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Hemingway & Ford

In response to:

Hemingway's Last Novel from the June 11, 1964 issue

To the Editors:

No reviewer I’ve seen except Cyril Connolly in the Sunday Times has suggested the source of Hemingway’s appallingly mean-tempered portrait of Ford Madox Ford in A Moveable Feast. Frank Kermode seems a bit too casual about it. Douglas Goldring, Ford’s friend and biographer, writes in Trained For Genius: “Ernest Hemingway was the most promising of Ezra’s stable of cowboy geniuses and Ford, with his unerring flair, immediately appreciated his gifts. After Bunting’s departure Hemingway became assistant editor of the review (the transatlantic review), and during Ford’s occasional absences was responsible, not always with the happiest results, for several issues.” I don’t think much documentation is necessary to see the dark background of Goldring’s condescension. There must have been some kind of blow-up along national lines, the English and continental contingent against the American, Hemingway emotionally championing the latter. Perhaps Hemingway did make a mess of his issues. The whole enterprise was chaotic enough.

But the extraordinary thing is that Hemingway is able to give Ford’s conversation about Gentlemanliness to the life, the very accent of the author of The Good Soldier, and offer it to his readers as a specimen of genuine snobbery. Ford had favored Hemingway with no less than the kernel of his best comic writing and Hemingway had taken it, or pretended to take, all in dead seriousness. In any case, it should be noted that this was one of the most expansive, productive, generous and generally affable periods of Ford’s life. Pound’s kindness would have been far less effective without Ford’s intelligence.

R. W. Flint

Cambridge, Mass.

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