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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Born Teodor Josef Konrad Kovzeniowski to Polish parents, Joseph Conrad was an only child. He was born in the Ukraine on December 6, 1857. When Conrad was five, his father was arrested for revolutionary plots against the Russians and was exiled by the Russian government. Mother and child accompanied him. Hardships took their toll, and Conrad's mother died when he was eight years old. The father lived only four years more. An orphan at the age of twelve, Conrad was sent to his uncle. He was a sickly child and his health worried him throughout his life.
Conrad's father had been a man of letters and a translator. Through him Conrad was exposed to books of different languages and developed a love of literature that he retained throughout his life. As a teenager Conrad decided to take up a career at sea. He reached Marseilles in October 1874, and for the next twenty years he sailed the seven seas on many ships. He first saw England in June of 1878 at the age of twenty-one. He did not know any English, though he had read translations of Shakespeare, Scott, Dickens, and many other English novelists. As soon as he entered into British service, he studied English with zest, reading all sorts of books. By the early 1890's, Conrad had begun to write literature in English.