CONRAD (JOSEPH) Autograph letter signed ("Joseph Conrad"), to Mrs Bontine, Pent Farm, 25 November 1899
Lot 191
Autograph letter signed ("Joseph Conrad"), to Mrs Bontine, 'LORD JIM WHICH IS MY LAST (AND LASTING) ANXIETY', Pent Farm, 25 November 1899
£8,000 - 12,000
US$ 11,000 - 16,000

Lot Details
Sold on behalf of the heirs of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham
Autograph letter signed ("Joseph Conrad"), to Mrs Bontine, paying her tribute: "You have the gift of kind words, of words that reach one in the depth of mental solitude, of discouragement, of mistrust. It looks like the blackest ingratitude that I should have delayed so long my thanks for your praise of Lord Jim which is my last (and lasting) anxiety. I've not as yet finished that story. The volume including that one, the Heart of D'ss and Youth shall come out in March if the Fates are propitious. It shall come out and but for you – Robert – a friend here and there I would feel it shall disappear about that date. Yet I am a fortunate man for I have just the appreciations I care for"; he begins by apologising for his remissness in not answering her kind and most welcome letter and telling her he has received a letter from her son: "I've just hear from dear Robert. He wrote from Granada. t makes me really happy to know that in the middle of his occupations he finds time to think of me. If envy is the sincerest form of admiration thee I do envy him. There's no man to envy more" ("...He tells me of hiss intention to go south again, so I do not answer his letter now. I expect to have the happiness (ceci n'est pas une phrase) of seeing him on his return..."); ending by assuring her that "I can't tell you how grateful I am for every letter you deign to write" and subscribing himself "your most faithful and obedient servant", 4 pages, headed paper, 8vo, Pent Farm, 25 November 1899


  • 'LORD JIM WHICH IS MY LAST (AND LASTING) ANXIETY' – CONRAD STARTS WORK ON LORD JIM AS A COMPANION-PIECE TO YOUTH AND HEART OF DARKNESS – "I've not as yet finished that story. The volume including that one, the Heart of D'ss and Youth shall come out in March if the Fates are propitious". The first instalment of what at this stage he planned to be short story, 'Lord Jim: A Sketch' (it would later become Lord Jim: A Tale), had been the lead feature of Blackwood's Magazine the month before, taking the reader up to the end of Chapter 4: 'Perhaps it would be after dinner, on a verandah draped in motionless foliage and crowned with flowers, in the deep dusk speckled by fiery cigar-ends. The elongated bulk of each cane-chair harboured a silent listener. Now and then a small red glow would move abruptly, and expanding light up the fingers of a languid hand, part of a face in profound repose, or flash a crimson gleam into a pair of pensive eyes overshadowed by a fragment of an unruffled forehead; and with the very first word uttered Marlow's body, extended at rest in the seat, would become very still, as though his spirit had winged its way back into the lapse of time and were speaking through his lips from the past'. The November issue was to run Chapter 5.

    Conrad's statement that "I've not as yet finished that story" refers both to Lord Jim and, in terms of publication, The End of the Tether. For in the event it was to be the latter that was to make up the third of the trio, with Youth and Heart of Darkness, published in 1902 to form the composite volume, Youth: a Narrative, and Two Other Stories. Owen Knowles, Cambridge editor of the trio explains what happened: 'With "Youth" and "Heart of Darkness" already written in 1899, [Conrad] assumed that a short story in progress with the provisional title of "Jim, a Sketch" would join these two works, so forming a trio of Marlow tales, with a number of thematically linked "foils and notes"... This plan was later overtaken by events (and the collection delayed) when it became clear that the sketch was burgeoning into a full-length novel and would have to be published separately as Lord Jim. Needing a new third story, Conrad composed "The End of the Tether" at a relatively late stage and under pressure to meet the volume's publication deadline of November 1902' (Youth, Heart of Darkness, The End of the Tether, 2010, Introduction, pp. xvii-viii). The revised contract with William Blackwood specifying Lord Jim be published as a separate volume was to be signed the following May, with the completed book appearing in 1900.
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