Try then to figure for yourself blood-red cliffs in to which a blue, shining mirror should have introduced itself for miles - the multicoloured boats grouped at the landing, the incredible blue of the sky, the incredible whiteness of the light - And a salad in a dish as large as a cart-wheel. And sweet cream cheese, with a sauce made of marc and other sweet herbs. And a pile, large enough to bury a man in, of apples, peaches, figs, grapes - Ford Madox Ford spent his last years in the south of France, near Toulon. In "Provence" (1935), written four years before his death, he explores both the place and the idea of it: 'not a country nor the home of a race, but a frame of mind'. Suffused with a northern European's love for 'the Roman province that lies beneath the sun', "Provence" evokes scents of rosemary and thyme in the dry air, games of boules amid shadows of ancient ruins, the food and flinty local wines. Part memoir, part travel narrative, part history of the region, "Provence" displays Ford's wise, beguiling curiosity.
Humorous, informed digressions take in the Albigensian heresy, bull-fighting, a favourite recipe for bouillabaisse, Henry James and Ellen Terry, the Troubadours and much else. Over the gaiety looms the coming barbarism, the 'fixed bayonets, machine guns, uniforms and arresting fists', against which Ford's "Provence" is a fragile, precious hope for civilised values. This edition is based on the authoritative 1935 Lippincott edition and includes the original illustrations by Ford's companion, the outstanding American artist Biala.
FORD MADOX FORD was a great editor, essayist, critic, advocate, and above all a great novelist. The Good Soldier and the Tietjens trilogy (which make up Parade's End) are acknowledged masterpieces. Born in Surrey in 1873, his father was an author and musicologist and his mother was the daughter of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. The Good Soldier was published in 1915, the same year he took a commission in the army. His experience furnished him with material for Parade's End. He continued to publish novels regularly, as well as other works, notably an extended Collected Poems in 1936. He died in Deauville, France in 1939. John Coyle is an expert in 20th century fiction and has written on Joyce, Proust, Ford and Nabokov. He teaches at Glasgow University.