Ladies Whose Bright Eyes
|Author||Ford M. Hueffer / Daniel Chaucer (pseudonym of Ford Madox Ford)|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
Ladies Whose Bright Eyes is a novel by Ford Madox Ford. It was written in 1911 and extensively revised in 1935 and published under Ford's common pseudonym Daniel Chaucer.
Although it has a time travel theme of a sort, is usually classed as mainstream literature rather than science fiction. As its author explicitly stated, " (...)The idea of this book was suggested to me by Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". It occurred to me to wonder what would really happen to a modern man thrown back to the Middle Ages...".
Unlike Twain's Hank Morgan and some successors, Ford's Mr. Sorrel makes only a very half-hearted attempt to build modern weaponry and machinery in the Middle Ages. His initial dream of constructing "guns and gas bombs" and making himself "mightier than kings" soon comes to naught. Though he had been a mining engineer in the Twentieth Century, he has no idea how to go about constructing such devices under Fourteenth Century conditions, or even where there are tin deposits. Having later in his career become a publisher does not give him any idea of how to invent printing from scratch and anticipate Gutenberg. He does not know how to make a gun, or in fact anything that would make him useful in the medieval castle community into which he has fallen.
Instead, Mr. Sorrel finds that a golden cross which he carries causes him to be mistaken for a Greek miracle-worker – which has many advantages in Medieval society, including enjoying the unlimited hospitality of a castle and having beautiful ladies vying with each other for his love. He also inspires the ladies to take up arms and hold a tournament in competition with their knightly husbands – and being a fair horseman, makes a credible effort at becoming a knight himself.
It is the reverse of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, but the details of daily life are rendered more feelingly, including the quite earthy and mercenary motivations of many of the Medieval characters (for example, the small-minded power struggles taking place in a nunnery, under a very thin veneer of piety). Cathedrals, so stately and calm to us, turn out to have been crowded, garish, noisy, and commercial.
Just as he begins to really enjoy himself as a thoroughly Medieval man, Mr. Sorrel is rather frustratingly thrust back to the 20th Century – a modern man wiser for having been instructed by the people (especially the women) of the past, and having "learned the wisdom of history".
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 154.
- Richard A. Cassell, "The Two Sorrells of Ford Madox Ford", in "Modern Philology", Vol. 59, No. 2 (Nov., 1961), pp. 114–121