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Meyer, B.C. (1979). The Last Written Words of Joseph Conrad. Am. Imago, 36(3):275-286.

(1979). American Imago, 36(3):275-286


The Last Written Words of Joseph Conrad

Bernard C. Meyer, M.D.

A recent exhibition of manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York displayed an eleven and a half page handwritten essay by Joseph Conrad, entitled “Legends.” It had been found lying unfinished on his desk at the time of his death on Sunday, August 3rd, 1924. Suspecting that the writings of a man on the point of death might yield some indication of a premonition of his impending fate, I attempted to gain access to the article. Through the kind assistance of the curator, Mr. Herbert Cahoon, and with the assistance of Mrs. Louise Miller, I was given an opportunity to study the manuscript which, with its revision, differs significantly from the carefully edited version that was ultimately published in a slim volume called Last Essays. Of the two versions, the handwritten manuscript is far more informative.

Trying to correlate this last of Conrad's writings with the circumstances of his life during its final phase, I was aided by a memoir composed by his good friend and biographer, Richard Curle, who happened to have been a guest at the Conrad home over the week-end when Conrad died. This memoir, entitled “Joseph Conrad's Last Day,” provides a vivid picture of the setting in which “Legends” was composed. (1)

Curle relates that when he arrived on the evening of Friday, August 1st Conrad was already in bed, but seemed cheerful despite some recent attacks of what was evidently cardiac angina. He was talkative and full of plans for the future.

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