Arnold Bennett on Joseph Conrad

Having first met Joseph Conrad “toward the end of the last century” at the house of H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett recalled the older man in the pages of the Evening Standard, a few years after Conrad’s death:

Even then, from the way he talked, one could perceive at once and all the time that creative writing for him was not a literary pursuit, but a sanguinary war, in which victories were won at enormous cost. His working days were terrible. The most suitable epitaph for the artist in him would be that which Francis Adams wrote for his own life as a whole:

Bury me with clenched hands
And with eyes wide open
For in storm and struggle I lived,
And in struggle and storm I died.

Bennett met Conrad for the last time (probably in the early ’20s), again at the house of a mutual friend:

I had not seen him for some years, and for a few minutes he failed to recognise me. Then he suddenly came across the room to me and gripped my shoulders with both hands. His dark eyes were burning into mine, his broad shoulders shaking. “My dearrr Bennett,” he said, in his earnest formidable voice. “You have been my faithful friend for 25 years, and I do not recognise you! Forgive me.” Believe me, I was profoundly touched, and could scarcely speak to him.

“Some Personal Memories of Conrad: ‘Cad’ as a New Word: His ‘Twilight,’ ” 3 November 1927
Arnold Bennett: The Evening Standard Years, London: Archon Books, 1974

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