The Secret Agent. A Simple Tale - Joseph Conrad 1907 - Methuen & Co., London - First Edition ‘I confess that it makes a grisly skeleton. But I will submit that telling Winnie Verloc’s story to its anarchistic end of utter desolation, madness an despair, and telling it as I have told it here, I have not intended to commit a gratuitous outrage on the feelings of mankind’ – Conrad, of The Secret Agent in a later edition.

One of the first examples of a double agent ever produced on paper, and the first book to examine terrorism as a plot device, Conrad’s novel follows Adolf Verloc: a spy with an allegiance to an unnamed country, and his brother-in-law Stevie as they track down a conglomerate of anarchists, terrorists, and spies, risking the loss of everything they hold dear. Based on the true events of the Greenwich Bombing of 1894, Conrad’s Stevie follows a similar trajectory to that of French anarchist, Martial Bourdin.

I am afraid that if you want to go down into history you'll have to do something for it.’
  The Secret Agent depicts the atmosphere of Edwardian London in a psychological thriller of the anarchist underworld. Conrad’s wit and chivalrous magnanimity are at their airiest in this novel which is more influential though less grandly Flaubertian than Nostromo (1904).’ - Cyril Connolly, Modern Movement.

Immensely popular at the time of its release,
The Secret Agent enjoyed a surge in sales in the fortnight following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and has remained an eerily relevant cautionary tale regarding espionage and international conflict. It has been adapted for radio, television, and film, forming the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 film, 'Sabotage', and in 1996 (as 'The Secret Agent') directed by Christopher Hampton and staring Patricia Arquette, Gerard Depardieu and Christian Bale. It has been listed among the Mystery Writers of America’s top 100 novels, and is a Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone title.

‘The Secret Agent is an astonishing book. It is one of the best—and certainly the most significant—detective stories ever written’ - Ford Madox Ford

Jozef Teodor Conrad Korzeniowski (1857-1924)
Polish, born in Russia and considered by many as one of the best 20th century novelists. Conrad spent over twenty years at sea, initially with the French merchant marine, joining the British Merchant Service after building up gambling debts that led to attempted suicide and financial bail-out by his uncle. Conrad travelled to the major ports of the world and places such as the Malay Archipelago, the Gulf of Siam and the Belgian Congo, that were to be the basis of many of his later novels.

'He's absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (...they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence...) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It's not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can't say or do or think.' – T. E. Lawrence.

One of 2,500 copies printed, which includes an unknown number of copies for Colonial issue. The domestic issue may have comprised as few as 1,500 copies.

References: Connolly,
Modern Movement 15. Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure. Herbert, The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing, 101. Wise A Conrad Bibliography 17. Cagle A12a(1).

Octavo (19.6 x 13.5 cm) pp. [8] 442, 40 (publisher’s catalogue dated September 1907). Lacking last leaf of the final sheet which is a blank with printer’s imprint on verso (Sig. 2 E 6, placed between page 442 and first page of publisher’s catalogue). In publisher’s red cloth, spine lettered and decorated in gilt.
  Condition: Very good, small patches of wear to spine, rubbing to corners and spine ends, toning to endpapers, rear hinge with evidence of earlier neat repair, vary light foxing to first and last few pages, creasing (but not folding) to lower corner of a number of pages.   Ref: 109050   Price: HK$ 8,000