Article dated : Fri, 2nd January 2004
Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Korzeniowski on 3 December 1857 at Berdyczow in part of Poland under Russian control. His parents were patriotic activists and died fighting against the Russians.
His was not a happy childhood and at the age of 15 he left his country of birth, and for twenty years was a sailor, first with French and later the British merchant service. He qualified as a first mate and then master. As a sailor he travelled the oceans of the world visiting Africa, Asia, the West Indies, Australia and the Far East and it is the experiences gained from these travels that he used as a basis for his later novels. As Henry James remarked "No one has known…. the things you know".In 1886 he became a British citizen.
Whilst Conrad started writing in 1889 but his first novel "Almayer’s Folly" was not finished until 1894. This received good reviews and was soon followed by "An Outcast of the Islands". Over the next years he produced a number of novels including: - "Lord Jim", "Heart of Darkness", "Youth", "The Secret Agent", "The Rescue" (which had taken 23 years of intermittent work), "Under Western Eyes" (which dealt with the resistance to Tsarist Russia and was probably based on personal experiences from his family and childhood) and a number of short stories.
Conrad was a complex person and a reporter noted that "He is abnormally highly strung. He is sensitive, intensely susceptible to nay slight jarring influences from outside. His nerves seem to be all on end."
Conrad only received celebrity status and recognition late in life and an acceptance as one of the greatest 20th century writers.
Joseph Conrad died on 3 August 1924 at his home at Bishopsbourne. His tombstone has the following quotation from the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser:-
"Sleep after toyle, port after stormie sea,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please."