Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Lady Audley’s Mysterious Past

 “ It was neither a locket, a miniature, nor a cross: it was a ring wrapped in an oblong piece of paper-the paper    partly printed, partly written, yellow with age, and crumpled with much folding.”


     In this quote, taken from the first chapter of Mary Elizabeth Braddon book titled Lady Audley’s Secret, it seems that Lucy Graham has some sort of grave secret that she is hiding from the world. The ring and the crumpled paper gives the reader a mysterious darker insight of Lady Audley’s past. Her reputation within the book thus far has only been about how positive, light hearted and amiable she is. Getting further into the rest of the chapters in the novel, the ring, and crumpled paper connects with a similar story of how George Talboys left his wife and child to sail off to Australia in order to make money to provide for his family. He left a brief note to his wife Helen before he sailed off.  After he returns home three years later, he reads in the newspaper how his beloved wife had died about a week before. Mr. Talboy finding out about his wife’s death occurs the same time as when Lucy Graham agrees to marry Michael Audley. This is critical because, in the passage above, the description of the objects that are listed seem as though the crumpled paper can represent the letter and the ring a previous marriage.

    The most vivid description in the passage above is what condition the paper is in. It seems that Lady Audley has read the letter but always keeps it fold up. It is interesting how Lady Audley keeps these trinkets tied to the black ribbon around her neck. This could signify that these trinkets are sentimental to her, and gives the reader the opportunity to ask questions and make connections on “why” the actual reason she is so secretive and the true significance it represents. Essentially these trinkets that Lucy Audley is hiding, can be key evidence in resolving her mysterious darker past.


  1. Lucy Graham’s “trinkets” and lack of a credible reputation pose questions about her mysterious past. Lucy left the city and arrived in the country with very little public knowledge on her past. A seemingly nonexistent lady was the only reference Lucy gave the surgeon before she was hired. But upon receiving a telegram from London, she and Sir Michael traveled to London, but never found this woman. Does this woman even exist? Did Lucy send Phoebe to London to send a telegram? Did Lucy write the reference? Where is Lucy really from and what is she hiding?

  2. The mention of paper and Lady Audley’s trinkets continue to be prominent in the novel. In chapter 3, Phoebe discovers “a baby’s little worsted shoe rolled up in a piece of paper, and a tiny lock of pale and silky yellow hair, evidently taken from a baby’s head,” (Braddon, 34) when she is looking through Lady Audley’s secret draw in her room. As mentioned in the post, this raises the question of if Lady Audley is also George’s wife that he left behind? The reader has cause to believe this considering George and Helen had a young son. Perhaps this is his hair that Lady Audley wishes to keep and remember him with.

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