The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Seaman and writer, public figure and family man, native of Poland and adopted son of England, Joseph Conrad, in a letter to a fellow émigré, aptly described himself as “homo duplex.” As the third volume in his collected letters reveals, this complex dualism tormented his life while it enriched his writings. During this period, from 1903 to 1907, Conrad’s letters show him struggling with the difficulties of considering himself always an outsider while coming to appreciate the advantages of his unique double angle of vision. These letters, always interesting but sometimes enigmatic, are made to shed much light on their author through the superb scholarship of the editors, Frederick R. Karl and Laurence Davies, who provide many helpful tools, including full and excellent annotation, a fine introduction, an alphabetical list and description of all Conrad’s correspondents, and a chronology of these years of Conrad’s life.
Conrad’s acute awareness of his dual allegiance to Poland and England largely accounts for the odd defensiveness, even touchiness, which he exhibits in many of these letters. On the one hand, he attempts to answer the generally unvoiced accusation of disloyalty to his country of origin. In a letter to a fellow Polish émigré, he asserts, “During the course of all my travels round the world I never, in mind and heart,...
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The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
When complete, the Cambridge edition of Joseph Conrad’s letters will mark the first time that all available letters from Joseph Conrad have been collected into one edition: 3,500 pieces of Conrad’s correspondence, including telegrams, postcards, and brief notes, some fifteen hundred of which have never appeared before, will have been collected into eight volumes.
The only other attempt at a comprehensive edition of Conrad’s letter was G. Jean-Aubry’s Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters (1927). As Frederick R. Karl points out in his general editor’s introduction to the Cambridge edition, however, Jean-Aubry’s edition contains silent deletions of the text of letters, sometimes for reasons of delicacy, sometimes for no apparent reason. Nevertheless, even for the Cambridge edition, the editors have had to rely often on Jean-Aubry’s printed text for letters now lost. Other editions of Conrad’s letters have focused on particular correspondents but have generally complemented the earlier work of Jean-Aubry: Edward Garnett’s Letters from Joseph Conrad, 1895-1924 (1928); John A. Gee and Paul J. Sturm’s Letters of Joseph Conrad to Marguerite Poradowska, 1890-1920 (1940); William Blackburn’s Joseph Conrad: Letters to William Blackwood and David S. Meldrum (1958); Zdzislaw Najder’s Conrad’s Polish...
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The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
If the greatest potential pleasure in reading the letters of a great writer during a particularly fertile period in his life is to gain insight into the creative process, then this second volume of Joseph Conrad’s letters is a disappointment. Although in this four-year period Conrad wrote much of his finest fiction, including “Youth,” “Typhoon,” “The End of the Tether,” Lord Jim (1900), and Heart of Darkness (1902), he says little in his letters about these works except to disparage them, while making clear that he considers them minor in comparison to the novel The Rescue (1920), which he was having great difficulty finishing (and which he did not in fact complete until 1919). Indeed, these letters and the period of life they reflect are clear illustrations of one of Conrad’s favorite literary themes, that reality often belies appearances.
On the surface, this was a good period in Conrad’s life. He and his wife, Jessie, moved to a spacious house in the country, and their son, Borys, was born. In addition, Conrad acquired a new literary agent, J. B. Pinker, who treated him generously, gave him encouragement, and almost always tolerated his delays. Conrad, moreover, developed a number of close friendships with other literary men, including Stephen Crane, John Galsworthy, H. G. Wells, Robert Cunninghame Graham,...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
The Economist. CCXC, October 22, 1983, p. 99.
The Economist. CCCVI, March 19, 1988, p. 96.
Harper’s. CCLXVII, November 1983, p. 60.
Library Journal. CVIII, August, 1983, p. 1483.
London Review of Books. X, September 15, 1988, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. November 25, 1983, p. 40.
The New York Times. July 26, 1988, p. C17.
The New Yorker. LIX, January 9, 1984, p. 106.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIV, August 26, 1983, p. 379.
The Times Literary Supplement. September 2, 1988, p. 954.
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