Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The Hound of the Baskervilles v. Lady Audley’s Secret

The  Hound of the Baskervilles contains many similarities to Lady Audley’s Secret. Many of the tropes we discovered in Lady Audley’s Secret appear in the novel.  In both novels we have crimes of passion, murder, there is familial ties which we see with both the Audley’s and the Baskervilles, there is excitement as the mystery unravels, there is a subtle power structure and place and time are also important factors. While there are few similarities between the novels, there is one key difference that presents itself from the start of the novel.

Lady Audley’s Secret was not a Gothic novel because it was missing some elements, one key element it was missing was the supernatural.  From the very beginning of the novel we are introduced to the supernatural with the character of Hugo Baskerville. Hugo unlike Lady Audley is immediately characterized as the evil, godless, wild and profane individual. There is moment in the manuscript where after Hugo discovered that the maiden he had kidnapped fled, he told his company that he would “render his soul and body to the  Powers of Evil if he might overtake the wench” (14). This is unlike Lady Audley’s Secret, in that novel evil took shape in human form. There was no great evil power, the evil in Lady Audley’s Secret was Lady Audley. She was the evil that people had to fear. That is not the case in this novel.

We see that the supernatural will be a very important trope in this novel because our murderer is a an evil creature.

“There in the centre lay the unhappy maid where she had fallen, dead of fear and of fatigue. But it was not the sight of her body, nor yet was it that of the body of Hugo Baskerville lying near her, which raised the hair upon the heads of these three dare-devil roisterers, but it was that standing over Hugo, and plucking at his throat, their stood a foul thing, a great, black beast, shaped like a hound yet larger than any hound that ever mortal eye has rested upon” (15).

Just when you were starting to believe that Hugo was the evil in our novel, we discover that there is creature more sinister than him. A creature that you might side with for he murdered a man who was trying to harm an innocent woman. It is interesting that the author would paint Hugo in a despicable light and then have him killed by something else despicable. Thus, causing the audience to wonder is Hugo a character worth sympathizing with or did the beast do the world a favor.

3 Comments

  1. I liked your idea about the confliction between whether or not we should hate Hugo Baskerville after he is killed by the beast! However, I do not think you should discredit Lady Audley as a gothic novel simply because it does not include the supernatural. I agree that it is not gothic, but for a variety of factors other than just not having supernatural elements.

  2. I agree that The Hound of the Baskervilles and Lady Audley’s Secret share a lot of similarities. Another similarity that I noted was between Miss Stapleton and Lady Audley. They are both described as beautiful women, and they are both hiding some kind of secret. One difference between the two novels that could be discussed is the way in which the plot unfolds. In Lady Audley’s Secret, we are presented with the possibility (and overwhelming suspicion) that Lady Audley is Helen Talboys quite early on. Meanwhile, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, we do not get any big theories that easily; in the first half of the book, all we get are some hints and some suspicious dialogue from certain characters.

  3. I agree with the key trope of supernatural being absent from LAS as you said. It is what helps define a gothic novel and what kept LAS and HOB from being too similar. You brought up a different example than the others who posted about this difference as you used Hugo’s rage of his hostages escape and him selling himself to evil instead of the hound being the supernatural oddity. If Lady Audley had begun a downward spiral of rage similar to his where she would call forth the devil then the two would have been much more similar in context.

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