[In A Personal Record, which relates how Conrad became a novelist, he tries to recall what he had read before he began to write fiction for the first time, and Trollope comes to mind. The following excerpt comes from the Project Gutenberg version [EBook #687] created by Judith Boss and David Widger and released on January 9, 2006. — George P. Landow]

decoratd initial Madame Delestang, an imperious, handsome lady in a statuesque style, would carry me off now and then on the front seat of her carriage to the Prado, at the hour of fashionable airing. She belonged to one of the old aristocratic families in the south. In her haughty weariness she used to make me think of Lady Dedlock in Dickens's "Bleak House," a work of the master for which I have such an admiration, or rather such an intense and unreasoning affection, dating from the days of my childhood, that its very weaknesses are more precious to me than the strength of other men's work. I have read it innumerable times, both in Polish and in English; I have read it only the other day, and, by a not very surprising inversion, the Lady Dedlock of the book reminded me strongly of the "belle Madame Delestang." . . .

One day, after putting me down at the corner of a street, she offered me her hand, and detained me, by a slight pressure, for a moment. While the husband sat motionless and looking straight before him, she leaned forward in the carriage to say, with just a shade of warning in her leisurely tone: "Il faut, cependant, faire attention a ne pas gater sa vie." ["You must, however, take care not to spoil your life."] I had never seen her face so close to mine before. She made my heart beat and caused me to remain thoughtful for a whole evening. Certainly one must, after all, take care not to spoil one's life. But she did not know—nobody could know—how impossible that danger seemed to me. [Chapter 6]


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Last modified 8 December 2011