The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Rescue, by Joseph Conrad
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Title: The Rescue
Author: Joseph Conrad
Release Date: January 9, 2006 [EBook #1712]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE RESCUE ***
Produced by Judy Boss and David Widger
A ROMANCE OF THE SHALLOWS
By Joseph Conrad
'Allas!' quod she, 'that ever this sholde happe! For wende I never,
by possibilitee, That swich a monstre or merveille mighte be!'
—THE FRANKELEYN'S TALE
TO FREDERIC COURTLAND PENFIELD LAST AMBASSADOR OF THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA TO THE LATE AUSTRIAN EMPIRE, THIS OLD TIME TALE IS GRATEFULLY
INSCRIBED IN MEMORY OF THE RESCUE OF CERTAIN DISTRESSED TRAVELLERS
EFFECTED BY HIM IN THE WORLD'S GREAT STORM OF THE YEAR 1914
PART I. THE MAN AND THE BRIG PART II. THE SHORE OF REFUGE PART III. THE CAPTURE PART IV. THE GIFT OF THE SHALLOWS PART V. THE POINT OF HONOUR AND THE POINT OF PASSION PART VI. THE CLAIM OF LIFE AND THE TOLL OF DEATH
Of the three long novels of mine which suffered an interruption, 'The Rescue' was the one that had to wait the longest for the good pleasure of the Fates. I am betraying no secret when I state here that it had to wait precisely for twenty years. I laid it aside at the end of the summer of 1898 and it was about the end of the summer of 1918 that I took it up again with the firm determination to see the end of it and helped by the sudden feeling that I might be equal to the task.
This does not mean that I turned to it with elation. I was well aware and perhaps even too much aware of the dangers of such an adventure. The amazingly sympathetic kindness which men of various temperaments, diverse views and different literary tastes have been for years displaying towards my work has done much for me, has done all—except giving me that over-weening self-confidence which may assist an adventurer sometimes but in the long run ends by leading him to the gallows.
As the characteristic I want most to impress upon these short Author's Notes prepared for my first Collected Edition is that of absolute frankness, I hasten to declare that I founded my hopes not on my supposed merits but on the continued goodwill of my readers. I may say at once that my hopes have been justified out of all proportion to my deserts. I met with the most considerate, most delicately expressed criticism free from all antagonism and in its conclusions showing an insight which in itself could not fail to move me deeply, but was associated also with enough commendation to make me feel rich beyond the dreams of avarice—I mean an artist's avarice which seeks its treasure in the hearts of men and women.
No! Whatever the preliminary anxieties might have been this adventure was not to end in sorrow. Once more Fortune favoured audacity; and yet I have never forgotten the jocular translation of
The truth is that when 'The Rescue' was laid aside it was not laid aside in despair. Several reasons contributed to this abandonment and, no doubt, the first of them was the growing sense of general difficulty in the handling of the subject. The contents and the course of the story I had clearly in my mind. But as to the way of presenting the facts, and perhaps in a certain measure as to the nature of the facts themselves, I had many doubts. I mean the telling, representative facts, helpful to carry on the idea, and, at the same time, of such a nature as not to demand an elaborate creation of the atmosphere to the detriment of the action. I did not see how I could avoid becoming wearisome in the presentation of detail and in the pursuit of clearness. I saw the action plainly enough. What I had lost for the moment was the sense of the proper formula of expression, the only formula that would suit. This, of course, weakened my confidence in the intrinsic worth and in the possible interest of the story—that is in my invention. But I suspect that all the trouble was, in reality, the doubt of my prose, the doubt of its adequacy, of its power to master both the colours and the shades.
It is difficult to describe, exactly as I remember it, the complex state of my feelings; but those of my readers who take an interest in artistic perplexities will understand me best when I point out that I dropped 'The Rescue' not to give myself up to idleness, regrets, or dreaming, but to begin 'The Nigger of the 'Narcissus'' and to go on with it without hesitation and without a pause. A comparison of any page of 'The Rescue' with any page of 'The Nigger' will furnish an ocular demonstration of the nature and the inward meaning of this first crisis of my writing life. For it was a crisis undoubtedly. The laying aside of a work so far advanced was a very awful decision to take. It was wrung from me by a sudden conviction that