The Secret Sharer

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For the Law & Order episode, see The Secret Sharers.
The Secret Sharer
Author Joseph Conrad
Language English
Genre Short Story
Publisher Harper's
Publication date

"The Secret Sharer" is a short story[1] by Joseph Conrad written in 1909, first published in Harper's Magazine in 1910, and as a book in the short-story collection Twixt Land and Sea (1912).

The story was filmed as a segment of the 1952 film Face to Face.

The Secret Sharer was adapted to a one act play in 1969 by C. R. (Chuck) Wobbe. The play was published in 1969 by the Dramatic Publishing Company.

A new film, Secret Sharer, inspired by the novella and directed by Peter Fudakowski, was released in the UK in June 2014. Secret Sharer website [1]

Plot summary[edit]


  • Nameless Captain (Narrator)
  • Leggatt
  • Captain Archbold (Skipper of the Sephora)
  • The Second Mate
  • The Chief Mate
  • The Steward

The story takes place at sea, near the Gulf of Siam, and is told from the perspective of a young nameless Captain. The captain is unfamiliar with both his ship and his crew, having only joined their company a fortnight earlier. The Captain is furthermore unsure of himself, questioning his ability to fulfill the role of such an authoritative figure.

While on look-out duty one night, the captain encounters a naked swimmer holding onto the side ladder of the ship. He helps the mysterious swimmer onto the boat and hides him in his cabin without the rest of the crew's knowledge. He then learns of the mysterious swimmer's past. His name is Leggatt, and he swam away from a nearby ship, called the Sephora, where, as chief mate, he killed another crew member for insolence during a storm.

The captain keeps Leggatt hidden in his quarters, away from the suspicious crew members and a visit from the skipper of the Sephora. Eventually the Captain allows Leggatt to escape by bringing the ship perilously close to land for Leggatt to swim away safely, though this risky sailing maneuver nearly sends the ship into the rocks, testing the Captain's seamanship. He succeeds and leads the ship away.


The story was created in just 2 weeks, while Conrad was writing Under Western Eyes. He wrote "The Secret Sharer" as a break from his much larger novel that was emotionally difficult for him. There are similarities between the two stories, with the Captain and Leggatt becoming Razumov and Haldin respectively. The story originally appeared in Harper's Magazine, under the title "The Secret-Sharer", but Conrad revised the title to make it more ambiguous, making Leggatt secretly share with the captain, rather than merely sharing a secret.

The story contains elements of real events – the chief mate of the Cutty Sark killed another crew-member for insolence during a storm, and was later arrested in London for his murder. Conrad also drew on his own time as captain of the Otago, when his first mate did not trust him, and got a particular scare when Conrad maneuvered the ship dangerously close to rocks in the Gulf of Siam.

The 2014 film version received good reviews. It was praised by the seafarers' charity Apostleship of the Sea for its portrayal of some of the issues facing seafarers.


  1. ^ Sometimes called a novella (it is about 16,500 words long).

External links[edit]

Official site for Secret Sharer, released in the UK on 27th June 2014: