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This review is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

CORRESPONDENCE COURSE A Literary Friendship: Correspondence Between Caroline Gordon and Ford Madox Ford, edited by Brita Lindberg-Seyersted (The University of Tennessee Press)

The British novelist, editor and poet Ford Madox Ford (18731939) encountered the American novelist Caroline Gordon (18951981) in New York in late 1926. By December, this encounter had been formalized: Gordon had started work as Ford's secretary, and that winter would type to Ford's dictation. Reaching the apex of his writerly career during these months in New York, as a result of the publication of the first volumes of his great war tetralogy, Parade's End, Ford enjoyed his celebrity; Gordon seemed to be engaged partly to function as his social secretary. Hereafter, Ford's literary reputation as a 'Great Man' was never as assured. Gordon's literary reputation meanwhile, from a career begun in 1929, mounted steadily. Their relationship, usually one of correspondence, survived this potentially hazardous shift. The reasons for its survival - primarily the admiration Gordon had for Ford (irrespective of the vagaries of the market, she knew he knew about books) - form the bedrock of Lindberg-Seyersted's introduction. This introduction also manages to make sense, chronologically at least, out of the highly fluid personal and geographical existences which pertained to the Gordon/Ford circle. Travel between northern and southern France, New York, Chicago, Tennessee, and the UK provides a chaotic refrain and a constant source of anxiety in the letters.

An unbiased and obviously deeply interested literary historian, Seyersted is refreshingly frank about the sometimes fraught meetings, often in less than comfortable surroundings, between Gordon, her husband Allen Tate, Ford and his artist partner Janice Biala, and ...


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