When the Torrens had left Adelaide on 13 March , the passengers had included two young Englishmen returning from Australia and New Zealand: year-old lawyer and future novelist John Galsworthy ; and Edward Lancelot Sanderson, who was going to help his father run a boys' preparatory school at Elstree. They were probably the first Englishmen and non-sailors with whom Conrad struck up a friendship; he would remain in touch with both. The protagonist of one of Galsworthy's first literary attempts, "The Doldrums" —96 , the first mate Armand, is obviously modelled on Conrad.
Joseph Conrad - Wikipedia
At Cape Town, where the Torrens remained from 17 to 19 May, Galsworthy left the ship to look at the local mines. Sanderson continued his voyage and seems to have been the first to develop closer ties with Conrad. In , aged 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health, partly due to unavailability of ships, and partly because he had become so fascinated with writing that he had decided on a literary career. His first novel, Almayer's Folly , set on the east coast of Borneo , was published in Its appearance marked his first use of the pen name "Joseph Conrad"; "Konrad" was, of course, the third of his Polish given names , but his use of it—in the anglicised version, "Conrad"—may also have been an homage to the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz 's patriotic narrative poem, Konrad Wallenrod.
Edward Garnett , a young publisher's reader and literary critic who would play one of the chief supporting roles in Conrad's literary career, had—like Unwin's first reader of Almayer's Folly , Wilfrid Hugh Chesson —been impressed by the manuscript, but Garnett had been "uncertain whether the English was good enough for publication. She had thought Conrad's foreignness a positive merit. While Conrad had only limited personal acquaintance with the peoples of Maritime Southeast Asia , the region looms large in his early work.
According to Najder, Conrad, the exile and wanderer, was aware of a difficulty that he confessed more than once: the lack of a common cultural background with his Anglophone readers meant he could not compete with English-language authors writing about the English-speaking world. At the same time, the choice of a non-English colonial setting freed him from an embarrassing division of loyalty: Almayer's Folly , and later " An Outpost of Progress " , set in a Congo exploited by King Leopold II of Belgium and Heart of Darkness , likewise set in the Congo , contain bitter reflections on colonialism.
The Malay states came theoretically under the suzerainty of the Dutch government; Conrad did not write about the area's British dependencies, which he never visited. He "was apparently intrigued by The prolific and destructive richness of tropical nature and the dreariness of human life within it accorded well with the pessimistic mood of his early works. Almayer's Folly , together with its successor, An Outcast of the Islands , laid the foundation for Conrad's reputation as a romantic teller of exotic tales—a misunderstanding of his purpose that was to frustrate him for the rest of his career.
Financial success long eluded Conrad, who often requested advances from magazine and book publishers, and loans from acquaintances such as John Galsworthy. Though his talent was early on recognised by English intellectuals, popular success eluded him until the publication of Chance , which is often considered one of his weaker novels. Edward Said describes three phases to Conrad's literary career.
The second phase, spanning the war and following the popular success of Chance , is marked by the advent of Conrad's public persona as "great writer". In the third and final phase, from the end of World War I to Conrad's death , he at last finds an uneasy peace; it is, as C. McCarthy writes, as though "the War has allowed Conrad's psyche to purge itself of terror and anxiety. Conrad was a reserved man, wary of showing emotion. He scorned sentimentality; his manner of portraying emotion in his books was full of restraint, scepticism and irony.
In short [ Conrad suffered throughout life from ill health, physical and mental.
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A newspaper review of a Conrad biography suggested that the book could have been subtitled Thirty Years of Debt, Gout, Depression and Angst. He also complained of swollen hands "which made writing difficult". Taking his uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski's advice, he convalesced at a spa in Switzerland. In one letter he remarked that every novel he had written had cost him a tooth.
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In his letters he often described symptoms of depression; "the evidence", writes Najder, "is so strong that it is nearly impossible to doubt it. In March , at the end of his Marseilles period, year-old Conrad attempted suicide, by shooting himself in the chest with a revolver. Little is known about any intimate relationships that Conrad might have had prior to his marriage, confirming a popular image of the author as an isolated bachelor who preferred the company of close male friends. One of these would be described in his story "A Smile of Fortune", which contains autobiographical elements e.
The narrator, a young captain, flirts ambiguously and surreptitiously with Alice Jacobus, daughter of a local merchant living in a house surrounded by a magnificent rose garden. Research has confirmed that in Port Louis at the time there was a year-old Alice Shaw, whose father, a shipping agent, owned the only rose garden in town.
More is known about Conrad's other, more open flirtation. An old friend, Captain Gabriel Renouf of the French merchant marine, introduced him to the family of his brother-in-law. Renouf's eldest sister was the wife of Louis Edward Schmidt, a senior official in the colony; with them lived two other sisters and two brothers. Though the island had been taken over in by Britain, many of the inhabitants were descendants of the original French colonists, and Conrad's excellent French and perfect manners opened all local salons to him.
He became a frequent guest at the Schmidts', where he often met the Misses Renouf. A couple of days before leaving Port Louis, Conrad asked one of the Renouf brothers for the hand of his year-old sister Eugenie. She was already, however, engaged to marry her pharmacist cousin. After the rebuff, Conrad did not pay a farewell visit but sent a polite letter to Gabriel Renouf, saying he would never return to Mauritius and adding that on the day of the wedding his thoughts would be with them.
The elder, Borys, proved a disappointment in scholarship and integrity. To his friends, she was an inexplicable choice of wife, and the subject of some rather disparaging and unkind remarks. However, according to other biographers such as Frederick Karl , Jessie provided what Conrad needed, namely a "straightforward, devoted, quite competent" companion. The couple rented a long series of successive homes, occasionally in France, sometimes briefly in London, but mostly in the English countryside, sometimes from friends—to be close to friends, to enjoy the peace of the countryside, but above all because it was more affordable.
As the city lay only a few miles from the Russian border, there was a risk of being stranded in a battle zone. With wife Jessie and younger son John ill, Conrad decided to take refuge in the mountain resort town of Zakopane. Conrad aroused interest among the Poles as a famous writer and an exotic compatriot from abroad.
He charmed new acquaintances, especially women. Conrad, who was noted by his Polish acquaintances to still be fluent in his native tongue, participated in their impassioned political discussions. After many travails and vicissitudes, at the beginning of November Conrad managed to bring his family back to England. On his return, he was determined to work on swaying British opinion in favour of restoring Poland's sovereignty.
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Jessie Conrad would later write in her memoirs: "I understood my husband so much better after those months in Poland. So many characteristics that had been strange and unfathomable to me before, took, as it were, their right proportions. I understood that his temperament was that of his countrymen. Conrad [writes Najder] was passionately concerned with politics. Moreover, Conrad himself came from a social class that claimed exclusive responsibility for state affairs, and from a very politically active family. These are his fundamentals. His Polish experience endowed him with the perception, exceptional in the Western European literature of his time, of how winding and constantly changing were the front lines in these struggles.
The most extensive and ambitious political statement that Conrad ever made was his essay, "Autocracy and War", whose starting point was the Russo-Japanese War he finished the article a month before the Battle of Tsushima Strait. The essay begins with a statement about Russia's incurable weakness and ends with warnings against Prussia , the dangerous aggressor in a future European war. For Russia he predicted a violent outburst in the near future, but Russia's lack of democratic traditions and the backwardness of her masses made it impossible for the revolution to have a salutary effect.
Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. He saw western Europe as torn by antagonisms engendered by economic rivalry and commercial selfishness. In vain might a Russian revolution seek advice or help from a materialistic and egoistic western Europe that armed itself in preparation for wars far more brutal than those of the past. Conrad's distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems.
He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the "criminal" character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans. He accused social democrats of his time of acting to weaken "the national sentiment, the preservation of which [was his] concern"—of attempting to dissolve national identities in an impersonal melting-pot. He resented some socialists' talk of freedom and world brotherhood while keeping silent about his own partitioned and oppressed Poland.
Before that, in the early s, letters to Conrad from his uncle Tadeusz [note 24] show Conrad apparently having hoped for an improvement in Poland's situation not through a liberation movement but by establishing an alliance with neighbouring Slavic nations. This had been accompanied by a faith in the Panslavic ideology—"surprising", Najder writes, "in a man who was later to emphasize his hostility towards Russia, a conviction that Poland's [superior] civilization and We must drag the chain and ball of our personality to the end.
This is the price one pays for the infernal and divine privilege of thought; so in this life it is only the chosen who are convicts—a glorious band which understands and groans but which treads the earth amidst a multitude of phantoms with maniacal gestures and idiotic grimaces. Which would you rather be: idiot or convict? In a 23 October letter to mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell , in response to the latter's book, The Problem of China , which advocated socialist reforms and an oligarchy of sages who would reshape Chinese society, Conrad explained his own distrust of political panaceas:.
I have never [found] in any man's book or The only remedy for Chinamen and for the rest of us is [a] change of hearts, but looking at the history of the last years there is not much reason to expect [it], even if man has taken to flying—a great "uplift" no doubt but no great change Through control of tone and narrative detail To be ironic is to be awake—and alert to the prevailing "somnolence. Wells recalled Conrad's astonishment that "I could take social and political issues seriously.
If irony exists to suggest that there's more to things than meets the eye, Conrad further insists that, when we pay close enough attention, the "more" can be endless. He doesn't reject what [his character] Marlow [introduced in Youth ] calls "the haggard utilitarian lies of our civilisation" in favor of nothing; he rejects them in favor of "something", "some saving truth", "some exorcism against the ghost of doubt"—an intimation of a deeper order, one not easily reduced to words.
Authentic, self-aware emotion—feeling that doesn't call itself "theory" or "wisdom"—becomes a kind of standard-bearer, with "impressions" or "sensations" the nearest you get to solid proof. In an August letter to the editor of The New York Times Saturday Book Review , Conrad wrote: "Egoism, which is the moving force of the world, and altruism, which is its morality, these two contradictory instincts, of which one is so plain and the other so mysterious, cannot serve us unless in the incomprehensible alliance of their irreconcilable antagonism.
Ease after warre, death after life, doth greatly please  : Conrad's modest funeral took place amid great crowds. His old friend Edward Garnett recalled bitterly:. To those who attended Conrad's funeral in Canterbury during the Cricket Festival of , and drove through the crowded streets festooned with flags, there was something symbolical in England's hospitality and in the crowd's ignorance of even the existence of this great writer.
A few old friends, acquaintances and pressmen stood by his grave. In his grave was designated a Grade II listed structure. Despite the opinions even of some who knew Conrad personally, such as fellow-novelist Henry James ,  : —47 Conrad—even when only writing elegantly crafted letters to his uncle and acquaintances—was always at heart a writer who sailed, rather than a sailor who wrote.
He used his sailing experiences as a backdrop for many of his works, but he also produced works of similar world view , without the nautical motifs. The failure of many critics to appreciate this caused him much frustration. He wrote oftener about life at sea and in exotic parts than about life on British land because—unlike, for example, his friend John Galsworthy , author of The Forsyte Saga —he knew little about everyday domestic relations in Britain.
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