Page 127. " secured her admission to certain almshouses "

A 1787 drawing of some almshouses in Rochford, Essex
Public DomainA 1787 drawing of some almshouses in Rochford, Essex

Almshouses were modest homes provided by charitable organisations to people unable to afford their own accommodation. As a former spirit merchant’s widow, Winnie Verloc’s mother is able to draw upon contacts in the licensed spirit trade to secure a place to live.

Page 129. " like a sort of Chinese wall "

A section of the Great Wall of China
Public DomainA section of the Great Wall of China

A saying derived from the Great Wall of China, meaning an internal communication barrier.  It is most commonly used in business, banking and law to describe situations where one group may not discuss certain matters with another.

 

 

Page 130. " a metropolitan hackney carriage "

Joseph Aloysius Hansom
Public DomainJoseph Aloysius Hansom

A taxi. In 1886, this would have been a horse-drawn hansom cab. These were named after Joseph Hansom, who patented the design in 1834. An eminent architect, Hansom was also celebrated for his buildings. One of the most famous of these is the Grade I-listed St Walburge's, Preston, which, with its 309 ft spire, is the tallest parish church in England. 

 

Page 131. " the long Treasury building "

HM Treasury
Creative Commons AttributionHM Treasury - Credit: Enrique Dans
 The Treasury building on Horseguards Road holds the government ministry responsible for UK economic and financial policy.

Page 139. " like Virgil’s Silenus, who, his face smeared with the juice of berries, discoursed of Olympian Gods to the innocent shepherds of Sicily "
Drunken Silenus by Rubens
Public DomainDrunken Silenus by Rubens

A woodland creature in Greek mythology, Silenus was part man and part goat. A follower of Dionysus, god of wine and ecstasy, he spent most of his time gorging himself on food and wine but was mistakenly considered something of a sage.

The episode Conrad refers to comes from the Eclogues by the poet Virgil. Discovered asleep in his cave by the shepherds Chromis and Mnasyllus, Silenus is tied up and asked to sing to them. They get more than they bargain for with Silenus’ colourful tales. 

Within a cave/ Young Chromis and Mnasyllos chanced to see/ Silenus sleeping, flushed, as was his wont,/ With wine of yesterday. Not far aloof,/ Slipped from his head, the garlands lay, and there/ By its worn handle hung a ponderous cup. Approaching- for the old man many a time/ Had balked them both of a long hoped-for song-/ Garlands to fetters turned, they bind him fast.

Page 139. " the steed of apocalyptic misery "

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887
Public DomainFour Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887

Steed is another word for horse and apocalyptic refers to the end of the world.

The metaphor invites readers to compare the pathetic horse with the four powerful horses of the apocalypse, whose riders Famine, War, Pestilence and Death the Book of Revelation predicts will descend upon the Earth in advance of the Last Judgement.