Academic journal article The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)

Three Unpublished Conrad Letters

Academic journal article The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)

Three Unpublished Conrad Letters

Article excerpt

THE THREE UNPUBLISHED LETTERS printed below emerge from the daily routines of the writer's working-life: the first one, an undated note to his agent J. B. Pinker, is characteristically concerned with business matters; the other two - of 1917 and 1920 - are written to fulfil requests for autographs, penned by the "eminent" writer whose signature (whether on scraps of paper or in signed copies of his books) was now highly sought after by collectors.


The first brief letter appeared for sale at RR Auctions in Amherst, New Hampshire on 16 May 2012 and sold for $9247 Written to J. B. Pinker on a blank sheet of paper (5x8 ins), Conrad's note carries no address and is dated only "Sat." Although notes of this kind are notoriously difficult to date, in this case the formal address "My dear Mr Pinker" is unusual and likely to belong to one of two different periods of Conrad's career - either 1901, during the first stage of the Conrad-Pinker connection, or 1912, when the severe two-year breach between the writer and his agent was beginning to heal.2

To J. B. Pinker

Text MS private hands; Unpublished


My dear Mr Pinker.

Thanks for the cheque. You will know what the enclosed means; I am altogether in the dark about it.


J. Conrad


The second letter appeared in a recent sale of "Fine Books & Manuscripts" by the New York firm of Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers. It was auctioned in the same lot as an etched portrait of Conrad undertaken in 1921 by the Canadian artist Richard George Mathews (1879-1955). At the sale, held in Boston on 18 November 2012,3 the joint lot fetched $650. The short note, written on Capel House stationery, accedes to a request for an autograph. Conrad's handwriting renders the addressee's name only partly legible, although it seems to read "Mr Parker."

To Mr Parker [?]

Text MS private hands; Unpublished

[letterhead:] Capel House

26 Jan)' '17

Dear Mr Pafrker]

I suppose this reply to your letter will answer your purpose, since it is a genuine autograph. I only regret it is so ugly, but I am too old now to improve my handwriting.

Yours faithfully

Joseph Conrad.


Thie third brief letter is dated 1920 and, with its accompanying envelope, was auctioned at Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles on 20 April 2011 for $1,952.4 As is mentioned in the note, the missive was written on an anonymous "scrap of paper" (5x8 ins) from Conrad's hotel in Deal, where he was on holiday, and is yet another response to a request for an autograph. …

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