In the Wake of Conrad: Ships and Sailors in Early Twentieth-Century Maritime Fiction

Alexandra Caroline Phillips BA (Hons) Cardiff University, MA King’s College, London A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Cardiff University 30 March 2015


The aim of this thesis is to explore the changing representation of ships and sailors in English maritime fiction in the early twentieth century, as sailing ships were being replaced by steamships. It begins with a critical review examining the reception of Joseph Conrad’s maritime fiction and subsequently presents new readings of five of his sea novels and their response to the transition between sail and steam: The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Lord Jim (1900), Romance (1903), Chance (1913) and The Shadow-Line (1917). Arguing that Conrad’s work is not the culmination of the maritime fiction genre, the third chapter examines sea stories that retreated back to the past in pirate adventure narratives. It begins with a contextual review of pirate fiction, followed by analyses of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s pirate short stories (1897 and 1911), F. Tennyson Jesse’s Moonraker (1927), and Richard Hughes’s A High Wind in Jamaica (1929). In the same period, other maritime texts turned away from the pirate romance to embrace the harsh realities of the brave new mechanised maritime world and the changing role of the sailor on modern vessels; chapter four examines the impact of war on maritime fiction through an analysis of Erskine Childers’s The Riddle of the Sands (1903), which responded to and exacerbated national fears about invasion, while chapter five considers the impact of industrialisation on maritime fiction in James Hanley’s Boy (1931) and Malcolm Lowry’s Ultramarine (1933). The sixth chapter considers the role of fact and fiction in Richard Hughes’s In Hazard (1938) and examines the ways in which this text looks back to Conrad’s work. Ultimately, the texts discussed prompt a reconsideration of the maritime fiction genre, while the conclusion suggests how it enables further experimentation with the sea story throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.