Sailing Worstward: Samuel Beckett’s Maritime Inheritance


  • Andrew Fannin Kincaid University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Samul Beckett wrote to Barney Rosset, his New York publisher, that the title of his work, Worstward Ho, is a “play on Charles Kingsley's famous 1855 novel, Westward Ho.” Westward Ho! is a genuine swashbuckling affair. Worstward Ho is a minimalist, avant-garde piece. The two texts could not be further apart. Beyond Beckett’s simple pun, what does it mean that he titled one of his books, a late masterpiece, after a seafaring romance? Worstward Ho, I argue, depends upon a genre of realism (the voyage and the quest) that is best represented by nautical fiction. Beckett steers the ship of literary modernism onto the rocks. How is maritime literature a precedent that drove him there?