Victorian Terrorism

Esplanade, anarchists and terrorist bombers; not what I had ever associated with Victorian England.

For my literature module on London and modern literature I am reading ‘The Secret Agent by J.Conrad (free on Kindle). The novel set, in the 1880’s, centres around a group of (fairweather) anarchists and secret agents in the backstreets of Soho.

I’m more of a Heathcliff and Mad Hatter lover than a crime reader but this novel is fascinating me in the parallels with terrorist explosions in today’s world. When news reaches the characters that a man has blown himself up in Greenwich my first thoughts were that it was a suicide bomber and not the accident it turns out to be from detonating too soon. (As far as I know as I’m half way through.) it is written so the reader knows what happened before the characters. The main character Mr. Verloc exploits his vulnerable, unintelligent brother-in-law to become the victim. Insinuating this in the readers mind before any description of the body is revealed makes them that little bit as wrong and corrupt as Verloc in having the same idea as him.

This was inspired by a real terrorist attempt in 1895 to bomb the Greenwich observatory, the site of the Meridian line. The bomb detonated too soon killing French anarchist Marshial Bourdin.

I keep wondering though what their anarchism is against, what they are trying to scare societies belief in. Can anyone enlighten me as the politics and need for revolution are lost on me.

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