Mary Elizabeth Braddon

(1835-1915)

English actress, editor and author. Braddon published over 80 novels during her career and is probably best remembered for her sensation fiction such as Lady Audley's Secret (1862), but she also wrote a range of supernatural tales, too. 

Born to the solicitor Henry Braddon and the Irish journalist Fanny White, Braddon's parents divorced when she was five years old. In her late-teens and early-twenties, Braddon worked as an actress to financially support herself and her mother by playing minor roles in a variety of plays. Due to the controversial reputations of actresses in the nineteenth century, she assumed the stage name 'Mary Seyton'. While still working on stage, Braddon also began publishing poems under this pseudonym and realised she preferred writing to acting. In 1860 she moved in with the publisher John Maxwell, who she began a relationship with and acted as step-mother to his five children.

 

However, Maxwell was married, with his wife (also called Mary) committed to an asylum in Ireland. Braddon and Maxwell lived openly as a couple, which raised more than a few eyebrows, and so four years after they first moved in together, Maxwell published a notice in the papers that claimed he and Braddon were married. This lie was disproved when his wife's brother-in-law wrote to the papers to explain that Maxwell's first wife was still alive. Years later, Mary Maxwell passed away, reviving interest in Braddon and Maxwell's relationship. As soon as they were able, the two married. During her marriage, Braddon raised six more children of her own, and wrote novels and short stories for the remainder of her life. She was also an Editor for several magazines and journals, and founded her own journal called Belgravia

 

Her most famous novel, Lady Audley's Secret, has never been out of print and has been made into several movie adaptions. In 1913, she even attended the premier of a film adaption of her other renowned sensation novel, Aurora Floyd (1863). In addition to these creative achievements, when World War 1 broke out in 1914, the then seventy-nine year old Braddon volunteered to work at hospitals, despite suffering a physical disability caused by a stroke in 1907. She passed away aged eighty.  

 

Braddon's gothic tales include a variety of supernatural phenomena, ranging from ghosts to lion-tamers, islands of the dead to medical vampires, and many more.

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