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‘Blood, Soil, and Salad’: Ford Madox Ford and the Far Right1

Laurence Davies
p. 59-77

Résumés

Cet article interprète les écrits de Ford Madox Ford sur la cuisine provençale sous l’angle des idées nationalistes, lesquelles étaient assez largement répandues en France, à la fin du XIXe et au début du XXe siècles. La comparaison entre Ford et des écrivains français tels que Maurice Barrès et Charles Maurras mène à l’émergence de conceptions différentes du territoire et permet de comprendre l’attachement de Ford à la Provence, ainsi que son humanité et sa générosité. Dans cet article, les opinions de l’extrême-droite britannique relatives au territoire au cours des années 1920 et 1930 sont également analysées et débattues.

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I

  • 1 This paper is a companion piece to ‘Growing, Cooking, Eating: Ford as a Protoecologist’, published (...)
  • 2 ‘Impressionist Confusion, Dissolving Landscape’ in Ford Madox Ford, France and Provence, ed. Domini (...)

Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine and Great Trade Route offer a throng of modes and topoi: anecdote, performance, prophecy, apologia pro vita sua, memoir, rant, self-parody, recuperated histories, provocations, impressionist leaps and swerves, realigned geographies, cultural triangulations, recipes, and, in the final scene of Provence, a delirious whirl of language, clothes, documents, certificates, and bank notes all harried by the mistral. Amongst this turbulence, there is solace and devotion in what Alexandra Becquet has called ‘his utopia of the Small Producer’2. One might recall Voltaire’s serene Turk tending his orderly garden, but Ford’s engagement with the soil was more demanding and more entangled with the world around.

From his Provençal years, we hear of the garden at the Villa Paul stocked with the best of local fruit and vegetables, lovingly tended. Biala told her brother Jack that:

  • 3 Jason Andrew, ‘In Provence: The Life of Ford Madox Ford and Biala’, in ibid., p. 182.

We have a large garden in which we are growing artichokes, tomatoes, corn, carrots, beans, watermelons, mushmelons, squash. . . . We have a cherry tree, several pear trees, several pear trees, almond trees, fig trees, orange and lemon trees, peaches, apricots. . . . We have every imaginable flower, and thousands of roses.3

This plenitude (which also accommodated ducklings and temperamental chickens) demanded a great deal of attention. Ford usually started the daily watering at five or five thirty. In Buckshee (1931), he sums up for Biala the triage of flowers and vegetables caused by a lengthy drought.

  • 4 Ford Madox Ford: Selected Poems, ed. Max Saunders. Manchester: Carcanet, Fyfield Books, 2003.

The maize must go
But the chilis and tomatoes may still have
A little water. The gourds must go.
We must begin to give a little to the mandarines
And the lemon trees. Yes, and the string beans.
We will do our best to save
The chrysanthemums
Because you like them.4

  • 5 Jason Andrew, ‘In Provence: The Life of Ford Madox Ford and Biala’, in op. cit., p. 182. Chapter On (...)

There were financial droughts as well. In another letter to Jack, Biala writes of a six-week shortage, relieved at last by an invitation to spend a weekend with ‘a Frenchman with whom Ford has had a cooking rivalry for years and what food we had! But I give the palm to Ford just the same. We’d have been dead of hunger if Ford couldn’t make a wonderful dish out of a few beans and a crumb of bread’.5

What stands out here is Ford’s determination to be self-sufficient and to match the grain of the landscape with the nature and quality of the food. Those principles of course had been the practice of most, though certainly not all, gardeners, smallholders, and farmers over countless generations. The point is, however, that he consciously encourages these principles, rather than following unquestionable patterns. Here, for instance, is the ‘Compiler’ from No Enemy:

  • 6 Ford Madox Ford, No Enemy. New York: Macaulay, 1929, p. 135.

Well, there is gardening! As you know, I am not le dernier venu when it comes to gardening. I will back myself to get twice as much off any given piece of ground as any ordinary man – if you will give me some seeds and a bit of old iron and a stick capable of being tied together into some semblance of a hoe.6

  • 7 Ford Madox Ford, Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine. Manchester: Carcanet, 2009 [1938], pp. 31 (...)
  • 8 Jason Andrew, in op. cit., p. 183.

Moreover, Ford approaches his goals by both historical and contemporary routes while maintaining the views of both cook and gardener. He is a great one for contexts. We might also notice that the menus at Villa Paul were enticingly varied, in contrast to the diet of the nearby anglophile Seigneur who lived on rare beef and tinned peas.7 In this case, wealth and boredom went together, while financial hardship went with ingenuity. Referring to a cashless six weeks, Biala wrote: ‘We’d have been dead of hunger if Ford couldn’t make a wonderful dish out of a few beans and a crumb of bread’.8

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, respect or veneration for the land was not always benign, vested in responsible gardening and farming, conducive to reverie and vision, or come to that, calmly scientific. Across Europe what is often called blood and soil nationalism flourished. The phrase originated in late nineteenth-century Germany as Blut und Boden and covers a multitude of sins, whether theoretical or repellently literal. In any case, its principal tenets were (and continue to be) an insistence on cultural and ‘racial’ purity, a distrust of cities, an emphasis on sacrifice and purgation, a celebration of military glory, ancestor worship, and the sanctity of the national terrain. It’s arguable that at least fitfully Ford had his reservations about city living, particularly in Philadelphia (as revealed in Great Trade Route), but in every other way, his values were quite the opposite. He was an indomitable cosmopolitan, with a special love for the Midi, and not least its thirsty terrain. For certain intellectuals of the French Right, however, the soil of France was blessed and saturated with the blood of patriots.

With that contrast in mind, I would like to see what happens if we locate Ford’s writing and his culinary practices in the context of nationalisms, French and English. Before starting, two considerations: I am not arguing that Ford was consciously writing back to nationalist principles in either country. There is far too much going on in Provence and Great Trade Route to read these books single-mindedly. Their powers and their pleasures exist in a perpetuum mobile which is best not frozen. Novelists, and by extension memoirists such as Ford, swear no oath to be consistent. Yet, to consider Ford side by side with Maurice Barrès, or Charles Maurras, or Georges Sorel is to light up the strength of Ford’s humane and generous insouciance. I shall start with the quarrels and contentions of the Right in the Third Republic, then move back to Ford, ending with some attention to English versions of rural nationalism in the Twenties and Thirties.

II

  • 9 Max Saunders, Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 2, p. 495.

France in the Twenties and Thirties was shaken not only by hostilities between Left and Right. The far right itself was notoriously fractious and given to interminable debate, including as it did Catholics and secularists, monarchists and republicans, authoritarians and parliamentarians, Federalists and anti-Federalists. Their differences came to a head during a bloody affair in Paris on 6 February 1934. Ford and Biala were in the city at the time, and Biala was to recall that the Rue Denfert-Rochereau was cordoned off by machine gunners with orders to fire on demonstrators.9 The Ministry of Marine Affairs was set alight, and there was heavy fighting in the place de la Concorde and around the Palais Bourbon, the headquarters of the National Assembly. There were 16 deaths and 2,000 casualties. Some Leftists were involved, but the major strife was between police and the Garde Civile on one side and a turbulent and quarrelsome alliance of Monarchists, ex-soldiers, and incipient Fascists on the other. Charles Maurras, leader of the anti-Semitic, anti-Republican Action Française sent Les Camelots du Roi, the street-brawling youth branch of the movement, into the fray, and was later charged with provocation to murder.

  • 10 He was elected to the Académie française in 1906.
  • 11 Ford Madox Ford, The March of Literature: London. Allen & Unwin, 1939, p. 826.
  • 12 Ibid., p. 856.
  • 13 Ford Madox Ford, It Was the Nightingale. London: Heinemann, 1934, p. 231.

Because he had so much to say about land, regionalism, and the inspiration of the dead, and also because he was a prolific novelist, this discussion focuses on Maurice Barrès (1862-1923). In the Anglosphere of our own times, Maurras is better known, mostly because of his influence on T. S. Eliot and his notoriety as a supporter of the Vichy regime, yet when consulting the National Library of Scotland, the Glasgow University Library, and the London Library I have been struck by the number and variety of Barrès’s books acquired in the early years of the twentieth century.10 Ford was certainly aware of him. In The March of Literature he is listed among such ‘considerable names . . . of men that were all day on every Parisian’s tongue as Daudet, Zola, Loti, Bourget, Dumas fils and the Goncourt brothers’.11 In the tables at the back of the same volume, two of his novels are listed among the works of the ‘Post-Romantics’.12 It Was the Nightingale has a passage about the richness of nature and the stimulating variety of people in St-Agrève, a small hill town in the Ardèche: ‘It was in the hotel dining room here that I heard the whole roomful violently debating the respective merits of the styles of Paul Bourget, Barrès and Stendhal. They were all small shopkeepers’.13

  • 14 The petits pays were those provinces with distinctive and fiercely cherished cultures and identitie (...)
  • 15 So to a point did Charles Péguy, but beside his visionary nationalism he was a socialist, a ‘Dreyfu (...)

Barrès and Maurras had a good deal in common, including a taste for paradox and contradiction. Both of them were from the petits pays, the former from Lorraine, the latter from Provence, and both envisioned a restless balance between local autonomy and strong central leadership, individualism and the weight of custom.14 They were ‘anti-Dreyfusards’, and believed that the greatest internal threats to France were Jews, Protestants, Freemasons, and Métèques (a hostile term for immigrants and the descendants of immigrants), while the greatest external threat came from Germany. In their eyes, most republican politicians were venal, ineffectual, and vulgar, and the intellectuals sapped by German ideas and decadence. They decried romanticism as self-indulgent and a betrayal of the classical tradition, yet saw French history in a stained-glass glory.15 They considered the Army was essential to hierarchy, discipline and order, as was the Church of Rome. Both men rejected liberal democracy in favour of strong and autocratic leadership: Maurras wanted a monarch of the Capetian line, Barrès, a non-hereditary republican leader who would defend the nation and her traditions against foreign and domestic foes.

  • 16 This is the opening sentence of his novel La Colline inspirée (1913): ‘Il est des lieux qui tirent (...)

Yet it is not only a rejection of monarchy that separates Barrès from Maurras. However impractical or even crazy we might think the restoration of an absolutist Bourbon dynasty to be, Maurras believed it was a rational project formed in the spirit of seventeenth century classicism. On the other hand, despite his supposed hostility to romanticism, Barrès became in his later years inclined to mysticism and the transcendental. All across France were sacred places bathed in mystery, chosen for all eternity as sites of religious feeling: Lourdes, for example and Mont-Saint-Michel, Domrémy-la-Pucelle the birthplace of Joan of Arc, and the great abbey of Vézelay; in the Dordogne the prehistoric painted caves of Eyzies, in Brittany the standing stones of Carnac and the magical forest of Brocéliande. In Provence, there were the great limestone ridge of Mont Sainte-Victoire and the wild delta country of the Rhone around Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (whose annual Roma pilgrimages Ford describes with great affection in Interlude II of Great Trade Route).16

  • 17 Among the literary people present were Sir Sidney Colvin, Edmund Gosse, W. P. Ker, G.W. Prothero, I (...)

Other sacred sites were graveyards and above all war memorials such as those in Alsace-Lorraine. Barrès’s speech ‘Le blason de la France ou les traits éternels dans cette guerre’, delivered in French to the British Academy on 12 July 1916,17 eleven days after the dreadful beginning of the First Battle of the Somme, presents the soldiers of France as living in a timeless continuum. It embraces the Crusaders, the soldiers of the Revolution, and the poilus in the trenches.

Here is another difference from Maurras, who could never accept that anything good let alone noble could come out of the Revolution. During the war, and also unlike Maurras, by 1916, Barrès was moderating his Anti-Semitism and Anti-Protestantism in a series of articles on ‘Les diverses familles spirituelles de la France’. In the London speech and later in ‘Young Soldiers of France’, a long essay for the Atlantic Monthly (July 1917), he quotes extensively from letters by soldiers at the Front and their families. Morale is high, everyone is prepared for sacrifice in the name, honour, and tradition of France.18 For Barrès, France is a nation sustained and unified by ancestry and precious in the eyes of God. Romain Rolland called him ‘le rossignol des carnages’. Figuratively, at any rate, the voices of the dead now spoke for and from French terrain.19 To quote from the British Academy speech: ‘Mois d’août 1914! L’appel aux armes retentit. Les cloches dans tous les villages s’ébranlent sur la vieille église dont le fondement repose au milieu des morts. Elles sont redevenues soudain les voix de la terre de France’.20 This trope of the dead not only speaking to the living but having a particular authority resonates in more than one early twentieth-century culture. In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton argues that: ‘Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.21 During his funeral oration at the grave of the veteran Fenian O’Donovan Rossa in 1915, Padraig Pearse said of the British authorities: ‘the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and, while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’.22

III

  • 23 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 2.

Returning to Ford, it is striking to see how much his values, his passion, his feel for life were contrary to those of the French right. He shared with Barrès an affection for the petit pays, or at least an affection for Provence, but there was not the slightest hint of wanting to see an authoritarian leader at the head of le grand pays. Ford was well aware of what was going on in Italy and Germany. The playful dedication to Great Trade Route is a kind of time capsule, written for the young son of a Philadelphian mother and a French father, ‘who is a supporter before all things of Order, Law and resounding Activities’. Using the authorial we, Ford tells Jean Nicolas Le Son that ‘We are not Philosophers and – as you shall one day read – we regard all – but all! Politicians with abhorrence’. If the book ‘adumbrates anything at all’, it is ‘a faint belief in the desirability of Quietist Anarchism’.23

  • 24 Ibid., p. 345.

Ford’s handling of ethnicity may sometimes give an honest reader headaches, but he writes sympathetically about the group of Jews on their way to make ‘Aliyah’ and says of slavery, ‘Humanity shudders – as I really do – at the thought of the incurable wound to the body politic that is caused when one race enslaves another’.24 Then, there is the magnificent outburst in Great Trade Route against naming as othering.

  • 25 Ibid., p. 328.

The world is dying because all across it, it has run the terrible mania for putting everybody but oneself up against a wall. Everybody . . . Alle Juden, alle Christen, alle Franzosen. … Every Jew, every Wop, every Dago. . . . Tous les étrangers, les Anglais, les Boches, les Américains. … From every state in the world, in every tongue, that one cry mounts to Heaven. That shibboleth has run across the world with a rapidity ten … no, but a thousand times greater than the mania that set all Christendom warring against Saracens, Provençaux, Bulgarians, and Moors . . . . for the greater glory of the Redeemer and the recovery of his birthplace.25

Besides, to borrow Barrès’s hateful term, with his German forebears Ford himself was a ‘Métèque’.

The French far right was very much concerned with national borders, while as far as possible keeping foreigners out and ‘true’ French men and women in. Imperial expansion was not a primary goal and more than a little suspect. The prime imperative was to restore Alsace and the occupied half of Lorraine to France. On the other hand, Ford’s concept of a Great Trade Route, fuzzy though it was – often climatic rather than truly cultural – required a great deal of border hopping. It also had its own borders, but they were far less defined than those of the Hexagon.

  • 26 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 178.

Ford’s savage indignation spreads across time and space. Far from being chivalrous knights and the spiritual ancestors of twentieth-century soldiers, the Crusaders appear in Provence as moved by cynical greed and sadistic fanaticism. Regarding the crusade against the heretics of Occitania, Ford takes the side of the Albigensians and tells the story of the slaughtered citizens of Béziers, quoting the dreadful words of the Papal Legate: ‘Kill them all; God will know how to choose His own’.26 In passages like this there’s much in common with Conrad in sardonic mode, and even more in common with Conrad’s friend, R. B Cunninghame Graham, historian, polemicist, radical campaigner, and bravura essayist. According to Ford (and Graham), it is morally better to lose than to be a crowing, heedless winner.

  • 27 Ibid., p. 182.

Let us by all means be passivist, non-resistant, anarchist-quietist or follow whatever counsel of perfection may be vouchsafed to us; but when human nature can no further endure and we take down from the wall our rusted fowling piece, polish up and remove from the muzzles of our verdigrised cannon the wooden stoppers and put an edge to our scythes, let us at least kneel down and offer to the Ancient of Days our humble petition that we may not come out the winners.27

As for the purity of First World War soldiery, in Provence we have the priceless anecdote of the senior chaplain seen emerging one morning from a brothel who, out of embarrassment or pedantry, lectures Ford on the allegedly correct pronunciation of a latinate word.

  • 28 Balliol: an Oxford College known for its classicists.
  • 29 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 298.

I said to him in mess afterwards that he had been very matútinal . . . . He said ‘You mean, ah, matutaïnal . . . All Latin-derived words with the termination inal are pronounced aïnal’, in his best Balliol28 voice. I said: As for instance uraïnal!.29

Among the great pleasures of Ford’s writing, early and late, are the swings of mood and mode, and the narrative threads that appear to be going nowhere but somehow at some time intertwine. By the classical standards of Barrès and to a greater extent Maurras, these shifts of register were utterely indecorous; they also smacked of impressionism, a movement they utterly condemned.

  • 30 Aside from a brief exchange with Pagnol in the Transatlantic Review (Max Saunders, op. cit., Volume (...)

To return to a point made earlier, I am not suggesting that Ford’s late works are open challenges to the monsters of the Right. They are, however, notably generous and open-minded in a time of narrowing horizons. Although utterly different in strategy and literary tactics, they have a kinship of spirit with some of the anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi novels of the time: with Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper, Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night, Rex Warner’s The Aerodrome, and Marguerite Yourcenar’s Denier du rêve (known in translation as A Coin in Nine Hands). Moreover, his alertness to landscape, weather, and modes of farming parallels the ecologically conscious fiction of such Provençal authors as Jean Giono (1895-1970), Henri Bosco (1888-1976), and Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974).30

IV

  • 31 References to food may of course be demotic political signifiers, mainly as insults (‘Frogs’, ‘Rosb (...)

What of English nationalism and its effects on Ford? At a trivial level, we could point to minor culinary heresies, such as a love of garlic and contempt for brussels sprouts.31 The complaints about English weather that reached a climax around the the time of writing Mister Bosphorus and the Muses were grumbles widely shared and innocent of political allegiance. More significantly, a cult of amiable, rural, and good-natured Englishness set out to romance post First World War England.

To me, England is the country, and the country is England. And when I ask myself what I mean by England when I am abroad, England comes to me through my various senses – throught the ear, through the eye, and through imperishable scents.

This is an extract from ‘What England Means to Me’, a speech by Stanley Baldwin given at the annual dinner of the Royal Society of St George, held on 6 May, 1924.32 He had just ended the first of three terms as Prime Minister. Unlike the emphasis on the sacred and the mystical in the writings of Barrès, his speech dwells on the senses and their connections with the past: ‘most subtle, most penetrating and most moving, the smell of wood smoke coming in an autumn evening [. . .] that wood smoke that our ancestors, tens of thousands of years ago, must have caught on the air when they were still nomads’. Baldwin also speaks of a love of gardening among working-class men and women, ‘something they have never seen as children but which their ancestors knew and loved’; he then praises a love of domesticity in the context of emigration to the dominions.33

It is that power of making homes, almost peculiar to our people, and it is one of the sources of their greatness. They go overseas, and they take with them what they learned at home: love of justice, love of truth, and the broad humanity that are so characteristic of English people.34

  • 35 Ford Madox Ford, Mister Bosphorus and the Muses. London: Duckworth, 1923.

Since Ford had already moved to France, he is unlikely to have come across this example of flattering exceptionalism, but, written in the year before Baldwin’s speech, there are moments in Mister Bosphorus and the Muses that would make perfect ripostes, such as the Northern Muse’s mock-cockney tirade against Victorian cruelty: ‘They whipped the naked nippers into the mines, / N starving gels of six to the cotton gins / N thus built up our Hempire.35

As a baby, Bosphorus’s cradle had come from a pawnshop on a shabby street,36 and two scenes are set in that soul-parching institution, a workhouse. Elsewhere in Baldwin’s speech, he opines that ‘the English are at heart and in practice the kindest people in the world’.37

  • 38 Ford Madox Ford, The Young Lovell. London: Chatto & Windus, 1913, p. 277.
  • 39 For a discussion of what Nietzsche calls monumental historical research, i.e. the search for nobili (...)
  • 40 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p. 149.

Ford’s historical romances often present a far from admiring picture of famous English men and events. For example, one could cite his lurid description of the chevauchée (a strategy of robbery and slaughter by mounted troops) carried out in Aquitaine during the Hundred Years War by Edward, the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III.38 According to tradition, in Parliament and classroom, oral history or written, play or novel, he was honoured for centuries as the victor of Crécy and a model of chivalry. In some quarters he still is.39 As with the treatment of characters in his historical fiction, Ford speaks sharply about the heroes of English popular history and their contributions to the national fund of anecdotes, referring to the widely admired Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, and the not so celebrated Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as ‘little murderers’ and Raleigh’s henchmen as ‘cut-throats’.40 Writing of Raleigh’s ventures in the Americas, Ford claims that:

  • 41 Ibid., p. 120.

A hundred years after Columbus, even Anglo-Saxondom took courage and you had Raleighism, which was the meanest kind of million-stealing. . . . It exported unfortunate people who were to take from the natives not only their gold ornaments but their very food.41

  • 42 A fuller discussion would also consider the exasperating presence of Pound in Rapallo.
  • 43 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p.121.

The Raleigh of popular tradition is the chevalier sans reproche who sacrifices his cloak so that Elizabeth I can cross a puddle dryshod. Ford’s portayal of Raleigh as a robber and a killer is not so much a debunking in the Lytton Strachey manner as a crie de coeur that such people still exist and still are venerated. That is also the case with his remarks on the massacre of Albigensians. Ford is acutely aware that he and Biala live in perilous and sordid times. They had a good idea of what was going on in Germany with ‘Mr Hitler’ and in Italy with Mussolini.42 Sometimes he touches on apocalypse: ‘We are all waiting for a new revelation’; but what he hopes for is the Eternal Return: ‘The soil is ready, and history is waiting to repeat itself’.43

  • 44 Richard Moore-Colyer, ‘Towards “Mother Earth”: Jorian Jenks, Organicism, the Right, and the British (...)

As suggested earlier, during the Thirties Ford was less occupied with events in England than those in France and Italy, or even the United States. Nevertheless, it is worth considering some more sinister political developments on the English far right very different from the affability of Baldwin’s centre-Right, precisely because, in a manner far more drastic, they touch on subjects dear to Ford – farming, including farming on a small scale, good quality food, and (not least), the condition of the soil. In October 1932, Sir Oswald Mosley, once a Labour MP, but eventually evicted from the party for gross disloyalty, founded the British Union of Fascists. He had already been to Italy to see Mussolini in action, set himself up as supreme leader, and gathered a squad of black-shirted bodyguards. In the communal memory, he is remembered for street fights and street processions, monster rallies, and fierce oratory becoming, as time went by, more and more antisemitic. Like Hitler and Mussolini, however, Mosley also had plans for the agricultural sphere. These plans required high tariffs to protect farmers, favoured those who farmed on a small scale, and encouraged the regeneration of overworked soil. They also required a strict hierarchy of officialdom to deal with landowning and the quality of farming, with a Fascist Central Agricultural Authority at the top. To quote a scholar of agrarian history: ‘Herein lay one of the fundamental conundrums of fascist rural policy, that of reconciling the promotion of a peasant-based rural revival with the philosophical keystone of state corporatism’.44 Another conundrum was the entanglement of state corporatism with nostalgia for a lost, harmonious, and mostly imaginary past. A striking example of the resulting cognitive dissonance was the novelist Henry Williamson, loved by a wide public for his fictional biographies Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon, which have never gone out of print. He was a pacifist, a friend of T. E. Lawrence, an admirer of the work of the great nature writer Richard Jefferies, and he lived in an ancient Devonshire village. He was also enthralled by a visit to the 1935 Nuremberg Rally, which celebrated among other institutions and events the reintroduction of military service, honoured agriculture with precisely drilled march-pasts by workers porting spades, and instituted the anti-semitic Nuremberg Laws. In 1937, Williamson joined the British Union of Fascists.

  • 45 Quoted in ibid., p. 358.
  • 46 Gerard Wallop, later Ninth Earl of Portsmouth, was active in the English Mistery and its successor (...)
  • 47 Unsurprisingly, the British Left differed on almost every point, but Ford would have rejected its e (...)

The BUF’s adviser on agriculture was Jorian Jenks, who had been a farmer in West Sussex until ill health and an agricultural slump caused him to retire. Under a pseudonym, he was a frequent contributor to the BUF’s magazine Action, advocating an organic approach to farming and the restoration of spiritual bonds with the land. He saw democracy as degenerate, regretted the decline of ancient landed families, and their replacement by ‘a largely alien plutocracy with little real interest in the land’.45 Presumably the ‘alien plutocracy’ was Jewish. Hard right-wing journals of the time such as the New Pioneer and the Fascist Quarterly brimmed with anti-Semitism. Just like the French far right, however, there was much disagreement about other topics: pro-German or anti-German, for and against Mussolini, in favour of tariffs or against them, Christian and neo- pagan, in the egregious case of Viscount Lymington neo-feudal,46 in the case of the BUP an alleged indifference to social class. As well as the sloughs of anti-Semitism, there was a bleak common ground offering eugenics, overbearing leadership, and contempt for democracy.47

What Ford had to offer in 1937, in the shadow of another ‘Great War’ was tolerance, cooperation, and creativity. He says of those who work on the land, those who make and those who love what is made:

  • 48 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p. 330.

There is not one of us who wants anyone murdered either wholesale or as individuals; there is not one of us who is not willing to learn of our handicrafts, arts, and cultivations from the peoples of all the other agglomerations along the Route. And we are the people who survive, who shall come out of the gas-filled cellars and start again on the weary task of rebuilding our civilizations.48

It would not have been difficult to find long stretches of the Route from China to Italy and on to Louisiana and the plight of African-Americans in the Deep South, where such moderation was hard to sustain. Yet, if we think about examples of artistry in desperate times to come, and places unknown to Ford, he has a point. For examples we might take Anna Akhmatova writing poetry through the Purges and the siege of Leningrad, Samuel Bak painting after the Shoah, Griselda Gámbaro writing plays in the time of the Argentinian generals and Wole Soyinka in the time of the Nigerian equivalent, members of the Polish Home Army reading Conrad between anti-Nazi raids, choirs and dancers from the townships of South Africa. None of these, of course, were ‘moderate’, but all of them are gifts to civilisation.

  • 49 Ibid., p. 425.

The British Fascists and their fellow-travellers had much to say about deteriorating soil. Had he known that, Ford might have recognised at least one acceptable practice amid the vileness. Yet he took regeneration in quite a different mode. In his approach to the soil, there was no taking orders from above, nor was there any attempt to turn depletion into a metaphor for national decadence or ‘cosmopolitan’ separation from the spirit of the land. Towards the end of Great Trade Route he creates a brief story that speaks both to his way of writing and the practicalities of farming. He is out walking when he notices a sickly flock of sheep. He finds the farmer and suggests (a significant word here) enriching the pasture with sorghum cake twice daily: ‘The cake would increase the nitrates in the dung; and the improved dung would help the grass in the meadow . . . . And so on. . . . . Talking like that’.49 Even in Great Trade Route with its often sombre tone and moments of hyperbole, there is, as Benjamin Franklin would put it, a great deal of useful knowledge, not least about gardening and farming, and an idiosyncratic outlook, following no party line.

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Bibliographie

Writings by Ford Madox Ford

Great Trade Route. London: Allen & Unwin, 1937.

It Was the Nightingale. London: Heinemann, 1934.

The March of Literature: London. Allen & Unwin, 1939.

Mister Bosphorus and the Muses. London: Duckworth, 1923.

No Enemy. New York: Macaulay, 1929.

Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine. Manchester: Carcanet, 2009 [1938].

Selected Poems, ed. Max Saunders. Manchester: Carcanet, 2003.

The Young Lovell. London: Chatto & Windus, 1913.

Other primary sources

Barres, Maurice. La Colline inspirée. Paris: Emile-Paul Frères, 1913.

Barres, Maurice. Les Traits éternels de la France. A speech given on 12 July, 1916. Yale University Press, 1918.

Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. London: Bodley Head, 1908.

Secondary sources

Pegon-Davison, Claire, and Lemarchal, Dominique (eds.). Ford Madox Ford, France and Provence. International Ford Madox Ford Studies, Volume 10. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2011.

Saunders, Max. Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, two volumes, 1996.

Articles

Andrew, Jason. ‘In Provence: The Life of Ford Madox Ford and Biala’, in Claire Davison-Pégon and Dominique Lemarchal (eds.), op. cit., pp. 179-192.

Davies, Laurence. ‘So Far and Yet so Near: Ford and the Otherness of History’, in Brasme, Isabelle (ed.), Homo Duplex: Ford Madox Ford’s Experience and Aesthetics of Alterity. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2020, pp. 176-192.

Davies, Laurence. ‘Growing, Cooking, Eating: Ford as a Protoecologist’, in Last Post, the journal of the Ford Madox Society, 1.5 (Autumn 2020), pp. 81-101.

Hampson, Robert. ‘From the Soil: hunger, haute cuisine and food production’, , in Last Post, the journal of the Ford Madox Society, 5.2 (2022), pp. 28-46.

Moore-Colyer, Richard. ‘Towards “Mother Earth”: Jorian Jenks, Organicism, the Right, and the British Union of Fascists’, in Journal of Contemporary History, 39.3 (2004), pp. 353-371.

Stone, Dan. ‘The English Mistery, the BUF, and the Dilemma of British Fascism’, in Journal of Modern History, 75.2 (June 2003), pp. 336-358.

Tichelar, Michael. ‘The Labour Party and Land Reform in the Inter-War Period’, in Rural History, 13.1 (2002), pp. 85-101.

Online references

Baldwin, Stanley. ‘What England Means to Me’, a speech by given at the annual dinner of the Royal Society of St George, 6 May, 1924.
<https://spinnet.humanities.uva.nl/images/2013-05/baldwin1924.pdf>

Chase, Malcolm, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.
<https://www.oxforddnb.com/page/1413>

Pearse, Padraig, funeral oration at the grave of the veteran Fenian O’Donovan Rossa, 1 August, 1915.
<https://www.theirishstory.com/2015/08/01/today-in-irish-history-august-1-1915-the-fools-the-fools-odonovan-rossas-funeral/#.YgEfUy2l0SI>

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Notes

1 This paper is a companion piece to ‘Growing, Cooking, Eating: Ford as a Protoecologist’, published in Last Post, the journal of the Ford Madox Society, 1.5 (Autumn 2020), pp. 81-101. A few passages appear in both. That issue also includes Robert Hampson’s ‘From the Soil: hunger, haute cuisine and food production’. We both use the lines from ‘Buckshee’ quoted below.

2 ‘Impressionist Confusion, Dissolving Landscape’ in Ford Madox Ford, France and Provence, ed. Dominique Lemarchal and Claire Davison-Pégon, International Ford Madox Ford Studies Volume 10 (Amsterdam& New York: Rodopi, 2011), p. 129.

3 Jason Andrew, ‘In Provence: The Life of Ford Madox Ford and Biala’, in ibid., p. 182.

4 Ford Madox Ford: Selected Poems, ed. Max Saunders. Manchester: Carcanet, Fyfield Books, 2003.

5 Jason Andrew, ‘In Provence: The Life of Ford Madox Ford and Biala’, in op. cit., p. 182. Chapter One of No Enemy (mostly written in 1919 but not revised and published until 1929) reveals a similar gift for making much out of little in Gringoire’s post-war life with Mme Sélysette at the ramshackle Gingerbread Cottage.

6 Ford Madox Ford, No Enemy. New York: Macaulay, 1929, p. 135.

7 Ford Madox Ford, Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine. Manchester: Carcanet, 2009 [1938], pp. 315-316.

8 Jason Andrew, in op. cit., p. 183.

9 Max Saunders, Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 2, p. 495.

10 He was elected to the Académie française in 1906.

11 Ford Madox Ford, The March of Literature: London. Allen & Unwin, 1939, p. 826.

12 Ibid., p. 856.

13 Ford Madox Ford, It Was the Nightingale. London: Heinemann, 1934, p. 231.

14 The petits pays were those provinces with distinctive and fiercely cherished cultures and identities that yet were somehow the backbone of the nation. With Barrès and Maurras in mind, Julien Benda objected to the intellectual cult of the petit pays in La Trahison des clercs: ‘Les clercs modernes . . . déclarent que leur pensée ne saurait être bonne, donner de bons fruits que s’ils ne quittent point leur sol natal s’ils ne se « déracinent pas ». On félicite celui-ci de travailler dans son Béarn, cet autre dans son Berry, cet autre dans son Bretagne’ (1927; Paris: Grasset, 1975), 183.

15 So to a point did Charles Péguy, but beside his visionary nationalism he was a socialist, a ‘Dreyfusard’, and a non-practising but spiritual Catholic who destested anti-Semitism.

16 This is the opening sentence of his novel La Colline inspirée (1913): ‘Il est des lieux qui tirent l’âme de sa léthargie, des lieux enveloppés, baignés de mystère, élus de toute éternité pour être le siège de l’émotion religieuse’ (Paris: Emile-Paul Frères, 1913).

17 Among the literary people present were Sir Sidney Colvin, Edmund Gosse, W. P. Ker, G.W. Prothero, Israel Gollancz, Fitzmaurice Kelly, Maurice Hewlett, Mrs Belloc Lowndes, H-D Davray, and W. H. Hudson. The historian Viscount Bryce took the chair. Barrès spoke in French and The Times published a redaction the following day (‘The Soul of France: M Barrès on a Nation’s Gallantry’, The Times, 13 July 1916, 11). English and French versions were later circulated as pamphlets.

18 As an example of élan and national tradition, Barrès made much of Le Serment de Saint-Cyr, the oath sworn by the members of the graduating promotion La Croix de Drapeau on 31 July 1914, on the eve of joining their regiments. Cutting short their studies, the next year’s cohort also took part. These young men vowed to go into battle in full parade dress, including the traditional white gloves and casoars (cassowary plumes). They made easy targets for German machine gunners.

19 In 1919, Abel Gance turned the motif upside down in his film J’accuse. A visionary sequence shows a great multitude of dead soldiers rising up from the battlefield to ask if their sacrifices have been honoured.

20 Maurice Barrès, Les Traits éternels de la France. A Speech given on 12 July, 1916. Yale University press, 1918.

21 G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. London: Bodley Head, 1908, p. 70.

22 <">https://www.theirishstory.com/2015/08/01/today-in-irish-history-august-1-1915-the-fools-the-fools-odonovan-rossas-funeral/#.YgEfUy2l0SI>

23 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 2.

24 Ibid., p. 345.

25 Ibid., p. 328.

26 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 178.

27 Ibid., p. 182.

28 Balliol: an Oxford College known for its classicists.

29 Ford Madox Ford, op. cit., p. 298.

30 Aside from a brief exchange with Pagnol in the Transatlantic Review (Max Saunders, op. cit., Volume 2, p. 150), there is currently no evidence that Ford knew these authors’ works (or that they knew his), but the similarities give an extra weight to his writings about Provence.

31 References to food may of course be demotic political signifiers, mainly as insults (‘Frogs’, ‘Rosbifs’) or boasts (‘Roast Beef of Old England’).

32 <https://spinnet.humanities.uva.nl/images/2013-05/baldwin1924.pdf>
Although the leader of a Unionist party, Baldwin expresses his ‘profound thankfulness that I may use the term ‘England’ without some fellow at the back of the room shouting out “Britain”’.

33 I.e. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. At the time, Newfoundland was also a dominion.

34 <https://spinnet.humanities.uva.nl/images/2013-05/baldwin1924.pdf>

35 Ford Madox Ford, Mister Bosphorus and the Muses. London: Duckworth, 1923.

36 Ibid., p. 42.

37 <https://spinnet.humanities.uva.nl/images/2013-05/baldwin1924.pdf>
The Northern Muse’s earliest appearance is as a destitute widow begging in rain and darkness. To be fair to Baldwin, during his second administration, he was responsible for the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act of 1925.

38 Ford Madox Ford, The Young Lovell. London: Chatto & Windus, 1913, p. 277.

39 For a discussion of what Nietzsche calls monumental historical research, i.e. the search for nobility in the past and the past’s teleological value for the present, see Laurence Davies, ‘So Far and Yet so Near: Ford and the Otherness of History’. Homo Duplex: Ford Madox Ford’s Experience and Aesthetics of Alterity. Ed. Isabelle Brasme. Montpellier: Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2020. 176-92. In English poetry, as a counter to naval and military triumphalism, there is a tradition of lamenting suffering and disaster: examples include Robert Southey’s ‘Blenheim’, Thomas Campbell’s ‘Hohenlinden’, Anna Letitia Barbauld’s ‘Eighteen Hundred and Eleven’, Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, and Felicia Hemans’s ‘Casabianca’, which is set in a burning French ship during the Battle of the Nile.

40 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p. 149.

41 Ibid., p. 120.

42 A fuller discussion would also consider the exasperating presence of Pound in Rapallo.

43 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p.121.

44 Richard Moore-Colyer, ‘Towards “Mother Earth”: Jorian Jenks, Organicism, the Right, and the British Union of Fascists, Journal of Contemporary History, 39.3 (2004), 353-71, 355.

45 Quoted in ibid., p. 358.

46 Gerard Wallop, later Ninth Earl of Portsmouth, was active in the English Mistery and its successor the English Array; both of these all-male groups advocated the emergence of a hierarchical society, ‘substituting aristocracy for democracy’ and watched over by the reigning monarch (quoted by Dan Stone in ‘The English Mistery, the BUF, and the Dilemma of British Fascism’, Journal of Modern History, 75.2 (June 2003), 336-358, 339). The Misterians had to belong to a regenerated English ‘race’ and keep their distance from Fascism on the grounds that it was a foreign movement (Stone, passim).
On the agricultural front, Wallop opposed industrial farming and praised traditional methods. In April 1939, he lectured in Berlin on the dangers of soil erosion. After the war, he become President of the County Landowners’ Association, and a leading figure in the Soil Association. In the entry on him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online, Malcolm Chase remarks: ‘A career mixing muck, mysticism, and the more esoteric reaches of British fascism might at best seem to qualify him for a place in the rich gallery of English eccentrics, but Wallop was nevertheless a seminal influence on the early environmentalist and organic farming movements’.

47 Unsurprisingly, the British Left differed on almost every point, but Ford would have rejected its emphasis on state centralisation and deplored the indifference to small-holdings. For the British Labour Party’s programme of land-use planning, protection of agriculture as an industry, and public access to the countryside, see Michael Tichelar, ‘The Labour Party and Land Reform in the Inter-War Period’, Rural History, 13.1 (2002), 85-101.

48 Ford Madox Ford, Great Trade Route, p. 330.

49 Ibid., p. 425.

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Laurence Davies, « ‘Blood, Soil, and Salad’: Ford Madox Ford and the Far Right »Babel, 44 | 2021, 59-77.

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Laurence Davies, « ‘Blood, Soil, and Salad’: Ford Madox Ford and the Far Right »Babel [En ligne], 44 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2022, consulté le 30 janvier 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/babel/12713 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/babel.12713

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Laurence Davies

King’s College, London

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