[Conrad cites "Heart of Darkness"] No place [but Capel House, Orlestone], no date [but 1914-1916?]. Two pages (both sides of one unprinted leaf).
The text of this letter reads:
I can't really give a detailed or even apprxly correct list of translators. Generally it is the band of the men asso'ted with the N[ouve]lle Revue Française. But they are all serving now and the original distribution of work has been altered. But Chance is being translated now by Mme Rivière under Gide's own supervision. Gide has reserved for himself _Youth_ and _Heart of Darkness_.
The war has upset the arrangements and delayed the whole thing. I will be writing to Gide before long. He's now resting in the country near the sea.
Ever yours [signed] J. Conrad.
Sir Sidney Colvin (1845-1927) was an art professor and literary critic who was a loyal friend to numerous authors (notably Robert Louis Stevenson 20-30 years earlier); clearly he had inquired about the status of translation into French of Conrad's works. The younger French writer André Gide (1869-1951) had in 1908 co-founded the French literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française (referred to in this letter). He and Conrad had met in we believe 1911; they were not friends but rather they were two writers each of whom was trying to use the other to further his own reputation.
Just as the war began, Gide was looking into creating, with the French publisher Gallimard, a set of Conrad's works translated into French (Conrad's second language, after Polish; English was his third). Due to the interruption of the Great War, and to Gide's difficulty in dealing with necessarily-female translators during the war, it did not go well. Gide assigned "Typhoon" to Therèse Müller to translate in 1915, but then took it over himself and gave her no credit, even though she did most of the work; he then assigned the new VICTORY to Isabelle Rivière, but he and she soon split on multiple questions including religious faith. (We are unable to find a Rivière translation of CHANCE, which Conrad cites in this letter; Gide did ultimately do translations of LORD JIM (not "Youth") and "Heart of Darkness," but not until 1924.) After Conrad's death in 1924, Gide wrote JOSEPH CONRAD in 1927, and ultimately was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1947, just four years before his own death.
Perhaps the best feature of this letter is that one sees the famous title "Heart of Darkness" written out in Conrad's very own hand. The letter is in near-fine condition (one small corner chipped away, slightly browned at the bottom edge).
Provenance: in May 1928 this letter was in the Anderson Galleries sale of Sidney Colvin's letters, where (together with a 1914-dated Conrad letter), it formed lot 96. Included with this letter is that Anderson description, in which this letter is dated "", but that may be a bit early: CHANCE (referred to by Conrad) had just come out early that same year, and it was CHANCE's 1914-1915 success that prompted foreign translations of earlier works. Also, 1914 seems early for everyone involved in translating to be "all serving now." Item #14515