CONRAD, Joseph (1857-1924). Autograph manuscript, n.p., n.d. [?summer 1897], a proposal and synopsis for his novel The Rescue, here entitled 'The Rescuer. A Tale of Narrow Waters', two pages, 4to; in a slipcase.
The manuscript comprises three parts: a proposal for the writing of the story, which is to be in four parts, of which one is already written, the total length to be 'no more than 100,000 and no less than 90,000 words' (in an autograph note Conrad binds himself 'strictly only to what is underlined') and the completion date proposed as March 1898; the second section is the scenario of the story, which 'may be shortly characterised as Lingard's love story' - the protagonist is caught between his love for a European woman on a yacht and his loyalty to 'a Malay chief', who wishes the yachting party dead: his attempts to save them are frustrated by their mistrust of him; the third part is a discussion and justification of the story, maintaining that 'Only action shall be visible. I shall avoid analysis' and yet that the story 'shall be a romance nevertheless' and sketching the factual background in 'some incidents' of 1848, a stranded French brig of 1866 ('I had the story from her captain'), an influential friend of the ruler of Mataram and an incident of arms running in 1887-8 ('You may take my word for that'), insisting however that 'I am not writing secret history - only romance - and facts don't matter'.
The depiction of the emotional and moral dilemma of a man on the fringe of European society is as characteristic of Conrad's early fiction as is the grounding of the tale in personal information gleaned from his seafaring years and the setting out of optimistic deadlines for completion of the work. The protagonist, Captain Tom Lingard, had appeared in Almayer's Folly and An Outcast of the Islands in the preceding two years. Conrad had begun work on 'The Rescuer' in March 1896, and struggled with it unavailingly over the succeeding years. The present manuscript is likely to predate September 1897, when the title was changed to its eventual form of The Rescue, and may relate to the negotiation of the book rights with Heinemann in June 1897. The novel was eventually published only in 1920.