Wednesday, June 18, 2008

four candles

Joseph Conrad to John Galsworthy

Pent Farm
1st Sept. 1904.

Dearest Jack!
Finished!* finished! on the 30th in Hope's house in Stanford in Essex, where I had to take off my brain that seemed to turn to water.

For a solid fortnight, I've been sitting up. And all the time horrible toothache. On the 27th had to wire for dentist (couldn't leave the work) who came at 2 and dragged at the infernal thing which seemed rooted in my very soul. The horror came away at last, leaving however one root in the gum. Then he grubbed for that till I leapt out of the chair. Thereupon old Walton said: "I don't think your nerves will stand any more of this."

I went back to my MS at six p.m. At 11:30 something happened--what it is, I don't know. I was writing, and raised my eyes to look at the clock. The next thing I know I was sitting (not lying) on the concrete outside the door. When I crawled in I found it was nearly one. I managed to get upstairs and said to Jessie: "We must be off to-morrow." I took 30 drops of chlorodyne,--and slept till 7. Sydney went off on his bike to Ashford at 8:30, and at 10 the motor car was in the yard: a 12 h.p. Darracq. I sat by the man's side like a corpse. Between Canterbury and Faversham he said to me, "You look ill, sir, shall I stop?" Sittingbourne I remember as a brandy and soda. Good road. Steady 24 miles an hour. In Chatham, street crowded, packed. Going dead slow knocked down a man,--old chap, apparently a bricklayer. Crowd around cursing and howling. Helped him to my front seat and I standing on step got him to the hospital in 10 minutes. No harm. Only shaken. Saw him all comfy in bed for the rest of the day.

In Rochester, Hope waiting for us. Had something to eat,--and tasted it too, for the first time in 10 days. On crossing the river, began to revive on the ferry. Jessie very good and Borys quite a man watching over Mama's "poor leg" and warning off porters with luggage. At five, in sight of Stanford-le-Hope Railway station, petrol gave out. Man ran on and ran back with two gallon tin.

That night I slept. Worked all day. In the evening dear Mrs. Hope (who is not used to that sort of thing) gave me four candles and I went on. I finished at 3. Took me another half-hour to check the numbering of the pages, write a letter to P. and so on.

I had not the heart to write to you that same night nor yet the next day. Wasn't sure I would survive. But I have survived extremely well. I feel no elation. The strain has been too great for that. But I am quite recovered and ready for work again. There can be no stoppage till end of November when the Sketches'll be finished.** And then, I fancy, something will have to be done to get away.

I was with Pinker yesterday talking matters over. If I had known your Hampstead address I would have wired you. There is wanting to the finish of this undertaking the sanction of your presence and voice.

Drop me a line. Come down if you can! But I hardly dare to suggest that.
I don't know how you are, how everybody is.
I'll write to you soon. Love from all.

** The Sea Sketches: viz: The Mirror of the Sea.
-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters edited by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1927) p. 333-35.

No comments: