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Meyer, B.C. (1964). Psychoanalytic Studies on Joseph Conrad—Iv. the Flow and Ebb of Artistry. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 12:802-824.

(1964). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 12:802-824

Psychoanalytic Studies on Joseph Conrad—Iv. the Flow and Ebb of Artistry

Bernard C. Meyer, M.D.

IN CLOSING his perceptive and thoughtful study of Conrad, Moser (25) observes: "It is indeed difficult to conquer the impulse to find greatness in all the works of a man we sense to be great." Yet in the interest of discriminating criticism it is surely an impulse which should be resisted: not all of Beethoven is sublime and some of Shakespeare is quite dull. Indeed, it requires no great knowledge of the world or its inhabitants to come to the conclusion that even the Supreme Creator had his off moments.

A comparable unevenness in the quality of Conrad's literary art has been apparent to discerning readers almost from the very inception of his career. Nor was Conrad himself unaware of the fluctuations of his own artistry, for he made no secret of his diverse opinions of his work. It should be emphasized, however, that the artist is not always the best judge of his art, nor can public acclaim be taken as a gauge of quality, for popularity and success are sometimes generated by considerations far removed from the recognition of aesthetic merit. Indeed, Conrad's arrival at the frontier of fame followed the publication in 1913 of Chance(5b), a book which for many critics is an inferior work, and one which ushered in a phase of relatively unrelieved mediocrity that continued and increased until his death in 1924.

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