Joseph Conrad was born to Polish parents in the Ukraine on 3rd December 1857. He grew up surrounded by upheaval. His father was exiled to northern Russia for political activities and although they eventually returned to Poland, Conrad was orphaned by the age of 11. Subsequently he was taught by his uncle, a great influence and mentor. Leaving for Marseilles in 1874, Conrad began his training as a seaman. After an attempt at suicide, Conrad joined the British merchant navy and became a British subject in 1886. After his first novel, Almayer's Folly was published in 1895 he left the sea behind and settled down to a life of writing. Indeed, as his wife wrote in 1927, he would move only 'from his table to his bed, for days and days on end'. Troubled financially for many years, he faced uncomplimentary critics and an indifferent public. He finally became a popular success with Chance (1913). By the end of his life on 3rd August 1924 his status as one of the great writers of his time was assured.