Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was born in 1857 in the Russian part of Poland. His parents were punished for their Polish nationalist activities, and the family was exiled to northern Russia. At age twelve, after both of his parents had died of tuberculosis, he was sent to live with his uncle in Switzerland. During his youth he attended schools in Krakow, was involved in arms smuggling for the Carlist cause in Spain, and joined the French merchant marine. He continued his naval career for sixteen years in the British merchant navy, and in 1886, he commanded his own ship. In that same year, he became a British citizen and changed his name to Joseph Conrad.
He sailed to many parts of the world, including Australia, the West Indies, South America, and the Congo River. It was during theses long journeys that he started to write. At age thirty-six, he ended his sea career, devoted himself entirely to literature, and settled in England. Two years later, he married an Englishwoman, by whom he had two sons. Despite the immediate critical recognition of his major novels, they did not sell well. The family lived in relative poverty until the commercial success of Chance in 1913. Having finally received acclaim, he was offered a knighthood in 1923, which he declined. Conrad died of a heart attack one year later.