The saddest story

From The Guardian:

Fordmadoxford256 In 1927, The Good Soldier was reissued as the first volume of a uniform edition of Ford Madox Ford’s works. In a dedicatory letter to Stella Ford, the novelist explained that his “tale of passion” was a true story heard a decade previously from the character he calls Edward Ashburnham, but that he’d needed to wait until all the originals were dead before he could write it. He claimed it as his best book, and asked, uxoriously, that Stella accept not just this work, but “the general dedication of the edition”.

More recently, I was talking to Ian McEwan, who told me that a few years ago he’d been staying in a house with a well-stocked library. There he found a copy of The Good Soldier, which he read and admired greatly. A while later, he wrote On Chesil Beach, that brilliant novella in which passion, and Englishness, and misunderstanding, lead to emotional catastrophe. Only after publishing the book did he realise that he had unconsciously given his two main characters the names Edward (as in Ashburnham) and Florence (as in Dowell). He is quite happy for me to pass this on.

So Ford’s presence, and subterranean influence, continue. He is not so much a writer’s writer (which can suggest hermeticism) as a proper reader’s writer. The Good Soldier needs The Good Reader. It’s true that he isn’t yet being taught to students at Durham University, but there are still 75 years of the allotted 150 for them to get up to speed. And after that, we can start working on Cheltenham, Eton College, and the nation’s tennis-players . . .

More here. (Note: It remains one of my favorite novels since my nephew Asad recommended it to me.)