Literapedia Book Notes for

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad


  • Mr. Adolf Verloc (ch 1)—the proprietor of an unsavory stationery shop, and a secret agent.
  • Winnie Verloc (ch 1)—Mr. Verloc’s much-younger wife.
  • Stevie (ch 1)—Winnie’s younger and mentally deficient brother.
  • Winnie’s mother (ch 1)—an older woman whose swollen legs hinder her mobility.
  • Mr. Vladimir (ch 2)—the First Secretary of the Embassy of an unnamed European country.
  • Michaelis (ch 3)—a member of Verloc’s Future of the Proletariat (F.P.) society; he is supported by a rich patroness.
  • Karl Yundt (ch 3)—the oldest member of the F.P.; he refers to himself as the terrorist.
  • Alexander Ossipon (ch 3)—a former medical student and the principal writer of the F.P pamphlets.
  • The Professor (ch 4)—a bomb-maker who is always ready to commit suicide.
  • Chief Inspector Heat (ch 5)—the police officer in charge of keeping track of the anarchists.
  • The Assistant Commissioner (ch 5)—Inspector Heat’s superior.
  • Sir Ethelred (ch 7)—the aged Secretary of State and a great Personage.
  • Toodles (ch 7)—Sir Ethelred’s secretary.

Chapter Summaries

  1. Verloc’s shop in his house in Soho, London is described. Verloc’s family is introduced, and his wooing of Winnie is briefly related.
  2. Verloc visits an unnamed Embassy, and it is revealed that he has been acting as an agent provocateur in London for some time. Vladimir charges him with provoking the English government to repressive measures by bombing the Greenwich Observatory.
  3. Verloc meets with Michaelis, Yundt, and Ossipon. Afterwards, Stevie is upset by what he hears, and Verloc is unable to fall asleep.
  4. A month passes. Ossipon meets the Professor in a tavern and tells him of the explosion at Greenwich Park. The Professor says that he had given a bomb to Verloc.
  5. On the way home, the Professor encounters Chief Inspector Heat, who had spent the morning investigating the bombing. Later, Heat confers with the Assistant Commissioner.
  6. Chief Inspector Heat and the Assistant Commissioner continue to discuss the case. The Assistant Commissioner asks about Michaelis, and Heat shares the clue he found.
  7. The Assistant Commissioner visits Sir Ethelred and then begins his own investigation.
  8. The time reverts to before the bombing. Winnie’s mother is taken to a charity home in a cab, accompanied by Winnie and Stevie. On the way home, Stevie contemplates poverty. At home, Verloc worries about his situation.
  9. Verloc returns from a ten-day trip to the Continent, and he convinces Winnie to allow Stevie to live with Michaelis in the country for a while. The afternoon of the bombing, Verloc is visited by the Assistant Commissioner and then by Inspector Heat. Winnie learns of her brother’s death.
  10. After talking with Verloc, the Assistant Commissioner first visits Sir Ethelred and then visits the patroness of Michaelis. At the home of the latter, he confronts Mr. Vladimir.
  11. Verloc attempts to explain Stevie’s death to Winnie, who eventually gets her revenge.
  12. Winnie stumbles upon Ossipon, and the two make plans to escape to France that are unrealized.
  13. Ossipon and the Professor discuss the recent events.

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor