Joseph Conrad.—This son of distinguished Polish exiles from Russia, Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski, as he was originally named, was born in the Ukraine, in 1857. Until his nineteenth year he was unfamiliar with the English language. Instead of following the literary or military traditions of his family, he joined the English merchant marine. Sailing the seas of the world, touching at strange tropical ports and uncharted islands, elbowing all the races of the globe, hearing all the languages spoken by man,—such were Conrad’s activities between his twentieth and thirty-seventh years.
[Illustration: JOSEPH CONRAD.]
At thirty-seven, needing a little rest, he settled in England and began to write. Short stories, novels, and an interesting autobiographical volume, A Personal Record (1912), represent Conrad’s production. Among his ablest books are Tales of Unrest (1898), a volume of sea stories, and Lord Jim (1900), a novel full of the fascination of strange seas and shores, but still more remarkable for its searching analysis of a man’s recovery of self-respect after a long period of remorse for failure to meet a momentary crisis. Youth, A Narrative, and Two Other Tales (1902), contains one of Conrad’s strongest stories, The End of the Tether. This is a tender story of an old sea captain, who for the sake of a cherished daughter holds his post against terrific odds, including blindness and disgrace. Typhoon (1903) is an almost unrivaled account of a ship’s fight against mad hurricanes and raging seas.
One of Conrad’s prime distinctions is his power to visualize scenes. The terror, beauty, caprice, and mercilessness of the sea; the silence and strangeness of the impenetrable tropical forest; atmospheres tense with storm or brilliant with sunshine,—these he records with strong effect. But though he has gained his fame largely as a chronicler of remote seas and shores, his handling of the human element is but little less impressive.
Conrad’s method is unusual. Though his sentences are sufficiently direct and terse, his general order of narration is not straightforward. He often seems to progress slowly at the start, but after the characters have been made familiar, the story proceeds to its powerful and logical conclusion.
Arnold Bennett.—Bennett was born in Hanley, North Staffordshire, in 1867. He studied law, but abandoned it to become for seven years an editor of Woman, a London periodical. In 1900 he resigned this position to devote himself entirely to literature. He went to France to live, and began to write novels under the influence of the French and Russian realistic novelists.