The obituary columns of THE NEW YORK TIMES last
Saturday carried word that George Ford, colleague and friend
to all lovers of Dickens, had died the previous Tuesday in
Rochester at age 79. His wife, Kathleen (Pat), reported that
the cause was pneumonia.
To the world of literary studies George Ford was known
as the author of eminently readable and informative studies:
KEATS AND THE VICTORIANS (1944), DICKENS AND HIS READERS (1955),
and DOUBLE MEASURE: A STUDY OF D.H. LAWRENCE (1965). The Dickens
volume was required reading for everyone interested in CD's
reputation and the changing tastes of readers in his time and
just before the present. He went on to edit THE DICKENS CRITICS (1961),
with Lauriat Lane, and the useful VICTORIAN FICTION, a second guide
to research (1978). He also edited individual editions of
certain novels, DAVID COPPERFILED by himself, and then the two
splendid Norton Critical Editions of BLEAK HOUSE and HARD TIMES
with his good friend, Sylvere Monod.
Over the years I had had correspondence with him during his
long tenure as head of the English Department at the University
of Rocherster, but I did not meet him until we were introduced
half-a-dozen years ago under the tall firs of the UC Santa Cruz campus.
My first remark was to recall an essay he had done for UTQ on the
Governor Eyre case in England, way back in 1948. George responded
in a way that I came to know as typical of him, jovially, in a kind
of happy surprise that I had remembered his early work. Pat,
his wife, with him as so often, was just as much pleased. What a
strange breed some of us academics are! Taking pleasure in
harking back to the forgotten work of our early maturity...
Nonetheless, his mark on his own generation was made early with
the Dickens and Keats studies, and on the study on Victorian literature
generally through his share in the enormously successful Norton
Anthology of English Literature. Ford was a founding editor and wrote
and edited the Victorian section through six editions. Can we
calculate the extent of his influence on the multi-thousand students
who have studied the anthology?
The Fords regularly showed up at the Dickens Universe
week in the Santa Cruz summers, George having lectured there in
past years and as recently as 1989 having given the keynote address.
He was a large and wonderful presence, always warmly genial, happy,
and positive in outlook. He was a lesson on how a scholar can move
into and enjoy his years of retirement from regular teaching. More
particularly, he was a lesson on how to help others of us share that
enjoyment and be proud of the enterprise we are engaged in.
UC Santa Barbara