Conrad wrote a letter to his friend R. B. Cunninghame Graham on 20 December 1897, its centerpiece the image of a knitting machine. Conrad teased Graham for his romantic optimism and socialist utopianism, telling him that human beings exist in a cosmos sublimely indifferent to their fate, set up for some inscrutable purpose that has nothing in the least to do with them. He explains the universe as a cosmic knitting machine, seemingly an image of blind and prosaic repetition, both industrial and bathetic, a brilliantly improvised deflation of Cunninghame Graham's romantic panache that also forecloses tragic grandiloquence just as it issues a comic protest against its own absurdity. But there is much more to the choice of the knitting machine. In a later letter to Cunninghame Graham on 14 January 1898, Conrad returned to the image but this time imagining it differently. This discussion explains why.


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pp. 333-345
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