Conrad, the Yarn and the Location of the Marlow Stories
Maritime history is centrally concerned with man’s changing relationship with the sea. One important way of understanding this relationship is by examining contemporary writings concerning the sea and sailing on it. A particular rich area of such writings is fictional accounts; and the greatest exponent of British maritime fiction is Joseph Conrad (1857–1924). This paper looks at the major form of narrative, the yarn, that he used for some of his most famous stories, known as the Marlow stories. His literary aspirations to be taken seriously as a novelist, and not be confused with the maritime potboilers, put severe strains on his use of that form. In addition, three of the four Marlow stories are narrated on yachts and the contemporary social meanings of this choice of location are examined.