29 June

29 June 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

The writer who has achieved more than a common popularity, who has been recognized as one of the very few whose place is not in the crowded and jostled front rank but a delightful airy perch among the mountains, is to be envied - and not to be envied. The distinguished position has its special drawbacks. Whether it is the effect upon him of the rarefied air, or of the dignified solitude, or of the cloud interposing and obscuring the smaller eminences, the valleys and the plains from his, at one time, eager gaze, we do not know, but the books which come down to us from the mountains are no longer the books they were. They are variations upon the themes that made him famous; they are ‘safe' books, guaranteed to leave unchallenged the masterpiece that put him there. Who would tempt Providence twice? And so from timidity or pride, from poverty of imagination, or a high sense of his ‘unique' duty, he continues to repeat himself, and it is only his memory which is in our flowing cups richly remembered.
Mr Joseph Conrad is a remarkable exception to this lamentable case. Although he has long been recognized as one of our first writers to-day, he has never yet succeeded in satisfying our curiosity. [Review of The Rescue by Joseph Conrad, Athenaeum, 2 July 1920]