Lady Audley's Secret
Stephen Carver looks at Mary Elizabeth Braddon's classic example of Victorian 'Sensation Fiction', ...
"Surely a pretty woman never looks
prettier than when making tea."
Mary Elizabeth Braddon was one of the most popular and prolific of Victorian authors, producing over 80 novels, five plays and various poems and short stories. She was born in London in 1837, inheriting her literary talent from her parents, who both wrote articles for magazines. Her parents separated in 1840, and Mary worked as an actress for three years in order to support herself and her mother.
In 1860 she met John Maxwell, a publisher of periodicals. They lived together for fourteen years, during which time she acted as stepmother to his five children before marrying him in 1874 after the death of his insane wife. She had six children by him.
She published several works prior to the publication of Lady Audley’s Secret, the sensational story of a beautiful homicidal bigamist, which shocked a great many of her readers. Nevertheless, it won her fame and fortune, and another controversial bestseller, Aurora Floyd, quickly followed. This novel scandalised her critics because of a scene in which the heroine becomes passionately aroused while horsewhipping a male stable hand.
She was always aware of what her readers liked, and she was not afraid to alter her style and subject matter to suit her audience, and the ever-changing demands of the marketplace. She actually lived long enough to see the film version of Aurora Floyd before her death in 1915.
TITLES BY MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON