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A PERSONAL RECORD

BY JOSEPH CONRAD


PREFACE
As a general rule we do not want much encouragement to talk about
ourselves; yet this little book is the result of a friendly
suggestion, and even of a little friendly pressure. I defended
myself with some spirit; but, with characteristic tenacity, the
friendly voice insisted, "You know, you really must."

It was not an argument, but I submitted at once. If one must! .
. .
You perceive the force of a word. He who wants to persuade
should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right
word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power
of sense. I don't say this by way of disparagement. It is
better for mankind to be impressionable than reflective. Nothing
humanely great--great, I mean, as affecting a whole mass of
lives--has come from reflection. On the other hand, you cannot
fail to see the power of mere words; such words as Glory, for
instance, or Pity. I won't mention any more. They are not far
to seek. Shouted with perseverance, with ardour, with
conviction, these two by their sound alone have set whole nations
in motion and upheaved the dry, hard ground on which rests our
whole social fabric. There's "virtue" for you if you like! . . .
Of course the accent must be attended to. The right accent.
That's very important. The capacious lung, the thundering or the
tender vocal chords. Don't talk to me of your Archimedes' lever.

He was an absent-minded person with a mathematical imagination.
Mathematics commands all my respect, but I have no use for
engines. Give me the right word and the right accent and I will
move the world.
(ID 36730)

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