Image of Mary Elizabeth Braddon


Lifetime: 1835 - 1915 Passed: ≈ 108 years ago





Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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, which has also been dramatized and filmed several times.

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 dramatized 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 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'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.  London Pride focuses on Charles II. Mohawks is set during the reign of Queen Anne.  Ishmael is set at the time of Napoleon III's rise to power.

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 up writing novels.

In 1860, Mary met John Maxwell (1824–1895), a publisher of periodicals, and moved in with him in 1861. However, Maxwell was already married with five children, his wife being confined in an mental 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.

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, 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 (1866–1939).

Mary Elizabeth Braddon died on 4 February 1915 in Richmond (then in Surrey) 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 nearby streets are named after characters in her novels – her husband was a property developer in the area.

Books by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Lady Audley's Secret Cover image

Lady Audley's Secret

Fiction Novel
Sensation Bigamy Blonde

The novel belongs to a genre that became very popular during that era. Known as “sensation novels” they can probably be equated to today's pulp fiction. It was received with huge enthusiasm by readers and most critics of the day and the central theme...

The Doctor's Wife Cover image

The Doctor's Wife

Romance Fiction Novel
Medical Semi-autobiographical novel

This is one of the Victorian “Sensationist” Mary Elizabeth Braddon's many novels (best known among them: “Lady Audley’s Secret”). It is extremely well written, fluid, humorous and, in places, self-mocking: one of the main characters is a Sensation Au...

A Strange World Cover image

A Strange World

Murder Romance Sensation Suspense Madness Greed

A compelling story by one of the most prolific authors of the Victorian "sensational novel" serves up the perfect blend of murder, greed, madness, secrets and romance. The characters interlace throughout, and are as always interesting and entertainin...

Cut by the County; or, Grace Darnel Cover image

Cut by the County; or, Grace Darnel

Fiction Novel
Detective Murder Love Mystery Life Investigative Development Literary Fiction

Darnel Park is situated in a county that thrives on gossip and secrets, and the Darnel family, as it turns out, has many of them. An attempt at Sir Allan Darnel’s life, after various misunderstandings and misdirections, reveals an estranged son and a...

Taken at the Flood Cover image

Taken at the Flood

Dream Future Mystery Poverty Happiness Sensation Suspense

Brought up by a parish schoolmaster with a hidden past, Sylvia Carew dreams of a future devoid of poverty. Will she be faithful to the man she adores or will she opt for the chance at wealth and position? What lengths will she go to and when all is s...

Aurora Floyd Volume 2 Cover image

Aurora Floyd Volume 2

Morality Young Future Thriller Society Life Classics

The story follows the protagonist, Aurora Floyd, as she navigates the complexities of Victorian society and confronts the consequences of her past actions. Braddon skillfully weaves together elements of mystery, romance, and social commentary to crea...

Asphodel Cover image


Fiction Novel
Social Romance Historical Fiction Literature Culture Jealousy Victorian Society Triumphs Betrayal Ambition Portrait

The story of a young woman named Rachel West who is forced to navigate the complex social hierarchy of Victorian England. The book was first published in 1880 and has since become a beloved classic of English literature. Set in the late 19th century...

Just As I Am Cover image

Just As I Am

Romance Fiction Novel
Mystery Deception Struggle Passion Identity Desire social commentary Secret Consequences Expectation Intriguing

This remarkable work showcases Braddon's mastery of storytelling and her ability to captivate readers with her vivid characters and intricate plot. Set against the backdrop of Victorian England, Just As I Am follows the journey of its protagonist as...

Mount Royal Vol. I Cover image

Mount Royal Vol. I

Fiction Novel
Murder Truth Young Death Crime Women Danger Mysterious

A mysterious death in the Canadian wilderness sets the stage for a gripping tale of suspense and intrigue. In Mount Royal Vol. I, Mary Elizabeth Braddon tells the story of Marian Halcombe, a young woman who travels to the Canadian wilderness to inve...

Mount Royal Volume II Cover image

Mount Royal Volume II

Fiction Novel
Murder Mystery Travels Death Crimes Romance Sensation Secret

The mystery deepens in the Canadian wilderness, as a young woman races to save her half-sister from a dangerous and powerful enemy. In Mount Royal Volume II, Mary Elizabeth Braddon continues the story of Marian Halcombe, a young woman who is determi...

Mount Royal Volume III Cover image

Mount Royal Volume III

Fiction Novel
Murder Truth Young Future Mystery Crime Romance Sensation Women

The stakes are higher than ever in the final volume of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's suspenseful mystery novel, as a young woman races against time to save her half-sister from a dangerous and powerful enemy. In Mount Royal Volume III, Marian Halcombe is...

Beyond These Voices Cover image

Beyond These Voices

Fiction Novel
Young Village Evil Life Dark Women Threat Secret Haunted

Beyond these voices, there is a mystery waiting to be solved. Helen is a young woman who is haunted by voices. She hears them everywhere she goes, and they seem to be coming from beyond the grave. Helen is determined to find out who the voices belon...

Dead Love Has Chains Cover image

Dead Love Has Chains

Love Young Romance Revenge Explore Cruelty Sensation Suspense

"Can love truly die? Or does it linger on, even after death, to haunt the living?" In this novel, Mary Elizabeth Braddon explores the themes of love, loss, and revenge. The story follows the protagonist, Jane Brownlow, as she tries to move on with h...