this is the 210th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
A Conrad Argosy, works by Joseph Conrad. Introduction by William McFee, wood cuts by Hans Alexander Mueller, Doubleday, Doran & Company 1942 oversized ( 11½ x 8¾) hardcover
“I remember my youth, and the feeling that will never come back any more—the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort—to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows small, and expires—and expires too soon, too soon—before life itself. ”
– from “Youth”
Ah, Joseph Conrad writing of the sea! The quote above is, of course, from “Youth”. While the story is the narrative of Marlow, a young man on his first posting as a second mate on the doomed ship Judea, it is even more about the optimism and strength of youth, and in retrospect the sadness of it’s loss. While the ship suffers through storm, ramming, near fatal leakages and finally a slow, inexorable consumption by the burning of it’s cargo of coal, the young second mate embraces every challenge with the exuberance of youth and a growing awareness of his strength, his ability to survive and overcome.
Youth is the first work in this book, so I’ve commented on it, I’ll leave the rest for another time.
I’d read “Youth” and most of the works here before, but it had been so long I’d forgotten much about them. I spotted my paperback copy of “Youth”, “Heart of Darkness” and “The End of the Tether” a few months ago. I saw it and thought I want to read that. I’m glad I did, these works are good both as stories and on a deeper level as investigations into human nature and the unflagging spirit which can conquer the challenges of life.
But as I was reading “Youth” I got one of those itches in back of my mind and started scanning the shelves until on a shelf I spotted this book, A Conrad Argosy published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. It was my mother’s, and I know she read it several times. It knocked about the house throughout my own youth, and wound up on a shelf here. It’s not in particularly good shape though all the pages are there and the woodcuts are nice. I’m planning on reading some more in this, carefully. It’s been a long time since I read Conrad, but rereading “Youth” and “The Heart of Darkness” put me in the mood to continue on with his works, and why not, with this wonderful volume?
The table of contents:
- Introduction by William McFee
- Heart of Darkness
- The Nigger of the Narcissus
- Il Conde
- Gaspar Ruiz
- The Brute
- The Secret Sharer
- Freya of the Seven Isles
- The Secret Agent
- The Duel
- The End of the Tether
- The Shadow-Line
- A Personal Record
I must admit I’ve enjoyed reading about Conrad more than actually reading his books. But then, it’s been almost 50 years since I last read him, so perhaps that isn’t totally fair. He had an interesting friendship with Henry James, for instance, I read HEART OF DARKNESS and THE SECRET SHARER and LORD JIM back (way back) in the day, but the few times I’ve tried him since didn’t work for me.
Glad you enjoyed this.
Wow, that quote speaks to me.
I’m with Jeff. Conrad wrote some masterpieces like A HEART OF DARKNESS but reading his other work is a struggle for me. THE CONRAD ARGOSY really includes a lot of Conrad’s best work. They should have titled it: CONRAD’S GREATEST HITS!
I envy you that edition, Rick. And what a great quote. Makes me want to read Conrad again (after too many years adrift from him).
Matt, sometimes you don’t know what you have. I remember this on my mother’s bookshelves all the years I was growing up, and her reading it on occasion. I took it out about high school time and started reading Conrad — it may have been an assignment. The book has been used, it a little beat up, but not bad for it’s age.
I enjoyed re-reading “Youth” a lot.
That is a pretty decent collection you’ve got Rick! And about time I got back into Conrad, it’s been far too long – thanks 🙂
You may be surprised, Sergio, at how much you like his writing now. Sure, there are things to ignore, but he sure had a way with words.
There’s something about Slavs taking up English as their second language, in at least several notable cases, that lends their work an undeniable elegance. Whether we speak of Conrad, Nabokov or Budrys.
Well said, Todd. I’ve enjoyed them all.
Conrad is one of my favorites and I also have the CONRAD ARGOSY. It was my father’s copy and I’ve had it in my library for 60 years. I’ve read HEART OF DARKNESS at least a half dozen times.
Walker, it’s neat to hear someone else has a copy, who knows how many are still out there? The woodcuts are very nice, aren’t they.
Rick, out of curiosity I looked up A CONRAD ARGOSY on abebooks.com. They list 151 copies for sale from various bookstores. Prices ranging from $3.00 to $500 each. When it was published in 1942 it must have had a high print run.
Interesting. From it’s size it’s possible it was considered a gift / coffee table book and may have been, at the time, a popular gift.