tutorial, critical comment, plot, and study resources

To-Morrow was written in early 1902 and serialized in Pall Mall Magazine, 1902. It was later collected in Typhoon and Other Stories (1903). The other stories in the volume were Amy Foster, Falk: A Reminiscence, and Typhoon. In currently available editions, these are supplemented by the novella The Secret Sharer.


To-Morrow – critical commentary

This is a story of deluded hopes and dramatic irony which might have come from the pages of Thomas Hardy rather than his friend and contemporary Joseph Conrad.

There are two principal ironies in the tale – one real, and the other potential. The first, which is real, is that the apparently doting father Hagberd turns out to be a tyrant and a fraud, whose eagerly awaited son actually wants nothing to do with him. Hagberd has built up a self-enclosed system of belief about his son, and he has prepared a homecoming which is a myth which sustains Hagberd himself.

The second irony, which may only be realised outside the narrative time-frame, is that Harry borrows money from the hapless and moon-struck Bessie, but if Hagberd sticks to his word and disinherits his son, she will be the benefactor.

Even Conrad, in his introductory remarks to the collection Typhoon and Other Stories, has very little to say about the tale:

Of that story I will only say that It struck many people by its adaptability to the stage, and that I was induced to dramatise it under the title of One Day More, up to the present my only effort in that direction. (1919)

To-Morrow – study resources

To-Morrow Typhoon and Other Stories – Oxford World Classics – Amazon UK

To-Morrow Typhoon and Other Stories – Oxford World Classics – Amazon US

To-Morrow To-Morrow – Kindle eBook

To-Morrow One Day More – Kindle eBook

To-morrow Typhoon and Other Stories – eBook at Project Gutenberg

To-morrow Joseph Conrad: A Biography – Amazon UK

Red button The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad – Amazon UK

Red button Routledge Guide to Joseph Conrad – Amazon UK

Red button Oxford Reader’s Companion to Conrad – Amazon UK

Red button Notes on Life and Letters – Amazon UK

Red button Joseph Conrad – biographical notes

To-Morrow – plot summary

Retired skipper Hagberd goes from Colchester to Coalbrook in search of his son Harry, who ran away to sea. Failing to find him, Hagberd settles there. He confides his hopes for his son’s return (which he endlessly hopes will be ‘to-morrow’) to Bessie, the daughter of his next door neighbour and tenant.

Hagberd has been a reluctant sailor, rarely out of sight of land. He makes elaborate preparations for Harry`s return, and assumes he will be a suitable husband for Bessie. She looks after her cantankerous father, who mistreats her.

Hagberd advertises in the newspapers for information about his son, and meanwhile furnishes the cottage for his arrival, letting nobody see the results.

One day a man arrives at the cottage claiming to have news of Hagberd’s son – but the old skipper refuses to hear it, claiming that he has all the information he needs, as his son will be returning soon. The man turns out to be his son Harry, and Bessie explains how he has kept up his hopes with the myth of `to-morrow’.

Harry tells Bessie how his father mistreated him as a child. Harry tries to get inside Hagberd’s cottage, but his father will not let anybody in. He goes into Bessie’s cottage instead and recounts scenes from his childhood, including satirical accounts of his father boasting about going on long sea voyages, when it was just short trips up the coast to South Shields for coal.

Harry reveals himself as a sailor adventurer who has been on a drinking spree in London and come to his father’s house in the hope of borrowing some money He tells Bessie romantic tales of prospecting for gold in Mexico and mixing with Gambucinos who live independent carefree lives.

Bessie tells him of Hagberd’s plans and preparations for his son – but Harry rejects them scornfully. He does not want to be pinned down to domestic life. Hagberd meanwhile shouts down from upstairs next door, warning Bessie not to deal with the stranger, but to wait for Harry who will be there the next day. He threatens that if Harry does not marry her when he turns up, he will cut him out of his will and leave Bessie all his money.

This alerts Harry to the full extent of his father’s plans. He borrows money from Bessie, showers her with kisses, and leaves.

Principal characters
Captain Hagberd a retired coastal skipper and widower
Harry Hagberd his son, an adventurer (31)
Josiah Carvil a blind boat-builder, his neighbour
Bessie Carvil his daughter


The Cambridge Companion to Joseph ConradThe Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad offers a series of essays by leading Conrad scholars aimed at both students and the general reader. There’s a chronology and overview of Conrad’s life, then chapters that explore significant issues in his major writings, and deal in depth with individual works. These are followed by discussions of the special nature of Conrad’s narrative techniques, his complex relationships with late-Victorian imperialism and with literary Modernism, and his influence on other writers and artists. Each essay provides guidance to further reading, and a concluding chapter surveys the body of Conrad criticism.
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Joseph Conrad - writing table

Joseph Conrad’s writing table

Further reading

Red button Amar Acheraiou Joseph Conrad and the Reader, London: Macmillan, 2009.

Red button Jacques Berthoud, Joseph Conrad: The Major Phase, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Red button Muriel Bradbrook, Joseph Conrad: Poland’s English Genius, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941

Red button Harold Bloom (ed), Joseph Conrad (Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, New Yoprk: Chelsea House Publishers, 2010

Red button Hillel M. Daleski , Joseph Conrad: The Way of Dispossession, London: Faber, 1977

Red button Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Red button Aaron Fogel, Coercion to Speak: Conrad’s Poetics of Dialogue, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985

Red button John Dozier Gordon, Joseph Conrad: The Making of a Novelist, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1940

Red button Albert J. Guerard, Conrad the Novelist, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958

Red button Robert Hampson, Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Joseph Conrad: Language and Fictional Self-Consciousness, London: Edward Arnold, 1979

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Joseph Conrad: Narrative Technique and Ideological Commitment, London: Edward Arnold, 1990

Red button Jeremy Hawthorn, Sexuality and the Erotic in the Fiction of Joseph Conrad, London: Continuum, 2007.

Red button Owen Knowles, The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Conrad, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990

Red button Jakob Lothe, Joseph Conrad: Voice, Sequence, History, Genre, Ohio State University Press, 2008

Red button Gustav Morf, The Polish Shades and Ghosts of Joseph Conrad, New York: Astra, 1976

Red button Ross Murfin, Conrad Revisited: Essays for the Eighties, Tuscaloosa, Ala: University of Alabama Press, 1985

Red button Jeffery Myers, Joseph Conrad: A Biography, Cooper Square Publishers, 2001.

Red button Zdzislaw Najder, Joseph Conrad: A Life, Camden House, 2007.

Red button George A. Panichas, Joseph Conrad: His Moral Vision, Mercer University Press, 2005.

Red button John G. Peters, The Cambridge Introduction to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Red button James Phelan, Joseph Conrad: Voice, Sequence, History, Genre, Ohio State University Press, 2008.

Red button Edward Said, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 1966

Red button Allan H. Simmons, Joseph Conrad: (Critical Issues), London: Macmillan, 2006.

Red button J.H. Stape, The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996

Red button John Stape, The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad, Arrow Books, 2008.

Red button Peter Villiers, Joseph Conrad: Master Mariner, Seafarer Books, 2006.

Red button Ian Watt, Conrad in the Nineteenth Century, London: Chatto and Windus, 1980

Red button Cedric Watts, Joseph Conrad: (Writers and their Work), London: Northcote House, 1994.

Other work by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad NostromoNostromo (1904) is Conrad’s ‘big’ political novel – into which he packs all of his major subjects and themes. It is set in the imaginary Latin-American country of Costaguana – and features a stolen hoard of silver, desperate acts of courage, characters trembling on the brink of moral panic. The political background encompasses nationalist revolution and the Imperialism of foreign intervention. Silver is the pivot of the whole story – revealing the courage of some and the corruption and destruction of others. Conrad’s narration is as usual complex and oblique. He begins half way through the events of the revolution, and proceeds by way of flashbacks and glimpses into the future.
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Joseph Conrad The Secret AgentThe Secret Agent (1907) is a short novel and a masterpiece of sustained irony. It is based on the real incident of a bomb attack on the Greenwich Observatory in 1888 and features a cast of wonderfully grotesque characters: Verloc the lazy double agent, Inspector Heat of Scotland Yard, and the Professor – an anarchist who wanders through the novel with bombs strapped round his waist and the detonator in his hand. The English government and police are subject to sustained criticism, and the novel bristles with some wonderfully orchestrated effects of dramatic irony – all set in the murky atmosphere of Victorian London. Here Conrad prefigures all the ambiguities which surround two-faced international relations, duplicitous State realpolitik, and terrorist outrage which still beset us more than a hundred years later.
Joseph Conrad Buy the book from Amazon UK
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© Roy Johnson 2013

Joseph Conrad links

Joseph Conrad - tutorials Joseph Conrad at Mantex
Biography, tutorials, book reviews, study guides, videos, web links.

Red button Joseph Conrad – his greatest novels and novellas
Brief notes introducing his major works in recommended editions.

Joseph Conrad - eBooks Joseph Conrad at Project Gutenberg
A major collection of free eTexts in a variety of formats.

Joseph Conrad - further reading Joseph Conrad at Wikipedia
Biography, major works, literary career, style, politics, and further reading.

Joseph Conrad - adaptations Joseph Conrad at the Internet Movie Database
Adaptations for the cinema and television – in various languages. Full details of directors and actors, production notes, box office, trivia, and quizzes.

Joseph Conrad - etexts Works by Joseph Conrad
Large online database of free HTML texts, digital scans, and eText versions of novels, stories, and occasional writings.

Joseph Conrad - journal The Joseph Conrad Society (UK)
Conradian journal, reviews. and scholarly resources.

Conrad US journal The Joseph Conrad Society of America
American-based – recent publications, journal, awards, conferences.

Joseph Conrad - concordance Hyper-Concordance of Conrad’s works
Locate a word or phrase – in the context of the novel or story.

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