Mary Elizabeth Braddon (4 October 1835 – 4 February 1915) was an English popular
novelist A novelist is an author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question ...
of the
Victorian era In the history of the United Kingdom The history of the United Kingdom began in the early eighteenth century with the Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international l ...
. She is best known for her 1862
sensation novel The sensation novel, also sensation fiction, was a literary genre A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a t ...
Lady Audley's Secret ''Lady Audley's Secret'' is a sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862.John Sutherland (author), John Sutherland. "Lady Audley's Secret" in ''The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction'', 1989. It was Braddon's most successful ...
'', which has also been dramatised and filmed several times.


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 Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon (11 June 1829 – 2 February 1904) was an Australian politician who served as Premier of Tasmania from 1894 to 1899, and was a Member of the First Australian Parliament in the Australian House of Representati ...
left for
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...
and later Australia, where he became
Premier of Tasmania The premier of Tasmania is the head of the executive government The executive (short for executive branch or executive power) is the part of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, ...
. 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 up writing novels. In 1860, Mary met
John Maxwell (1824–1895) John Maxwell (1824–1895) was an Irish businessman, publisher and property developer in London. He is known for his weekly magazines containing fiction and gossip aimed at a working-class audience, which he ran while also cultivating upmarket rea ...
, a publisher of periodicals, and moved in with him in 1861.Victor E. Neuburg, ''The Popular Press Companion to Popular Literature'', Popular Press, 1983. , pp. 36–37. However, Maxwell was already married with five children, his wife being confined in an
mental asylum The lunatic asylum (alternatively mental asylum or insane asylum) was an early precursor of the modern psychiatric hospital Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental health units or behavioral health units, are hospital A hospital is ...
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. Her eldest daughter, Fanny Margaret Maxwell (1863–1955), married the naturalist Edmund Selous on 13 January 1886. In the 1920s they lived in
Wyke Castle
Wyke Castle
, where Fanny founded a local branch of the Woman's Institute in 1923, of which she became the first president. The second eldest son was the novelist
William Babington Maxwell
William Babington Maxwell
(1866–1939). Mary Elizabeth Braddon died on 4 February 1915 in
Richmond Richmond may refer to: People * Richmond (surname) * Earl of Richmond * Duke of Richmond * Richmond C. Beatty (1905–1961), American academic, biographer and critic * Richmond Avenal, character in British sitcom List of The IT Crowd characters#R ...
(then in Surrey) and is interred in
Richmond Cemetery Richmond Cemetery is a cemetery A cemetery, burial ground or graveyard is a place where the remains of dead people are burial, buried or otherwise interred. The word ''cemetery'' (from Greek language, Greek , "sleeping place") implies that ...
. Her home had been Lichfield House in the centre of the town, which was replaced by a block of flats in 1936,
Lichfield Court
Lichfield Court
, now listed. She has a plaque in Richmond parish church, which calls her simply "Miss Braddon". A number of nearby streets are named after characters in her novels – her husband was a property developer in the area.


Braddon was a prolific writer, producing more than 80 novels with inventive plots. The most famous is ''
Lady Audley's Secret ''Lady Audley's Secret'' is a sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862.John Sutherland (author), John Sutherland. "Lady Audley's Secret" in ''The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction'', 1989. It was Braddon's most successful ...
'' (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 A deal with the devil (also called a Faustian bargain or Mephistophelian bargain) is a cultural motif in European folklore, best exemplified by the legend of Faust and the figure of Mephistopheles, as well as being elemental to many Christian ...
story ''Gerard 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 Augustus Montague Summers (10 April 1880 – 10 August 1948) was an English author, clergyman, and teacher. He initially prepared for a career in the Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Chur ...
's ''The Supernatural Omnibus'' (1931) and ''Fifty Years of Ghost Stories'' (1935). Braddon also wrote historical fiction. ''In High Places'' depicts the youth of
Charles I Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of the Proto-Germanic, Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in r ...
.Jonathan Nield (1925), ''A Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales.'' G. P. Putnam's Sons, pp. 60, 68, 82 and 108. ''London Pride'' focuses on Charles II. ''Mohawks'' is set during the reign of
Queen Anne Queen Anne often refers to: * Anne, Queen of Great Britain (1665–1714), queen of England, Scotland and Ireland (1702–1707) and of Great Britain (1707–1714) **Queen Anne style architecture, an architectural style from her reign, and its revival ...
. ''Ishmael'' is set at the time of Napoleon III, Napoleon III's rise to power. Braddon founded ''Belgravia (magazine), Belgravia'' magazine (1866), which presented readers with serialised sensation novels, poems, travel narratives and biographies, along with essays on fashion, history and science. It was accompanied by lavish illustrations and offered a source of literature at an affordable cost. She also edited ''Temple Bar (magazine), Temple Bar'' magazine. 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.Feminist & Women's Studies Association (UK & Ireland)
Retrieved 7 August 2014.

Partial list of fiction

Some bibliographical material in this incomplete list comes from Jarndyce booksellers' catalogue ''Women's Writers 1795–1927. Part I: A–F'' (Summer 2017).


Several of Braddon's works have been dramatised, including: *''Aurora Floyd'', by Colin Henry Hazlewood, first performed at Britannia Theatre, Britannia Theatre Saloon, London, 1863.G. C. Boase, Megan A. Stephan
"Hazlewood, Colin Henry (1823–1875)"
rev. Megan A. Stephan, (quoting ''The Britannia diaries, 1863–1875: selections from the diaries of Frederick C. Wilton'', ed. J. Davis (1992)) ''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'', (accessed 3 December 2011).
"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.



* * *Michael Diamond (writer), Diamond, Michael. ''Victorian Sensation''. London: Anthem (2003) , pp. 191–192 *Pamela K Gilbert ''Mary Elizabeth Braddon'' (Oxford University Press, 2011) (bibliography) *Jessica Cox, ed. ''New Perspectives on Mary Elizabeth Braddon'' (Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2012) *Marlene Tromp, Pamela K. Gilbert and Aeron Haynie, eds ''Beyond Sensation: Mary Elizabeth Braddon in Context'' (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000) *Saverio Tomaiuolo ''In Lady Audley's Shadow: Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Victorian Literary Genres'' (Edinburgh University Press, 2010)

External links

* * * * * *
Works at the Victorian Women Writers ProjectMary Elizabeth Braddon's ''The Higher Life'' audiobook with video at YouTubeMary Elizabeth Braddon's ''The Higher Life'' audiobook at Libsyn
{{DEFAULTSORT:Braddon, Mary Elizabeth 1835 births 1915 deaths Writers from London English people of Cornish descent Victorian novelists Victorian women writers English women novelists English horror writers Women historical novelists English historical novelists Writers of historical fiction set in the early modern period Writers of historical fiction set in the modern age 19th-century English women writers 20th-century English women writers 20th-century English writers Women horror writers Burials at Richmond Cemetery