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This review is taken from PN Review 75, Volume 17 Number 1, September - October 1990.

LEGITIMATE ENQUIRIES Alan Judd, Ford Madox Ford (Collins) £16.95

Janice Biala, who unquestionably has a better right than anybody else to be heard on the subject, is on record as saying that 'Ford belonged to the school of thought that did not believe in biographies'. They 'focus on the life of the author rather than on his work'. Who, she asks, after Boswell, reads Johnson? The example is perhaps not particularly well chosen. It is certainly the case that more people now read Boswell than read Johnson's own work, but that is surely because it is the kind of book which more people now want to read than want to read even The Lives of the Poets, a Jouney to the Western Islands, Rassselas, or Johnson's own poems, though all these books, to say nothing of the Dictionary, are still sought out and read - as indeed are the rest of Johnson's writings - by people who care for literature. And Boswell tells us much that anyone who cares for the writing would want to know, and can no more be dispensed with than Eckerman's Conversations with Goethe. Alan Judd quotes Ford himself as saying, in The March of Literature, that 'once you are really saturated in the work of a writer it is legitimate to enquire into the circumstances of his life ... for details of an author's life may cast light on passages of his work and on the nature of Literature itself.'

It is understandable, none the less, that Ford should not have ...


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