Joseph Conrad | Hugh Walpole | *Non-fiction | Speaking Book | English | 2/2

the poet chapters 1 2 & 3 of Joseph Conrad by Hugh Walpole this LibriVox recording is in the public domain the poet chapter 1 the poet in Conrad is lyrical as well as philosophic the lyrical side is absent in certain of his works as for example the secret agent and under Western eyes or such short stories as the informer or ill Conde but the philosophic note sounded poetically as an instrument of music as well as a philosophy is never absent three elements in the work of Conrad the poet as distinct from Conrad the novelist deserve consideration style atmosphere and philosophy in the matter of style the first point that must strike any constant reader of the novels is the change that is to be marked between the earlier works and the later here is a descriptive passage from Conrad's second novel and outcasts of the islands quote he followed her step by step till at last they both stopped facing each other under the big tree of the enclosure the solitary exile of the forests great motionless and solemn in his abandonment left alone by the life of Ages that had been pushed away from him by those pygmies that crept at his foot towered high and straight above their leader he seemed to look on dispassionate and imposing in his lonely greatness spreading his branches wide in a gesture of lofty protection as if to hide them in the sombre shelter of innumerable leaves as if moved by the disdainful compassion of the strong by the scornful pity of an aged giant to screen this struggle of two human hearts from the cold scrutiny of glittering stars end quote and from his latest novel chance quote the very sea with short flashes of foam bursting out here and there in the gloomy distances the unchangeable safe sea sheltering a man from all passions except its own anger seemed queer to the quick glance he threw to windward when they already effaced horizon traced no reassuring limit to the eye in the expiring diffused Twilight and before the cloud at night dropped his mysterious veil it was the immensity of space made visible almost palpable young Powell felt it he felt it in a sudden sense of his isolation the trustworthy powerful ship of his first acquaintance reduced to a speck to something almost undistinguishable the mere support for the soles of his two feet before that unexpected old man becoming so suddenly articulate in a darkening universe end quote it must be remembered that the second of these quotations is the voice of Marlowe and that therefore it should in necessity be the simpler of the two nevertheless the distinction can very clearly be observed the first piece of prose is quite definitely lyrical it has it cannot be denied something of the purple patch we feel that the prose is too dependent upon sonorous adjectives that it has the deliberation of work slightly affected by the author's determination that it shall be fine the rhythm in it however is as deliberate as the rhythm of any poem in English the picture evoked as distinct and clear-cut as though it were in actual fact a poem detached from all context and finally there is the inevitable philosophical implication to give the argument to the picture such passages of descriptive prose may be found again and again in the earlier novels and tales of Conrad in all Myers folly tales of unrest the nigger of the narcissus typhoon youth part of darkness Lord Jim prose piled high with sonorous and slow-moving adjectives three adjectives to a noun prose that sounds like an Eastern invocation to a deity in whom nevertheless the suppliant does not believe at its worse the strain that it sonority places upon movements and objects of no importance is disastrous for instance in the tale called the return there is the following passage quote he saw her shoulder touched the lintel of the door she swayed as if dazed there was less than a second of suspense while they both felt as if poised on the very edge of moral annihilation ready to fall into some devouring nowhere then almost simultaneously he shouted come back and she let go the handle of the door she turned round in peaceful desperation like one who has deliberately thrown away the last chance of life and for a moment the room she faced appeared terrible and dark and safe like a grave in Toth the situation here simply will not bear the weight of the words moral annihilation devouring nowhere peaceful desperation last chance of life terrible like a grave that he shouted gives a final touch of ludicrous exaggeration to the whole passage often in the earlier books Conrad style has the awkward overemphasis of a writer who is still acquiring the language that he is using like a foreigner who shouts to us because he thinks that thus we shall understand him more easily but there is also in this earlier style the marked effect of two influences one influences that of the French language and especially of the author of Madame Bovary when we recollect that Conrad hesitated at the beginning of his career as to whether he would write in French or English we can understand this French inflection flow bares effect on his style is quite unmistakable this is a sentence of flow bears too to say varieties de de nigra mo long wanna say aunt sue lapu easy to roll ki long they he say a entren a ver long parlays young-do personage el Tasha de South figura sabe set the retin-a santa extraordinaire splendide and this is a sentence of Conrad's her hands slipped slowly off lingard shoulders and her arms fell by her side Liz less discouraged as if to her to her the savage violent and ignorant creature had been revealed clearly in that moment the tremendous fact of our isolation of the loneliness impenetrable and transparent elusive and everlasting Conrad's sentence reads like a direct translation from the French it is probable however that his debt to flow Belle and the French language can be very easily exaggerated and it does not seem in any case to have driven very deeply into the heart of his form the influence is mainly to be detected in the arrangement of words and sentences as though he had in the first year of his work used it as a crutch before he could walk alone the second of the early influences upon his style is a far greater importance the influence of the vast unfettered elements of nature that he had for so many years so directly served if it were not for his remarkable creative gift that had been from the very first at its full strength his early books would stand as purely lyrical avocations of the sea and the forest it is the poetry of the Old Testament of which we think in many pages of all Myers folly and an outcast of the islands a poetry that has the rhythm and meter of a spontaneous emotion he was never again to catch quite the spirit of that first rapture he was under the influence of these powers also in that at that time they were too strong for him we feel with him that he is impotent to express his wonder and praise because he is still so immediately under their sway his style in these earlier books has the repetition and extended phrase of a man who is marking time beef or the inspired moment comes to him often the inspiration does not come because he cannot detach himself with sufficient pause and balance but in his middle period in the period of Youth typhoon art of darkness and Nostromo this lyrical impulse can be seen at its perfection beating steadily spontaneously with the finest freedom and yet disciplined as it were by its own will and desire compare for a moment to this passage from typhoon with that earlier one from the outcasts of the islands that I quoted above quote he watched her battered and solitary labouring heavily in a wild scene of mountainous black waters lit by the gleam of distant worlds she moved slowly breathing into the still core of the hurricane the excess of her strength in a white cloud of steam and the deep-toned vibration of the escape was like the defiant trumpeting of a living creature of the sea impatient for the renewal of the contest it ceased suddenly the still air moaned above Jake's head a few stars shone into the pit of black vapors the inky edge of the cloud disc frowned upon the ship under the patch of glittering sky the stars too seemed to look at her intently as if for the last time and the cluster of their splendour sat like a diadem on a lowering brow end quote that is poets work and poets work at its finest instead of impressing us as the earlier piece of prose with the fact that the author has made the very most of a rather thin moment feels indeed himself that it is then we are here under the influence of something that can have no limits to the splendors that it contains the work is thick as though it had been wrought by the finest workmen out of the heart of the finest material and yet it remains through all its discipline spontaneous these three tales typhoon youth and heart darkness stand by themselves as the final expression of Conrad's lyrical gift we may remember such characters asmik were Curt's Marlowe but they are figures as the old seneschal in the eve of st. agnus or the Ancient Mariner himself are figures they are as surely complete poems wrought and finished in the true spirit of poetry as Whitman's when lilac first in the dooryard bloomed or Keats as Nightingale their author was never again to succeed so completely in combining the free spirit of his enthusiasm with the disciplined restraint of the true artist the third period of his style shows him cool and clear-headed as to the things that he intends to do he is now the slightly ironic artist whose business is to get things onto paper in the clearest possible way he is conscious that in the past he has been at the mercy of sonorous and high sounding adjectives he will use them still but only to show them that they are at his mercy Marlow his appointed minister is older he must look back now on the colors of youth with an indulgent smile and when Marlow is absent in such novels as the secret agent and under Western eyes in such a volume of stories as a set of six the lyrical beat in the style is utterly abandoned we are led forward by sentences as grave as assured and sometimes as ponderous as a city policeman nevertheless in that passage from chance quoted at the beginning of the chapter although we may be far from the undisciplined enthusiasm of an outcasts of the islands the lyrical impulse still remains yes it is there but young Powell felt it in that magical storm that was typhoon God alone can share our terror and demand our courage in the later experience young Powell is our companion the poet chapter two the question of style devolves here directly into the question of atmosphere there may roughly be said to be four classes of novelists in the matter of atmosphere there is the novelist who intent upon his daily bread or game of golf has no desire to be worried by such a perplexing business he produces stories that might without loss play the whole of their action in the waiting room of an English railway station there is the novelist who thinks that atmosphere matters immensely who works hard to produce it and does produce it in thick slabs there are the novelists whose theme character and background react so admirably that the atmosphere is provided simply by that reaction and there finally it is left put into no relation with other atmospheres serving no further purpose than the immediate one of stating the facts of this school are the realists and in our own day mr. Arnold Bennett's brightened background in hilda ellis ways or mrs. Wharton's New York background in the House of Mirth offer most successful examples of such realistic work the fourth class provides us with the novelists who wish to place their atmosphere in relation with the rest of life our imagination is awakened intensively by the contemplation of some scene and is thence extended to the whole Vista of life from birth to death although the scene may actually be as remote or as confined as space can make it its potential limits are boundless its progression is extended beyond all possibilities of definition such a moment is the death of Bazarov in fathers and children the searching of dmitri in The Brothers Karamazov the scene at the theater in the ring in the book the London meeting between Beecham and Renee and Beecham's career it is not only that these scenes are done to the full extent of their doing it is also that they have behind them the lyrical impulse that unites them with all the emotion and beauty in the history of the world to gain EF das es ki Braun Meredith were amongst the greatest of the poets Conrad at his highest moments is also of that company but it is not enough to say that this potential atmosphere is simply lyrical mr. Chesterton in his breathless Victorian age in literature has named this element glamour in writing of the novels by George Eliot he says indeed there is almost every element of literature accept a certain indescribable thing called glamour which was the whole stock-in-trade of the Bronte's which we feel in Dickens when quilt clambers amid rotten wood by the desolate River and even in Thackeray when Edmund wanders like some swarthy crow about the dismal avenues of Castle wood now this matter of glamour is not all because Dickens for instance is not at all potential his pictures of Quilp or the house of the deadlocks or Jonas Chuzzlewit escape after the murder do not put us into touch with other worlds but we may say at any rate that when in a novel atmosphere is potential it is certain also to have glamour the potential qualities of Conrad's atmosphere are amongst his very strongest gifts and if we investigate the matter we see that it is his union of romance and realism that gives such results of almost no important scene in his novels is it possible to define the boundaries in the outcasts of the islands when villains is exiled by Captain lingard the terror of that forest has at its heart not only the actual terror of that immediate scene Manute ly and realistically described it has also the terror of all our knowledge of loneliness desolation the power of something stronger than ourselves in Lord Jim the contrast of Jim with the officers of the Patna is a contrast not only immediately vital and realized to the very fringe of the captain's gay and soiled pajamas but also potential to the very limits of our ultimate conception of the eternal between good and evil degradation and vigor ugliness and beauty in the nigger of the narcissus the death of the Negro James weight immediately affects the lives of a number of very ordinary human beings whose friends and intimates we have become but that shadow that traps the feet of the Negro that alarms the soles of Donkin of Belfast of singleton of the boy Charlie creeps also to our sides and envelopes for us far more than that single voyage of the narcissus when Winnie vert lock her old mother and the boy Stevie take their journey in the cab it does not seem ludicrous to us that the tears of that large female in a dark dusty wig and ancient silk dress thus tuned with dingy white cotton lace should move us as though mrs. Verloc were our nearest friend that mournful but courageous journey remains in our mind as an intimate companion of our own mournful and courageous experiences such examples might be multiplied quite indefinitely he has always secured his atmosphere by his own eager curiosity about significant detail but his detail is significant not because he wishes to impress his reader with the realism of his picture but rather because he is like a very small boy in a strange house pursuing the most romantic adventures for his own pleasure and excitement only we may here with many novelists the click of satisfaction with which they drive another nail into the framework that supports their picture now see how firmly it stands they say that last nail settled it but Conrad is utterly unconscious as to his readers later credulity he is too completely held by his own amazing discoveries sometimes as in the return when no vision is granted to him it is as though he were banging on a brass tray with all his strength so that no one should perceive his own grievous disappointment at his failure but in his real discoveries how the atmosphere piles itself up around and about him how we follow at his heels penetrating the darkness trusting to his courage finding ourselves suddenly blinded by the blaze of Aladdin's cave if he is tracing the tragedy of villains and all Meyer a tragedy that has for its natural background the gorgeous heavy splendor of those unending forests he sees details that belong to the austerity and most sharply disciplined realism we see lecomba asleep under the moon slapping himself in his dreams to keep off the mosquitoes a blue bottle comes buzzing into the veranda above the dirty plates of a half-finished meal and defies lingard and ohlmeyer so that they are like men disheartened by some tremendous failure the cards with which lingard tries to build a house for all Meyers baby are a dirty double pact with which he used to play Chinese Bezique it bored Oh Meyer but the old seaman delighted in it considering it a remarkable product of Chinese genius the atmosphere of the terrible final chapters is set against the picture of a room in which mrs. villains is waiting for her abominable husband quote bits of white stuff rags yellow pink blue rags limp brilliant and soiled trailed on the floor lay on the desk amongst the sombre covers of books soiled greasy but stiff-backed in virtue perhaps of their European origin the biggest set of bookshelves was partly hidden by a petticoat the waistband of which was caught upon the back of a slender book pulled a little out of the row so as to make an improvised clothes bag the folding canvas bedstead stood anyhow parallel to no wall as if it had been in the process of transportation to some remote place dropped casually there by tired bearers and on the tumbled blanket that lay in a disordered heap on its edge Johanna sat through the half-open shutter a ray of sunlight arrey merciless and crude came into the room beat in the early morning upon the safe in the far-off corner then traveling against the Sun cut at midday the big desk in – with its solid and clean edged brilliance with his hot brilliance in which a swarm of flies hovered in dancing flight over some dirty plate forgotten there amongst yellow papers for many a day and quote and this room is said in the very heart of the forests the forests unattainable enigmatical forever beyond reach like the stars of heaven and as indifferent had I space I could multiply from every novel and tale examples of this creation of atmosphere by the juxtaposition of the lyrical and the realistic the lyrical pulse beating through realistic detail and transforming it I will however select one book a supreme example of this effect what I say about Nostromo may be proved from any other work of Conrad's the theme of Nostromo is the domination of the silver of the swallow mine over the bodies and souls of the human beings who live near it the light of the silver shines over the book it is typify dye the white head of Higuita rising majestically above the blue Conrad then in it choosing his theme has selected the most romantic possible the spirit of silver treasure luring men on desperately to adventure and to death his atmosphere therefore is in its highest lights romantic even until that last vision of all of the bright line of the horizon overhung by a big white cloud shining like a mass of solid silver Sulaco burns with colour we can see as though we had been there yesterday those streets with the coaches great family rx weighed on high leathern springs full of pretty powdered faces in which the eyes look intensely alive and black the houses in the early sunshine delicate Primrose pale pink pale blue or after dark from mrs. gules balcony towards the plaza end of the street the glowing coals and the arrows of the market women cooking their evening meal glowed red along the edge of the pavement a man appeared without a sound in the light of a street lamp showing the colored inverted triangle of his broidered poncho square on his shoulders hanging to a point below his knees from the harbour end of the calle a horseman walked his soft steppin mount gleaming silver gray abreast each lamp under the dark shape of the rider later there is that sinister glimpse of the plaza where patrol of cavalry rode round and round without penetrating into the street which resounded with shouts and the strumming of guitars issuing from the open doors of Papa Ria's and above the roofs next to the perpendicular lines of the cathedral towers the snowy curve of Higuera Alta locked a large space of darkening blue sky before the windows of the intendancy ax in its final created beauty silico is as romantic as coloured as one of those cloud topped many towered towns under whose gates we watch Grimm's princes and princesses passing but the detail of it is built with careful realism demanded by the architecture of Manchester or Birmingham we wonder as sulukule grows familiar to us as we realize its Cathedral its squares and streets and houses its slums its wharves its sea is hills and forests why it is that other novelists have not created towns for us Anthony Trollope did indeed give a spar Chester but bar Chester is a shadow beside Sulaco mr. Thomas Hardy's Wessex map is the most fascinating document in modern fiction with the possible exception of Stevenson's chart in Treasure Island Conrad without any map at all gives us a familiarity the small town on the South American coast that for excels our knowledge of bar searcher Wessex and John Silver's treasure if any attentive reader of Nostromo were put down in Sulaco tomorrow he would feel as though he had returned to his native town the detail that provides this final picture is throughout the book incessant but never intruding we do not look back when the novel is finished to any a special moment of explanation or introduction we have been led quite unconsciously forward we are led at moments of the deepest drama through rooms and passages that are only remembered many hours later in retrospect there is for instance the aristocratic Club that extended to strangers the large hospitality of the cool big rooms of his historic quarters in the front part of a house once a residence of a high official of the Holy Office the two wings shut up crumbled behind the nailed doors and what may be described as a grove of young orange trees grown in the unpaved patio concealed the utter ruin of the back part facing the gate you turned in from the street as if entering a secluded orchard where you came upon the foot of a disjointed staircase guarded by a ma stained effigy of some saintly Bishop mitre dad staffed and bearing the indignity of a broken nose meekly with his fine stone hands crossed on his breast the chocolate colored faces of servants with mops of black hair peeped at you from above the click of billiard balls came to your ears and ascending the steps you would perhaps see in the first Sawa very stiff upon a straight-backed chair in a good light don't be moving his long moustaches as he spelt his way at arm's length through an old Santa Marta newspaper his horse a strong hearted but persevering black brute with a hammer head you would have seen in the street dozing motionless under an immense saddle with its nose almost touching the curb stone of the sidewalk how perfectly recollected is that passage can we not hear the exclamation of some reader yes those orange trees it was just like that when I was there how convinced we are of Conrad's unimpeachable veracity how like him are those remembered details the nailed doors the fine stone hands at arm's length and can we not sniff something of the author's impatience to let himself go and tell us more about that hammer-headed horse of whose adventures with Don Peppe he must remember enough to fill a volume he is able therefore upon this foundation of amanoot and scrupulous realism to build as fantastic a building as he pleases without fear of denying truth he does not in Nostromo at any rate choose to be fantastic but he is romantic and our final impression of the silver mine and the town under its white shining shadow is of something both as real and as beautiful as any vision of Keats or Shelley but with the color we remember also the grim tragedy of the life that has been shown to us near to the cathedral and the little tinkering streets of the guitars were the last awful struggles of the unhappy Hirsch we remember Nostromo writing with his silver buttons catching the red flower flung to him out of the crowd but we remember also his death and the agony of his defeated pride so t o the vainest and most sorted of bandits is no figure for a fairy tale here then is the secret of Conrad's atmosphere he is the poet working through realism to the poetic vision of life that intention is at the heart of his work from the first line of all Meyers folly to the last line of victory Nostromo is not simply the history of certain lives that were concerned in a South American Revolution it is that history but it is also a vision a statement of beauty that has no country nor period and sets no barrier of immediate history or fable for its interpretation when however we come finally to the philosophy that lies behind this creation of character and atmosphere we perceive beyond question certain limitations the poet Chapter three as we have already seen Conrad is of the firm and resolute conviction that life is too strong too clever and too remorseless for the sons of men it is as though from some high window looking down he were able to watch some Shore from whose security men were forever launching little cockleshell boats upon a limitless and angry sea he observes them as they advance with confidence with determination each with his own sure ambition of nailing victory to his mast he alone can see that the horizon is limitless he can see farther than they from his height he can follow their fortunes they're brave struggles their fortitude to the very last he admires that courage the simplicity of that faith but his irony Springs from his knowledge of the inevitable end there are we may thankfully maintain other possible views of life and it is surely Conrad's harshest limitation that he should never be free from this certain obsession of the vanity of human struggle so bound as he by this that he is driven to choose characters who will prove his faith we can remember many fine and courageous characters of his creation we can remember no single one who is not for doomed to defeat Jim wins indeed his victory but at the close and that's the end he passes away under a cloud inscrutable at heart forgotten Unforgiven and excessively romantic he goes away from a living woman to celebrate his pitiless wedding with a shadowy ideal of conduct Conrad's ironical smile that has watched with tenderness the history of Jim's endeavors proclaims at the last that that pursuit has been vain as vain as Stein's butterflies and for the rest as mr. Correll in his study of Conrad has admirably observed every character is faced with the enemy for whom he is by character least fitted Nostromo whose heart's desire it is that his merits should be acclaimed before men is devoured by the one dragon to whom human achievements are nothing lust of treasure mcwhirter the most unimaginative of men is opposed by the most tremendous of God's splendid terrors and although he saves his ship from the storm so blind as he to the meaning of the things that he has witnessed that he might as well have never been born captain Brierly watching the degradation of a fellow creature from a security that nothing it seems can threaten is himself caught by that very degradation the beast in the jungle is waiting ever ready to leap the victim is always in his power it comes from this philosophy of life that the qualities in the human soul that Conrad most definitely admires are blind courage and obedience to duty his men of brain Marlow decode Stein our melancholy and ironic if you see far enough you must see how hopeless the struggle is the only way to be honestly happy is to have no imagination and because Conrad is tender at heart and would have his characters happy if possible he chooses men without imagination those are the men of the sea whom he has known and loved the men of the land see farther than the men of the sea and must therefore be either fools or knaves towards captain Anthony towards captain lingard he extends his love and pity for vert Locke for us upon for old de barro he has a disgust that is beyond words for the finds and their brethren he has contempt for two women of the land when he vert Locke and mrs. Gould he reserves his love and for them alone but they have in their hearts the simplicity the honesty of his own sea-captains this then is quite simply his philosophy it has no variation or relief he will not permit his characters to escape he will not himself try to draw the soul of a man who is stronger than fate his ironic melancholy does not for an instant hamper his interest that is as keen and acute as is the absorption of any collector of specimens but at the end of it all as with his own Stein he says of him that he is preparing to leave all this preparing to leave while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies utterly opposed is it from the philosophy of the one English writer whom in all other ways Conrad most obviously resembles Robert Browning as philosophers they have no possible ground of communication save in the honesty that is common to both of them as artists both in their subjects and their treatment of their subjects they are in many ways of an amazing resemblance although the thorough investigation of that resemblance would need far more space than I can give it here Browning's interest in life was derived on the novelist side of him from his absorption in the affairs spiritual and physical of men and women on the poet's side in the question again spiritual and physical that arose from those affairs Conrad has not Browning's clear-eyed realization of the necessity of discovering the individual philosophy that belongs to every individual case he is – immediately enveloped in his one overwhelming melancholy analysis but he has exactly that eager passionate pursuit of romance a romance to be seized only through the most accurate and honest realism Browning's realism was born of his excitement at the number and interest of his discoveries he chose for instance in sordello the most romantic of subjects and having made his choice found that there was such a world of realistic detail in the case that in his excitement he forgot that the rest of the world did not know quite as much as he did is not this exactly what we may say of Nostromo mr. Chesterton has written of browning he substituted the street with a green blind for the faded garden of Watteau and the blue spurt of a lighted match for the monotony of the evening star Conrad has substituted for the lover serenading his mistress's window the passion of a middle-aged faded woman for her idiot boy or the elopement of the daughter of a fraudulent speculator with an elderly taciturn sea captain the characters upon whom Robert Browning lavishes his affection are precisely Conrad's characters is not wearing Conrad's man and for the rest is not mr. sludge own brother to vert lock and old de barrel Bishop blue gram first cousin to the great personage in the secret agent Captain Anthony brother to cap'n Sashi mrs. Gould sister to Pompey Lea it is not only that browning and Conrad both investigate these characters with the same determination to extract the last word of truth from the matter not grimly but with a thrilling beat of the heart it is also that the worlds of these two poets are the same how deeply would Nostromo discord Gould mana ham the vert locks Florida Bear Olmec were Jim have interested browning Shirley Conrad has witnessed the revelation of Caliban of child Roland of James Lee's wife of the figures in the audit so tragedy even of that Bishop who ordered his tomb at st. practices Church with a strange wonder as though he himself had assisted at these discoveries finally the ring in the book with its multiplied witnesses its statement as a case of life its pursuit of beauty through truth the simplicity of the characters of Pompey Lea Cap'n Sachi and the Pope the last frame appeal of Guido the detail encrusted thick in the walls of that super building here we can see the highest pinnacle of that temple that has chance Lord gem Nostromo amongst its other turrets buttresses and towers Conrad is his own master he has imitated no one he has created as I have already said his own planet but the heights to which browning carried romantic realism showed the author of all Myers folly the signs of the road that he was to follow if as has often been said browning was as truly novelist as poet may we not now say with equal justice that Conrad is as truly poet as novelist and of the poet chapters 1 2 & 3 romance and realism chapters 1 2 & 3 of Joseph Conrad by Hugh Walpole this LibriVox recording is in the public domain romance and realism chapter 1 the terms romance and realism have been used of late years very largely as a means of escape from this business of the creation of character the purely romantic novel may now be said to be in England at any rate absolutely dead mr. Franks Winterton in his study of Robert Louis Stevenson said Stevenson reviving the never very prosperous romance of England created a school which has brought romance to be the sweepings of an old costume chest if romance is to be conventional in a double sense if it's spring not from a personal vision of life but is only a tedious virtuosity a pretence a conscious toy romance as an art is dead the art was jaded when read finished his vociferous carpet beating but it was not dead and if it is dead Stevenson killed it we may differ very considerably for mr. Swinton with regard to his estimate of Stevenson's present and future literary value without denying that the date of the publication of st. Ives was also the date of the death of the purely romantic novel but surely here as mr. Swinton himself infers the term romantic is used in the limited and truncated idea that has formed lately the popular idea of romance in exactly the same way the term realism has recently been most foolishly and uncritically handicapped romance in its modern use covers everything that is removed from reality I like romances we hear the modern reader say because they take me away from real life which I desire to forget in the same way realism is defined by its enemies as a photographic enumeration of unimportant facts by an observant pessimist I like realism admirers of a certain order of novel exclaim because it is so like life it tells me just what I myself see every day I know where I am nevertheless impatient though we may be of these utterly false ideas of romance and realism a definition of those terms that will satisfy everyone is almost impossible I cannot hope to achieve so exclusive and ambition I can only say that to myself realism is the study of life with all the rational faculties of observation reason and reminiscence romance is the study of life with the faculties of imagination I do not mean that realism may not be emotional poetic even lyrical but it is based always upon truth perceived and recorded it is the essence of observation in the same way romance may be indeed must be accurate and defined in its own world but its spirit is the spirit of imagination working often upon observation and sometimes simply upon inspiration it is at any rate understood here that the word romance does not for a moment imply a necessary divorce from reality nor does realism imply a detailed and dusty preference for morbid and uh Nagri about subjects it is possible for romance to be as honestly and clearly perceptive as realism but it is not so easy for it to be so because imagination is more difficult of discipline than observation it is possible for realism to be as eloquent and potential as romance although it cannot so easily achieve eloquence because of its fear of deserting truth moreover with regard to the influence of foreign literature upon the English novel it may be suggested that the influence of the French novel which was at its strongest between the years of 1885 and 1895 was towards realism and that the influence of the Russian novel which has certainly been very strongly marked in England during the last years is all towards a romantic realism if we wished to know exactly what is meant by romantic realism such a novel as The Brothers Karamazov such a play as the Cherry Orchard are there before us as the best possible examples we might say in a word that Karamazov has in the England of 1915 taken the place that was occupied in 1890 by Madame Bovary romance and realism chapter 2 it is Joseph Conrad whose influence is chiefly responsible for this development in the English novel just as in the early 90s mr. Henry James and mr. Roger Kipling the one potential the other kinetic influenced beyond all contemporary novelists the minds of their younger generation so today 25 years later to mr. Joseph Conrad and mr. HG Wells the one potential the other kinetic hold that same position Joseph Conrad from the very first influenced though he was by the French novel showed that realism alone was not enough for him that is to say that in presenting the case of all Meyer it was not enough for him merely to state as truthfully as possible the facts those facts sorted as they are make the story of all Meyers degradation sufficiently realistic when it is merely recorded and perceived by any observer but upon these recorded facts Conrad's imagination without for a moment deserting the truth worked beautifying ennobling it giving it pity and terror above all putting it into relation with the whole universe the whole history of the cycle of life and death as I have said the romantic novel in its simplest form was used very often by writers who wish to escape from the business of the creation of character it had not been used for that purpose by Sir Walter Scott who was indeed the first English Romantic realist but it was so used by his successors who found a little optimism a little venture a little color and a little tradition go a long way towards covering the required ground Conrad had from the first a poets that is to say a romantic mind and his determination to use that romance realistically was simply his determination to justify the full play of his romantic mind in the eyes of all honest men in that intention he has absolutely succeeded he has not abated one jot of his romance Nostromo lured gem heart of darkness are amongst the most romantic things in all our literature but the last charge that any critic can make against him is falsification whether a facts of inference or of consequence the whole history of his development has for its Keystone this determination to save his romance by his reality to extend his reality by his romance he found in English fiction little that could assist him in this development the Russian novelists were to supply him with his clue this whole question of Russian influence is difficult to define but that Conrad has been influenced by Turgenev a little and by Dostoyevsky very considerably cannot be denied Crime and Punishment the idiot the possessed the Brothers Karamazov are romantic realism at the most astonishing Heights that this development of the novel is ever likely to attain we will never see again heroes of the Prince Myshkin dmitry karimov Soth and nicholas stavrogin build men so real to us that no change of time or place age or sickness can take them from us men so beautifully lit with the romantic passion of Dostoyevsky's love of humanity that they seem to warm the whole world as we know it with the fire of their charity that power of creating figures typical as well as individual has been denied to Conrad Captain Anthony Nostromo Jim do not belong to the whole world nor do they escape the limitations and confinement that their presentation as Kay cases involves on them moreover Conrad does not love humanity he feels pity tenderness admiration but love except for certain of his see heroes never and even with his see heroes it is love built on his scorn of the land Dostoevsky scorned no one and nothing as relentless in his pursuit of the truth as Stendhal or flow Barre he found humanity as he investigated it beautiful because of its humanity Conrad finds humanity pitiable because of its humanity nevertheless he has been influenced by the Russian writer continuously and sometimes obviously in at least one novel under Western eyes the influence has led to imitation for that reason perhaps that novel is the least vital of all his books and we feel as though Dostoevsky had given him resume off to see what he could make of him and had remained to overwhelmingly curious and onlooker to allow independent creation what however Conrad has in common with the creator of Raskolnikov is his thrilling pursuit of the lives the hearts the minutest details of his characters Conrad alone of all English novelist shares this zest with the great Russian Dostoyevsky found his romance in his love of his fellow beings Conrad finds his in his love of beauty his poets cry for color but their realism they find together in the hearts of men and they find it not as flow Barre that they make of it a perfect work of art not ester ganya that they may extract from it a flower of poignant beauty not as Tolstoy that they may from it found a gospel simply they pursue their quest because the breathless interest of the pursuit is stronger than they they have both of them created characters simply because characters demanded to be created we feel that Emma Bovary was a dragged painfully arduous Lea against all the strength of her determination out of the shades where she was Myshkin the Kerimov soft sand in their own degree Nostromo all meyer McClure demanded that they should be flung upon the page instead of seizing upon romance as a means of avoiding character he has triumphantly forced it to aid him in the creation of the lives that through him demand existence this may be said to be the great thing that Conrad has done for the English novel he has brought the zest of creation back into it the French novelist used life to perfect their art the Russian novelist used art to liberate their passion for life that at this moment in Russia the novel has lost that zest that the work of Cupra rtbf Zola goob Marat jet ski and Wraith shows exhaustion and sterility means nothing the stream will soon run full again meanwhile we in England know once more what it is to feel in the novel the power behind the novelist to be ourselves in the grip of a force that is not afraid of romance nor ashamed of realism that cares for life as life and not as a means of proving the necessity for form the danger of too many adjectives the virtues of the divorce laws or the paradise of free love romance and realism chapter 3 finally what will be the effect of the work of Joseph Conrad upon the English novel of the future does this romantic realism that he has provided for us show any signs of influencing the future I think that it does in the work of all the more interesting younger English novelists in the work of mr. Ian Forrester mr. D H Lawrence mr. JD Beresford mr. W L George mr. Franks Winterton mr. Gilbert Canaan miss viola mono mr. Bret young this influence is to be detected even with such avowed realists as mr. Beresford mr. George and mr. Swinton the realism is of a nature very different from the realism of even ten years ago as can be seen at once by comparing so recent a novel as mr. swinger turns on the staircase with mr. Arno Bennett's sacred and profane love or mr. Gauls were these man of property and mystery EM Forster is a romantic realist of most curious originality whose longest journey and Howards End may possibly provide the historian of English literature with dates as important as the publication of all Meyers folly in 1895 the answer to this question does not properly belong to this essay it is at any rate certain that neither the old romance nor the old realism can return we have been shown in Nostromo something that has the colour of Treasure Island and the reality of new grub Street if on the one hand the pessimist lament that the English novel is dead that everything that can be done has been done there is surely on the other hand some justification for the optimists who believe that at few periods in English literature has the novel shown more signs of a thrilling and original future for signs of the possible development of Conrad himself when may glance for a moment at his last novel victory the conclusion of chance and the last volume of short stories had shown that there was some danger lest romance should divorce him ultimately from reality victory splendid tale though it is does not entirely reassure us the theme of the book is the pursuit of almost helpless uprightness and innocence by almost helpless evil and malignancy that is to say that the strength and virtue of heist and the Lena are as elemental and independent of human will and effort as the villainy and slime of mr. Jones and Ricardo Conrad has here then returned to his old early demonstration that nature is too strong for man and I feel as though in this book he had intended the whole affair to be blown finely sky-high by some natural volcanic eruption he prepares for eruption and when for some reason or another that elemental catastrophe is prevented he consoles himself by strewing the beach of his Island with the battered corpses of his characters it is in such a wanton conclusion following as it does immediately upon the finest strongest and most beautiful thing in the whole of Conrad the last conversation between heist and Lina that we see this above-mentioned divorce from reality we see it again in the more fantastic characteristics of mr. Jones and Ricardo in the presence of the orangutan and in other smaller and less important effects at the same time his realism when he pleases as in the arrival of the boat of the thirst Madan trio on the island Beach is as magnificent in its austerity and truth as ever it was will he allow his imagination to carry him wildly into fantasy and in credibility he has not during these last years exerted the discipline and restraint that were once his law nevertheless at the last when one looks back over twenty years from the owe myers folly of 1895 to the victory of 1915 one realizes that it was for the english novel no mean or insignificant fortune that brought the author of those books to our shores to give a fresh impetus to the progress of our literature and to enrich our lives with a new world of character and high adventure end of romance and realism chapters 1 2 & 3 end of Joseph Conrad by Hugh Walpole

1 thought on “Joseph Conrad | Hugh Walpole | *Non-fiction | Speaking Book | English | 2/2

  1. Joseph Conrad | Hugh Walpole | *Non-fiction | Speaking Book | English | 2/2
    3: [00:00:00] – The Poet Chapters 1, 2, 3
    4: [00:40:57] – Romance And Realism 1, 2, 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *