Saturday, June 7, 2008

inconceivable tenuity

Joseph Conrad to Edward Garnett

29th Sept 1898

I got back today. Nothing decisive happened in Glasgow, my impression however is that a command will come out of it sooner or later--most likely later, when the pressing need is past and I had found my way on shore. I do not regret having gone. Mclntyre is a scientific swell who talks art, knows artists of all kinds--looks after their throats, you know. He has given himself a lot of trouble in my interest and means to hammer away at it till I do get something.

All day with the ship-owners and in the evening dinner, phonograph, X rays, talk about the secret of the Universe and the nonexistence of, so called, matter. The secret of the universe is in the existence of horizontal waves whose varied vibrations are at the bottom of all states of consciousness. If the waves were vertical the universe would be different. This is a truism. But, don't you see, there is nothing in the world to prevent the simultaneous existence of vertical waves, of waves at any angles; in fact there are mathematical reasons for believing that such waves do exist. Therefore it follows that two universes may exist in the same place and in the same time--and not only two universes but an infinity of different universes--if by universe we mean a set of states of consciousness. And, note, all (the universes) composed of the same matter, matter, all matter being only that thing of inconceivable tenuity through which the various vibrations of waves (electricity, heat, sound, light etc.) are propagated, thus giving birth to our sensations--then emotions--then thought. Is that so?

These things I said to the Dr while Neil Munro stood in front of a Rontgen machine and on the screen behind we contemplated his backbone and his ribs. The rest of that promising youth was too diaphanous to be visible. It was so--said the Doctor--and there is no space, time, matter, mind as vulgarly understood, there is only the eternal something that waves and an eternal force that causes the waves--it's not much--and by the virtue of these two eternities exists that Corot and that Whistler in the dining room upstairs (we were in a kind of cellar) and Munro's here writings and your Nigger* and Graham's politics and Paderewski's playing (in the phonograph) and what more do you want?

What we wanted (apparently) was more whisky. We got it. Mrs Mclntyre went to bed. At one o'clock Munro and I went out into the street. We talked. I had read up the Lost Pibroch** which I do think wonderful in a way We foregathered very much indeed and I believe Munro didn't get home till five in the morning. He turned up next day and burned incense before me, and saw me into the train after a dinner at the Art Club (not to speak of the whisky).

This is the true and faithful report of our gestes in Glesga. I returned to the bosom of my family at 1 pm today and wrote to Hueffer at once to clinch the matter (there's no matter) of Pent Farm (which is only a vain and delusive appearance). I hope I may get it. If I don't I shall vanish into space (there's no space) and the vibrations that make up me, shall go to the making of some other fool.

I feel less hopeless about things and particularly about the damned thing called the Rescue. Tomorrow I write but this evening I feel nervy. When I feel sure of Pent Farm I shall be comparatively happy.

If we get fixed there you must come and stay with us a good long time when your wife is in France. This is what I am looking forward to now. Look ever forward, ever forward. What a sell! For me to look forward is folly--but then it's good. Don't you throw cold water on my vision. There's no reason why you should. We shall work. By heavens and earth we shall work!

We three send our love to you three.
Ever yours
Joseph Conrad

*He refers to his own book The Nigger of the Narcissus .
**The Lost Pibroch and other Sheiling Stories by Neil Munro ( 1896), this author's first collection.
-from Letters from Joseph Conrad 1895-1924 edited with introduction and notes by Edward Garnett (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill) p.142-44.

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