Twenty New Conrad Letters to Sydney S. Pawling and Charles S. Evans

By Fachard, Alexandre | The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.), Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Twenty New Conrad Letters to Sydney S. Pawling and Charles S. Evans


Fachard, Alexandre, The Conradian : the Journal of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.)


THE FOURTEEN LETTERS by Joseph Conrad to Sydney S(outhgate) Pawling and his six letters to Charles S(eddon) Evans first published here were unknown at the time of publication of the final volume of The Collected Fetters of Joseph Conrad, Volume 9: Uncollected Tetters and Indexes in 2007. Preserved at the Random House archive, Rushden, Northamptonshire (hereafter "Random House"), the letters printed below follow the conventions and policies laid out in The Collected Tetters and appear by kind permission of the Estate of Joseph Conrad, by arrangement with Cambridge University Press. Biographical information on recipients well known in Conrad studies is not included or provided in summary fashion, details being available in The Collected Fetters and in standard scholarship such as the Oxford Reader's Companion to Joseph Conrad.

Conrad and Pawling

Sydney Pawling (1862-1922) began working at age fifteen for Mudie's Grculating Library, which had been founded by his uncle and guardian Charles Edward Mudie (1818-90) (St John 1990: 16). In 1893, aged thirty-one, and with a solid background in publishing, Pawling became full-time partner of the firm of William Heinemann {ibid., 14). Three years later, he met Conrad at a meeting set up by their mutual acquaintance Edward Garnett (Najder 2007: 233). Prior to that event, Garnett had prevailed on Pawling to show The Nigger of the 'Nardssus" to William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), the editor of the prestigious New Review, and also to consider it for book publication {ibid., 232). By the time Conrad met Pawling, the work's publication in both forms was virtually secured {ibid). Heinemann's would go on to publish Typhoon in 1903 and the English Collected Edition of Conrad's works in 1920-21 and 1926-27.

In the early days of their association, Conrad told Pawling: "It is the writing I love - not the selling" (5 November 1897; CL9 51). Pawling relieved him of this uncongenial task by securing the book rights to The Rescue in 1897 (Knowles 1990: 28) and continued to assist in the selling of his works even after 1900, when Pinker became Conrad's literary agent. However, Conrad's financial troubles - resulting from overspending and borrowing, combined with the poor sales of his (critically acclaimed) books and his inability to churn out saleable copy - precluded full delegation of economic matters to Pinker and Pawling. To provide for his wife and son, he also had to waste precious time negotiating the sale of his works on two continents1 and devising complicated financial rescue schemes, as when he proposed that Heinemann's subscribe to a life-insurance policy (see the letter of 7 June 1902 below) - a desperate trick on which he "dwelled" in those years (CL2 xxvi).

Until 1902, loans from friends and advances from his publishers and agent had barely kept Conrad afloat. But thereafter even these means became insufficient to clear his accumulated debts; to cover, from 1904, the medical bills for the numerous operations on his wife's knees and subsequent hospitalÍ2ation and treatments; and to repay "in one fell swoop" the overdraft of "Nearly £200!" inflicted upon him by the collapse of his bank, Watson & Co, in February 1904 (to Elsie Hueffer, 2 September 1904, CL3 160; Knowles 1990: 53). Pawling, again, came to the rescue, by prompting influential literati to appeal to grant-awarding bodies. The petitions of Edmund Gosse, the "official British man of letters" (Wells 1915: 76), secured Conrad a grant of £300 from the Royal Literary Fund in July 1902 (Najder 2007: 323) and another of £500, from the Royal Bounty Fund, in March 1905 (ibid., 354).

Turning out copy to provide for his family exceeded any hardships he had suffered, as Conrad told Pinker at the end of a twelve-hour day on 8 January 1902: "I have had to look death in the eye once or twice. ... It was nothing to what I have to go through now pen in hand" (CL2 371). Dealing with his multicultural heritage further complicated things. …

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