Tuesday, June 3, 2008

a bedraggled, silly dove

Joseph Conrad to Edward Garnett

[February 2, 1898]

Dearest Garnett.
his is a free evening before I go into harness again to pull out of the mire, out of the slough of despond that damned and muddy romance.* I am getting on and it is very very bad. Bad enough I sometimes think to make my fortune.

The news I want you to know are:

1st. The Cranes have invited the lot of us man woman and child to stay with them ten days from 19th February and I've accepted, for I feel that if there is no break I will go crazy or go out altogether.

2nd. Harris keeps quiet like a man in hiding. Graham blasphemes and curses.

3rd. I've gone and done it. I write for the press ! ! ! ! ! I've sent to the Outlook an unconceivably silly thing about A. Daudet. "Words! words! words!" Apparently that's what they want. They asked for more. Today I've sent another silly thing about Kipling. It took me one and a half days to write 1500 words. I can do this kind of thing quicker than the muddy romance. Damn! I've lost the last shred of belief in myself. I simply dare not send you the MS. But ultimately I shall. It is unredeemed trash. Are you near enough to Crane to be invaded? My wife shall want to show the blessed baby to your wife. I hate babies. Will you manage to see me while I am there? Do you object to reading 100 pages of my handwriting? It feels like a lot of wheels in my head. Withdrawn.

I am sending you here a bit of the Sat. Rev. Symons criticising trans: of Annunzio mentions Kipling and myself as you can see.

Frankly--is the remark true?

That the Voynich book** sells does not surprise me. Some people will take it as an attack on the Popish religion. La betise humaine est capable de tout.

It is bad with me when the thought does not unfold itself easily when talking to a friend. I feel I am boring you with this letter and yet don't wish to stop. I can't say half the things I want to say.

I want to hear you speak--I do. I want to come in contact with your thought.

I am again thinking of attacking Pawling. Something must be done and that soon. With a book half written I can talk better to the man. He is a good fellow. I should not like him to curse the day he set eyes on me. If he feels so sure of Scribners why not accept my proposal on a business basis: Acquire from me my serial rights. The risk will be great enough to prove his good will and friendship anyhow. As to asking him to, plainly speaking, pension me I don't think I can. Moreover do you think he would care to keep a private author on the staff? I won't do anything without giving you information in time for a last word of advice. For after all you are the serpent and I am a bedraggled, silly dove.

Jess sends her love she intends to write tomorrow to your wife. Everybody here is in rude health at which I am sorry because of the enormous appetites which is so expensive and the stores running low at that.
Ever yours
JPH. Conrad.

*The Rescue.
**The Gadfly.

-from Letters from Joseph Conrad 1895-1924 edited with introduction and notes by Edward Garnett (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill) p.130-32.

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