The reader who has discovered Conrad for himself and heard something of his strange story will find Norman Sherry a useful guide to the life he relived in his books. (Earlier volumes--Conrad's Eastern World and. . . Western World--have established Sherry as the authority on Conrad sources.) Indeed, the extensive pictorial matter and the many, many quotes--not only from Conrad but also from Theo-van-Gogh-like Uncle Thaddeus and other acquaintances--give this the texture of documentary history. In the absence of interpretation, they also impart a similar dryness. But here, for study and reflection, is the aristocratic Polish youth drawn, inexplicably, to the sea; the young sailor scraping along (not always honorably) in Marseilles; the merchant seaman rising--disgruntled--through the British ranks, fetching up sick in Singapore and ranging the Southeast Asian islands; the Belgian-employed official in the heart of the Congo--where ""a great melancholy descended on me. . . ."" Later, with Conrad esconced in England, the ambience shifts to country houses and literary friends, while debt, ill health, and neglect plague this deeply absorbed, congenitally pessimistic man. Then, just when his writing foundered, his popularity soared. To Sherry, Conrad ""remained a mysterious figure all his life."" But this thorough, moderate, exacting book misses almost every possible point of inquiry--including the vital one of why Iris reach so far exceeded his grasp.