Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

What does Lucy have to lose?

“‘Do you remember, Phoebe. . . that French story we read – the story of a beautiful woman who committed some crime – I forget what – in the zenith of her power and loveliness, when all Paris drank to her every night, and when the people ran away from the carriage of the king to flock about hers, and get a peep at her face?’” (Braddon 109)

This passage emphasizes the juxtaposition between beauty and sins, how a woman of such loveliness, with such grand fortune could sink so low. As she recounts the story to Phoebe, Lady Audley emphasizes the woman’s fame, her beauty, and belovedness over the actual crime she committed. She never actually states the woman’s crime, as if her popularity was more important than her wrongdoings. Lucy seems to justify malevolence with beauty and fame; she pities this woman, expressing more sympathy for her loss of followership than concern over her sin.  This tale mirrors her own life story, as she conveys herself as this fresh, youthful, fairy-like woman, while she seems to be hiding a much darker interior.

Nonetheless,  this story seems to reflect Lady Audley’s fears of growing old and losing the support of those around her. Eventually, when her beauty has faded, Lucy will not hold the same power over her followers. As Lucy asks Phoebe, “‘What is to become of me when I grow old?’” she expresses a fear of losing the adoration of her followers after her beauty has faded (Braddon 109); she fears a loss of power, that she will no longer be able to enchant and seduce a crowd with her looks, and that they will inevitably turn on her. The question arises: what is Lady Audley concerned that they will discover? Or, more succinctly, what is Lady Audley’s secret?


  1. I find your points very interesting, and quite agree with them. Part of the reason Lucy is able to achieve so much of her scheme (yet to be figured out) is because she is beautiful. Even her status, leading to the money she has, leading to her paying Phoebe off to do dirty deeds, is because she captured Michael’s attention with her looks. Perhaps because she knows she has vomited a fair share of sins, Lucy seems desperate to believe in a philosophy whereby the beautiful are synonymous with the innocent, and therefore seeks to maintain her beauty as a shield to hide her crimes.

  2. I am in full agreement with your statement. Basing my points off of both your article and Lauren’s comment, there seems to be a strong connection in this novel between physical appearance and one’s outlook on the future. For example, Lady Audley’s rather ambitious future she has in mind reflects on her lovely, innocent and grandiose appearance. In stark contrast, Phoebe’s future of living with a potentially abusive husband reflects on her pale and gray features and her bland personality and sense of obedience.

  3. This post is similar to another post Stand Out Stand Strong. Lady Audley is able to use her beauty to hide her secrets. She admires the fact that beauty can be deceiving and provide women with a sense of security, but also fears the power that appearance holds. If Lady Audley does not age well then, she will lose her security blanket, she will no longer be protected or be able to fool people. I think this idea that there is power in beauty holds true today for most females. I believe that young girls are wrongly be influenced by social media to believe that if a girl is beautiful she can achieve anything. As long as she has a pretty face, not much else matters. A pretty girl can do whatever she wants and get away with whatever she wants. A female’s power and capabilities are attached to a certain societal standard of beauty.

  4. When I think about what Lucy Graham has to lose the answer is simple, everything. Lady Audley has come across a fortune like no other and will do anything necessary to keep her lifestyle. This is seen throughout the novel as Robert conveys time and time again that he has given her plenty of opportunity to escape her faith. Instead of running away from the responsibility of being persecuted for a crime that she has committed, she chooses to stay at Audley Court. Working on the destruction of Robert Audley as well.

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