"We live, as we dream - alone"
Francis Herbert Bradley
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFrancis Herbert Bradley - Credit: dodoni

This statement, very much a reflection of Conrad’s own pessimistic outlook (he once claimed ‘another man’s truth is a dismal lie to me’), touches upon one of the major turn-of-the-century concerns: the breakdown of moral certainty, and a solipsism which prevents the individual from breaking out of his or her closed circle. Conrad believed each of us is locked into our own individual perceptions, and despaired in his letters that even language was incapable of helping us reach out to others.

The idea that ‘we live, as we dream – alone’ was to become a major preoccupation of early modernism, a period in which people felt, to quote the philosopher F. H. Bradley’s Appearance and Reality (1916), that ‘my experience is a closed circle; a circle closed from the outside. … In brief … the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.