CONRAD, Joseph. Autograph letter signed ("Joseph Conrad") TO HIS PUBLISHER T. FISHER UNWIN, written from "Ile-Grande, par Lannion, (Cotes-du-Nord)" on the Brittany coast, 9 April 1896. 8 PAGES, 8vo, in dark brown ink, slight fold creases.
"I SHALL REFORM -- BUT I SHALL NEVER, NEVER REPENT!"
A very fine and early letter, written two weeks after his marriage to Jessie, commenting on reviews of An Outcast of the Islands (his second novel, published 4 March 1896) and discussing his "third novel...The Rescuer" (not published until 1920). "...Some notices [of An Outcast of the Islands] have reached me. No doubt you have seen them and I often wonder what you think of them -- and of me. In my capacity as a novel-writer -- I mean. I, myself, don't know what to think, but suspect that the matter is not worth thinking about. According to the critical mind I am this and that, sublime or repulsive, Stevenson-like or Victor Hugo-like -- but nobody (I think) accused me of being commonplace, or prosy or dull in an everyday way. If I have bored these gentlemen, I have done so in an original manner of my own -- which may be an aggravation of the offence, but still -- in a sense -- is flattering to my amour-propre. Joking apart, I am glad to think that, whatever the financial result may be, I shall not be found altogether unworthy of the faith you have shown in me. One can not please everybody but I promise you that in my next I shall steer carefully clear of all my qualities and of some of my faults -- when perhaps, the merciful heaven will crown my efforts to please by a complete success."
"To that end I shall be as untrue to my emotions, as callous to my feelings -- as I have hitherto tried to be responsive and true. I piously hope that I shall succeed in squinting in the most approved fashion at nature and at men instead of looking at the world straight -- according to the dictates of my heart and the perspective of my mind -- as I (misguided ass) endeavoured to do till now. For my characters I shall take Angels of Light and Angels of Darkness instead of the common average sinners in whom (owing to my taste for low company) I have been interested to this day. I shall reform -- but I shall never, never repent!...my third novel has been begun. The title is going to be: The Rescuer. A tale of narrow waters. If the virtues of [Captain] Lingard [of the first two novels] please most of the critics they shall have more of them. The theme of it shall be the rescue of a yacht from some Malay vagabonds and there will be in it a gentleman and lady cut according to the regulation pattern. Everybody or almost everybody in the tale shall be virtuous and beautiful and highminded. And even the wicked people shall wash their faces in rose water and brush their hair smoothly before appearing in the rare chapters where their presence is absolutely indispensable. It is a story eminently fit for a mag: for family circulation. In that story nobody will swear -- teetotalism and other accomplishments shall be well to the fore, and nothing but the best cigars will be smoked. Do you think you could find a home for such a well connected story? Excuse my fooling..." The Rescuer caused Conrad great problems: work on it was stopped and restarted several times, and the novel was not published as a book until 1920 (as The Rescue); it was serialized the year before. Conrad's third novel would be The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897), which he also began writing on Ile-Grande. Not in Letters, ed. F.R. Karl and L. Davies, and apparently unpublished.