Miss Tonks

“Miss Graham told me nothing… without so much as one word of recommendation from any living creature,” (Braddon 234).

Before this passage, Robert asks both Mrs. Vincent and Miss Tonks where Lucy Graham was coming from. Mrs. Vincent gave a very vague answer that she was coming from the seaside.  In this passage, Miss Tonks answers, “Miss Graham told me nothing; she was too clever for that.” We can see that Miss Tonks is very sure that Lucy Graham is hiding something, especially when Robert asks, “you think she had secrets, then?” and she make sure to emphasize, “I know she had.”  We are also previously given information that Miss Tonks has a very good memory and if she cannot remember where Lucy had come from or when, then that makes Robert even more suspicious.  It also seems that even though Miss Tonk has little information on Lucy, she has no problem with throwing her under the bus with any information she has, “She made the most of what she did know,” (Braddon 235). Though Robert is suspicious of Lucy, he also notices how easy it is for her to do this when she reveals the box, “How pitiless these women are to each other.” With this box, Robert was able to discover a label, “which bore the name of Miss Graham, passenger to London,’ which brought the novel to a cliffhanger with more evidence for Mr. Audley’s investigation.

Detective Robert

“Mr. Maldon is not at home, Sir,” she said, with insinuating civility; “But if not for the water rate, he requested me to say that- “She was interrupted by little George Tallboys, who scrambled down the high chair upon which he had been perched, and ran to Robert Audley” (165) 

I think what peaks my interest the most regarding the beginning of volume II is the interest Robert Audley has directly within finding George Tallboys. It would be one thing if he just reported his disappearance to the proper authorities and from their just waited on word from that point but instead he has this very boots on the ground style approach to looking for him. Going very far in the process even looking at a place where he knew he would find George’s son. I think these actions speak a lot to the bond between the two. I wonder as we continue how these actions will evolve as well as Robert’s attitude toward this investigation. Is there a deeper reason or secret to why Robert is being so throughout this investigation? Is there anyone that he really trusts? The other thing I thought about in this volume is how it seems like a lot of characters end up giving very half answers to a lot of questions that a rise from Robert. 

Pretty Privilege

“Perhaps in that retrospectove reerie she recalles the early time in which she had first looked into the glass and discovered that she was beautiful: that fatal early time in which she had first begun to look upon her loveliness as a right divine, a boundless possesion which was to be a set-off all girlish short-comings, a counter-balance of every youtful sin.” (Braddon 293) 

In this passage, beauty is depicted as a tangible, powerful object, something that can and will be used. The term “boundless possession” specifically stood out for the reason that it shows how the attainment of beauty has no limits as to what someone can accomplish with it. This concept is not foreign to Lucy Audley. She has used her pretty face and deceitful nature to successfully carry out numerous ploys and instances of minipulation. She knows how easily she can influence the mind of Sir Michael Audley, along with others, as shown throughout the past few chapters of the book. She is confident in her ability to persuade Michael to believe that Robert has gone mad and does so with ease with her intense expression of emotion and the facade of a childlike innocence and ignorance. Robert recognizes this and in turn starts to generalize the category of women as a whole of doing this action. He sees this “power” that women hold as a danger to others, almost in protest to the increasing social power that women are gaining at this time in history. The book continuously builds on the idea that men are perceived to hold the power in social and romantic relationships while, in reality, women use their high emotional intelligence to gain power over situations and people. This way, they are easily able to manipulate for their own benefit. This idea is expressed through other female characters as well, such as Clara Talboys. Robert Frequently thinks back to her plea for him to continue searching for the truth of her brother’s “dissapearance”, a plea that he could not refuse. The fact that he could not say no to Clara angers Robert because he is then burdened with the responsibility that comes with the answers he is looking for. He is also angered at the fact that he could not say no because of her emtional power over him as a beautiful woman.  

Womenslaughter Ethics

“Perhaps they took a horrible pride in the enormity of their wickedness; in this ‘divinity of hell,’ which made them amongst sinful creatures” (Braddon 293)


This quote was initially confusing for me, considering the context of the period. A woman wrote this quote, and yet she is contradicting other women who are taking power for themselves. Yes, the women who are the subject are murderers and “wicked” (Braddon 293), but they are also going against cultural norms for women and taking over the patriarchal dynamic. On the other hand however, Mary Elizabeth Braddon may be trying to appease her male audience. A large portion of Lucy’s thoughts would be considered scandalous if she said them aloud, most of them around secrets, murder, hidden lives, and treachery. It is also heavily implied she is psychologically manipulating her husband for an ulterior motive and ignoring ethical boundaries, especially of the Victorian era. Perhaps Braddon was trying to point out the difference between women who use what power they have for evil, and women who use power for good. Lucy clearly has decision-making power in the novel, but the text talks about the root of her motive being sinful instead of good.

Another important part of the quote is who is saying this. Even though this section of the book is from Lucy’s perspective, Lucy herself is neither thinking nor saying this. Instead, it is the anonymous and omniscient narrator. The readers do not know the gender, the name, or the relationship of the narrator, which warrants the question: should we trust what they are saying? The narrator is clearly interjecting their opinion on women who commit sin with the dramatic line of the “divinity of hell” (Braddon 293). It compares women who are, from the Victorian perspective, inferior, because of the first “mistake” Eve made, yet the narrator put “divinity” before “hell” (Braddon 293). This implies that, if women are of the hellish nature, they still have divine power or some sort of speciality about them, more than what meets the eye.

Harsh Harcourt

“My son did me an unpardonable wrong by marrying the daughter of a drunken pauper, and from that hour I had no longer a son. I wish him no ill. He is simply dead to me. I am sorry for him, as I am sorry for his mother who died nineteen years ago. If you talk to me of him as you would talk of the dead, I shall be ready to hear you. If you speak of him as you would speak of the living, I must decline to listen” (185)

This passage is from Robert’s trip to Harcourt Talboy’s mansion in search of assistance with his investigation into what happened to George. Before this quote from Harcourt, the narrator gives the reader some guidance on who Mr. Talboys is. Harcourt is described at the top of the page by the narrator saying, “his mind ran in straight lines … With him right was right and wrong was wrong”. The description we get of Harcourt before he speaks about his son is very accurate of what the reader experiences when he begins. Harcourt has absolutely no remorse or sympathy of how his relationship with his son ended, and has no intention of changing. He cast off his only son simply because he disobeyed him. 

Later in this passage the narrator says, “George never in his own person made any effort to soften his father’s verdict. He knew his father well enough to know the case was hopeless”. This moment in the book is very important and meaningful to George’s life. While, on the one hand, George knew what he was getting into by marrying Helen – it changed his life trajectory immensely. He knew it would be hard to live in poverty, though he thought that it would be worth it because of his love. This proved to be untrue as this moment in his life started the depression that we as the reader can see in George. Another reason why I believe that this passage is so significant, is it opens us to the regret and disappointment his wife felt after she believed she was marrying into a rich family. George would rather struggle for the rest of his life than to be an example of what not to do for his father’s sake. But his wife did not feel the same way, saying “I thought dragoons were always rich,” she used to say peevishly. 

It might sound crazy, but this passage becomes very significant as we get further into volume 2. We as a reader start to see where George’s depression came from and why. As we discover that Helen Maldon is slowly starting to be discovered as Lady Audley by Robert and Clara, we see her intentions shine through quite brightly. Helen was interested in her marriage with George for his status and money, so she could gain power. This also explains her motive for murdering George. He knew who Lady Audley really is and what she is about. The letter we see on page 248 from Helen, directly exposes Lady Audley as she creates a new life and a new fortune for herself as Lucy Graham. Lady Audley takes on many names, but no matter which name she gives herself, she is devious and dangerous.

It’s A Mad, Mad World

“Mad-houses are large and only too numerous; yet surely it is strange they are not larger, when we think of how many helpless wretches must beat their brains against this hopeless persistency of the orderly world, as compared with the storm and tempest, the riot and confusion within; – when we remember how many minds must tremble upon the narrow boundary between reason and unreason, mad to-day and sane to-morrow, mad yesterday and sane to-day” (Braddon, 206).

It’s a mad, mad world, plain and simple.

The above passage shows us some of Robert Audley’s innermost thoughts. He’s just come from speaking with George’s estranged father and sister, and as a result of the exchanges he shares with them, we are exposed to a far deeper understanding of the grief that he feels regarding the disappearance and presumed death of his dear friend. This passage stood out to me because Robert calls into question the way in which the world operates.

In class, we discussed a variety of values and beliefs that people of the Victorian Era held near and dear to their hearts. At the top of this list was the desire for propriety and decorum. It was frowned upon for people to display any outward signs of inner turmoil. Respectable members of society believed that it was far more important for one to maintain their composure in the presence of others than it was for them to express their feelings, no matter the toll that burden was taking on their heart and mind.

This passage is significant because it sheds light on the notion that not everything is as wonderful as it seems. While individuals might be able to hide their true selves from the prying eyes of society, it doesn’t change the fact that the world still has many flaws and not everyone is satisfied with this truth. Robert expands on this idea, saying, “We are apt to be angry with this cruel hardness in our life” (Braddon, 206). However, it is because of this desire for perfection that people are encouraged to suppress the emotions that torment them.

Based on this assessment, it is no wonder why many people in the Victorian Age despised sensation novels. They showed that even the most decent members of Victorian society could have potentially dark and dangerous sides. I’m sure they made many people uncomfortable, as they walked a fine line between fiction and reality.

In the case of our novel, we can see that Lady Audley is displaying rather peculiar and suspicious behavior in the way that she is reacting to the disappearance of George Talboys. Might this mean that she had something to do with it? Perhaps it isn’t strange for one to wonder if she isn’t half crazy herself.

After all, the world isn’t perfect; it is actually quite mad.



The “I Hate Women” Speech

Passage: “To call them the weaker sex is to utter a hideous mockery. They are the stronger sex, the noisier, the more persevering, the most self-assertive sex. They want freedom of opinion, variety of occupation, do they? Let them have it. Let them be lawyers, doctors, preachers, teachers, soldiers, legislators – anything they like – but let them be quiet – if they can” (Braddon 208).

Within the first lines, we see Braddon contrasting the phrases “weaker” and “stronger” as they relate to a woman’s sex. Braddon’s juxtaposition of these words helps to demonstrate the power of women throughout the novel. This comparison also allows for Braddon to bring Robert’s conceptualization of womankind into fruition while simultaneously identifying specific strengths of women through the misogynistic lens of Robert’s character. For example, we see the use of words like “noisier, persevering, and self-assertive.” All these qualities can be interpreted as strengths, but Robert implies that they are more of an annoyance. This passage also employs repetition of the phrase “let them.” Braddon likely intentionally made this choice to draw readers’ attention to the subsequent cluster of occupations. These were likely the occupations that women were becoming employed in for the first time throughout the Victorian era. Perhaps this passage represents Robert’s unease with the idea of fluctuating gender roles, but his content with societal changes, nonetheless.

Contextually, Robert’s brooding in this passage serves as a build-up to the following paragraph in which he “savagely” thinks to himself: “I hate women … they are bold, brazen, abominable creatures, invented for the annoyance and destruction of their superiors” (Braddon 208). Unlike the original passage, this line elicits stronger feelings of unrest. More importantly, these passages together connect to our discussion from class about whether Lady Audley’s Secret as a publication was invested in supporting the movement for women to have more power. Despite his passionate dislike for women, I believe that Robert’s opinions seem progressive in the context of the Victorian era. For this reason, I believe that the novel did help to push notions of gender “equality” upon victorian society. 

On a separate note, the original passage foreshadows events related to Lucy’s ‘power craze’ towards the end of Volume II and leading into Volume III. I believe this is the case because Robert had recently made claims to Clara (in the prior chapter) that he knew who the individual guilty of committing George’s murder was (readers are unaware that he is referring to Lucy at the time). Additionally, “let them be quiet – if they can” seems to solicit a sense of action. This may relate to future events in which Robert silences Lucy by preventing her from using her ‘indirect power’ to manipulate her husband into doing whatever she wills him to do.

Gone with the Wind

Passage: “The wind had has its own way with the Castle Inn, and had sometimes made cruel use of its power. It was the wind that battered and bent the low, thatched roofs of out-houses and stables… it was the wind, in short, that shattered and ruined, and rent, and trampled upon the tottering pile of buildings, and then flew shrieking off, to riot and glory in its destroying strength” (115)

This passage repeats the phrase “it was the wind” 5 times, each time to describe some kind of damage the wind inflicted on the Castle Inn. The language Braddon used to describe the relationship between the wind and the Inn is eerily similar to the language used to describe abusive relationships. I interpret this passage as a metaphor for domestic violence, with the wind representing the abusive partner (statistically, likely a male) and the Inn representing the victim (statistically, likely a female). Under this view, Braddon could have used this passage both to describe the physical deterioration of the Castle Inn and to sneak in a commentary about Victorian gender roles and politics. We know from Browning’s “The Last Duchess” that women were treated more as objects for men’s pleasures than sentient beings in their own right (given the Duke’s strong interest in ownership and control of the Duchess), which is supported by the Longman Anthology’s insight that “The ideal Victorian woman was supposed to be domestic and pure, selflessly motivated by the desire to serve others rather than fulfill her own needs” (p. 1061). Thus, it’s plausible to conclude that Braddon may have hidden a deeper meaning beneath this passage to commiserate the gender dynamics between Victorian husbands and wives. Given Luke’s new role as landlord of the Inn, and his history of threatening and harming Phoebe, the metaphor extends to the novel’s characters, with Phoebe as the Inn and Luke as the wind. 

The wind/Inn dynamic could also represent a potential relationship between a ghost and the Audley Estate. The physical properties of wind make it similar to a ghost, and the Inn’s function as a residence makes it similar to the Estate. We’ve discussed some theories in class about some sort of phantom presence surrounding Lady Audley, which this passage may be foreshadowing. Ultimately, the passage goes beyond description of the Castle Inn’s deterioration by establishing a metaphor for abusive husbands and a potential hint at a spiritual presence. 

Crumbling Under Pressure

“‘Give it me — give it me’ she cried; ‘let me see what more he has to say.’”


Throughout the story we have seen Lady Audley as a person who doesn’t usually seem scared and a person who usually controls any room she’s in. During the second volume she becomes more and more jittery and nervous. This is due to the progression of Robert’s case on George’s disappearance. Robert gets deeper into his case and starts to suspect Lady Audley for George’s disappearance. When he goes to Audley Court he starts to call out Lady Audley for George’s disappearance and after he keeps piling evidence on her and his suspicion of her she starts to get a little flustered. She doesn’t seem as confident and calm as she usually has throughout the novel. This shows a big character trait from Lady Audley in that she might crumble from pressure. This has yet to be shown in the novel until now. At the end of chapter 13 a letter comes to Lady Audley from Robert and she says “‘Give it me — give it me’ she cried; ‘let me see what more he has to say.’” In this quote Lady Audley shows her impassionance and her nervousness. She tries to hide it because she is in the company of people but it shows when she demands to see the letter. I think that this new character trait that Lady Audley has shown might confirm Robert’s suspicion and all of the readers’ suspicion that Lady Audley’s secret has something to do with George. I think that this character trait will become a big part in Robert’s case for Lady Audley being apart of George’s disappearance.


Robert and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Court


“In those troublesome dreams…” (Braddon 244)

This strangely allegorical dream cements Robert’s belief in both the righteousness of his cause and its otherworldly issue. Robert’s “troublesome dreams” are surprisingly supernatural breaks in a sensational but otherwise worldly novel (244). Although spirits and monsters have been invoked before, they have been the object of ridicule – typically by Robert himself. Now that he is stricken by the same sentiments, Robert does not blame indigestion or behave like “some ghost-haunted hero in a German story” (260). Robert instead acts as a biblical Judge called upon by “some hand greater than [his] own” to mete out godly justice. Much like the reluctant prophet Jonah, Robert is reminded of a (in his mind) divine quest whenever he attempts a return to his once mundane life. Robert was not swallowed by a great fish, but instead forced to answer to – or else compete with – the enigmatic Clara in his search for the truth of George’s fate. In addition to strengthening his promise to Clara, the dreams also provide valuable insight into Robert’s unexpressed thoughts. He sees “Audley Court, rooted up.. standing bare and unprotected… threatened by the… boisterous sea” as if it were a boat and Lady Audley as a “mermaid, beckoning his uncle to destruction” like a tempting siren (244). Robert sees it as his duty to steer his uncle’s estate away from the perilous rocks at the expense of Lord Michael’s dignity like Odysseus being bound to a mast. Robert is a dutiful nephew, but his actions are not entirely selfless. As heir apparent, Robert has a clear interest in steering his uncle’s estate and the Audley reputation away from the shores of peril. Lady Audley’s connection to the ocean goes far beyond her childhood home, in Robert’s dream she becomes the primordial darkness of the ocean with her “pale face and starry…” sea-green eyes surrounded by looking out from the sea’s “silvery foam” as light and lustrous as her curls (244). This comparison is part of the lasting tradition of giving feminine character to ocean storms: long periods of calm equilibrium interrupted by punctuations of brief but intense violence. The “dismal horizon” of the dream storm is defeated by a single “ray of light” parting the troubled sea (244). This biblical conclusion and the contrast of white light and dark sea reinforce Robert’s image of Clara as a seraphic beauty in complete opposition to Lady Audley.