“One must not make too much of anything in life, good or bad": First Edition of Joseph Conrad's The Shadow-Line: A Confession
The Shadow-Line: A Confession.
Item Number: 55029
London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1917.
First edition, first issue of this Conrad novel, based at sea. Octavo, original cloth, with the Aldine House logo to the front panel. In near fine condition with light rubbing.
The novella is notable for its dual narrative structure. The full, subtitled title of the novel is The Shadow-Line, A Confession, which immediately alerts the reader to the retrospective nature of the novella. The ironic constructions following from the conflict between the 'young' protagonist (who is never named) and the 'old' drive much of the underlying points of the novella, namely the nature of wisdom, experience and maturity. Conrad also extensively uses irony by comparison in the work, with characters such as Captain Giles and the ship's 'factotum' Ransome used to emphasise strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist. The novella has often been cited as a metaphor of the First World War, given its timing and references to a long struggle, the importance of camaraderie, etc. This viewpoint may also be reinforced by the knowledge that Conrad's elder son, Borys, was wounded in the First World War. Others however see the novel as having a strong supernatural influence, referring to various plot-lines in the novella such as the 'ghost' of the previous captain potentially cursing the ship, and the madness of first mate Mr Burns. Conrad himself, however, denied this link in his 'Author's Note' (1920), claiming that although critics had attempted to show this link, "The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is."