Conrad’s Complaint

Frank Kermode

  • The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. I: 1861-1897 edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies
    Cambridge, 446 pp, £19.50, September 1983, ISBN 0 521 24216 9

A great many Conrad letters have already been published, notably in Jean-Aubry’s Life and Letters, but also in smaller collections containing his correspondence with one or more persons – for example, Edward Garnett, William Blackwood and Cunninghame Graham. Early letters to Polish friends and relations have been translated, and a series of about a hundred to Marguerite Poradowska appeared in the original French. However, it seems that ‘more than a third of Conrad’s extant correspondence – close to 1500 letters – has not yet been made available.’ Since Professor Karl, who makes this statement, elsewhere speaks of 3500 known letters, the mathematics seems a bit hazy, though in his biography, published four years ago, he says there are nearly 4000. However, there are certainly lots of unpublished letters, including a hundred-odd to Galsworthy, the same quantity to Ford Madox Ford, ‘several dozen’ to Thomas Wise, an unspecified but obviously vast number to the agent Pinker, and so on.

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