London: T. Unwin Fisher, 1898. Hardcover. First English edition of Conrad's first collection of short stories, published in both America and England in 1898. Author's presentation copy, inscribed “For J. B. Pinker, Joseph Conrad.” The book marks the first stage of Conrad learning to write for popular magazines: "in that book I come nearer to the popular notion of tale-telling than in any previous work of mine" (writing to Unwin, Collected Letters, II., p.48). Pinker was one of the first literary agents in London, and became one of the most important agents of the twentieth century, with such clients as H.G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Henry James, and Ford Madox Ford. Pinker was “superbly attuned to the changing economic climate of the 1890s publishing market and served the interests of several 'difficult' writers with a skillful blend of shrewdness, tact, generosity, and long-suffering” (Knowles and Moore). This could not have been better demonstrated than with his relationship with Conrad, in which the agent was required to play many roles: friend, banker, father-figure and general factotum. Pinker could see Conrad's potential, but in many ways the author was ill-placed to survive the cutthroat market of the time, committed as he was “to a form of experimental novel, the unpredictable gestation of which involved an enormous amount of energy, time, and living costs” (op.cit.) As Conrad later gratefully acknowledged, Pinker believed in him and backed him for the long term, bankrolling him through the lean years when he had yet to be a commercial success, in the hope of future payments and royalties. Conrad was forced to split himself between his long serious projects like Nostromo and Under Western Eyes and more commercial journalistic material. Tensions were high between author and agent in these years between 1904 and 1910, with Pinker being asked for larger and larger advances to fund medical costs, household bills and overseas trips. The agent's requests for itemization and justification were resented by Conrad, and he sometimes resisted his agent's attempts to link payments to fixed amounts of delivered copy. In December 1909 Pinker's patience finally snapped after the author had been working on Under Western Eyes for two years and then broke off, against his agent's wishes, to write for the English Review. Pinker threatened to cut off all funds; his author retaliated by threatening to throw the manuscript into the fire. After an explosive row the two did not speak for two years. After the dramatic upturn in Conrad's popularity and finances after 1914 the author could finally begin to settle his debts, and the two men resumed their relationship, meeting weekly, spending weekends at each other's homes, and even collaborating on a screenplay. Conrad later wrote: “those books which, people say, are an asset of English Literature owe their existence to Mr. Pinker as much as to me. For 15 years of my writing life he has seen me through periods of unproductiveness[,] through illnesses[,] through all sorts of troubles...” (Collected Letters, V, p.619). Conrad was deeply affected by his agent's sudden death in 1922. Bound in original green cloth with light bumping to corners. Offsetting to free front endpaper not affecting the legibility of inscription. Text block has pulled away from front hinge but still tight although some interior gutters visible. Library stamp on rear pastedown, offsetting and piece of rear free endpaper torn away. Housed in a green cloth slipcase. With bookplate of book collector Stanley J. Seeger. Very good condition despite noted flaws. 297 pages. LIT/011116. Very Good.