Diving into the Goldring Fonds

Douglas Goldring

Douglas Goldring; Courtesy of the University of Victoria Special Collections

The University of Victoria Special Collections houses the Douglas Goldring fonds.  Goldring was an important figure in modernist periodical culture: he  was the sub-editor of modernism’s first little magazine, The English Review (1908), edited by Ford Madox Hueffer*, and once Ford lost control of the Review in 1910, Goldring ran a little magazine called The Tramp, in which he published Wyndham Lewis and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. In 1914,  Goldring advised Lewis on the publication of BLAST, a year before founding his own publishing company, Selwyn and Blount (ODNB).

As a periodical scholar, I was excited to sift through Goldring’s records. Ford sent out a famous circular announcing the birth of the English Review in 1907. I know many scholars who have attempted unsuccessfully to locate this circular, and I had hoped that maybe the fires of history would have spared a copy of it in some folder labelled “miscellaneous” (these are my favourite folders to look through when working in the archives).

I did not find this circular, but I found many other things that will be of interest to modernist scholars. Goldring has an extensive collection of letters, including those between Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad, as well as those pertaining to his memoirs. Of particular note is the material for South Lodge: Reminiscences of Violet Hunt, Ford Madox Ford and the English Review CircleSpecial collections has the original manuscript  for the book, as well as unpublished chapters that were deemed too risky to print by his publisher’s legal firm (these legal letters are also in the fonds). In one of these unpublished chapters, Goldring reveals a shocking reason why Ford sought a divorce from his first wife, besides the reasons normally given, including his desire to marry Violet Hunt. For a great discussion on libel and modernist literary production, see Sean Latham’s The Art of Scandal: Modernism, Libel Law, and the Roman a Clef. 


Opened by Censor

Goldring’s personal correspondence also reveals a material history of early-twentieth-century England that says something about our culture today. As I write this, there is an international scandal concerning Edward Snowden, who revealed publicly that the U. S. and English governments have operated a large-scale, secret, electronic surveillance program in the name of security. The First World War ushered in similar security measures for Great Britain. An office for propaganda was created, and private letters were routinely screened by government officials. Some of Goldring’s letters during the war contain the stamp, “Opened by Censor.” I am struck by the fact that the surveillance of the First World War was announced publicly by these stamps. We might use this item in the archive to start a conversation with our students concerning our own democracy as we negotiate the complicated terrain of safety and surveillance. Would it make a difference to us if surveillance was done in an open manner, as it was done in Goldring’s time, during the First World War? This is but one example of the many questions a return to our archives and fonds instigate for the modern observer.


Although I did not find that English Review circular, I did uncover something almost as intriguing: original letterhead from the English Review office–on the back of which Goldring had composed a poem. The book I’m currently working on involves the founding of the English Review, so I must say I felt the frisson of archival pleasure by handling this piece of history.

If you are interested in in the networks of literary production, magazine culture, and modernism, do be sure to check out these important fonds at the University of Victoria.


 Notes & Work Cited

*Ford Madox Hueffer changed his name to Ford Madox Ford by Deed Poll in 1919.

George Malcolm Johnson, ‘Goldring, Douglas (1887–1960)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/56883, accessed 12 July 2013]

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