A Critical History of Heart of Darkness

Part of the Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism book series (CSICC)


Heart of Darkness was published serially in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899. But it was not seriously reviewed until 1902, when it was reprinted in a hard-cover volume entitled Youth. Even then, the other two works published in the collection, Youth and The End of the Tether, were received more favorably. In an unsigned 1902 review Edward Garnett both explained and deplored the fact that Heart of Darkness was the least popular of the three tales. Calling it “too strong” a piece of “meat for the ordinary reader,” he insisted that it was nonetheless “the high water mark” of Conrad’s “talent,” a “psychological masterpiece” relating “the sub-conscious life within us… to our conscious actions, feelings, and outlook.” As such, Garnett concluded, it offers an “analysis of the deterioration of the white man’s morale, when he is let loose from European restraint, and planted down in the tropics as an emissary of light armed to the teeth, to make trade profits out of the subject races” (Sherry 132–33). Responding to Garnett’s review in a personal letter, Conrad wrote: “My dearest fellow you quite overcome me. And your brave attempt to grapple with the foggishness of Heart of Darkness, to explain what I myself tried to shape blindfold, as it were, touched me profoundly” (Karl and Davies 2:467–68).


High Water Mark Critical History Oedipus Complex Great Tradition Belief Qualifier 
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Copyright information

© Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MiamiUSA

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