- Introduction:Part I
This second installment of Conradiana's triple issue on Joseph Conrad and serialization focuses on the first decade of the twentieth century as the author, having made his name with the Savoy, Cornhill Magazine, New Review, Illustrated London News, and Blackwood's Magazine, struggled to convert literary prestige into coin. With substantial book sales continuing to prove elusive, Conrad found himself forced to adapt to the new realities of a market for print in which serialization, particularly of short stories, now played a central role. During this middle phase, he honed his narrative skill in the pages of a widening range of periodicals. With a few exceptions, such as the Fortnightly Review and the North American Review ("Autocracy and War," July 1905) and the English Review (to be examined in the third installment of this special issue), these were typically illustrated magazines containing plentiful advertisements and intended for a popular readership: Metropolitan Magazine ("London's River," February 1905), the Saturday Evening Post ("Gaspar Ruiz," July–August 1906), Cassell's Magazine and Hampton's Magazine ("Il Conde," August 1908 and February 1909), and many others. Yet Conrad's relationship to these periodicals presents a conundrum. Why literary digests such as Reader Magazine and Appleton's Booklovers Magazine should have wished to serialize parts of The Mirror of the Sea between 1905 and 1907 needs no explaining. But how should we understand the fact that Nostromo was first published in T. P.'s Weekly (29 January–7 October 1904), a mouthpiece for Radical parliamentarian T. P. O'Connor, or The Secret Agent in Ridgway's Magazine (6 October–15 December 1906), a muckraking weekly issued simultaneously in fourteen American cities?
Conrad's professional trajectory was further complicated during this period by the growing prominence of other factors peculiar to serial publication. His writings had been syndicated almost from the very start of his career: an abridged version of The Nigger of the "Narcissus" had been published simultaneously (and, significantly, under this name [End Page 109] rather than its American book title The Children of the Sea) in the Illustrated Buffalo Express, the Dallas Morning Herald, and Galveston's Daily News (8 August–12 September 1897). But after 1900 the frequency and geographical spread of these serializations gathered pace and came to include foreign-language versions such as "An Outpost of Progress," translated by Conrad's own cousin Marguerite Poradowska, in the Parisian weekly Les Nouvelles Illustrées (22–29 January 1903).1 Indeed, the ongoing digitization of national newspaper archives is enabling scholars for the first time to discern the outline of a global archipelago of Conradian texts, full serializations as well as single-paragraph snippets, in journals as far-flung as California and New Zealand. Until recently, nothing was known of the serialization of Conrad's famous Preface to The Nigger of the "Narcissus" between its appearances in the New Review of December 1897 and the Glasgow Herald on 13 March 1905. In fact, it appeared in several—and most likely a great many more—North American papers in 1904, among them the San Francisco Call (21 August), the Manitoba Free Press (3 September), the San Jose Mercury News (4 September), and the Atlanta Constitution (11 September). Conrad's work was eventually to be distributed by a number of syndicates, including the Bacheller Syndicate and the Metropolitan Syndicate in the United States, and the Northern Newspaper Syndicate in Britain.
With serialization now requiring complex negotiations over matters such as syndication and illustration as well as fees, copyright, and book rights, Conrad made one of the shrewdest decisions of his career in 1900 when he engaged the services of a literary agent. James Brand Pinker was to promote his client's interests faithfully for the next twenty years, thereby relieving Conrad of many of the time-consuming and irksome aspects of dealing with editors and publishers. Conrad was fond, too, of declaring his ignorance or lack of interest in the fate of his work in serial form, telling Edward Garnett in July 1911: "I am very hazy as to what happens to my work after I've sent it...