At that time she had started work on her PhD at the Open University under the supervision of Dr. Robert Green and Professor Graham Martin – the subject of which was Ford’s achievement as an editor of two of the most influential of modernist magazines, The English Review and the transatlantic review. As part of her research she and her husband (Barry) went to Paris in 1991, looking for places associated with Ford whilst he was editing the transatlantic review. She was particularly interested in the small studio flat that Ford and Stella lived in at 65, boulevard Arago during 1923. Her doctoral research led her to conclude (in a way that she had not anticipated) that Ford may not have been quite the great editor that he was often credited as having been. She later returned to the subject of Ford’s editing in the introduction that she wrote on The English Review for the Modernist Journals Project’s website. She also gave a paper at the Ford conference at St. John’s College, Durham, in 2008 – where her subject was Ford’s impractical handling of the running of the finances of The English Review. She was awarded her PhD in 1996. Her interest in Ford had begun whilst a student of modernist literature at what was then known as Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire), where she obtained a M.A. in 1986.
However, Nora had already had a long experience in education, having been a Tutor in Arts at the Open University when that institution first opened for students in 1971. She had previously been an undergraduate at Westfield College, University of London; and whilst there met her future husband, who was at Imperial College, during a youth hostelling holiday. They married in Farnborough in 1961 and began a family. In 1965 they moved to Bedford, and finding that there was no child care available, Nora established - with others - Bedford’s first playgroup. Soon Nora found her real vocation as a teacher of adults and worked for the National Extension College; which led her on to working at the OU.
Nora worked at the OU for over 30 years, teaching English Literature, but also initially helping out with teaching the foundation course (known as A100). She wrote teaching material for Arts preparatory and foundation courses and for second and third level literature courses, including a unit on the Nineteenth Century Novel – George Eliot remained one of Nora’s favourite novelists. It is clear from speaking to a number of people at her funeral that Nora was particularly good at communicating with her students and engaging them in lively debates – stubbornly and provocatively declaring, for instance, that Wordsworth was ‘boring’; and many found her an inspiring and subversive teacher.
Nora had many interests; of which music, walking in Northumberland and gardening gave her a lot of happiness. She sang with the Bedford Choral Society and the Midland Festival Chorus; as well as playing a range of recorders from bass to descant with a recorder ensemble at the Bedford Retirement Education Centre. She will be much missed by all her friends.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
(G. M. Hopkins).
1) Tomlinson, Nora and Robert Green (1990). ‘Ford’s Wartime Journalism’, Agenda, vol. 27 no. 4/vol. 28, no. 1 (1989/1990), 139-147.
2) Tomlinson, Nora (1996). The Achievement of Ford Madox Ford as Editor, unpublished PhD thesis. See Open Research Online: http://oro.open.ac.uk/19038/1/pdf26.pdf
3) Tomlinson, Nora (2008). ‘Introduction’ (to the English Review online), Modernist Journals Project, Brown University: http://modjourn.org/render.php?id=mjp.2005.00.104&view=mjp_object
4) Tomlinson, Nora (2010). ‘‘An old man mad about writing’ but hopeless with money: Ford Madox Ford and the Finances of the English Review’, in Jason Harding, ed., Ford Madox Ford, Modernist Magazines and Editing, IFMFS 9 (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi), 143-151.