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  • An Outcast of the Islands by Joseph Conrad
  • G.W. Stephen Brodsky (bio)
Joseph Conrad. An Outcast of the Islands. Edited by Allan H. Simmons. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016. 528 pp. ISBN: 9781107126442.


"It is certain my conviction gains infinitely, the moment another soul will believe in it (Novalis)." Lord Jim's epigraph could as well have something to do with An Outcast of the Islands and with Conrad himself: a nod of gratitude to Edward Garnett. For after Conrad's foray into authorship with Almayer's Folly, without Garnett's encouragement to write Outcast Conrad's inspiration and resolve likely would have foundered on the shoals of self-doubt: "[H]e said to me [. . .], 'Why not write another?' [. . .]. Yes, I would do that. I could do that. Many others I could not. Another, I could. That is how Edward made me go on writing" (Smith 62; 370, n. 60). In a word, An Outcast of the Islands was the fulcrum for all that followed. If no Outcast, only a stranding—no Nigger of the Narcissus, no Lord Jim, no corpus of Conrad's greats at all.

The history of Outcast, then, from conception to birth as the 1896 Unwin edition's first issue is especially important for our understanding of Conrad's creative process and literary career, and that is what editor Allan Simmons gives us with this newly authoritative edition, the fifteenth volume of the superb Cambridge Edition of The Works of Joseph Conrad. Published in association with the project's founding institution, the Center for Conrad Studies at the Institute for Bibliography and Editing, Kent State University, Ohio, and the Centre for Joseph Conrad Studies, St. Mary's University, where Allan Simmons is Professor of Modern English, this volume, like the earlier volumes of the Cambridge Edition, is a magisterial exemplar of the bibliographic editor's art. [End Page 75]


A testament to the twenty-eight years of dedicated labor and talent which countless scholars have given to the project, this volume is a fitting tribute to earlier General Editors who devoted their last years to the Cambridge Edition: Bruce Harkness, Sid Reid, and John Stape. Allan Simmons, erstwhile co-General Editor with the last-named who joined that roll in July of the year of this volume's publication bears their torch, both as General Editor and Editor of the present volume. Simmons has been well girt for the geste. A much-abridged recitation of his laurels as a recondite Conrad scholar cannot do justice, but perforce will suffice: A committee member of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK) and General Editor of The Conradian for the past two decades, he has recently edited the Cambridge Edition of The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (2017).


The structural skeleton for technical material supporting the text of Outcast is unremarkable in conforming, as it should, to the Cambridge Edition's founders' editorial policy, but the bibliographic muscle is contoured with the imagination and skill we have learned to expect, both of Simmons and of his predecessors. The jacket, workmanlike and plain like the other volumes, announces its well-deserved claim: "This edition [. . .] restores a text that has circulated in defective forms since its original publication." Following a General Editor's Preface and the Conrad Chronology common to all volumes, the Acknowledgements page contains a stellar compendium of Conrad scholars whose consultative efforts have contributed to the volume's success—preeminent among a host of luminaries, Alexandre Fachard, Jeremy Hawthorn, and Gene M. Moore.

After Simmons's introduction, Conrad's "Author's Note" precedes the text of the novel with revisions amply explained in the editor's supporting matter, but fundamentally the same "Author's Note" found in the J.M. Dent Collected Works (1924) hitherto standard for scholarly work, and as republished in Gar-nett's Conrad's Prefaces (1937). Like so many of Conrad's "Author's Notes," this one, composed in 1919 for the 1920–21 Collected Works planned by Double-day and Heinemann, post-dates the novel by many years.


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