Tuesday, June 17, 2008

nervous force

Joseph Conrad to H. G. Wells

Pent Farm
30 Nov. '03.

My Dear H. G.,
Indeed I did not expect you in this awful weather, especially as Jessie reported you with a cold.

I was laid by the knee (this time) the day after we travelled up together. I did not feel particularly bright even then, or else I would have succumbed to your blandishments and stayed for a dinner and a chat in town.

Things are bad with me--there's no disguising the fact. Not only is the scribbling awfully in arrears but there's no "spring" in me to grapple with it effectually. Formerly in my sea life, a difficulty nerved me to the effort; now I perceive it is not so. However, don't imagine I've given up, but there is an uncomfortable sense of losing my footing in deep waters.

Romance's gone into 2nd ed: I hear. That, no doubt, does not mean much, but still it is better than any of my other books did do. Is Men in the Moon doing well for you--I mean really well? After all, my dear boy, for all our faith in our good intentions and even in our achievements, a paper success (as I call it) is not a strong enough tonic. I say so because for me, writing--the only possible writing--is just simply the conversion of nervous force into phrases. With you too, I am sure, tho' in your case it is the disciplined intelligence which gives the signal--the impulse. For me it is a matter of chance, stupid chance. But the fact remains that when the nervous force is exhausted the phrases don't come--and no tension of will can help.

Don't imagine I am grumbling. I had ten times the luck I deserved. All this talk is very stupid but it comforts me to worry you a little.

Our love to all your house. I am touched by Archer's Repentance (Would do as title for short story). It strikes me, my dear Wells, that, in your quiet, almost stealthy way, you are doing a lot for me; if it were not for you a lot of people would not know of my existence, anything palpable, and still less of my involved form of narrative. I will be delighted to meet Prof. York Powell. Don't forget to send to me Metchnikov's book. I am really curious to see that.

-from Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters edited by G. Jean-Aubry (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1927) p. 321.

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