Medieval servants in green, sleeveless jackets. Conrad’s description of the anachronistic art on the walls of the café points up his own disruption of the chronology of the novel. Here, instead of sticking to the conventional timeline he has established, he catapults the reader forward in time without giving any hints about what he has done. The effect is disorientating and has led some critics to claim that The Secret Agent is itself an anarchic text.
" executed suddenly all by itself a valse tune "
This is an automated piano containing a piano roll that enables it to play a set number of pre-programmed tunes automatically. Its presence in a café in 1886 is in itself an anachronism as the first automated pianos weren’t widely available until after 1896. A valse is a waltz.
Now a wealthy district of London, Islington was a poor area in the late nineteenth century. In fact it isn’t far from central London at all, suggesting that Conrad is really referring to the mental distance between Comrade Ossipon and the Professor.
" actuates a detonator inside the flask "
Extract from the Ilford Manual of Photography showing a pneumatic camera shutter
An India-rubber ball is a hollow ball connected to a tube which pumps air when squeezed. The detonator which the Professor carries about with him to set off his personal bomb is a chemical detonator, which works by mingling explosive substances which react on contact with one another. He likens it to the pneumatic camera shutter, which came in in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This worked by pressure from a rubber ball triggering a piston, which tripped the shutter, taking the photograph.
" at the corner of Tottenham Court Road "