The Secret Agent

By Joseph Conrad


The Secret Agent (1907) was inspired by an anarchist attempt made on the Greenwich Observatory in 1894. The 'Author's Note' states "This book is that story, reduced to manageable proportions, its whole course suggested and centred around the absurd cruelty of the Greenwich Park explosion." Conrad, living in London at that time, would have read the newspaper accounts of the incident, which were brief and at first mysterious, like the articles in the novel. However they did establish that the victim was Martin Bourdin, a man linked to anarchism, that he was badly mutilated, and had probably stumbled as he carried a bomb. It later emerged that Bourdin was brother- in-law to a known anarchist, Samuels. These details provided the skeleton for Conrad's tale.

Further source information, such as transcripts of the newspaper reports, can be found in Norman Sherry's essay, "The Greenwich Bomb Outrage".