Conrad in the British Museum Reading Room

By Michael, Marion C.; Daniell, Steven J. | Conradiana, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Conrad in the British Museum Reading Room


Michael, Marion C., Daniell, Steven J., Conradiana


Once a part of the Jean-Aubry estate, and now located at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, are Conrad's admission ticket to the Reading Room of the British Museum and twenty-one inscribed slips for requesting books, manuscripts, and maps. Signed by Conrad, the admission ticket permitted use of the Reading Room for the six-month period from 7 June until 7 December 1920. (1)

In the appendix to Angoisse, his French translation of Suspense, Jean-Aubry provides an explanation for the existence of twenty of these twenty-one request slips, along with his record of the titles listed on them:

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

   I had sent Joseph Conrad the completed library slips for these
   volumes to help him waste the least amount of time at the
   Library during his rare visits to London. After the writer's
   death, I found them totally unused except for two: the one for
   Marcellin Pellet's work Napoleon a l ile d'Elbe, and the one for
   Souvenirs et anecdotes de l' ile d'Elbe by Pons (de l'Herault).

      The proof that Joseph Conrad had examined these two French
   works at the British Museum Reading Room was furnished to me
   by notes in a notebook that figured, at the time of his death,
   among the writer's papers, notes taken in French and English,
   and in which, sometimes, the two languages converged. (349) (2)

No evidence disputes the claim that Jean-Aubry prepared the slips in advance for Conrad's use. The cursive is definitely not Conrad's. In preparing them, Jean-Aubry sometimes truncated titles and omitted bibliographic information, but in all except one instance, Wolseley's The Decline and Fall of Napoleon, provided press marks for Conrad's convenience in requesting books. The list below provides fuller information on each of the titles than Jean-Aubry provided, this acquired by matching the short titles with the fuller titles found in The British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1955. We could not locate either Firmin-Didot's Napoleon souverain de l'ile d'Elbe or Potocka's Memoires de la Comtesse Potocka-Wonsowicz, 1794-1820 in the General Catalogue, but were able to observe both volumes firsthand.

1. Correspondance de Napoleon avec le Ministre de la Marine, depuis 1804 jusqu'en avril 1815. Extrait d'un portefeuille de Saint-Helene. 2 tomes. Paris, 1837.

2. Fabry, J. B. G. [Jean-Baptiste-Germaine]. Itineraire de Buonaparte, depuis son depart de Doulevent, le 28 mars [1814], jusqu'a son embarquement a Frejus, dans la nuit du 28 au 29 le 28 avril; avec quelques details sur ses derniers moments a Fontainebleau, et sur sa nouvelle existence a Porto-Ferrajo; pour servir de suite a Regence a Blois. Paris, 1815. 111e edition, augmentee de quelques nouveaux details, et d'une description de l'ile d'Elbe. Paris, 1815.

3. Firmin-Didot, Georges. Pages d'histoire, la naissance du roi de Rome; l'affaire Maubreuil, Napoleon souvrain de l'ile d'Elbe. Firmin-Didot, et cie, Imprimeurs-Editeurs. Library of Paris [n. d.]

4. Foresi, Emanuele. Napoleone I. all' isola dell Elba. Firenze, 1884.

5. Gruyer, Paul. Napoleon, roi de l'ile d'Elbe. Ouvrage contenant vingt-quatre gravures hors texte. Paris, 1906.

6. The Island of Elba up to the Time of Napoleon. Portoferraio, 1914.

7. Lamartelliere, Jean-Henri-Ferdinande. Conspiration de Buonaparte contre Louis XVIII, Roi de France et de Navarre, ou relation de ce qui s'est passe depuis la capitulation de Paris du 30 mars 1814 jusqu'au 22 juin 1815, epoque de la seconde abdication de Buonaparte. Paris, 1915.

8. Monier, A. D. B. (Lieutenant de Grenadiers). Une Annee de la vie de l'empereur Napoleon, ou Precis historique de tout ce qui s'est passe depuis le 1er avril jusqu'au 21 mars. Deuxieme edition, 1815.

9. Napoleon a l'ile d'Elbe; chronique des evenements de 1814 et 1815, d'apres le Journal du Colonel Sir N. Campbell, le Journal d'un Detenu et autres documents inedits . …

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