Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

What is Lady Audley’s Secret?

In the novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Brandon there have been many secrets and mysteries that have presented themselves throughout the course of volume one. Aside from the disappearance of George Tallboys, one of the largest mysteries is what exactly is Lady Audley’s secret? A passage on page 91 leads me to believe she had something to do with Georges disappearance, and that the two huge secrets in this novel are intertwined. “It was not one, but four slender, purple marks, such might have been made by the four fingers of a powerful hand that had grasped the delicate wrist a shade too roughly…Across one of the faint purple marks there was a darker tinge, as if a ring worn on one of these strong and cruel fingers had been ground into the tender flesh” (Brandon 91). This passage originally struck me as interesting because it contained a clue to one of the mysteries. Sir Michael Audley is narrating this passage and has noticed these marks on Lady Audley’s wrist. She protests that it was only a ribbon that caused them, but her determination to make everyone believes this leads me to believe she is trying to hide something. The contrasting language in the passage, such as powerful, strong and cruel, vs. tender and delicate as well as the repetition of fingers and four point to the main idea of the passage- four rough fingers left the marks on Lady Audley, not a ribbon. I believe the fingers belong to George, who was last seen at Lady Audley’s house before his disappearance and potential murder. I assume he would have been wearing a ring because of his long-standing love for his late wife.

5 Comments

  1. I love the passage on 91 that you’ve analyzed here– it’s such a funny, classic hint. I definitely think it’s the mark of George’s hand, and Braddon’s emphasis on the ring is crucial because the point of contention between Lucy and George, ultimately, is their marriage. I have a theory with fairly little evidence that George’s body is in the well and that in a Lion King-esque moment she pushed him in and he caught her arm, leaving those marks with the pressure and weight of his body before she shook him off and he fell to drown (Braddon mentions the well fairly frequently in describing the grounds but almost seems to avoid it? as if it’s important and she doesn’t want to draw the reader’s attention). Her protest that it was a ribbon was feeble; she would have done better to wear a long-sleeved dress that covered her wrists.

    • I agree with the analysis done in the initial post, but I particularly want to comment on something the writer in this comment mentioned. I found it very fascinating that Braddon highlighted the finger marks on Lady Audley’s wrist which included an imprint of a ring. The reason George and Lucy were on the grounds together in the first place was so that George could confront Lady Audley, once Helen Talboys, that he knows it is her. The entirety of the incident on the mansion grounds was surrounded by George’s love for her and for the woman he continued to wear a ring for even though she was “dead”. Reflecting on it now, Braddon did a lot of foreshadowing within this sensation novel, and I think this was one of the stronger passages where Braddon really highlights the irony of Lucy/Lady Audley/Helen killing her own husband and him leaving a literal imprint of his loyalty to their marriage (in a way, even though he left her for 15 years?) upon her arm.

  2. Your original analysis of this passage seems very accurate as later in the book this idea is brought up again. I agree that this passage could have been one of the first signs of murder by Lady Audley, and as we continue reading it seems more evident. To add to your analysis and agree with your statement, I think that Braddon intentionally stated that the four purple marks looked like fingers to implant this idea into the readers heads. The timing of the purple bruises corresponds with the disappearance of George, which would make it possible for Lady Audley to have murdered him.

  3. Your original analysis of this passage seems very accurate as later in the book this idea is brought up again., when Lady Audley seemingly “admits” to Georges murder. I agree that this passage could have been one of the first signs of murder by Lady Audley, and as we continue reading it seems more evident. To add to your analysis and agree with your statement, I think that Braddon intentionally stated that the four purple marks looked like fingers to implant the idea of murder or attack in the readers head. The timing of the purple bruises corresponds with the disappearance of George, which would make it possible for Lady Audley to have murdered him.

  4. You were observant in noting that the purple marks could reveal the truth behind George’s disappearance and her involvance in the incident. In chapter VI of Volume III, Lady Audley unveils how she murdered George Talboys, explaining the cause of the “four slender, purple marks” (Braddon 91) upon her wrist. Confessing to Robert, she says, “I was going to leave him after having told him this, when he caught me by the wrist and detained me by force. You saw the bruises that his fingers made upon my wrist and noticed them” (Braddon 386). This exemplifies how there are many key moments at the beginning of the novel that can foreshadow and uncover significant events.

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