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Book Reviews with Amber Reeves and Rebecca West, but less so in his affair with that "man-eater" Margaret Sanger. In her concluding remarks, Brandon notes "how few of these brilliant , forceful, ambitious women . . . managed to avoid living their hves on the terms of a male lover or husband. . ."; that it was the men who were reaUy free and most of the women unfree; and that it was "Guilt, its uses, its effects, and ... its intimate aUy, principle [which] compeUed these women to subordinate their hves to the demands and inconvenience of the men." Although one might dissent with the "guut" concept, these conclusions do much to explain the complicated relationships which Brandon recounts as part of the late Victorian revolt against the obsolete code of "respectability." J. O. Baylen Professor Emeritus, Eastbourne, England Conrad's "Honourable Failure" Joseph Conrad. The Secret Agent. Bruce Harkness and S. W. Reid, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 416 pp. $49.95 THIS HANDSOME, scrupulously edited book, planned for a decade, is the first volume of the Cambridge edition of the works of Joseph Conrad. The long-winded and rather boring 93-page essay—with five whole pages on word division—carefuUy traces the composition, transmission, revision and pubhcation of the novel through the manuscript, typescript, serialization , first American, first English and Collected editions, using the first Enghsh edition, with emendations, as the basis of the new text. The editorial material is eight pages longer than the novel and seems a tad excessive. The 64-page textual apparatus seems written on a computer by a computer. And the seven charts of textual transmission resemble diagrams of electrical circuits and plans of the vacuum cleaner that Wormold sends to Secret Service headquarters in Our Man in Havana. There are thousands of tiny changes in the text, but no revisions or additions that significantly alter the meaning of the novel. Verloc's moustache, for example, "is 'jet-black' in the manuscript, 'black' in Ridgway's and the Harper's American, and 'dark' " in the first Enghsh edition. Conrad, weak on the invention of plot, character and themes, composed his novels by imaginatively recreating actual experience. The real 229 ELT: VOLUME 34:2, 1991 event that inspired the novel was Martial Bourdin's anarchistic attempt, on 15 February 1894, to blow up the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. But, hke Stevie in the novel, he accidentally blew himself up before reaching the buUdings. Ford, who first told Conrad about this incident, illuminates in a little-known passage in Ancient Lights (1911) the pohtical motives—which college students often miss—behind the provocative outrage: This was, of course, an attempt fomented by the police agents of a foreign state [Russia] with a view to forcing the hand of the British Government. The unfortunate idiot [Bourdin] was talked by these agents provocateurs into taking a bomb to Greenwich Park, where the bomb exploded in bis pocket and blew him into many small fragments. The idea of the government in question was that this would force the hand of the British Government so that they would arrest wholesale every anarchist in Great Britain. The composition of The Secret Agent between February 1906 and June 1907 moved "from a relatively desultory process to an eventually frantic" one as Conrad hastily and temporarily concluded the book just in time for the rather incongruous serialization in the American magazine , Ridgway's: A Militant Weekly for God and Country, during October-December 1906. The magazine editors, treating Conrad hke one of their regular hacks, heavüy cut and revised the book for serial pubhcation. "Ridgway's are sending me their rag," Conrad bravely told his agent J. B. Pinker. "It's awful—and it don't matter in the least. I see they are 'editing* the stuff pretty severely." Conrad completely revised the last third of the novel after publishing it in the "rag," but was treated as badly by Methuen as he had been by Ridway's: "The proofs of S. A. have reached me and I have almost cried at the sight.... The utter contempt shown for my wishes and my instructions is galhng. ... I had hurried the thing on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 229-232
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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