Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Witchery and Tea: A Lady’s Weapon

This passage describes the act of making tea as an occupation for women. One that allows her to “reign omnipotent” amongst the visitors in her home (Braddon, 222). With this power, the act of making tea also provides for a darker undertone: “The most feminine and most domestic of all occupations imparts a magic harmony to her every movement, a witchery to her every glance” (Braddon, 222). Women are grouped with witchcraft here because they have power in this task and the loss of power is a point of unease for a guest. This passage mentions the “floating mists from the boiling liquid in which she infuses the soothing herbs, whose secrets are known to her alone” which tells us that in drinking what is given to them a guest trusts their host. It is a social act to receive people into your home and to serve them a beverage of your choice. The lady of the house has that power in these situations. She would make the mixture. She would pour the tea into portions of her choice. If one comes into the Lady’s home, she decides how they will be served. In this passage we even see the narrator mention the possibility of the task being given to servants, “ To send a couple hulking men about amongst your visitors, distributing a mixture made in the housekeeper’s room, is to reduce the most social and friendly of ceremonies to a formal giving out of rations” (Braddon, 222). In giving the task to someone else, the entire ceremony of receiving visitors is violently changed. A moment that is meant to be inviting to outsiders would become very formal and rigid without the ease of the Lady of the house making the visitor feel personally welcomed into the space. In handing over power and giving the Lady your trust, a visitor is awarded a sense of personal invitation in which they can feel safe despite their lack of control.   

2 Comments

  1. This is a very interesting post. One because I definitely agree in that the women are both posed as “evil” characters in Lady Audley’s Secret. I for one think that during the time that this book was written it was almost as if the world of men were afraid of potential women had. In that time men had more power in the world than ever before and once they started to realize that women were really really smart both deceptively and rationally. The world of men began to fear them and then see them to be evil people like witches.

  2. During the Victorian Era, the act of keeping up appearances, especially in regards to manners and life within the home, was very important to society. As the act of making tea was a common domestic act, usually done by women in this time period, this contributes to the idea of sensationalism, as authors within this era typically wrote about the common and the domestic in a new light in order to invoke more emotion in the reader. This blog post interestingly reflects on the idea that even the act of making tea can be used to describe the power held by a woman in a domestic setting. Later in the novel, the power that women hold in the home is detailed further as Lucy is revealed to use her role as a women to attempt to get away with crimes, and uses her charms as a beautiful woman against her enemies, such as Robert, who tries to expose her, and George, who cannot provide enough money for her in their previous marriage. This act of serving guests with feminine grace and therefore having power over them is therefore continued in the novel.

Leave a Reply

© 2018 Monsters & Madness

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑