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HE three stories in this volume lay no claim to unity of artistic purpose.
The only bond between them is that of the time in which they were written. They belong to the period immediately following the publication of the Nigger of the Narcissus, and preceding the first conception of Nostromo, two books which, it seems to me, stand apart and by themselves in the body of my work. It is also the period during which I contributed to “ Maga”; a period dominated by Lord Jim and associated in my grateful memory with the late Mr. William Blackwood's encouraging and helpful kindness.
Youth was not my first contribution to “ Maga.” It was the second. But that story marks the first appearance in the world of the man Marlow, with whom my relations have grown very intimate in the course of years. The origins of that gentleman (nobody as far as I know had ever hinted that he was anything but that)his origins have been the subject of some literary speculation of, I am glad to say, a friendly nature.
One would think that I am the proper person to throw a light on the matter ; but in truth I find that it isn't so easy. It is pleasant to remember that nobody had charged him with fraudulent purposes or looked down on him as a charlatan ; but apart from that he was supposed to be all sorts of things : a clever screen, a mere device, a personator," a familiar spirit, a whispering “ dæmon.” I myself have been suspected of a meditated plan for his capture.
That is not so. I made no plans. The man Marlow and I came together in the casual manner of those health-resort acquaintances which sometimes ripen into friendships. This one has ripened. For all his assertiveness in matters of opinion he is not an intrusive person. He haunts my hours of solitude, when, in silence, we lay our heads together in great comfort and harmony; but as we part at the end of a tale I am never sure that it may not be for the last time. Yet I don't think that either of us would care much to survive the other. In his case, at any rate, his occupation would be
and he would suffer from that extinction, because I suspect him of some vanity. I don't mean vanity in the Solomonian sense. Of all my people he's the one that has never been a vexation to my spirit. A most discreet, understanding man. .
Even before appearing in book-form Youth was very well received. It lies on me to confess at last, and this is as good a place for it as another, that
I have been all my life—all my two lives—the spoiled adopted child of Great Britain and even of the Empire ; for it was Australia that gave me my
; first command. I break out into this declaration not because of a lurking tendency to megalomania, but, on the contrary, as a man who has no very notable illusions about himself. I follow the instincts of vain-glory and humility natural to all mankind. For it can hardly be denied that it is not their own deserts that men are most proud of, but rather of their prodigious luck, of their marvellous fortune : of that in their lives for which thanks and sacrifices must be offered on the altars of the inscrutable gods.
Heart of Darkness also received a certain amount of notice from the first; and of its origins this much may be said : it is well known that curious men go prying into all sorts of places (where they have no business) and come out of them with all kinds of spoil. This story, and one other, not in this volume, are all the spoil I brought out from the centre of Africa, where, really, I had no sort of business. More ambitious in its scope and longer in the telling, Heart of Darkness is quite as authentic in fundamentals as Youth. It is, obviously, written in another mood. I won't characterise the mood
. precisely, but anybody can see that it is anything but the mood of wistful regret, of reminiscent tenderness.
One more remark may be added. Youth is a