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  • Conrad’s Lord Jim: A Transcription of the Manuscript ed. by J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan II
  • Mark D. Larabee (bio)
J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan II, eds. Conrad’s Lord Jim: A Transcription of the Manuscript. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011. 182 pp. ISBN: 978-9-0420-3323-8.

The extant manuscript and typescript fragments of the novel that Conrad described as “a free and wandering tale” (163)—themselves scattered among a handful of libraries and archives from London to California—have at last found a single home amenable to scholarly visits in Conrad’s Lord Jim: A Transcription of the Manuscript. As editors J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan II point out, Conrad is rare among Modernists for the general unavailability of his manuscripts. Only transcriptions of the Preface to The Nigger of the “Narcissus” and of “Tuan Jim: A Sketch” (an important Ur-text of Lord Jim) have yet been published. Furthermore, according to these editors, the available transcription of “Tuan Jim” is of questionable reliability, and the lists of variants in various scholarly editions of Conrad’s works appear “behind barbed wire” in their manner of presentation, which seriously hampers reading ease (ix).

Fortunately, with Conrad’s Lord Jim, Stape and Sullivan make admirable inroads on this scholarly problem. Not only do they fill in a significant gap in scholarship by publishing this transcription, making the materials easily available to scholars unable to travel to several locations to see the originals, but they also present the materials in such a way as to make them eminently browsable. To these ends, at the heart of this book Stape and Sullivan provide transcribed manuscripts and typescript of the main manuscript of “Tuan Jim,” Lord Jim, and Conrad’s “Author’s Note.” In addition to providing an explicit description of editorial procedures, this volume usefully records clear details about the provenance of the manuscripts and typescript and how the materials correspond to the published novel. Furthermore, it offers preliminary indications of some of the directions that future scholarship can take.

The manuscript materials brought together in this volume consist of four sets of materials. First, there are the fifteen leaves of “Tuan Jim” at Harvard, [End Page 163] consisting of matter that would later become incorporated into the first two chapters of the finished novel. The rest consists of 357 leaves at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia; eight leaves at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; and one leaf at the British Library. The latter three collections comprise matter that Conrad revised into part or all of twenty-one of the novel’s forty-five chapters. There are fragments here of a further four chapters, while the manuscript versions of twenty chapters of the final novel are still missing. About half of the main manuscript is available, then, a calculation corroborated by word counts left in the manuscript margins. This volume additionally provides seven typescript pages (preserved at the Rosenbach) bearing Conrad’s revisions and corrections. The fate of the rest of the manuscript is unknown.

In their preface, Stape and Sullivan explain the condition and characteristics of the manuscript and typescript, including such details as known times of composition and information about pagination, ink, paper size and type, and watermarks. They also discern the state of revision that these materials reflect, noting the peculiarities of Conrad’s use of punctuation and his attempts to minimize errors, suggesting the nature of Conrad’s writing methods and the changes that his work underwent from draft to completion. For the most part, the manuscript indicates that instead of carrying out major alterations to the novel’s characterization or plot, Conrad sought to sharpen and enliven his descriptions. It was at this stage in the novel’s composition that Conrad began the smaller-scale search for the most precise and expressive words to create what the editors describe as “greater suggestiveness and nuance” as well as “the right accent” (x). Thus, an interesting window is opened to Conrad’s writing process.

One of the significant conclusions that can be drawn from this evidence, according to Stape and Sullivan, is that Lord Jim is a...


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