By John G.
Peters, University of North Texas
Keith Carabine, ed. Lives
of Victorian Literary Figures
Joseph Conrad:Joseph Conrad, Henry Rider Haggard and
Rudyard Kipling by their Contemporaries. 3 vols. Series Editor:
Ralph Pite. Volume Editors: Keith Carabine, Tom Hubbard, and Lindy
Stiebel. London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, 2009. 1,376
It is not surprising after his fine four-volume
collection, Joseph Conrad: Critical Assessments (1992),
that Keith Carabine would produce yet another excellent collection
in his volume of Lives of Victorian Literary Figures. In
this case, Carabine has published a collection of early commentary,
reminiscences, and other relevant materials on Conrad in this three-volume
This lengthy collection consists of facsimile reprints
as well as newly typeset pieces, and Carabine divides the volume
into twenty sections of varying length; these sections include,
for instance, ‘Early English and Polish Responses to Conrad,"
‘Conrad, Food and Money," "Saving Conrad from Himself,"
Publicizing Conrad in America," "Claiming Conrad for Poland,"
"Conrad at Oswalds," and ‘Documenting Conrad." Each section
contains between one to six articles or excerpts related to the
title of the section, along with an extended and highly informative
introduction to each section.
In addition, a bibliography of primary and secondary
texts, a detailed chronology, and an informative and lengthy introduction
prefaces the volume as a whole. The collection is followed by numerous
relevant and extremely helpful notes to the texts.
Among the selections appearing this volume are Hugh
Clifford's ‘The Genius of Mr Conrad," Robin Douglas's "My
Boyhood with Conrad," Richard Curle's ‘The Last of Conrad,"
Lady Ottoline Morrell's "Joseph Conrad: An Impression," Alfred
A. Knopf's "Joseph Conrad: The Romance of His Life and Books,"
as well as extracts from Ford Madox Ford's Joseph Conrad: A
Personal Remembrance, Bertrand Russell"s The Autobiography
of Bertrand Russell, J. Sutherland"s At Sea with Joseph
Conrad, and Borys Conrad's My Father: Joseph Conrad.
Overall, this collection is a very useful and well-done
addition to Conrad studies. The notes and introductions by themselves
make the volume worthwhile, and the selections themselves bring
together in a single volume numerous commentaries, both more and
less well known, that make for an easy reference for those researching
Conrad in the context of his time and in the eyes of those who knew
My only reservations concerning this collection
are in the actual production process itself. Placing facsimile reproductions
next to newly typeset pieces is jarring to the eye. Somewhat more
important, though, is the production quality of at least two of
the selections: T. P. O'Connor's "A Book of the Week," which
is difficult to read because of the poor quality of the reproduction,
and William Rothenstein's "Genius at the Turn of the Century,"
whose text is askew at the margins on several pages. In the case
of O'Connor's piece this is probably the best quality reproduction
available, since the photocopy was likely taken from microfilm,
but given the fuzziness of the text in many places, this selection
would have been a good candidate for being typeset anew.
Less understandable is the quality of the reproduction
of the Rothenstein piece. Given the wide circulation of the Atlantic
Monthly (from which the piece was taken), surely a better copy
was available. The copy in my own university library is perfectly
readable, with no text askew.
At the very least, this selection as well could
have been re-typeset for this volume if a better photocopy could
not be had. One other minor inconvenience lies in the lack of in-text
indications for notes. One must refer to the back of the volume
to look to see what information has been annotated from any particular
This is not an unknown practice, but it is somewhat
more cumbersome than superscripted numbers or symbols indicating
an associated note or footnotes at the bottom of the pages. Of course,
in-text indications would be impossible with the facsimile reprints,
but perhaps using footnotes rather than endnotes would have been
a reasonable compromise. Nevertheless, these are minor inconveniences
in an otherwise excellent collection that certainly belongs in any
good library collection.
© 2009 John G. Peters