The Secret Agent, (1907)

By Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)



A Note on the Text

Film Version


  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13



The chronicler of Mr Lewisham's love
the biographer of Kipps and the
historian of the ages to come
this simple tale of the nineteenth century
is affectionately offered

A Note on the Text

The text

We use for copy-text of this online edition the 1907 book version, as published in the 1963 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics edition, ISBN 0-14-018096-6. This edition was edited by Martin Seymour-Smith, who holds a 1984 copyright on his excellent introduction. The text itself is no longer under the copyright held at the time of the first Penguin edition, 1963, then by the Trustees of the Joseph Conrad Estate and J. M. Dent & Co. To the 1907 copy-text we add the 1920 author's preface given in the Penguin edition.

We have followed this text's spelling and punctuation except in a few instances. We have used the HTML """ entity to stand for quotation marks around speech, in place of the single quote that is the usual British style. (In the introduction we have followed the original style.) Most browsers will render """ as a double quote, as in American style. However, the mark will be inside punctuation marks such as commas, when that was the case in the original. Secondly, we have substituted a double minus sign or hyphen for the em dash rendered in the original as "space hyphen space". Finally, we substitute a capital "D" in larger type for the original Greek capital delta sign (a triangle) as code for Verloc.

Publishing history

According to Mr Seymour-Smith's Penguin introduction, Conrad wrote The Secret Agent in 1906 for the magazine, Ridway's: A Militant Weekly for God and Country. Called Verloc, this was to be a short story. The J. M. Dent book edition in 1907 was changed extensively, according to Mr Seymour-Smith, especially the ending.

Another HTML text online of The Secret Agent is from Data Text Corporation, at the Bibliomania site, either in the U.K. or in the U.S. They too seem to have used the Penguin text.

For those interested in collecting first editions, we have seen one at Hawthorn Books, 7 College Park Drive, Bristol BS10 7AN, England, tel:+44 0117-9 509175, fax:+44 0117-9 592260, owners Nora and Tony Aldridge. Asking $1,200.

Those who prefer to read the book in another form can order the Classics Illustrated comic book edition for about $3.95 from tel:+1 800 569 2434 or tel:+1 312 664 7852 or fax:+1 312 664 5269, 919 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 3700, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.

Further information

Originally we had planned to add some notes to this online edition as necessary explanations for modern, especially American, readers. Please read Mr Seymour-Smith's introduction instead. "Ticket-of-leave" in the text refers to a convict on parole, who can be sent back to prison for bad behavior. Irish nationalists were termed "Fenians."

Film versions

The Secret Agent has been made into a film in 1996. Directed by Christoper Hampton, it stars Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette, Robin Williams, and Christian Bale. It is available on video tape.

You may also be interested in the 1936 Alfred Hitchcock film, "Sabotage"--not "Saboteur"--which is based on the novel. It starred Joyce Barbour and Oscar Homolka. It is also known as "A Woman Alone." Some video stores rent it, and it often plays on late-night television.