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Reclaiming Conrad from His Editors: The Case of An Outcast of the Islands.

(For my friend, John Stape)

This essay concerns itself with Conrad's second novel, An Outcast of the Islands, first published in March 1896, and uses the novel to address the tangled issue of what we mean when we say we are reading "Conrad." To what extent are we reading the text that Joseph Conrad wrote--the "authorial" text--and to what extent are we reading what is now called a "social" text, bearing the traces and interference of typists, compositors, and editors? As a community of readers of Conrad, the stakes could hardly be higher.

To illustrate the nature of the problem, let me turn to a well-known example of editorial interference. The three-part division of "Heart of Darkness" has been found structurally significant, yet, in his superb edition of the novella for the Cambridge Edition, (1) Owen Knowles has demonstrated that this tripartite division did not originate with Conrad, but was, instead, imposed by Blackwood's Magazine, which published the tale in three instalments in the spring of 1899. (2) This division was then carried forward into the first book version, also published by Blackwood's, in Youth: A Narrative and Two Other Stories in 1902. When this division is removed, the uninterrupted reading of "Heart of Darkness" confers even more poignantly the overwhelming and relentless nature of Marlows experience, providing the reader with no respite, and an even greater sense of the loss of boundaries, definitions and margins, and responding to the mimetic situation of the hearers of the tale aboard the Nellie, who receive it as a continuous narrative interrupted only by Marlows occasional pauses. By coincidence, "An Outpost of Progress," the "lightest part of the loot" that Conrad "carried off from Central Africa," (3) suffered the same fate (and, arguably, because of its brevity, even greater damage to its narrative texture). It too was sub-divided for serial publication--this time in Cosmopolis magazine, in June and July 1897. When the story was found to be too long for a single issue, Conrad reluctantly agreed to its being spread over two, being afforded the opportunity to decide where this division should occur. (4) The Saturday Review shared Conrad's unease, arguing that the story "must lose as much as Mr Kipling's ["Slaves of the Lamp"] gained by the division in two parts." (5) This division, too, passed into the story's book version, providing an unintended structural balance. No doubt, this too has been invoked by critics and scholars to sustain arguments about Conrad's artistry. The Cambridge Edition of the text restores the tale to its uninterrupted condition as Conrad himself intended. (6) It should already be obvious that the Cambridge Edition of these works alters them, and opens new interpretive possibilities yet to be explored by literary criticism.

By the late 1960s, scholars realized that Conrad's texts were circulating mainly in unsatisfactory forms, with the investigation of this topic beginning in the next decade with the establishment of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad. This edition aimed to provide the scholar and advanced general reader with a reliable text, by examining a given work's textual history and the creative and production processes that went into its making and dissemination. The Cambridge Edition has had this goal from its outset, in the late 1970s, when Bruce Harkness and S. W. Reid ambitiously foresaw replacing Conrad's varyingly corrupt and defective standard texts by ones that, for the first time, considered the original sources, weighed evidence and took account of the circumstances of publication. The first editions and Doubleday's "Sun-Dial" and Heinemann's collected editions--accorded the status of a "death bed" edition and with the latter, in particular, widely regarded as authoritative, and even "definitive," until the editors of The Secret Agent (1990) largely debunked this myth (7)--were finally seen for what they were and at long last were to be retired.


In a word, the policy established by Harkness and Reid, nourished in part by the then-recent theoretical and practical work of Fredson Bowers, sent Conradians back to pre-print materials, inviting the textual critic to disentangle the author from the received editorially-embellished text that had been passed on as "Conrad." As an inducement to return to pre-print documents, the manuscript of Conrad's second novel is attractive. (8)

To begin with, the paratextual delights include not only Conrad's change of title from "Two Vagabonds" to An Outcast of the Islands (at the beginning of Part II), but also occasional variants on this title in the running-heads as he identifies the work as "An Outcast of Sambir." Conrad's marginalia and instructions to his typist allow one to chart the gradual distribution of the chapters of the text into Parts, as the manuscript--providing the template for Conrad's writing career--developed from a short work, initially conceived as "twenty to twenty-five pages" (Letters, I, 171), into a novel of 110,000 words. Most chapters in the manuscript begin with a cross reference to the corresponding pages in the now-missing typescript. There is even a small map of the courtyard (MS 494 verso) showing the position of the river and part of the perimeter fence, and identifying by name the features "omar's [sic] hut," "fire," "Tree," and "house." (9) And all of this before we have even got to the text.

Reading the text in manuscript offers a glimpse into the emergence of the English author through the layers of his first and second languages, and, in the process, records his linguistic heritage brought to the service of English literature. As the late Mary Gifford Belcher noted in her 1981 doctoral dissertation on An Outcast, the persistence of certain spellings--in particular where a "w" was used in place of a "v"--seems to betray some sense of Conrad's pronunciation of these words in his Polish accent. For example, in the manuscript the incorrect "w" in the words "wivid" and "wast" (MS 98, 201) has been overscored with a V; some words were left misspelled and only corrected later: for example, "wentured," and "went their spite" (MS 181, 232). (10)

Much more prominent, however, are traces of French, whether in word selection--"lacets" for shoe-laces (MS 88), and "inexprimably," which also occurs in Conrad's correspondence (MS 381; Letters, I, 280)--or in spellings, where Conrad, using a word with a Gallic etymology and thus possibly first used in French, has retained the "e" which is typically dropped in English. Examples include: "vestments" (MS 9) and "disappointment" (MS 19). The spelling of ambushes' as embushes' (MS 371) could be laid at the door of either French or Polish pronunciation. (In French, "em" and "am" are pronounced in the same way.) Such misspellings--perhaps trivial in themselves--can, of course, be smoothed out. But what happens when Conrad's Gallicisms in the manuscript have consequences for meaning?

This is the case of the French word defiance. During her first meeting with Willems, Aissa is described thus in the manuscript: "Her lips were firm and composed in a graceful curve but the distended nostrils, the upward poise of the half averted head, gave to her whole person the expression of a wild and resentful defiance" (MS 93). Conrad's use of the accent denotes clearly that he intended the French word when composing the sentence. The word was rendered in the historical printed forms--and has been ever since--as "defiance": "Her lips were firm and composed in a graceful curve but the distended nostrils, the upward poise of the half averted head, gave to her whole person the expression of a wild and resentful defiance" (E1, p. 75). Various reasons can be adduced for this--most likely, the typewriter used to produce the setting-copy typescript simply lacked these accents or the word was altered during typesetting, but the revision unsettles the sentence. The use of "but" demands a semantic opposition to "firm and composed," that "defiance," precisely constituted of firmness and composure, does not offer; defiance, however, which translates into English as "mistrust" or "distrust," does precisely this. Here, the disappearance of the acute accent caused the French word to be replaced an inappropriate English one.


With the composition of An Outcast of the Islands Conrad committed himself to his future as a novelist. Inscribed in Richard Curie's copy of the novel is the author's confession: "Before beginning this book I hesitated whether I would go on writing or not." (11) The fledgling novelist's tentativeness was natural. He was potentially embarking upon a change of career in his mid-thirties and, even after completing Almayer's Folly, still thought of himself for some while as a sailor who had happened to write a novel. Recollecting the genesis of An Outcast of the Islands in his 1919 "Author's Note" to the novel, composed a quarter of a century after the event, Conrad presents himself at a transitional, Janus-faced moment: "Neither in my mind nor in my heart had I then given up the sea" (3.6-7). His extant correspondence from the year it took to compose An Outcast, from August 1894 to September 1895, shows that he continued to entertain hopes of employment at sea even while wrestling with his second novel. By the time it was finished, however, he was immersed in the day-to-day life of the professional author--reading reviews of his first novel while composing his second; engaged in regular discussions about the progress of his work with his literary mentor, Edward Garnett; and with marriage to Jessie George quickly following publication, he was committed to penmanship for his source of income.

But, what is Conrad's An Outcast of the Islands? Is it the text as it appears in the complete manuscript, held at the Rosenbach of The Free Library of Philadelphia? Or is it the text in the first English edition published by T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. in 1896? Or is it the text that appeared in the Doubleday "Sun Dial" and Heinemann collected editions of 1921? The absence of any intervening documents between manuscript and first book editions--typescript, revised typescript, first proofs and revised proofs--inflects the way that one is able to answer what has become, as it was not for earlier generations of critics, a complex, and at times vexed, question.

Commonsense suggests that the first English edition must reflect Conrad's intentions; after all, it surely contains the revisions that the author made at various stages in the transmission of the text from manuscript to printed book. Well, yes and no. Or, put another way: this is true only in part. To come at the problem from another angle: it is certainly to be expected that "substantive" changes--revised phrases and wording, and the addition and deletion of material--would be reflected in the book, so why not simply adopt this as "Conrad" and be done with it? Doing so, after all, requires rather little effort, certainly, and recent proponents of Jerome MacGann's theory of the "social text" have mainly embraced this view.

Counter-intuitive although this may seem at first sight, especially to nontextual scholars, it is not the substantive changes that determine a text's authority but rather what have been termed its "accidentals," defined by W. W. Greg as "the spelling, punctuation, word-division, and the like, affecting mainly its formal presentation," (12) these being elements where intervention was normal and sometimes required. As with all of Conrad's texts, by the time that An Outcast appeared in print it had been subject to the interference of various hands: for example, at the beginning of the process of transmission, a typist or typists who might have misread Conrad's handwriting or supplied missing punctuation to a lightly punctuated manuscript; and, at the other end, compositors or editors who imposed the house-styling practices of their publishing house, regularizing Conrad's own practices. Put another way, while we accept that Conrad's actual words and phrases would have been respected, by and large, we cannot be as certain of the authority of the accidentals--so this becomes the site of contention.

Conrad's varying practice compounds matters: his manuscripts were, typically, lightly punctuated, with much required and necessary punctuation missing altogether, and so tacitly invited the interfering hand of typists and editors; while his corrections in pre-print documents can also be shown to be light and concerned mainly with substantives not accidentals--again, an invitation to the interfering editor. Added to this, the absence of intervening pre-print documents, in the line of descent from the manuscript of An Outcast to its printed form, that might have revealed Conrad's revisions to his accidentals, generally means that such revisions as appear in print often cannot be disentangled from the styling imposed by the English and American printers of the first editions, editions that once in print provided the authority for what we then call "Conrad."

On first sight, this attention to accidentals seems trivial. It lies, however, at the very heart of what we call "Conrad," because he is one of the great and definitive stylists in the language and interference with--and regularizing of--accidentals yields a text that does not faithfully embody his cadences, rhythms, and acceptable idiosyncracies--and all this in the work of an author who declared himself to be "haunted, mercilessly haunted by the necessity of style" (Letters, II, 50).

In his early aesthetic manifesto, the "Preface" to The Nigger of the "Narcissus," Conrad argues that for fiction to communicate its truth:

It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the colour of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music--which is the art of arts. And it is only through the perfect blending of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to colour, and that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage. (DCE, p. ix) (13)

My concern here is precisely the 'shape and ring of sentences' of which Conrad speaks--the very literariness that attracts us to him--and what happens to this when his manuscript passes into print.


A further inducement--if one were needed--to return to Conrad's manuscripts (in this case, but pre-print materials generally) is the experience of being privy to the creative process as the text gradually emerges through successive stages of revision. The port of initial registration of Abdulla's ship, the Lord of the Isles, was initially "Leith" in Scotland; this place-name was then deleted and replaced with "Sunderland" in England; and this place-name was, in turn, revised and the port of registration finally settled on as "Greenock" (MS 186) again in Scotland. Trivial in itself, the example conveys something of the attention to detail that characterizes Conrad's writing, to say nothing of his professional knowledge.

This means that by the time that Conrad's manuscript went forward for typing, it was already a heavily revised manuscript. For example, during composition Leonard's warning to Almayer in Chapter hi was initially written as 'Do not touch her, you savage vagabond you!' and was then revised to 'Do not kill her, Mr Willems. You are a savage. Not at all like we, whites' (MS 34).

But, to come to the central concern of this essay, what happens at the next stage of revision? As noted, the substantive changes in the published text we can pretty much guarantee are Conrad's on the supposition that editors do not generally rewrite an author's work. (The Cambridge Edition of Victory proves a vivid exception to this case, and will be revelatory.) (14) As will already be clear, this is not to say that editors remain neutral: Conrad's work was typically subject to house-styling, gentrifications--even bowdlerization--and cuts. Despite such intrusion, changes that affect meaning are generally ascribed to the author even where the lack of documentation renders absolute proof elusive.

So, for example, where the manuscript says simply that Willems "had stolen" and the book version that he "had appropriated temporarily some of Hudig's money" (17.1) we accept that the authority for such a revision is Conrad. In this particular case, the change is creative, having to do with voice: the cautious, euphemistic, almost lawyerly reformulation relies upon free indirect discourse. Such substantive changes are part of the author's habits as he refined his original intentions during the process of revision, preparing the text for print. Thus, where the manuscript sees Almayer dancing "with imbecile delight" and the first edition has him dancing "with paternal delight" (180.3), we accept the latter because it can only be Conrad's revised formulation.

But what about those other changes, the category of variants knows as "accidentals," those aspects of the inherited text that we possibly overlook altogether--or for which, to adapt Conrad, "we have forgotten to ask?" Who is responsible for them--and how can we determine this?


The manuscript of An Outcast is under-punctuated and, in places, sloppily punctuated: at times it lacks terminal full stops and closing quotation marks. Punctuation can also be inconsistent: parenthetical phrases may begin with a dash but conclude with a comma, or lack concluding punctuation. And, added to this, Conrad seems to have changed him mind about punctuation as he proceeded. His preferred mark of punctuation in the manuscript is a dash, and this mark proliferates within sentences, between sentences, before speech tags and at the end of paragraphs. But across the manuscript, he changed his mind, and the dashes become less prominent in the second half, with those introduced at the ends of paragraphs now being struck out. Thus, the state of punctuation in the manuscript invites--and at points definitely requires--subsequent intervention. But here's the rub: at what point does the supply of necessary punctuation spill over into intrusive interference?

The description of Joanna Willems confronting her husband in Chapter in illustrates the nature of the problem: "She leaped back--the fright again in her eyes--snatched up the child, pressed it to her breast and falling into the chair drummed insanely with her heels on the resounding floor of the verandah" (MS 35; 33.1-3). This sentence is reproduced in the first edition as follows: "She leaped back, the fright again in her eyes, snatched up the child, pressed it to her breast, and, falling into the chair, drummed insanely with her heels on the resounding floor of the verandah" (El, p. 30). The impact of the added commas upon narrative rhythm is stark: the commas fragment a sentence whose entire point is rapid movement, as is signaled by the accumulation of the verbs "leaped," "snatched," "pressed," "falling," and "drummed." In a sentence of thirty-five words, that is a verb every seven words--and yet this energized prose is drained of its vitality (and its individuality) by the proliferation of commas.

Now one might sensibly aver that the commas are grammatically sound, and--without any other documentary evidence to disprove it--that they may have originated with Conrad. But, whatever else we can say about Conrad's punctuation, he rarely punctuates in this staccato fashion--and certainly not at this stage of his career, when light-touch punctuation--even inadequate punctuation--ensures the free-flowing rhythms of his prose, marked by expansive compound sentences. Thus, while it may be necessary to add punctuation to Conrad's manuscript--because, to repeat, that of An Outcast is under-punctuated and certainly needs repointing and correction so as to avoid distracting idiosyncrasies that reflect merely the moment of inscription--any intrusiveness must needs be addressed with caution. (15)

Here is a case in point. In the manuscript, reacting to Lingard's revelation that he has brought Joanna Willems to Sambir, Almayer throws up his hands: "He raised his clasped hands above his head and brought them down jerkily separating his fingers with an effort--as if tearing them apart" (MS 261). The sentence clearly needs punctuation to resolve an ambiguity: does the adverb "jerkily" qualify "brought them down" or "separating?" Non-intervention would border on editorial irresponsibility. Here is what Unwin's editor did: "He raised his clasped hands above his head and brought them down jerkily, separating his fingers with an effort, as if tearing them apart" (E1, p. 199). The Unwin comma inserted after "jerkily" ensures that the adverb modifies "brought down"; while replacing the manuscript's dash with a comma transforms "separating his fingers with a effort" into a parenthetic phrase. Both of these intrusions are arguably odd. First, "jerkily" more logically describes Almayer's effort at separating his fingers more than the lowering of his arms, a movement that is generally smooth rather than jerky. Of course, it could be that Almayer starts unclasping his fingers, with an effort, while he lowers his arms, and this causes him to lower them "jerkily." But, on balance, the adverb "jerkily" anticipates "separating" (rather than describes "brought down") and is part of the "effort" that the sentence goes on to describe. Secondly, enclosing of 'separating his fingers' with adverbials ("jerky" ... "with an effort") seems somewhat clumsy--unusually so for Conrad. Replacing the dash with a comma is an attempt to standardize the punctuation, but this also gives one pause, because it contrasts with the widespread practice in the manuscript of using a dash before the final phrase, setting it off for effect. A possible solution (and that offered in the forthcoming critical text) would be to move the comma and retain the dash, thus: "He raised his clasped hands above his head and brought them down, jerkily separating his fingers with an effort--as if tearing them apart." Such decision-making, based upon painstaking, case-by-case examination, is essential to deciphering and restoring Conrad's intentions, and in rescuing him from editors and others who have had a hand in re-pointing his prose. One is reminded of Mark Twain's caution: "Cast-iron rules will not answer ... what is one man's comma is another man's colon. One man can't punctuate another man's manuscript any more than one person can make the gestures for another person's speech." (16)


How, in the absence of documentary proof, do we decide what punctuation added to the manuscript has Conrad's authority? Are there any rules that offer guidance? In the case of An Outcast there is fortunately a comparable, parallel example. W. Somerset Maugham's novel, Liza of Lambeth, was published by Unwin in 1897 and thus allows comparing the manuscript (preserved at The King's School, Canterbury, where Maugham was a student) with the first edition to see whether this threw up patterns of alteration that were comparable to those found in An Outcast. This shared practice would allow me to identify Unwin house-practice--and provide the grounds to resist it as editorial rather than authorial.

To illustrate and discuss some of the habits of the Unwin editors, time can be profitably spent by looking at an example of what happened to Liza of Lambeth, and bringing these findings into correspondence with An Outcast. Here is the opening of Chapter 10 of the novel in the manuscript and in Unwin's edition:

Liza of Lambeth MS, Ch. 10 opening

It was November: the fine weather had quite gone now, and with it much of the sweet pleasure of Jim and Liza 's love. When they came out at night on the Embankment they found it cold and dreary; sometimes a light fog covered the river-banks, and made the lamps glow out dim and large, a light rain would be falling and it sent a chill into their very souls, foot-passengers came along at rare intervals holding up umbrellas and staring straight in front of them as they hurried along in the damp and cold, a cab would pass rapidly by, splashing up the mud on each side.

Liza of Lambeth E1, Ch. 10 opening

It was November. The fine weather had quite gone now, and with it much of the sweet pleasure of Jim and Liza's love. When they came out at night on the Embankment they found it cold and dreary: sometimes a light fog covered the river-banks, and made the lamps glow out dim and large; a light rain would be falling, which sent a chill into their very souls; foot passengers came along at rare intervals, holding up umbrellas, and staring straight in front of them as they hurried along in the damp and cold; a cab would pass rapidly by, splashing up the mud on each side.

In slightly over a hundred words, the manuscript text (on the left) is subject to eleven alterations (reflected in bold in the first English edition text on the right). All of these intrusions are typical, both across Liza of Lambeth and An Outcast of the Islands and thus serve to identify features of Unwin's house-style. (17)

To begin with, revising the colon after "November" to a full stop alters the sentence structure of the opening, and in the process weakens the elegiac connection between the season and lost love. This tendency to reformulate compound sentences as simple--or simpler ones--is a feature of Unwin's An Outcast, where it often involves replacing a conjunction with a full stop, affecting the free-flowing if expansive tendency of the prose. This interference with sentence construction is also evident two-thirds of the way down the passage in the transformation of the conjunction in "would be falling and it sent" into an adverbial phrase "would be falling, which sent."

Next, there is compression of the expanded form from "Liza 's" to "Liza's." Here, Unwin's editor rightly corrected a misspelled possessive, yet it is part of a pattern in both Liza and Outcast where accepted period expansions, such as "would n't" or "did n't," are standardized. Meaning is not at issue here, so this is straightforward regularizaron. This has a knock-on effect, for Conrad uses both expanded and contracted forms in the manuscript An Outcast. Formalizing them is part of the process of house-styling--reminding us of Ralph Waldo Emerson's great claim that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Then, replacing the semi-colon after "dreary" with a colon reformulates the sentence. In the manuscript, the semi-colon clearly divides the sentence, and everything that follows both qualifies the first part of the sentence and offers an impressionistic view of the London night. In the printed version, the semi-colon is replaced by a colon, which introduces a series of independent clauses separated by semi-colons (which replace commas in the manuscript), now quite clearly intended to explain and qualify the "dark and dreary" night. The colon after "dreary" commits the sentence to this structure of initial statement followed by supporting qualification and expansion, while the semi-colon allows for more of a balance between the two parts.

To define the independent clauses, semi-colons replace commas after "large," "souls," and "cold," but in the process they set up a syntactic hierarchy, whereby commas are contained within word chunks separated by semi-colons. In the manuscript, there are only commas, with the possibility of a more fluid relationship between different clauses. (18) In the manuscript, for example, there is a structural balance in the sequence immediately following the semi-colon: "sometimes a light fog covered the river-banks, and made the lamps glow out dim and large, a light rain would be falling and it sent a chill into their very souls." The balanced conjunctions "and" both expand upon the preceding descriptions (about "light rain" and "light fog"--another gesture toward balance, this time through repeated adjectives) and suggest that the descriptions are related. Replacing the comma after "large" with a semi-colon interferes with this; slight in itself, this is precisely what defines "the shape and ring of sentences."

As an aside, one might note that the manuscript's comma after "riverbanks" is something of an anomaly in itself. Only very rarely--rare to the point where it is inconsistent with their practice--do Conrad in the Outcast manuscript or Maugham in the Liza manuscript use a comma immediately before "and"; while Unwin very often does. It also seems worth pointing out that Unwin's text is obviously "correct"; but it is that very correctness that imposes an additional and, with respect to the manuscript and the now-lost revised typescript, a potentially artificial layer of formality. This is even more pronounced in An Outcast because, as can be seen even in this example, the Maugham manuscript is already heavily punctuated, as might be expected by a native speaker educated at a public school, whereas Conrad's manuscript, which sometimes is influenced by the more rhetorical rather than rule-based punctuation traditions of Polish and French, is very lightly punctuated.

Here, this point is emphasized by the commas introduced after "falling," "intervals," and "umbrellas," interrupting further the rhythms of the sentence by creating parentheses (for example, by formally setting off the descriptive phrase "holding up umbrellas"). Finally, the printed form removes the hyphen in "foot-passengers." Period usage accommodated either without ambiguity. Interference in compounds in both manuscripts is widespread: they are added at times, removed at others.

Examining the analogous example of Liza of Lambeth provides grounds for regarding the tendency to formalize informalities and the consistency in small, formal matters in An Outcast almost certainly as the work of Conrad's editors rather than the writer himself, and is really what distinguishes the editors' practices from the author's. Also, the tendency in the Unwin editions of both novels to tinker with the respective manuscripts' sentence endings by dividing a longish sentence into two suggests that this is probably the work of punctilious in-house editors rather than the authors.

The scale of the problem that confronts the textual editor is massive. Mary Belcher calculated that there were over 9,000 accidental differences between the Outcast manuscript and Unwin edition, of which nearly half are, in her words, "changes, cancellations, or additions ... that were not necessary to the sense of the text." (19) Each of these needs to be weighed on its merits (or demerits) in an effort to detect the hand of a busy editor before being removed to return the text--to the degree the inferred and surviving evidence permits--to its author.

Unwin's intrusiveness did not stop with accidentals: it is present, for instance, in such standardizing procedures as changing Conrad's use of "that" to "which." Interestingly, too, the hand of an editor seems to be behind a number of transpositions of phrases: "never had" (282.17) becoming "had never," "strength enough" (313.16) becoming "enough strength," and so on. The incidence of such changes constitutes a pattern of interference with manuscript forms, suggesting an editorial attempt to "smooth out" irregularity. At times such fussy interference introduces grammatical infelicity--for instance, when "Lingard dozed off uneasily" (52.10) was rendered as "Lingard dozed uneasily off"--at others it alters the emphasis, as when "she could look only at him" (307.18) was altered to "she could only look at him." While it is impossible to be certain that at least some of these transpositions do not represent authorial revisions, their regularity creates a pattern of interference with manuscript that is too insistent to be ignored. (20) As elsewhere, the examples are considered on a case-by-case basis, but, in principle, tidy consistency needs to be eschewed in an attempt to preserve what the accumulated weight of evidence suggests is the authorial voice.

Conrad's control over his work was never absolute being subject to vagaries over which he had varying (and sometimes little) control. But this does not mean that we should have lazily endorsed something called "Conrad" that is, in fact, Conrad diluted and at points even traduced. Some years ago, at a conference of The Joseph Conrad Society (UK), a paper on Conrad and the Sea by the French poet, translator, and essayist Jacques Darras concluded with the injunction: "Conradians, Go Back to the Sea!" If this essay has a message, it is "Conradians, go back to Conrad."




Gratefully acknowledged is a Small Grant in Aid of Research from The British Academy.


(1.) Youth, Heart of Darkness, The End of the Tether, ed. Owen Knowles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 41-126.

(2.) February to April 1899.

(3.) "Author's Note," Tales of Unrest (1898), ed. Allan H. Simmons and J. H. Stape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 6.

(4.) Conrad to Unwin, 7 February 1897 (Letters, I, 338).

(5.) Saturday Review, 26 June 1897, p. 726. (The Kipling story referred to, "Slaves of the Lamp," had appeared in Cosmopolis, with Part I appearing in April 1897 and Part II in May 1897.)

(6.) Tales of Unrest (2012), pp. 75-99.

(7.) See "The Later Editions," The Secret Agent, eds. Bruce Harkness and S. W. Reid (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 281-93.

(8.) The complete manuscript of An Outcast of the Islands is preserved in the collection of The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

(9.) Evidence of Conrad's spatial imagination can also be found in the map drawn on TS 2 verso of the "Author's Note" for Almayer's Folly; his sketch of mountains, possibly a representation of Higuerota, on MS 425 verso of Nostromo (Rosenbach); and of the layout of Heyst's compound on MS 760 recto of Victory (Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin).

(10.) This essay uses the following sigla: MS = manuscript; E1 = first English edition.

(11.) Richard Curie, The Last Twelve Years of Joseph Conrad (1928), p. 96.

(12.) W. W. Greg defined "[A] distinction between the significant, or as I shall call them 'substantive,' readings of the text, those namely that affect the author's meaning or the essence of his expression, and others, such in general as spelling, punctuation, word-division, and the like, affecting mainly its formal presentation, which may be regarded as the accidents, or as I shall call them 'accidentals,' of the text" ("The Rationale of Copy-Text," Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950/51), p. 21.)

(13.) Conrad's reference to 'an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences' implies that repeated attempts may be necessary to hit upon the right formulation. In the case of An Outcast, the absence of any typescripts--particularly a revised typescript--means that we do not have access to these repeated attempts.

(14.) See the brief discussion of this in J. H. Stape, "The Texts," The New Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 387-93.

(15.) For instance, not all under-punctuation is deliberate. Often, and the typescripts offer compelling proof, Conrad's punctuation in manuscript was seemingly provisional and resulting from hasty inscription. To say that he intended always to create, randomly, breathtaking and patently wrong rhythms is untenable. The truth, then, must lie--in the case of An Outcast, anyway--midway between the manuscript version and the printed one.

(16.) In his Autobiography, Mark Twain enforces this principle: he reproduces verbatim a letter by his daughter, insisting that its incorrect pointing be preserved because its idiosyncrasy is much more expressive and inseparable from the words themselves. (Life as I find It: A Treasury of Mark Twain Rarities, ed. Charles Neider [2000], 190).

(17.) No house-style guide is preserved among the Unwin firm's papers at the Surrey History Centre, Guildford.

(18.) This does not exclude the possibility of hasty composition. Maugham's punctuation in his MS can appear clumsy at times and his indifference to syntax might well betray the concern of someone striving to put thoughts down on paper, concerned with juxtaposing them one after another, with no regard, at this early, creative stage, for the niceties of punctuation.

(19.) Mary Gifford Belcher, "A Critical Edition of Joseph Conrad's An Outcast of the Islands,"' Texas Tech University, 1981. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, pp. 445-6.

(20.) Comparable examples of transposition--and editorial attempts to address this--occur elsewhere. For example, in Almayer's Folly (1994) editorial policy is at some points to reverse manuscript forms (47.4, 47.27), at others to accept them (77.18, 127.8).
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Author:Simmons, Allan H.
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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