the Exodus blog. The group is called Buraka Som Sistema. They’re based in Portugal, with heavy Angolan influences. Apparently they’re a major player in the kudoro genre.  This song is Yah! They’re singing in  Portuguese – something about a banana in Luanda perhaps (that’s the Angola connection). The dancing men made me smile.



Filed under art, life

5 responses to “Love & writing according to Ford Madox Ford

  1. I read The Good Soldier in my first year at university, but all I can remember about it is the first sentence.

    Also in my first year, I appeared on University Challenge, and there was a question about the Pre-Raphaelites. I meant to say Ford Madox Brown (who was indeed a PRB painter), but what came out was “Ford Madox Ford”. Brown would have been the wrong answer, but it wouldn’t have been a stupid wrong answer.

    The fact that I remember the latter so clearly, but have such hazy memories of the stuff I should really have been studying probably encapsulates my academic career.

  2. Enjoyed the article- of course confidence and productivity come from relationships- and inevitably they involve risk. There are simple yet important things around me too; smiles from staff in my supermarket, bus drivers returning my wave, new buildings to admire, fish in the canal, the power of the Thames and the relentlessness of Autumn approaching. Time for another walk!

  3. So enjoyed this post. It seems that Ford was of a time when women stayed quiet and clung to their men; not equal partners.

    Hope you don’t mind that I copied your poem … it lit me up when I read it.

  4. But confidence and productivity can also spring from the support and security provided by those around one. That’s my road.

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m a hack writer at the best of times but my ‘mentor’ sees me more creative when he’s supportive than when he berates. And man he’s good at berating. If I didn’t love him, I’d have given up long ago.

  5. potenzmittel

    thanks !! very helpful post!

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