Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

His Fair Lady

” What was she but a servant like me? Taking wages and working for them as hard, or harder than I did. You should have seen her shabby clothes, Luke-worn and patched, and darned, and turned and twisted, yet always looking nice upon her, somehow… Why, I’ve seen her come out of the parlor with a few sovereigns and a little silver in her hand, that master had just given her for her quarter’s salary; and now look at her!” ( Braddon 31)

 Phoebe is one of the most confusing characters that we have come across so far in the novel. She seems to have this deep seethed loathing towards Lucy, the lady who gave her a better life than the one she had before. In most circumstances, you would think that a maid who has been treated with such kindness, would not have such ill feelings towards her lady. Her admiration towards Lucy and the life she now leads is concealed with a hidden venom. The use of the words “shabby”, “worn”, “patched” and “darned” are used by Phoebe to put an emphasis on how penniless her lady was before she became the Lady of Audley Court. Phoebe wants Luke to truly grasp that she and Lucy were not truly different until Lucy’s luck changed. Phoebe’s tone throughout this passage gives the reader insight into how she feels towards Lucy. As she continues her discussion to Luke about how far Lucy has come she ends her rant with, “now look at her”, by reading this statement and the words that came before it, it is not hard to tell that she is saying it with contempt.

Phoebe dreams of a better life for herself – she has witnessed Lucy come up from nothing and fantasizes about the same kind of future for herself. However, like much of the novel, there is a mystery behind how she plans to gain such fortune and luck. This introduction of Phoebe’s character leaves the readers wondering what she has planned for her lady. Her part in this story will become more than just Lucy’s maid, as she has uncovered one of her lady’s secrets, and intends to use it to propel her life forward. She will be a key asset in the uncovering of Lady Audley’s secret.

3 Comments

  1. In chapter 7, Lady Audley directly comments on the similarities between her and Phoebe. She notes, “you are like me… with a bottle of hair dye… you’d be as good-looking as I any day, Phoebe,” (Braddon, 60). It feels as if Lady Audley is implying that a transformation, like Phoebe noted to Luke, is possible for the servant, much Lucy previously went through. It’ll be interesting to see how Lady Audley and Phoebe’s connections to one another will play out as the novel continues. Will Phoebe become Lady Audley 2.0?

  2. I believe that Phoebe dislikes Lucy so much that she will eventually try to blackmail with the baby hair and shoe that she stole from Lucy’s secret drawer. She was smart enough to recognize that those items are more valuable than the expensive jewelry Lucy has: “‘I’d rather have this than the diamond bracelet you would have liked to take,’ she answered; ‘you shall have the public-house, Luke.’” Another possibility is that she will try to find out the truth about Lucy’s past and expose her in, probably in the hopes that she will receive some sort of monetary reward or position that will benefit her.

  3. I find this phoebe character to be very interesting. Her known history, as you stated, draws many parallels with the known history of now Lady Audley. Despite coming from similar backgrounds, I feel that the animosity and “venom” that Phoebe displays towards Lady Audley is strangely uncalled for. Even though Lady Audley’s ascent up the social class ladder could be attributed to luck, the same could be said for Phoebe’s ascent into Audley court. I wonder if Phoebe, like Lady Audley, could also be hiding a more sinister past.

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