Edward Said’s dissertation-turned-monograph Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966) was the first attempt in the realm of literary critique to apply Conrad’s personally letters to his fictions. Yet, since then, the multi-volume Collected Letters published in Cambridge University in 2008 has been but a resource for biographers and for a stray citation by an academic looking to ground a theory in a physical document. Considering the dearth of work looking into the Conrad letters, this essay traces the author’s understanding and processing of personal trauma through letters to Nobel Laureate John Galsworthy and use this theory to contextualize the disjointed reactions to traumatic episodes in Heart of Darkness. As Heart of Darkness is a novel controlled by and compelled forward through the exchange of letters —- from that which get’s Marlow his assignment to the packet he eventually returns to The Intended —- the novel serves as an exceptional vessel for applying Conrad’s personal correspondence to his literary style to develop a deeper understanding of his corpus. Bolstered by Eve Barnett’s Empire of Letters and her understanding of 18th Century epistolary convention, this paper serves as a template for how scholarship should begin to delve into the archive of Conrad’s letters to better understand the sailor-writer’s more-vexing stylistic conventions.



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