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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joseph Conrad letter on the auction block

A famous letter by the famous writer for sale at Bonham's.

On 25 May a sampling of the Seamen's Church Institute Collection of Maritime Paintings and Decorative Arts will be up for sale.

Included is a charming letter written by Joseph Conrad to the owner and crew of the sailing ship Tusitala.

Dated 2 June 1923, and written from his address at Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, it begins, "On leaving this hospitable country where the cream is excellent and the milk of human kindness apparently never ceases to flow, I assume an ancient mariner's privilege of sending to the owners and ship's company of the Tusitala my brotherly good wishes for fair winds and clear skies on all their voyages.  And may they be many!

"And I would recommend to them to watch the weather," it goes on; "to keep the halliards clear for running, to remember that any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail in time ... "

The Tusitala, an iron-hulled sailing ship of 1684 tons, was named after Robert Louis Stevenson, who was called "Tusitala," meaning "storyteller," by the Samoans.

James A Farrell, owner of the ship, had a facsimile of this letter framed and posted in the chartroom of every Farrell Lines Ship.

The lucky purchaser will be getting a piece of maritime history.

To read more about the letter, The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, edited by Laurence Davies and Gene M. Moore, has a couple of long and interesting footnotes.

Rick Spilman tells the interesting story of the ship on OldSaltBlog.


linda collison said...

I'll start the bidding at fifty dollars.

Joan Druett said...

Oh damn, you pinched my bid! To have a good look at the items, I registered as a client at the Bonhams site. But wouldn't it be a lovely acquisition? There are some bargains there. If only I was rich, I could make myself even richer ...

Franklin Researcher said...

Joan, the first rule of Auction Club is "Don't talk about Auction Club." i.e. if you make a find of some kind you keep it to yourself. Now having said that--thank you! I'm going to watch this too! : )

Dave Shein
Rochester, NY

Joan Druett said...

Good morning from New Zealand, Dave. There are some intriguing estimates in the catalogue -- have you had a look? Oh, to be filthy rich in this golden age for bargain hunters!