PortCities London

Joseph Conrad


Joseph Conrad's Master's Certificate.
View full size imageJoseph Conrad's Master's Certificate. © NMM
Joseph Conrad occupies a special place in the literature of London's port. Unlike other great writers such as Dickens, Conrad knew very well what he was writing about. Before becoming a full-time writer, he spent 19 years in the French and British merchant navies, working his way up to the rank of master.

Sailing ships and HMS President in the South West India Docks.
View full size imageThe South West India Dock in the 1880s. © NMM
He sailed all the main trade routes in the southern hemisphere and the Caribbean, and was familiar with the docks and wharves of London and many other ports.



Most remarkable of all, this superb writer of English prose spoke no English until he was 19. He had been born Józef Korzeniowski, into a Polish family living in the Ukraine.

His fame rests mainly on his classics such as Nostromo, Lord Jim, and Heart of Darkness, but his lesser-known novels Chance and The Mirror of the Sea contain the finest descriptions of London's port ever written.