Joseph Conrad and The London Library

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Archive Advent Calendar: 16 December 2013

We continue our archival countdown to Christmas by opening another window on the Library’s literary past with the joining form to the Library of the master mariner and master novelist Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski (1857-1924) – better known as Joseph Conrad. Conrad is without question one of the greatest writers of Fiction in the canon and “probably the greatest political novelist”[i] in the English language.

Conrad joined the Library in 1897 two years before The Heart of Darkness (as it was called in serial form) appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.  Blackwood’s was a leading Victorian periodical which had early established itself under the talented editor and publisher John Blackwood (1818-1879). Over thirty years Blackwood both established the periodical as a market leader and published the works of George Eliot, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Lever, Charles Reade, George Henry Lewes and Margaret Oliphant to name a few – all  of whom are also present in the Victorian membership ledgers of the Library.

The date of Conrad’s joining form is revealing:  1897 marks the beginning of the major phase of his literary career.  His milieu included Ford Madox Ford, John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells and R.B. Cunninghame Graham amongst others who were all also subscribing members.

Many of Conrad’s seminal works made a staggeringly successful transition to film. Lord JimVictoryThe Secret Agent, and Heart of Darkness are just a few that made the leap – Heart of Darkness was the inspiration behind Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 masterpieceApocalypse Now.

[i] Cedric Watts, ‘Conrad, Joseph (1857–1924)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011

© Helen O’Neill        Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian

Heart of Darkness

Two years after joining the Library The Heart of Darkness appeared in serial form in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.


Joseph Conrad’s joined the Library on March 13th 1897 as he enters the major phase of his literary career.


John Blackwood established Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine as a leading periodical of the Victorian era. His name appears in the Victorian membership ledgers in 1867.