Conrad and Hamlin Garland: A Correspondence Recovered

By Knowles, Owen; Stape, J. H. | The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.), Autumn 2006 | Go to article overview

Conrad and Hamlin Garland: A Correspondence Recovered


Knowles, Owen, Stape, J. H., The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)


VOLUME EIGHT of The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad will introduce a name new to the list of Conrad's correspondents, that of the American novelist and writer (Hannibal) Hamlin Garland (1860-1940). A cache of letters in the Hamlin Garland Collection at the Doheny Memorial Library, University of Southern California, includes three from Conrad as well as a postcard, a further two written on Conrad's behalf by Lilian M. Hallowes, his secretary, and two from Jessie Conrad, along with a photograph of Oswalds and a signed photograph of Conrad (by Malcolm Arbudinot, taken in 1919). Printed here for the first time, the texts follow the conventions of The Collected Letters.

When Conrad and Hamlin Garland first met in the summer of 1922, Garland was a well-established figure on the American literary scene, having published prolifically as short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and poet. He also had a highly successful second career on the lecture circuit. Garland was also known in England, where his work first appeared in the early 1890s under the imprint of T. Fisher Unwin, Conrad's first publisher (Times, 14 November 1891: 9; 26 September 1892: 6).

Conrad had heard of Garland through Stephen Crane, a mutual friend who urged his compatriot to read The Nigger of the 'Narcissus" even as it was being serialized. Garland had befriended Crane early in the latter's career: Crane, who had interviewed the established writer in 1891, gratefully dedicated The Red Badge of Courage to the man who had advanced him the money to have it typed. Garland's statement to Crane "I was very glad to hear from you and from Conrad"1 suggests that Crane and Conrad penned a joint note, or that Conrad, at Crane's urging, wrote to Garland, most likely after a favourable reading of some of his work.

I

After an initial lack of enthusiasm for England on his first trip to the country in 1899 (Arvidson, ed. and comp. 1962: 22), Garland became an ardent Anglophile, making fairly regular visits. In the early 1920s, he even considered taking the route Henry James and Edith Wharton had in becoming an expatriate.

During his annual summer visits to London of 1922, 1923, and 1924, Garland actively sought to renew contact with or make the acquaintance of the most popular and successful writers on the English literary scene. The literary "lion-hunting" that began in 1922 was not simply casual: armed with letters of introduction, he was sniffing out material for a lecture on contemporary English writers and for a planned series of reminiscences and literary logs. As described by his biographer, the attentive Garland, notebook at the ready, was committed to playing the part of an eager Boswell in pursuit of several Johnsons (Holloway 1960: 267).

In the early summer of 1922, Garland arrived in London for six weeks for what was in part a book promotion tour, his Son of the Border (1917) and its sequel A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921), brought out by John Lane in the summer and early autumn, and the twelve-volume "The Border Edition" of his work then being published by Harper's in the United States and by Macmillan in Britain.2 He was riding the crest of a wave, A Daughter of the Middle Border having been awarded the Pulitzer Prize as the best biography of 1921 (Times, 25 August 1922: 11).

At the end of June 1922, he saw J. M. Barrie and Rudyard Kipling; he lunched with the Scottish playwright and drama critic William Archer in early July; and the day before he dined with John and Ada Galsworthy on 12 July, he had lectured to the English Speaking Union.3 Barrie advised Garland to ask Galsworthy for an introduction to Conrad (Holloway 1960: 264), advice apparendy taken, Conrad's reply of 22 July 1922 being a response to the American writer's initial approach. Despite feeling "very flat and dull" on finishing The Rover, Conrad looked forward to a visit from the Garland family after the turn of the month.

To Hamlin Garland

Text MS Doheny; Unpublished

[letterhead: Oswalds]

22. …

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