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

Foreword

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

Foreword

Article excerpt

After nearly two decades in the literary marketplace, Conrad finally caught the book-buying public's mood with the publication of Chance in March 1914. A vigorous advertising campaign by his American publishers, Doubleday, Page & Company of New York, resulted in sales of over 20,000 copies in the United States in its first seven months (CL5 427). Even more astonishing is the fact that 13,000 copies were sold in Britain during the first two years of the War. The novel's success ushered in a final decade in which financial reward would at last reflect the professional recognition that had long attended his writings and by this time had earned Conrad the status of the Grand Old Man of English Letters.

Chance initially appeared in the "Women's Pages" of the New York Heralds "Sunday Maga2ine" from January to June 1912, preceded by aggressive marketing that included a full-page article on Conrad with a headline proclaiming that the "Author of the Sea" was now writing "Especially for Women." Doubleday's own promotion effort was led by the young and energetic Alfred A. Knopf.

In the wake of the trio of political novels that spanned the Edwardian period, Chance initiated something new in Conrad's work. The tension between its male narrators and female central subject, and its homage both structural and declared to Dickens, ushered in the experiments with tone and generic form that would persist through Victory (1915) and The Shadow-Tine (1917). Contextually, what Conrad called his novel "about a girl and with a steady run of references to women in general all along" (CT5 208) was attuned to the spirit of the age, offering its own contribution to the social debate that would have practical consequences, in Britain in 1918, in the first Representation of the People Act (another would follow a decade later extending the franchise further, to women over the age of 21) and across the Adantic two years later in the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which provided: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The novel resonates with the era's attitudes, habits, and vocabulary.

In dealing with power relationships, Chance continues the exploration of the more explicidy "political" novels, even if it is not traditionally grouped with them. …

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