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

The New Cambridge Text of Victory

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

The New Cambridge Text of Victory

Article excerpt

For Owen Knowles and Allan H. Simmons, with gratitude

A Scholarly Generation Ago, one could talk with some confidence, and even rather blithely, of "the text" of a novel or a poem or any other work of literature or piece of writing. We now know that these situations are often more complicated than that, with "the text" becoming "texts." Still, for all the recent excitement about "versions," few critics are likely to afford the time required to take into consideration the plethora of materials that, in certain cases, exist for a given work. It is in light of this practical reality that the critical edition has, and no doubt will continue to have, its uses and justification. Yet another "version," a scholarly edition is more accessible than widely scattered (and expensive to obtain) archival materials and synthesizes the surviving evidence. Aimed at providing the scholar and advanced general reader with a reliable text, it takes into account a given work's textual history and the creative and production processes that went into its making and dissemination.

The Cambridge Edition of Joseph Conrad has had this goal from its inception, in the late 1970s, when the late Bruce Harkness and the late S. W. Reid, ambitiously foresaw the replacement of Conrad's varyingly corrupt and defective standard texts. The first editions and Doubleday's "Sun-Dial" and Heinemann's Collected Edition were finally seen for what they were and at last were to be retired. Armed with principles established by major textual theorists - in particular, Greg, Bowers, and Tanselle - Reid, Harkness, and their successors embarked upon a bold and exhaustive (and exhausting) scholarly endeavour that is only now yielding a greater understanding among literary critics that Conrad has been ill-served, sometimes singularly so, by the texts in circulation during his lifetime and since.

There are, of course, still critics not especially exercised by textual issues, content to grab a dog-eared and shabby paperback from their shelves for teaching or for a citation. And there are others content with general statements about the "approval" Conrad gave to his first editions. As it turns out, that approval is more often than not an illusion, based upon unexamined assumptions. The textual complexities of the individual works are, in such cases, dealt with by a rapid, and selfcontented, wave of the hand. As the work of the Cambridge Edition testifies, Conrad deserves better.

The Fraught Case of Victory

First published a century ago in four forms - first in New York in Munsey's Magazine and by Doubleday, Page & Company and then in England in the London Star and by Methuen & Co., Ltd. - Victory exists in several print versions.1 Of preprint materials, the holograph manuscript (the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin), two corrected typescripts (at the Philadelphia Free Library (TS1)) and in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library (TS2)), and authorially corrected proofs survive (Firestone Library, Princeton University).2

The existence of so many forms necessarily complicates the editorial task, but the line of descent is straightforward: it goes from the manuscript through the two typescripts, although Conrad also, as variants show, revised in pages (whether manuscript or typescript is unknown) that do not survive, so that the second typescript at points is not an exact transcription of the first.

As it turns out, the second typescript, prepared through Pinker, was heavily edited by several editors at the Frank A. Munsey Company; and it is the text in that document, a seriously compromised one, that formed the basis for the first American edition, from which all subsequent book editions descend, with the Doubleday's revise proofs going to England and providing copy for Methuen. Thus, the first English edition descends from the first American one; and descending from Methuen, Heinemann's Collected Edition, is, to speak loosely, a close cousin. …

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