Name changer: Ford Madox (Hueffer) Ford

FMF-GS-viaNYRB

(The good soldier via New York Review of Books)

‘June’, Paul Simon wrote—and Art Garfunkel sang—‘will change her tune/ In restless dreams she’ll prowl the night’. In June 1919, Ford Madox Hueffer moved a little beyond melody and changed his surname.

‘Yesterday I changed my name by deed poll from Hueffer to Ford’, he wrote to his agent on 5 June, ‘partly to oblige a relative & partly because a Teutonic name is in these days disagreeable & though my native stubbornness would not let me do it while the war was on, I do not see why I shd. go on being subjected to the attacks of blackmailers indefinitely.’

To his friend the Liberal politician C. F. G. Masterman, he wrote on 28 June that the novelist Violet Hunt, with whom he had lived for several years, had refused to sever relations with people who had been denouncing him to the police as a German agent and ‘stating, on her authority, various other untruths to my disadvantage.’ Consequently, he ‘took a labourer’s cottage in the country where I am still.’ And, ‘Today I have changed my name by deed-poll to “Ford.”’

To the novelist and later art critic Herbert Read, he wrote that he’d changed his name by deed-poll on 28 June ‘to please a relative from whom I have expectations; & in order to escape from the attentions of the Society of the neighbourhood’.[1]

The apparent disparity in the dates is explained by the petition being lodged on 4 June and the legal process being actually completed on 28 June.[2]

Names were, of course, always remarkably unstable in Ford’s life. In Violet Hunt’s memoirs, he is ‘Joseph Leopold’ (his Catholic baptismal names), to Ezra Pound he is ‘Forty Mad-Dogs Hueffer’ or ‘Freiherr von Grumpus ZU und VON Bieberstein’. Then too he chooses to adopt quite a few pseudonyms in the course of his career, from the early ‘Fenil Haig’ through ‘Baron von Aschendrof’ and ‘Daniel Chaucer’ to ‘Faugh an-Ballagh Faugh’, the name with which he signed a letter—not long before he died—complaining about a lukewarm review of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake which, Ford wrote, ‘stands up across the flat lands of our literatures as does the first Pyramid across the sands of Egypt’.

(Stella Bowen, mid-20s: Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University; Stella Bowen, Vegetable Still Life)

‘The year 1919 was certainly an annus mirabilis’ Richard Aldington remembered, ‘if you take the “mirabilis” ironically.’[3] For Ford, one of the year’s main points would be the official end of his war service: ‘Darling’, he wrote to Stella Bowen on 7 January 1919, ‘I was gazetted out of the Army this morning—so I might walk out this minute’—in fact he didn’t, for another week.[4] Another major factor was his seriously beginning to write again. And there was Stella herself, the young Australian painter whom he had met in the autumn of 1917—their daughter Julie was born in November 1920—and with whom he would live for most of the next ten years. ‘In June’, Ford wrote to his mother in early July, ‘I set up house with another lady.’[5]

House but also garden; flowers and many vegetables; pigs (Anna and Anita); an old mare; chickens; a goat called Penny, ‘because it had a certain facial resemblance to Mr. Pound’, ‘a drake that someone called Fordie’, a dog named Beau. ‘These beasts had a great dislike of being left alone, so that when I went out I was followed by dog, drake and goat—sometimes for great distances. A little later I acquired a black pig. This animal was also companionable, but I thought my procession would look too noticeable if she were added to it.’[6]

Ford was also a cook and hugely interested in food. Coming up next year is a special edition of Last Post: A Literary Journal from the Ford Madox Ford Society, devoted to that: Ford and Food (a broader and deeper subject than you might think), for which we’re already inviting proposals.

Meanwhile, for closet Ford Madox Ford fans—are there such people? Come on out!—the Ford Society website now has the first two issues of the journal freely available online:
http://www.fordmadoxfordsociety.org/last-post-open-access.html

 

 

Notes

[1] Ford Madox Ford, Letters of Ford Madox Ford, edited by Richard M. Ludwig (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), 93, 95, 98.

[2] Max Saunders, Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, two volumes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), I, 1.

[3] Richard Aldington, Life for Life’s Sake (London: Cassell, 1968), 225.

[4] Correspondence of Ford Madox Ford and Stella Bowen, edited by Sondra J. Stang and Karen Cochran (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993), 53-54.

[5] Saunders, A Dual Life, II, 72.

[6] Ford Madox Ford, It Was the Nightingale (London: Heinemann, 1934), 104-105.