The Great Emigration: Fight for Freedom | 1795 - 1918

Novelist Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski a.k.a. Joseph Conrad

Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, 1857 in Berdyczów – then occupied Poland, now Ukraine; settled in England in 1889; died 1924 in Bishopsbourne

His father’s family took part in November Uprising and participated in the planning of the January Uprising. As a 17-year-old in 1874 Conrad became a sailor, initially in France, but he was having problems retaining the job due to his Russian citizenship, which drove him to a suicide attempt. As a solution, by 1878 he joined the British Merchant Navy. By 1886 he successfully applied for a British citizenship and became a Captain.

By 1889 Conrad successfully gave up his Russian citizenship and temporarily took a break from sailing residing in London. In 1894, aged 36, he retired from sailing and took up writing. His unique selling point was covering exotic lands unknown to Victorian writers. He married Jessie Emmeline George in 1896. By 1898, he met Ford Madox Ford, Ford Madox Brown’s son-in-law, who became his writing collaborator. He struggled financially and only gained mainstream fame in 1913 thanks to the publication of his novel Chance.

Until the end of his life he spoke English with a very heavy Polish accent and mispronounced many words only having learnt them from books. In 1924 he refused a knighthood. His epitaph at Canterbury Cemetery is based on the motto to The Rover, his last completed novel, taken from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene: ‘Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas, Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please.’ Conrad was immortalized by John Galsworthy in his short story ‘The Doldrums’ (1895), which presents one of the first and most extended of the fictional evocations of Conrad, notably of his last years as a seaman:

See also The Joseph Conrad Society UK founded in 1973