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.
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.
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.
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.
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.