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Reviewed by:
  • The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume 8, 1923-1924, and: The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume 9, Uncollected Letters and Indexes
  • Keith Carabine (bio)
Joseph Conrad . The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume 8, 1923-1924. Ed. Laurence Davies, and Gene M. Moore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. lxxii + 426 pp. ISBN 0-521-56197-6. [Cited as CL 8]
Joseph Conrad . The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad: Volume 9, Uncollected Letters and Indexes. Ed. Laurence Davies, Owen Knowles, Gene M. Moore, and J. H. Stape. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. xlviii + 383 pp. ISBN 0-521-88189-0. [Cited as CL 9]

These two volumes constitute a magnificent culmination of one of the great projects in modern letters, testifying to the dedication and skill of the editors and the sustained commitment of the publishers, Cambridge University Press. Laurence Davies has been the one constant since 1983, and his erudition, curiosity, devotion, and generosity of spirit illuminate this enterprise and characterize his contribution to the wider Conradian community. His consolidated indexes of "Recipients" and "Names" for Volumes 1-9—an immense labor of love running to over eighty pages— is already an indispensable research tool (CL 9: 297-383). Volume 9 gathers over 220 letters to sixty-nine different correspondents, beginning with a short, informal note to J. S. Anthony written aboard the Torrens in Port Adelaide (5 March 1892), inviting him to "renew old acquaintance and talk over old times" and closing with a full, clear version of a letter (19 July 1922) to an unknown correspondent first published in Volume 7 wherein Conrad expresses his customary reluctance to talk about his literary plans "for reasons purely psychological" (3, 267). The splendid footnotes involved all four editors and are more extensive than hitherto because seventeen correspondents are unique to this volume and the letters as a whole require contextualization in Conrad's life and times and careful cross-referencing to earlier volumes and to recent collections of [End Page 69] correspondence to, and about Conrad, gathered by such sleuths as Owen Knowles, J. H. Stape, Donald W. Rude, and Hans van Marle. The volume includes over fifty previously unpublished letters to J. B. Pinker, fifteen to both T. Fisher Unwin (his first publisher) and Christopher Sandeman, eight to S. S. Pawling, plus a scattering of new letters (often gleaned from private collections) to such figures as Ted Sanderson, Edward Garnett, John Galsworthy, Sir Sidney Colvin, Iris Wedgwood, and the Hon. Michael James Holland.

Pleasingly, the volume includes fifty letters written between 1893 and 1900, spanning the rather shadowy period when Conrad was 'twixt land and sea and forging a new career as an English novelist. One third of these—to passengers whom Conrad met while serving as first mate on the Torrens (November 1891-July 1893)—were admirably edited in 1995 by J. H. Stape and Hans van Marle; and they confirm Conrad's fond recollection thirty years later that "this experience was most fortunate from every point of view, marking the end of my sea life with pleasant memories and precious friendships" ("Torrens" 22).1 Of greatest interest in this early period, however, are the unpublished letters to E. L. Sanderson and his fiancée, Helen Watson, and to Sidney Southgate Pawling: Conrad met the former on the Torrens in 1893 and they became life-long friends, and the latter, W. H. Heinemann's business partner, supported Conrad unstintingly throughout his career.

'Ted' Sanderson originally trained for the Church and his father the Reverend L. S. Sanderson was the head master of Elstree School, Hertfordshire, a preparatory school which groomed vigorous Christian gentlemen for a public school such as Harrow or Eton, and then Oxbridge, and on to careers in Parliament, Law, Church and Empire. As Davies' splendid "Consolidated index of recipients" shows, nearly 90 letters to the Sanderson family have survived, including over fifty to Ted and nineteen to Helen Sanderson (née Watson). From these and the many scattered references to the Sandersons in Conrad's correspondence, we know that Conrad, from 1893 until his marriage in March 1896, was a much admired and cosseted visitor to the very large Sanderson household...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0252
Print ISSN
0010-6356
Pages
pp. 69-84
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-19
Open Access
No
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