By John Lester (auth.)
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Some day I shall write a thing that'll be reviewed thus and not otherwise. Then in the dead of night, in the woods about the Cearne, wearing the cope and the pointed mitre of a High Priest in the secrecy of a persecuted faith, by the light of a torch held by David clad in the white vestments - you shall bury my tame and impotent soul. You'll bury it alive - by God - and go home smiling ironically, and sleep no more that night. 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.
Expiation cannot exist because of the finality and inevitable consequences of each act of life upon which 'all the gnashing of teeth and the sorrow of weak souls' can have no effect. Conrad is here asserting man's full responsibility for his own actions and the need for him to accept those actions. He maintains that 'I shall never need to be consoled for any act of my life . . ' Here also, then, is a negative view of orthodoxy, but fictionally it is the likes of Brown and Jones who are in no need of consolation for their deeds in contrast to characters such as Jim, Razumov, Nostromo and Falk, all of whom feel the need to unburden themselves of guilt in some way.
The religious terms Conrad applies to the art of writing show that he had elevated it to the same high position as the calling of the sea. The despair thus reflects, in a very real sense, a spiritual crisis as Conrad reached a state of creative torpor over The Rescue. He was failing in his new belief and now, dependent on that belief, were his wife, Jessie, and (from January 1898) a son, Borys. This was no time for authorial paralysis to set in; family responsibilities demanded creativity. One can see the mood develop in the letters to Garnett, written in 1896.
Conrad and Religion by John Lester (auth.)