CONRAD (JOSEPH) Autograph letter signed ("Jph Conrad"), to the Hon Mrs Bontine, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham's mother, Pent Farm, 12 January 1899
Lot 190
CONRAD (JOSEPH)
Autograph letter signed ("Jph Conrad"), to the Hon Mrs Bontine, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham's mother, CONRAD WRITES FROM THE HEART OF DARKNESS, Pent Farm, 12 January 1899
Sold for £9,375 (US$ 14,564) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sold on behalf of the heirs of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham
CONRAD (JOSEPH)
Autograph letter signed ("Jph Conrad"), to the Hon Mrs Bontine, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham's mother, thanking her for a volume of Maupassant's verses: "The man is a great artist who sees the essential in everything. He is not a great poet – perhaps no poet at all, yet I like his verses, I like them immensely"; and asking after her son: "Today – also from your kindness I received the Chronicle with Robert's letter. C'est bien ça – c'est bien lui! Is he London now? I have it on my conscience that I did not reply to his last letter. I couldn't. A fit of silence. I had too much to say perhaps – and perhaps – nothing. Je deviens bête – et sauvage"; and asking pardon for "this hurried scrawl": "I am finishing in a frightful hurry a story for B'wood and it's an immense effort"; subscribing himself "Your most faithful and obedient servant"; with the original envelope (inscribed "Joseph Conrad R.I.P"), 4 pages, printed heading, 8vo, Pent Farm, 12 January 1899

Footnotes

  • 'A FIT OF SILENCE. I HAD TOO MUCH TO SAY PERHAPS – AND PERHAPS – NOTHING. JE DEVIENS BÊTE – ET SAUVAGE': CONRAD WRITES FROM THE HEART OF DARKNESS, while in the final agonies of finishing his masterpiece ("...in a frightful hurry... it's an immense effort..."), which was to be published in Blackwood's Magazine in three instalments, in February (a special anniversary double issue), March and April 1899.

    Only one other letter by Conrad relating to Heart of Darkness is recorded as having been sold at auction by ABPC, namely the six-page letter, written after the event, so to speak, on 3 December 1902 to Elsie Hueffer, purchased by the late Stanley J. Seeger at the Maurice F. Neville sale, Sotheby's. New York, 13 April 2004, lot 30 ($80,000), and resold in Part I of the Seeger Conrad Library Sale, Sotheby's, London, 10 July 2013, lot 46 (£22,000).

    Although ours does not aspire to the analytical content of the letter to Elsie Hueffer, that cry – echoing Captain Kurtz at first hand, almost, made by Conrad from the depths of his creation – " Je deviens bête – et sauvage" – is unforgettable and brings us in an almost tangible way close to the dark heart of the book.
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