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Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Name  Mary Braddon
Role  Novelist
Children  W. B. Maxwell

Mary Elizabeth Braddon MaryElizabethMaxwelljpg

Died  February 4, 1915, Richmond, United Kingdom
Movies  Lady Audley's Secret, Aurora Floyd
Books  Lady Audley's Secret, Aurora Floyd, The doctor's wife, The trail of the serpent, Henry Dunbar: the Story
Similar People  George Augustus Henry Sala, Anthony Trollope, Bram Stoker, W B Maxwell, Robert Browning

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Mary Elizabeth Braddon (4 October 1835 – 4 February 1915) was an English popular novelist of the Victorian era. She is best known for her 1862 sensation novel Lady Audley's Secret.


Mary Elizabeth Braddon httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons55

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Life and works

Mary Elizabeth Braddon Mary Elizabeth Braddon Author Profile

Born in London, Mary Elizabeth Braddon was privately educated. Her mother Fanny separated from her father Henry in 1840, when Mary was five. When Mary was ten years old, her brother Edward Braddon left for India and later Australia, where he became Premier of Tasmania. Mary worked as an actress for three years when she was befriended by Clara and Adelaide Biddle. They were only playing minor roles but Braddon was able to support herself and her mother. Adelaide noted that Braddon's interest in acting waned as she took an interest in writing novels.

In 1860, Mary met John Maxwell (1824–1895), a publisher of periodicals. She started living with him in 1861. However, Maxwell was already married with five children, and his wife was living in an asylum in Ireland. Mary acted as stepmother to his children until 1874, when Maxwell's wife died and they were able to get married. She had six children by him, including the novelist William Babington Maxwell.

Braddon was a prolific writer, producing more than 80 novels with inventive plots. The most famous is Lady Audley's Secret (1862), which won her recognition, and a fortune as a bestseller. It has remained in print since its publication and been dramatised and filmed several times. R. D. Blackmore's anonymous sensation novel Clara Vaughan (1864) was wrongly attributed to her by some critics.

Braddon wrote several works of supernatural fiction, including the pact with the devil story Gerald, or the World, the Flesh and the Devil (1891), and the ghost stories "The Cold Embrace", "Eveline's Visitant" and "At Chrighton Abbey". From the 1930s onwards, these stories were often anthologised in collections such as Montague Summers's The Supernatural Omnibus (1931) and Fifty Years of Ghost Stories (1935). Braddon's legacy is tied to the sensation fiction of the 1860s.

Braddon also founded Belgravia magazine (1866), which presented readers with serialised sensation novels, poems, travel narratives and biographies, as well as essays on fashion, history and science. The magazine was accompanied by lavish illustrations and offered readers a source of literature at an affordable cost. She also edited Temple Bar magazine.

She died on 4 February 1915 in Richmond (at the time a borough in Surrey, but now part of Greater London), and is interred in Richmond Cemetery. Her home had been Lichfield House in the centre of the town, which was replaced by a block of flats in 1936, Lichfield Court, now listed. She has a plaque in Richmond parish church which calls her simply 'Miss Braddon'. A number of streets in the area are named after characters in her novels – her husband was a property developer in the area.

There is a critical essay on Braddon's work in Michael Sadleir's book Things Past (1944). In 2014 the Mary Elizabeth Braddon Association was founded to pay tribute to Braddon's life and work.


Several of Braddon's works have been dramatised, including:

  • Aurora Floyd, by Colin Henry Hazlewood, first performed at Britannia Theatre Saloon, London, 1863.
  • "The Cold Embrace", starring Jonathan Firth, BBC Radio 4, 2009.
  • Lady Audley's Secret, by Colin Henry Hazlewood, first performed at the Victoria Theatre, London, 1863.
  • Lady Audley's Secret, starring Theda Bara, Fox Film Corp., 1915.
  • Lady Audley's Secret, starring Neve McIntosh, Kenneth Cranham, and Steven Mackintosh, PBS Mystery! 2000.
  • References

    Mary Elizabeth Braddon Wikipedia