Lot 196
  • 196

Conrad, Joseph

4,000 - 6,000 GBP
8,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Conrad, Joseph
  • Almayer's Folly. A Story of an Eastern River. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1895
8vo, first edition of the author's first book, presentation copy inscribed by the author to Marguerite Poradowska ("To Aunt Margaret | from Conrad | with great love.") on front free endpaper, title-page in red and black, original dark green vertically ribbed cloth lettered in gilt on spine, top edge gilt, collector's folding box, some light spotting, lower hinge splitting, head and foot of spine bumped, extremities rubbed with minor colour restoration


Marguerite Poradowska, authorial inscription; sale, Sotheby's New York, 15 June 1990, lot 26


Cagle A1a(1)

Catalogue Note

Marguerite Gachet (1848-1937) married Aleksander Poradowska, a first cousin of Conrad’s maternal grandmother. Conrad first met the Poradowskas in February 1890 a few days before Aleksander’s death and ‘Aunt Margaret’ became one of Conrad’s closest friends in the years of his early pre-literary career. As described by Karl and Davies in their edition of Collected Letters, Marguerite Poradowska was a ‘fellow writer’, provided a ‘cosmopolitan link with Poland’ and became a ‘confidante’. There is a suggestion that Marguerite Poradowska was a partial model for both Marlow’s ‘aunt’ and also the ‘Intended’ in Heart of Darkness.

Although French by ancestry, Marguerite had grown up in Brussels before living in the Austrian sector of Poland. She later returned to Brussels. A rich cultural background feeds into her romantic novels (Yaga, esquisse de moeurs ruthenes [Yaga: A sketch of Ruthenian Ways], published in 1887; Demoiselle Micia, moeurs galiciennes [Miss Micia: Galician Ways], published in 1888-89 and La Madone de Busowiska, moeurs houtsoules [The Madonna of Busowiska: Hutsulian Ways], published in 1891). She contributed regularly to the Paris literary journal Revue des Deux Mondes.

This inscribed copy of Conrad’s first book is of special significance. The 110 surviving letters from Conrad to Poradowska mostly date between 1890 and 1895, and therefore report Conrad’s views on his first work. On 12 July 1894, for example, he noted ‘I don’t feel any interest in the fate of Almayer’s Folly. It is finished. Besides, it could in any case be only an inconsequential episode in my life’ (CL, I, 161). At the end of the month, while the novel was still under consideration by the publishers, Conrad wrote to Poradowska suggesting that they work on a French version for the Revue des Deux Mondes ‘not as a translation but as a collaboration’ (CL, I, 165). Conrad wrote about his interview with the publishers on 10 October 1894 when Fisher Unwin remarked ‘you are unknown and your book will appeal to a very limited public…’ (CL, I, 180) and on 2 May 1895 delivered the news that ‘the Scottish dailies have begun to review my Folly. Brief, journalistic, but full of praise… Now we are waiting for the London dailies… The first edition of 1100 copies has been sold.’ (CL, I, 214).