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

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad

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

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad

Article excerpt

Lord Jim, edited by J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan II, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012 lvi + 577 pp. £75

Conrad's 'Lord Jim": A Transcription of the Manuscript, edited by J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan II Conrad Studies 5 Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010 xiii + 164 pp. euro36. $49

At the recent international conference held by the Joseph Conrad Society (UK) at Bath, a representative from Penguin Books revealed that Lord Jim is their second highest selling novel by Joseph Conrad, with only Heart of Darkness selling more (albeit many more). This bare statistic reveals the enduring popularity of the book, in many cases the story that first attracted us to Conrad. Since the Cambridge Edition of Conrad's works first hove into view, one has been waiting eagerly for the Lord Jim flag to fly from its masthead. Welcome then is this latest addition to the ranks.

A volume of such importance requires a comprehensive approach and this has been achieved, the "Contents" page indicating its scope. A necessarily lengthy introduction is divided into three main compartments - origins, sources and reception - and gives each of these areas the attention it deserves.

The "Origins" section is especially important, since these are more complex than with most novels, even Conrad's, and the section explores \Lord Jim's transition from "A Sketch" to Lord Jim: A Tale. The story formed another rescue from "The Rescuer," doomed to languish another twenty years before its completion, and was first conceived as another short story or novella to follow "Youth" and "Heart of Darkness" in Blackwood's Magazine, probably with the idea of it joining those stories in completing the Youth volume with Marlow as common narrator. If not a "baggy monster" in its final form, it was still far too long to share a volume with anything else and has generally remained a separate publication ever since.

The "Sources" section, besides citing the historical "Jeddah" incident that clearly sparked the pilgrim-ship sequence, also considers literary antecedents, Conrad's own experience, his reading and current events that occurred during the composition of the tale. All this is important to an understanding of the novel and, particularly, the attitude of the Europeans, specifically the British, with their emphasis on proper conduct and Jim seeming to be "one of us." "Reception" reveals an intriguing gamut of reactions to the book from D. H. Lawrence's complaint about it having a "snivelling purpose" (li) to the admiration of F. Scott Fit2gerald and others. Many of the later criticisms of the novel are shown to derive from the influence of various theorists or psychoanalysts popular at various times, including today. In some respects this part could be said to have a cautionary purpose, warning the reader of approaches to the text that are current now or have been followed in the past and encouraging an independent appraisal - which in itself testifies to the extensive scope of the work. To a significant degree, understanding Jim depends on our ability to understand ourselves.

In the light of its origins, it is not surprising that "The Growth of the Novel" forms an important part of an essay on "The Texts" that follows the story itself. This essay is meticulous in detailing the minutiae of challenges faced in attempting to produce a definitive edition - a goal that will never be achieved to everyone's satisfaction, I suspect. There are problems of punctuation caused by typos and faulty machines, for instance. It is a litde daunting to discover that some learned point in a thesis may have been induced by the vagaries of Jessie's typewriter. There are issues connected with serialisation and errors related to that initial publication, partly caused by Blackwood's house style. A misplaced comma here can result in a different meaning. The editors explain: "Liberating Conrad's prose from systematically applied house-styling restores to narrative passages the more free-flowing conversational rhythms that they have in his manuscript and that he presumably would have wished them to have, had he been able to circumvent the 'correctness' and conventionalizing imposed by his publisher" (369). …

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