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Reviewed by:
  • Conrad’s “The Duel”: Sources/Texts by J. H. Stape and John G. Peters
  • G. W. Stephen Brodsky (bio)
J. H. Stape and John G. Peters. Conrad’s “The Duel”: Sources/Texts.
Leiden and Boston: Brill Rodopi, 2015. 180pp.
ISBN 9789004292420 (paperback).
ISBN 9789004292437 (e-book).

Conrad’s “The Duel”: Sources/Texts is a tour de force of literary sleuthing. The primary editor John Stape’s dedicated spadework unearthing twelve variant ur-text versions of “The Duel” beyond those already on record discovered by eminent Conradian Hans Van Marle and finding the immediate 1907 source for Conrad’s inspiration (Stape and Peters 87, 88) are astonishing feats of research. His meticulous transcription of the typescript/manuscript, with an opening explanatory note distinguishing typescript from manuscript, original pagination, and anomalies annotated throughout, crowns these achievements. Collected for the first time under one cover, this source material will prove invaluable for Conrad scholars, critics, and biographers whose concern is the creative process, especially for the editors of the Cambridge University Press edition of A Set of Six engaged in providing a fresh substantive version as the standard copy text, which will supersede the 1923 edition of “The Duel” in The Collected Works published by J. M. Dent.

This volume is the work of a formidable team: John Stape is Senior Research Fellow at St. Mary’s University College, London, and author of The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad (2007), a masterly critical biography more than complementary to Zdzisław Najder’s monumental Joseph Conrad: A Chronicle (1995), and by far the best in recent times. He has coedited two volumes of the Cambridge Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad (1983–2008) and edited The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad (1996). He is co-general editor of The Conrad Studies Series and co-general editor of The Cambridge Edition of The Works of Joseph Conrad (1990-). The contributions to Conrad studies by coeditor John G. Peters, Distinguished University Research Professor in the Department of English, University of North Texas, are also prodigious: as well as Conradiana’s general editor, he is coeditor of the four-volume Joseph Conrad: Contemporary Reviews (2012) and author of Joseph Conrad’s Critical Reception (2013). The editors also have had the skilled assistance of Karen Zouaoui, whose transcriptions of newspaper accounts at the Bibliothéque Nationale de France are vital. A PhD candidate in English Literature at the Université Paris Diderot, she has taught at La Sorbonne and the University of Nottingham, and currently teaches at the Université Paris Descartes.

The slim paperback’s cover is graced with a watercolor scene of the Onegin-Lensky duel from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, reflecting Stape’s eclectic engagement [End Page 72] with other art forms as an opera critic. The frontispiece sketch by William Russell Flint, first published in Pall Mall Magazine (69), portrays the enraged Feraud’s first sabre challenge in his quarters. A photographic sample or two of the typescript/manuscript might have been instructive, but this minor lacuna no doubt will be redressed in the Cambridge edition of A Set of Six.

The preface by Peters succinctly states this volume’s purpose: to present “the raw materials to engage with Conrad’s imaginative transformation” (1) of a story current in his time that became the typescript/manuscript preserved in The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Special Collections. This book’s scope and content are therefore deliberately confined to (1) prefatory and introductory notes by the editors; (2) the French urtext and its fourteen variant versions, four in French and ten in English; and (3) the print transcript of the typescript/manuscript.

An introduction (“‘The Duel’: Ur-Versions [. . .]”) gives a history of the search since the 1930s to the present for the sources of “The Duel,” followed by the ur-versions. Another introduction, to the typescript/manuscript, “A 1907 Source [. . .],” traces Conrad’s inspiration from his “Author’s Note” (1920) to A Set of Six, to the Spitzer-Mann pistol duel (3 January 1907), its earliest account in Le Petit Parisien (5 January 1907), and Conrad’s likely first knowledge of it in Montpellier’s Le Petit Méridional (6 January 1907). The 1907 accounts are...


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