This short novel was criticized for being slow moving and having unbelievable characters, especially female characters. The most interesting aspect of this text is the autobiographical element.
This novel proved to be Ford's greatest literary success. Although the critics attacked the novel's faulty construction, lack of style, and contrived action, the reading public adored it. Within the first three months, over 200,000 copies sold, which was the largest on record of any novel then published. Within two years of its publication, it was dramatized and, early in the twentieth century, it was even made into a motion picture. The novel was a culmination of Ford's diverse skills. This historical romance, set before and during the time of the Revolutionary War, narrates the struggle of the colonies to gain their freedom and the struggle of the hero, Jack Brereton, to win the heroine, Janice Meredith. One enthusiastic critic went so far as to declare that this novel was "the great New Jersey novel, if not the great American novel." For the public's part, a new dance was coined the "Janice Meredith Waltz," and a new hairstyle was labeled the "Meredith curl." All in all, most critics agreed that Janice Meredith was proof of Ford's improved skill as a novelist.
Ford served as the editor of this interesting volume, consisting of twelve anonymous short stories, one of which was written by Ford, "A Family Tradition." Some of the other famous authors included Sarah Orne Jewett, Owen Wister, George Washington Cable, and C.G.D. Roberts. Readers were instructed to identify the authors, and the first to do so correctly would win a large monetary prize.
This two-volume set contained not only a seventy-page bibliography of Gaine and a bibliography of the issues of his press between the years of 1752-1800, but also contained various selections of Gaine's journals and letters. This work was well received and provided scholars for the first time with a large body of information relating to one of colonial and revolutionary America's most important printers.
Because Ford was widely recognized as a literary and historical scholar, he was chosen in 1902 by the Dodd, Mead publishing firm to edit their new journal, the Bibliographer. Although he served on the staff for less than a year, Ford brought prestige, experience, and commitment, to this new science and new journal. Unlike many other scholars of the day, Ford believed that historical texts could no longer be based on the scholar's opinions and a few other histories; bibliography was a necessary basis for all historical work. It was his firm conviction that "the personal opinion of the writer, unless most thoroughly supported by citations and references, is no longer accepted as fact, and is hardly wished for by the scholar."
On May 8, 1902, Ford was shot by his estranged brother, Malcolm Webster Ford, the athlete and magazine writer, who committed suicide immediately afterward. In response to his early demise, theBibliographer lamented that "The death of Mr. Ford is a permanent loss to American bibliography." A writer atHarper's Weekly stated that "there can be no doubt had Mr. Ford lived and kept what shreds of health his delicate system vouchsafed him that he would have contributed several more novels of American life and social conditions, which would have placed him in the history of American literature as one of the greatest of American novelists." And an article in theBookman declared that Ford was one of the great historians of the nineteenth century. Leaving behind a wife and small daughter, Ford's death was truly a loss to his family, friends, and American letters. Examining his short life and his numerous accomplishments, however, makes one readily accept his friend's assertion that Ford had "an almost superhuman capacity for work."