Gregg summarizes the importance to the author of Wide Sargasso Sea of Ford Madox Ford

whom Rhys credits with being the single most important influence on her writing. Ford's roles as writer, mentor, editor, collaborator, and supporter of young talent is well documented. His credentials as reader, writer, and critic are formidable. Comments by his companion, Stella Bowen, seem to be widely endorsed by his contemporaries and by Ford scholars: "He gave [other artists] much of himself; patient perusal and brilliant criticism of their efforts, . . , He had no professional secrets and would take any aspiring writer behind the scenes and explain exactly how he got his effects" (Drawn from Life, 80) When Jean Rhys was introduced to Ford about 1923 or 1924, she was introduced to an impressive range of literary and cultural theories sifted through the mind not only of Ford himself but of many of the European writers who produced some of the major literary and artistic works of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. [57]

Gregg also points out that during this crucial period when Ford influenced Rhys he also edited the English Review and collaborated with major figures like Conrad and James, a situation that casts doubt upon the truthfulness of her admission, "with no sign of great regret, that she hadn't read Balzac, Proust, Fielding, Trollope, George Eliot, James, Conrad, Joyce" (Plante, p. 45; cited by Gregg, p. 59). One notes that she compares something she is trying to accomplish in Wide Sargasso Sea with Joyce: “I wonder too if I am terribly excited about something that has been done long ago — James Joyce tried to make sound I know like Anna Livia Purabelle [Finnegan's Wake] but this is of course lighter, different — a musical comedy compared to grand opera” (Letters, 277-78). If her knowledge of major modernist texts was in fact greater than se admitted, she would hardly be the first author to obscure her tracks.


Bowen, Stella. Drawn from Life. London: Virago, 1984.

Gregg, Veronica Marie. Jean Rhys's Historical Imagination: Reading and Writing the Creole. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Plante, David. Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three. London: Victor Gollancz, 1983.

The Letters of Jeab Rhys. Eds, Francis Whyndham and Diana Mely. New York: Viking, 1984,

Victorian Overview Neo-Victorian sitemap Jean Rhys