THE publication of Chance in January 1914 finally brought Joseph Conrad the popularity which had previously eluded him throughout his writing career, and the remaining decade of his life was spent in the sun of material prosperity and wide critical acclaim. No longer was he known only to the informed few, for he had become, as his extraordinary visit to America in 1923 showed, a literary lion, and compulsory copy for journalists who had never read a word of his work.
Sales of Chance were respectable rather than phenomenal, reaching some 13,000 copies in its first two years, but even this figure was three times greater than the sales of his previous novel Under Western Eyes, over a corresponding period. Moreover, a Britain at war could not have been, a very favourable market for such a structurally complex and demanding work as Chance, although its lack of any topical military reference was perhaps offset by the optimism of its 'happy ending', the only one in any of. Conrad's novels.
The success of Chance had been prophesied as early as 1905 by Ford Madox Ford, Conrad's friend and collaborator, who, after reading the first few pages of the story, had declared that it was 'something magnificent' and 'really like to do . . . the trick of popularity--this time'. Conrad himself had grave doubts about the book, calling it in 1911 a 'long (and stupid) novel', but there is much evidence that he deliberately aimed at popular success in the writing of Chance, and he told his agent, J. B. Pinker, in 1913 that 'it's the sort of stuff that may have a chance with the public.