Page 151. " the talk of Penelope to the return of the wandering Odysseus "

Penelope and Odysseus by Francesco Primaticcio, painted in 1563
Public DomainPenelope and Odysseus by Francesco Primaticcio, painted in 1563

The wife of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, Penelope is often held up as a symbol of fidelity, as she remains faithful to Odysseus throughout his twenty-year absence during and after the Trojan War.

She is courted by numerous suitors, each of whom she puts off with cunning tricks.  She claims to be weaving a funeral shroud for Odysseus’s father and says that she will take a new husband when she finishes it – but each night she unpicks the work of the day, delaying the matter by three years – hence Conrad’s remark that Winnie has “done no weaving”.

The Odyssey on Book Drum

Page 151. " somewhere on the London, Chatham, and Dover line "

Crest of LCDR on Blackfriars Bridge
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCrest of LCDR on Blackfriars Bridge - Credit: ChrisO
A railway line run by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) company, stretching from London down to the Kent coast.

Page 152. " the shilling his sister Winnie presented him "

1956 English and Scottish shillings
Public Domain1956 English and Scottish shillings
A shilling was one of the coins commonly used in British currency before Decimal Day in 1971. There were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pence to a shilling.

Page 153. " the unavoidable station on the via dolorosa of her life "

The via dolorosa (Latin for “way of suffering”) is the path that Jesus walked carrying his cross on the way to his crucifixion. As well as being a physical route through Jerusalem, it has spiritual significance for Christians, who remember the tribulations that Jesus suffered while walking to his death. 

Page 154. " black care, that perhaps prefers to sit behind a horseman "

A reference to the Odes by the Roman poet Horace:

Nor does black care depart from the brazen-beaked galley, and she sits behind the horseman


Page 162. " wore his moustaches twisted up "

An elaborately twisted moustache
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAn elaborately twisted moustache - Credit: Jczero
Perhaps something like this…

Page 171. " Chesterfield Walk "

A road leading into Greenwich Park, Chesterfield Walk is very close to George Street (now known as King George Street), which Mr Verloc passed before seeing anyone after leaving Stevie alone with the bomb. His description makes it clear how nearly he could have been caught at the scene of the crime.

Google Map


Page 174. " the butterfly-shaped gas flames posed on the ends of the suspended T-bracket "

A 19th century gas lamp
GNU Free Documentation LicenseA 19th century gas lamp - Credit: Roby

Following the introduction of gas brackets to the Houses of Parliament in 1859, gas became a popular method for lighting the home. Burners produced fan or butterfly-shaped flames (a bit like the safe flame from a Bunsen burner).

The Verloc’s home is lit downstairs by piped gas. This is probably channelled into the burners through simple brass, copper or iron pipes and the burner may be topped with a glass tube to shield the flame. These can sometimes be very ornate. 


Page 174. " the Empire on which the sun never sets "

The British Empire in 1919 at its greatest extent
Public DomainThe British Empire in 1919 at its greatest extent

By the end of the nineteenth century, Britain controlled approximately one quarter of the globe. With territories stretching from Canada in the west to Pacific islands in the east, it became known as the empire on which the sun never sets, a phrase which was also applied to the Spanish empire in the sixteenth century.

Page 174. " the House, which is the House par excellence "

The Palace of Westminster
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Palace of Westminster - Credit: David Iliff

Britain's elected House of Commonsthe House for short – is situated within the Palace of Westminster. In 1840, the Palace was reconstructed to designs by Charles Barry after fire destroyed the original building in 1834.