Lady Audley’s Secret

Elaine Showalter writes:

Mary Elizabeth Braddon was the most prolific of the sensationalists, publishing more than eighty novels, as well as poems, short stories and plays. She began to write at a time when the publishing market offered a wide variety of outlets designed to appeal to various classes of reader, and she worked simultaneously for several of them. In 1861, when she began Lady Audley’s Secret, Braddon was writing four other serial stories for different magazines. Lady Audley’s Secret started out as a thriller for the penny magazines: it was first serialised anonymously in a new one, Robin Goodfellow, and then moved to the Sixpenny Magazine when Robin Goodfellow failed. But its popularity with readers from all classes led to its publication as a three-volume novel in October 1862, under the name M.E. Braddon. By December, Lady Audley’s Secret had gone through eight editions, and Braddon’s tale of false identities, desertion, detection, bigamy, blackmail, arson, madness and murder had brought her celebrity and become the template for a genre.

(LRB 21 June 2012)

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