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KEV67

Lady Audley's Secret

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5 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

After Hayley's finished. It's too good to spoil

I'm at a point where it's getting quite tense!

 

I'll avert my eyes from this thread if you want to post your thoughts before I finish :lol:

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1 minute ago, megustaleer said:

Do you mean Lady Audley's Secret, the C19 novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon?

 

 

Yes.

 

34 minutes ago, Hayley said:

I'm at a point where it's getting quite tense!

 

I'll avert my eyes from this thread if you want to post your thoughts before I finish :lol:

 

I don't mind waiting.

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On 16/10/2021 at 10:33 PM, megustaleer said:

Do you mean Lady Audley's Secret, the C19 novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon?

 

 

Yes, a bit of a typo there.

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First off, Robert Audley, the young barrister: was he deliberately written as gay? He really seemed to miss his friend, George Talboys, when he disappeared. Later he marries George's sister, who presumably bears a family resemblance to George.

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9 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

First off, Robert Audley, the young barrister: was he deliberately written as gay? He really seemed to miss his friend, George Talboys, when he disappeared. Later he marries George's sister, who presumably bears a family resemblance to George.

 

Robert Audley is not gay it's just the way some Victorians behaved at the time. George's sister does bear a resemblance to George but Robert fell in love with her at first sight noticing the resemblance later.

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Alright, another thing. Did Robert Audley behave ethically? His investigation into Lady Audley's past was not disinterested. If Lady Audley bears a son then Robert Audley will not inherit the estate. More seriously, he colluded in covering up a crime, partly to save his family embarrassment, partly to save Lady Audley having her neck stretched. I would have thought that a barrister was particularly obliged to operate through the law.

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That's what the reader is left to decide.
 

Robert had a choice : did he prosecute his best friend's wife, (Lady Audley turned out to be George Talboy's wife) who is guilty of bigamy and intent to murder (George) and murder (the innkeeper died as a result of the fire Lady Audley set but not before he unburdened himself), thus destroying his uncle's fragile mental health as a result of the shock should the whole story come out with no guarantee of a prosecution, for lack of evidence, let alone a custodial sentence or does he put Mrs Talboys in an institution that she can't break free from and will spend the rest of her days?  He chooses the latter. His uncle weathers the storm, George isn't dead as first assumed and remarries, Robert marries George's sister and Helen Talboys, or Lucy Graham as she turned out to be, dies in short order all alone in the institution she can't escape. 

 

Robert is aware of his conflict of interest and suffers for it a great deal but having met George's sister he decides to finish what he started and he's never actually practiced the law at that point being idly rich. Helen Talboys did have a son but with her previous husband George Talboys and could not - if memory serves - have any more.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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Something else I wondered was whether Lady Audley deserved some sympathy. Her husband, George Talboy, abandoned her for four years, disappeared to Australia, did not write, did not send home any money. He might have died. He might have committed bigamy. She had to fend for herself. She did this spectacularly well by marrying a member of the aristocracy. She wasn't doing anyone any harm. Her step-daughter did not like it, but that is often the way with step-children. Then her errant husband comes back and acts the injured party. Alright she pushed him down the well, but that was not premeditated, and he survived, only to disappear without telling anyone again. Alright she did set light to that man's house and he died from his injuries, but he was blackmailing her. She was prepared to pay a fair bit in blackmail, but he got greedy. I don't feel upset about him.

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Lady Audley started out as Lucy Graham. She trained as a governess and went to work for a doctor as a governess. But she decided that she deserved better and married George Talboys and became Helen Talboys. She had a son and yes, George did abandon her. She responded by abandoning her son (left with her father who did not have the means to care for him), faked her own death and became Lady Audley, pretending to be someone and something she wasn't. She then tried to kill George to keep her secret and succeeded in killing the bar tender who was blackmailing her. Her target in that fire was also Robert Audley, who had gotten too close to the truth. The only people who actually liked her were her two husbands. She also tried to convince Lord Audley that his nephew was mad.   I don't think that she deserves anything less than what she got and substantially more. There were other  legal ways for her to get on (divorcing George would make it legal for her to get remarried). Why did she fake her own death? 

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I think it was difficult to get a divorce. For much of the 19th Century it took an act of parliament. When a divorce law was enacted, a man could divorce his wife for adultery, but a woman had to prove adultery with cruelty or desertion iirc. In any case, to divorce George Talboys would have taken money she did not have. It has been a year since I read the book. Did Lady Audley send any money to a step-father for the care of her son? I seem to remember the grandfather was a hopeless drunk.

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Yes, I know divorce was difficult to get for a woman but that doesn't justify faking your own death and becoming someone else. Lady Audley did send some money but not enough and what there was was drunk.

 

 

ETA When she was married to Lord Audley and had access to his wealth she could easily have acquired a lawyer and obtained a divorce. She could also have put her son in the same boarding school that Robert did and save him from the drink soaked upbringing she endured.

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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I readi a book on the Victorian clergy earlier this year. The Church of England liked their clergymen to have a degree. In the early Victorian period, most university graduates either became clergymen or barristers. The brighter students and the richer ones tended to choose the bar. However, once they entered the law profession, they often did not have much to do. I was reminded of Robert Audley when I read that. There was also an under-employed barrister in Our Mutual Friend, Eugene Wrayburn.

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On 10/31/2021 at 12:01 PM, lunababymoonchild said:

 and Helen Talboys, or Lucy Graham as she turned out to be, dies in short order all alone in the institution she can't escape. 

I like to think she faked her death. She was young and in good health. Why would she sicken so soon? The director of that asylum was obviously bent. I think Lucy Graham came to some arrangement but I don't know what. No one back in England was going to be interested in checking whether she's really dead. 

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14 hours ago, KEV67 said:

I like to think she faked her death. She was young and in good health. Why would she sicken so soon? The director of that asylum was obviously bent. I think Lucy Graham came to some arrangement but I don't know what. No one back in England was going to be interested in checking whether she's really dead. 


That thought had occurred to me too and yes, the director was bent but was he bent enough to let a murderer go? Maybe she forced him by some other means but without Lord Audley's money how far would she get? There could be another book in that!

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Ooooh there are some interesting theories in this thread. As I have FINALLY managed to finish the book, I’d like to chime in!

 

First of all, I did have some sympathy for Lady Audley at the beginning but I definitely had none by the end! I see your point, Kev, that having thought she’d been abandoned it made some sense for her to marry again - but remember the reason George left in the first place is because she had a go at him for not having enough money. Later we find out that her entire purpose in life was to use her looks to marry the richest man possible. She never loved George at all, he was just the richest man in the vicinity - once he was cast out by his father and couldn’t buy her expensive things any more she accused him of being cruel to her. She was fairly educated and could have made a living as a governess - but instead she chose to abandon her own baby and change her identity so nobody could find her. The same advertisement that told her George was coming back told her he’d made a fortune, but it still wasn’t as much money as her current husband had, so she plotted to play dead with absolutely no thought about who she’d  hurt. To keep up the lie she then committed attempted murder twice, manslaughter once and tried to get a perfectly sane man locked up a lunatic asylum. She was greedy and selfish the whole time, using all the men who loved or cared for her and hurting them. I think it was particularly telling that when she has to leave the house the only thing she thinks about is how expensive all the objects in her room are - and how many she can stuff in her case. She doesn’t care about any human other than herself. I think Robert let her off lightly!

 

On 11/11/2021 at 2:27 PM, lunababymoonchild said:

There could be another book in that!

Agree, that would be interesting!

 

I don’t actually think she did run away though. It’s a bit of a theme in Victorian novels. The book could have been seen as immoral if she was actually allowed to get away with murder, so she had to die, no matter how unlikely it seems. 

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16 hours ago, Hayley said:

Ooooh there are some interesting theories in this thread. As I have FINALLY managed to finish the book, I’d like to chime in!

 

First of all, I did have some sympathy for Lady Audley at the beginning but I definitely had none by the end! I see your point, Kev, that having thought she’d been abandoned it made some sense for her to marry again - but remember the reason George left in the first place is because she had a go at him for not having enough money. 1) Later we find out that her entire purpose in life was to use her looks to marry the richest man possible. She never loved George at all, he was just the richest man in the vicinity - once he was cast out by his father and couldn’t buy her expensive things any more she accused him of being cruel to her. 2) She was fairly educated and could have made a living as a governess - 3) but instead she chose to abandon her own baby and change her identity so nobody could find her. The same advertisement that told her George was coming back told her he’d made a fortune, but it still wasn’t as much money as her current husband had, so she plotted to play dead with absolutely no thought about who she’d  hurt. 4) To keep up the lie she then committed attempted murder twice, manslaughter once and tried to get a perfectly sane man locked up a lunatic asylum. She was greedy and selfish the whole time, using all the men who loved or cared for her and hurting them. I think it was particularly telling that when she has to leave the house the only thing she thinks about is how expensive all the objects in her room are - and how many she can stuff in her case. She doesn’t care about any human other than herself. I think Robert let her off lightly!

 

Agree, that would be interesting!

 

I don’t actually think she did run away though. It’s a bit of a theme in Victorian novels. The book could have been seen as immoral if she was actually allowed to get away with murder, so she had to die, no matter how unlikely it seems. 

 

1) I cannot think of many books in which the heroine opts to marry a poor man. In Mansfield Park Fanny Price marries Edmund Bertram rather than the no-good Henry Bertram, but Edmund is not poor. He was a clergyman with a good living. Jane Eyre inherits a fortune before she marries Mr Rochester, so she marries as an equal, but Rochester is still quite rich, although not as rich as he was.

 

2) Who wants to be a governess? Who wants to be a school teacher, lady's companion, or that's about it for impoverished gentlewomen. The pay is poor and you are at someone else's beck and call all the time.

 

3) Her husband abandoned the baby too. He did not send back any money. She did not entirely abandon it. She did not pay a baby farmer to take him off her hands. She handed him to his grandfather. I cannot remember, but I think she provided money for his upkeep.

 

4) I read it over a year ago and I cannot remember all the details. She tried to kill her husband, but it was not pre-meditated and she did not succeed. She killed that horrible blackmailer, but I am not upset about him. Who was the sane man she tried to get locked up? Was it the man who got her locked up?

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29 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

1) I cannot think of many books in which the heroine opts to marry a poor man. In Mansfield Park Fanny Price marries Edmund Bertram rather than the no-good Henry Bertram, but Edmund is not poor. He was a clergyman with a good living. Jane Eyre inherits a fortune before she marries Mr Rochester, so she marries as an equal, but Rochester is still quite rich, although not as rich as he was.

I think the difference between your examples and Lady Audley is that they do actually love the men the marry. Fanny Price doesn't choose Edmund because he has money (in fact, she doesn't choose the richest option) and Jane Eyre actually walked away from he chance to marry Rochester and have loads of money because he was still married. By the time she returns, as you say, she has her own fortune, which only confirms to us that she doesn't want to marry him for his money.

 

32 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

2) Who wants to be a governess? Who wants to be a school teacher, lady's companion, or that's about it for impoverished gentlewomen. The pay is poor and you are at someone else's beck and call all the time.

Sometimes I get fed up of teaching and not being able to afford things too but I wouldn't push someone down a well so I can be rich and not work :lol:.

 

33 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

3) Her husband abandoned the baby too. He did not send back any money. She did not entirely abandon it. She did not pay a baby farmer to take him off her hands. She handed him to his grandfather. I cannot remember, but I think she provided money for his upkeep.

George didn't have any money to send back. It tells us that he had a really tough life until he happens by chance upon the gold he does find. As soon as he has some money to give her, he returns with it.

The grandfather was an alcoholic and didn't even have enough money to buy the boy shoes because he kept spending it in the pub.

She only returned to her father when she needed him to help her with the fake death (she gives her son the pocket watch which the father keeps pawning for more drink money). Until that point she'd never been back. 

 

40 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

4) I read it over a year ago and I cannot remember all the details. She tried to kill her husband, but it was not pre-meditated and she did not succeed. She killed that horrible blackmailer, but I am not upset about him. Who was the sane man she tried to get locked up? Was it the man who got her locked up?

Yes, so she thinks she has killed George by pushing him into the well, then she tries to kill Robert and the blackmailer simultaneously by setting the pub on fire while they're sleeping (only Robert isn't asleep which is why he lives, although he is hurt), then she tries to convince her husband that Robert is insane because, since she failed to kill him, having him put away where nobody will listen to the truth is the next best option. 

I think the main difference between the two 'sides' in this book is that Lady Audley literally doesn't care who she hurts. She doesn't even think about who might be hurt by the things she's doing. As long as she gets what she wants, it will be worth it. Robert spends the whole novel worrying about who he's going to hurt. He didn't even want anything bad to happen to Lady Audley; he still feels bad for her for a long time, even though he thought she'd murdered his friend - he only agreed to dedicate himself to solving the mystery after seeing how heartbroken George's sister was (so, again, because he's thinking of someone else's feelings). He even gave Lady Audley multiple opportunities to run away and start a new life somewhere else, he literally tells her to, but she couldn't face giving up all her money and status. 

 

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