By Linda Dryden (auth.)
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Extra resources for Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells: The Fin-de-Siècle Literary Scene
Evidently Conrad had been talking to both Wells and Ford about ‘The Heart of Darkness’, and, as the next section indicates, it may well have been that Conrad had consulted Wells on matters of style and may even have shown Wells the manuscript. Conrad’s letter of September 1898 to Wells where he speaks of revising his work ‘by the light of your criticism’ confirms Conrad’s respect for Wells’s opinion, and Wells was well aware of the content of Conrad’s novella when he included it in When the Sleeper Wakes.
Wells’s Martian novel had perhaps not been a huge bestseller – in November 1908 Wells writes to his agent P. Cazenove that ‘The War of the Worlds only did about 6,000 at 6/-’ – but it brought the idea of Martians firmly into the popular imagination (Correspondence 2: 231). Conrad had read the novel and was clearly struck by its unique imaginative power. Writing to Wells on 23 December 1898, complaining about elements of the reading public who are ‘unable to read your work aright and unwilling to buy a single entire edition of any of mine’, Conrad concludes: ‘Verily they deserve to have the Heat-Ray turned upon them – but I suppose it would be unseasonable just now.
For Ford it provided an opportunity to learn much of the craft of writing under the (often not very sympathetic) guidance of a skilled writer. (Brebach 108) 39 40 Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells However, Conrad and Ford’s friends were appalled by the prospect of the pair collaborating on a literary venture. On hearing of the plans for Seraphina, Henry James apparently declared: ‘To me this is like a bad dream which one relates at breakfast! Their traditions and their gifts are so dissimilar. 2 James was not alone in his concerns: Conrad’s most recent friend, H.