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Book Reviews Encounters with Conrad Joseph Conrad: Interviews and Recollections. Martin Ray, ed. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990. 240 pp. $29.95 NOT SINCE Zdzislaw Najder's Conrad Under Familial Eyes (1983) has there emerged a volume pertaining to Joseph Conrad's life, based on personal encounter. Now Joseph Conrad: Interviews and Recollections, edited by Martin Ray, takes up, in a sense, where Najder's volume leaves off. While the former volume comprises essays, memoir entries, and letters by family members and others in Poland who knew the young Conrad, Ray's volume focuses upon interviews and recollections by Westerners who encountered the mature Conrad—the artist of international stature. The 60 entries assembled here are divided into nine sections—"Conrad's Family," "Conrad at Home," "Conrad and the Sea," "Conrad in the Nineties," "Literary Friendships," "Under Artists' Eyes," "Conrad in America," "Pen Portraits," "Conrad's Death"—and include contributions from such notables as Lady Ottoline Morrell, Hamlin Garland, John Galsworthy, Edward Garnett, Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, and T. E. Lawrence, to name only a few. Ray's volume is particularly interesting for the light it sheds on the experience of meeting Conrad for the first time. Hamlin Garland's comments are representative: "... I had in mind a rather tall, austere, reserved man, one whose words were few and chosen with care—and when he came bustling out to meet us, I was amazed. He is short, broadshouldered and grey-haired. His body radiates energy. His arms fly about like flails. . . . His volubility and his Polish accent, joined with his cockney pronunciation of words, made him utterly incredible." Wells was similarly surprised by his first encounter, deeming Conrad "the strangest of creatures": "He was rather short and round-shouldered with his head as it were sunken into his body. He had a dark retreating face with a very carefully trimmed and pointed beard, a trouble-wrinkled forehead and very troubled dark eyes, and the gestures of his hands and arms 323 ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 were from the shoulders and very Oriental indeed." Wells too notes Conrad's idiosyncratic English, heavy Slavic accent, and liberal use of French expressions. However, not everyone described their first encounter with the author in delicate terms. The minor English novelist Edwin Pugh, for example, recounts his introduction this way: "He came at me with a sort of sinuous grace, with a sort of writhing servility; and he looked—it is the only word to use, if I am to translate my first impressions of Conrad accurately—simian." Happily, Ray's collection contains far more than amusing gossip about the author's physical appearance and accent. It touches as well on Conrad's literary and political taste and on the author's evaluation of his own work. In the first instance, for example, we learn, from Bennett, of Conrad's dislike of none other than Milton. "I remember," Bennett writes, "his dramatic declaration that Milton was not first-rate. . . . No! Conrad would have none of Milton. He called Milton 'wooly'. I never mentioned Milton to him again." We also learn of Conrad's personal and literary distaste for Shaw, whom Rhymers' Club member Ernest Rhys refers to as Conrad's bête noire: "Possibly the antipathy dated from the time of the War when Shaw was amusing himself at the expense of the English soldiers and their friends at home, which affronted Conrad in his regard for his adopted country and his Polish sense of the dignity to be observed in matters of life and death." Wells's description of Shaw's first comments to Conrad also might explain this antipathy. Shaw, Wells explains, "talked with customary freedoms. *You know, my dear fellow [Shaw addresses Conrad], your books won't do'—for some Shavian reason I have forgotten—and so forth." And we learn from Grace Willard, an old friend of the Conrads, of the author's hostility for "derivative" literature, on the one hand, and "pastiche in art," on the other. Surprisingly, the literary figure Conrad compliments the most in these entries is not Flaubert but Dickens. It is Dickens, Conrad tells Ernest Rhys, who was the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 323-326
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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