Wednesday, June 11, 2008

confined in books

Joseph Conrad to H. G. Wells

Pent Farm
23rd Dec. 1898.

My Dear Wells,
We called yesterday by an act of inspiration, so to speak, and with the neglect of common civilities did so at 2:45 p.m., for which we were very properly punished by not finding you at home. We would have waited but we'd left the baby in the gutter (there was a fly under him tho') and the days are too short to allow of camping in a friend's drawing room. So we went despondently. And by the by, there was an Invisible Man (apparently of a jocose disposition) on your doorstep, because when I rang (modestly), an invisible finger kept the button down (or in, rather) and the bell jingling continuously to my extreme confusion (and the evident surprise of your girl). I wish you would keep your creations in some kind of order, confined in books or locked up in the cells of your brain, to be let out at stated times (frequently, frequently of course!) instead of letting them wander about the premises, startling visitors who mean you no harm--anyhow my nerves can't stand that kind of thing--and now I shan't come near you till next year. There!

Coming back we found your card. We haven't cards. We ain't civilized enough--not yet. But the wishes for the health, happiness and peace of you both I am writing down here in mine and my wife's name are formulated with primitive sincerity, and the only conventional thing about them is the time of their voicing prescribed by the superstitions of men. Thus are we the slaves of a gang of fools unable to read your work aright and unwilling to buy a single entire edition of any of mine. Verily they deserve to have the Heat-Ray turned upon them*--but I suppose it would be unseasonable just now. Conventions stand in the way of most meritorious undertakings.

Has Henley come down here after all? When you favour me with a missive let me know how he is, if you know.

*Allusion to The War of the Worlds.

-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters edited by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1927) p. 263.

No comments: