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By John Lester (auth.)

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49 The art of literature would seem to be the 'persecuted faith'. There is a note of self-mockery here, showing that Conrad was aware of the exalted plane to which he elevated his vocation and could see it in a wider perspective at times. But, despite the wry humour of his exaggerated imagery, one can still perceive serious intent beneath. To be universally popular, he seems to say, one must relinquish the essential integrity of the true writer and to do that would be to betray one's creed. It is against this background that Conrad's comments on Christianity must be set.

I would give him my soul for it and he would be cheated. To be cheated is godlike. It is your devil who makes good bargains, legends notwithstanding. ' 38 The postscript of the letter to Graham mentions a further demand for material from McClure (a very tangible 'man in the city' in America) and it will be noted that an evocation of the demonic once more accompanies the suspicion of flagging integrity (praying for forgetfulness in this case). Towards the end of the letter he thinks wistfully of his previous vocation, for 'to get to sea would be salvation.

R. ' 17 Certainly it can be said that Conrad had little time for institutionalised forms of religion as his remarks to Edward Noble in 1895 make clear: Everyone must walk in the light of his own heart's gospel. No man's light is good to any of his fellows. That's my creed from beginning to end. That's my view of life - a view that rejects all formulas, dogmas and principles of other people's making. These are only a web of illusions. We are too varied. Another man's truth is only a dismal lie to me.

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