"When you say that I murdered him treacherously and foully, you lie. I killed him because I AM MAD!”
At the time of its publication in 1862, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s hugely popular Lady Audley's Secret quite literally scandalized Victorian England.
Drawing heavily on the case of a real-life murderess, Braddon penned one of the most sensational novels of its time what with its vivid portrayals of bigamy and fierce female social ambition.
Her bold subversion of the conventional Victorian notions of proper behavior, Lady Audley's Secret has often been hailed as one of the first novels to feature a feminist protagonist, Lucy Graham, who inspires both sympathy and derision at the same time, as she simultaneously makes biting critiques of Victorian gender roles and social stereotypes, and creates sympathy for her criminal heroine.
Together with Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon dominated the market for novels of sensation during the 1860s, in featuring a beautiful heroine, amateur detective, blackmail, arson, violence, and plenty of suspenseful action.
To its contemporary readers, it offered the thrill of uncovering blackmail and criminal violence within the homes of the upper class.
The genre caused moral alarm among critics: not only did it revel in murder, bigamy, illegitimacy and madness, it seemed to pathologize the very act of reading itself—since its narrative method (which foreshadows that of modern detective fiction) turned readers into addicts, titillating them with a series of withheld secrets and startling revelations.
MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON (1835 –1915) was a popular English novelist of the Victorian era, best known for Lady Audley's Secret. A prolific writer, she wrote numerous novels, short story collections, and magazine articles.