“I should be preaching a very stale sermon, and harping upon a very familiar moral, if I were to seize this opportunity of declaiming against art and beauty, because my lady was more wretched in this elegant apartment than many a half-starved sempstress in her dreary garret… and all the treasures that had been collected for her could have given her no pleasure but one, the pleasure of flinging them into a heap beneath her feet, and trampling upon them and destroying them in her cruel despair” (Braddon 292-293).
In this passage, while surrounded by her bounty of luxurious possessions, Lady Audley sulks over her hopeless situation following the discovery of her crimes. The “Benvunuto Cellini carvings and the Sevres porcelain” are only a few of her many exotic treasures that, as the narrator explains, suddenly do not “give her happiness.” Ironically, she is more miserable in her “elegant apartment” than “many a half-starved sempstress in her dreary garret.” Lucy’s distress in the company of her opulent room represents a distortion of the Victorian values and desires to have worldly treasures at their fingertips. During the Victorian era, English imperialism was on the rise, and the ownership of ornate foreign items became a new obsession. However, Braddon illustrates the possession of exotic riches in a negative light: “all the treasures that had been collected for her could have given her no pleasure but one, the pleasure of flinging them into a heap beneath her feet, and trampling upon them and destroying them in her cruel despair.” The mere suggestion of ruin and disposal of such valuable riches would possibly shock the Victorian reader, for Lucy’s displeasure represents a rejection of the esteemed upper-class life of grandeur. Furthermore, the narrator uses a sarcastic tone while describing Lady Audley’s elaborate belongings. For instance, the narrator describes “wealth and luxury” as “such plasters” and a “circle of careless pleasure-seeking creatures,” which alludes to the superficiality of a seemingly desirable social status. Furthermore, this demonstrates Braddon’s criticism on the materialistic values of the Victorian Society, as she suggests that happiness does not necessarily come from the enviable and lavish life of wealth and luxury.