Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Another accomplished woman novelist of the Victorian period. Mary Elizabeth Braddon was born in 1835 in London and died in Richmond, Surrey (now part of London) in 1915.

She wrote more than eighty novels, one of which, Lady Audley’s Secret, was a great success.

A number of her stories have supernatural themes, and she lived in the heyday of the ghost story so that is not surprising.

When she was 25 she moved in with a publisher whose wife was locked away in an Irish mental asylum. She lived with the man and was stepmother to his existing children, marrying him finally in 1874, fourteen years after she first moved in, now allowable because his wife had passed away. She had six children by him.

Her husband was also a property developer and a number of the streets in Richmond are named after characters from her novels.

The Cold Embrace

The Cold Embrace was published in is a very accomplished story both in form and in prosody. It has the feel of a folk-tale and its theme surely is that promises made in love should be kept and that the flighty and arrogant will be punished for breaking them.

It was a delight to read because of the use of formal rhetorical forms like the repeated use on anaphora where the beginning of a sentence is repeated, usually three times to create a tricolon. Often an ascending tricolon where each phrase is longer building towards a climax.

It almost reminded me of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride in its atmosphere. The final masked ball with the young lady on his arm who fades slowly into the corpse bride.

We the readers are aware that the boisterous gaiety he feels at the ball, which he mistakes for his old light-heartedness is a return of the fever that will, this time, kill him.

And the picture of stage coaches (the diligence) and hordes of labourers walking across Germany with their meerschaum pipes and dogs was like scenes out of Goethe, or William Wordsworth’s account of his traipsing across Europe at a similar time.

Braddon herself was born later than this, so this is historical fiction and we have the device that M R James endorses too: set the ghost story in the past, not too distant past, but enough that there is a mist of history which allows us to suspend our disbelief (although that phrase belongs to Tolkein).

Music by

The Heartwood Institute

The last track with the lovely violin is Under The Rose by The Hare & The Moon, whose lead performer is Grey Malkin

We also feature music by Michael Romeo of Dvoynik

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