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Archived Group Reads 2016 > Lady Audley's Secret : Chapters 22-28

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message 1: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Lady Audley 22-28

Chapter 22
I have to say that I love the description of Robert facing the pompous, self-absorbed Pater Talboys. "...as he would have sat with perfect tranquility upon an open gunpowder barrel lighting his cigar, he was not at all disturbed upon this occasion."
Does his family change your view of George & his choices?

Chapter 23
-Were you surprised that Robert could so easily give up the quest to which he'd sworn himself?
-What do you think of Clara as she reveals her true personality?

Chapter 24
In which Robert spends more time than I'd have expected in a soliloquy on women... and thinking about George's sister, Clara.
For what purpose does Braddon switch Robert's "promise" from one given to the dead friend to one given to the dead friend's living sister?

Chapter 25
Does Sir Michael's illness change the flow of the novel? What purposes does it serve? Do you have any new perceptions of the interrelationships?

Chapter 26
The game is afoot! :D
We meet several interesting characters as Robert truly delves into the detective work of tracking Lucy's origins. Do you have any thoughts on Mrs. Vincent, Miss Tonks, or the events/revelations of this chapter?

The description of Mrs. Vincent's home is so thoroughly detailed that I have to wonder what experience Braddon might have had of similar circumstances. Does anyone know?

Chapter 27
A label on Lucy's discardedtrunk leads Robert to Wildernsea, where George & Helen met and were married. We hear another view of their relationship, as well as what happened to Helen after George left her. It seems Helen attempted to support herself & child by giving music lessons, before leaving her 12 month-old with her father to seek her fortune
The letter, now in Robert's possession, makes recriminations and talks of another secret.
Have any of your views or speculations changed with this information? Do you have any thoughts on the new secret?

Does anyone know the story of the marble legged Prince?

Chapter 28
Robert is piecing together the timeline of Lucy/Helen's life, and seems ready to investigate who is buried in Helen's grave when he receives a letter from Alicia. Robert goes to confront Lucy, but we spend most of the chapter with his thoughts. Once again we see Robert is very conscious of effect the truth will likely have on his uncle. We also have a new reason for some of his actions as he wonders why Lucy has not left the scene, in spite of the fact that she must now know he is stirring up her past. (I don't really have a question here.)

However, when he goes to investigate the organist, I was sure it would be Lucy. Instead, we find Clara Talboys in the neighborhood. Do you have any thoughts on her appearance?

Overall, what do you make of Robert's musings on women and their place in his world? Do you think this expresses the views of Mary Braddon or her views on the men of her time?

Do you see any social commentary in the history of Helen/Lucy and the choices she has made or the positions in which she has been placed?


message 2: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Sorry the above is so long-winded. And more commentary than usual. I fell asleep several times in trying to get through this section. I was enjoying the detective work but just couldn't keep my eyes open. Still, there were some interesting details worth chatting about.


message 3: by Pip (new)

Pip | 817 comments Lots to think about here! I'm going to take some time to review the questions and these chapters, as I finished the book a while ago (guzzling again!) and need to refresh my memory.

In the meantime, I found this about the marble-legged prince in chapter 27. He was the Young King of the Black Isles in one of the Arabian Nights stories. There are many versions online, but this one gives a résumé of the story: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/lang1...


message 4: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Thanks, Pip. I'd read many of those stories but not that one. It's funny how so many follow a definite pattern with one small twist like the half-statue thing. I can only read so many at a time and then I glaze over. But I'm glad to know the source.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Renee wrote: "Overall, what do you make of Robert's musings on women and their place in his world? "

My betting is that by the end of the book he'll be married to Clara. Alica doesn't stand a chance.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Renee wrote: "Sorry the above is so long-winded. And more commentary than usual. I fell asleep several times in trying to get through this section. I was enjoying the detective work but just couldn't keep my eye..."

It's not long winded at all -- nice short summaries. It's Braddon who was long winded. I started skimming pretty ferociously through parts of it.


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Why is Lady Audley suddenly, at the start of Chapter 28, so eager to have Robert visit? I would think she would want to keep him as far away from Audley Court as she could.

It it sufficient reason that she wants to know what he's found out? I can't see that. How can having him there in the house to spy on her be a good thing? And if indeed she killed George and left his body somewhere in the grounds wouldn't you think she would keep him away from the ability to search for the body?


message 8: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Maybe she wants him close enough to join his buddy. Although It would have to be a lot harder to kill off a guy who suspects you already. Unless she gets some help.

I have to agree with you about Clara. Poor Alicia. Sir Harry may still have a chance.


message 9: by Veronique (new)

Veronique Renee wrote: "I have to agree with you about Clara..."

Same here. Clara is under his skin, and another pale face! Is that becoming an indication of power/mental resolution? And she looks like George! Now this, and all his other feelings could be interpreted in two distinct ways - close friendship or something more. Since the latter was taboo, the author would have had to express this with allusions and insinuations, sous entendu, but which ones would have given it away to her contemporaries? 

What struck me is how Robert keeps misjudging Clara. And Lucy too. Lady A is shown loosing her cool but now I wonder... What if Braddon is leading us in the wrong direction? As for her secret, it is more a case of secretS. I think the one she refers to in the letter to her dad might be regarding Georgey's father not being George.

I think Robert is stalling because he doesn't want to be the instigator of the trouble his uncle would face and because he is a little of a coward too. By seeing George's dad (brilliant description of this character), he finds a way to wash his hand of the affair with a clear conscience. Fate however has another idea :0)


message 10: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Really excellent points, Veronique! The characterization of George's father really was a corker. And I had similar thoughts about Clara being so much like her brother. If they do get together, it does bring a closure to the loss of the one relationship which seems to go deep past Robert's insouciance. Whether there's anything coded or not. Which would be pretty daring, but then Oscar Wilde did that all the time.


message 11: by Veronique (new)

Veronique Renee wrote: "The characterization of George's father really was a corker. And I had similar thoughts about Clara being so much like her brother. If they do get together, it d..."

:0) I did smile at the compasion made between the house and Talboys senior.

Daring yes but I would expect the 'educated' public would have known that this existed. I mean wasn't homosexuality accepted in Classic times (men that is, not women) and this would have been seen while studying the various Latin and Greek texts. Robert and George did meet at Eaton after all... Now that I think about it, Robert has quite a few so-called 'feminine' traits (novel reading, preferring lazing around than exerting himself, dislike to act), and Clara 'masculine' ones. This might also explain Robert's phylosophical musings on women. As for shocking, I find the fact that men, George and Sir Michael, are so attracted to a woman who looks like a child much more disturbing.


message 12: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Hahaha! Yeah, that has bugged me the whole time! Seriously!


message 13: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments Yes, after knowing more about George's father, it became clearer why George acted like he did. He was used to escaping from his family and used to not being connected to them.

Robert seemed to tire out from investigating and wanted to abandone the research. Clara revived his energy.

She seemed sincere to start with, but when she said she was going to Essex, it seemed like a strange coincidence! Did she know something? Was she hiding something? Was she involved already?!!

Robert thought to himself in the restaurant that women like her would "wrench him out of himself"!

I was also thinking that there should be a purpose with visiting ill Sir Michael but it was not very clear. A chance to communicate with the doctor and proceed to search for Mrs Vincent?

I am still not sure of who did what. Anything is possible. Maybe Braddon is indeed trying to lead us in the wrong direction.

I like to imagine myself reading each chapter as if I had bought one of the magazines of those days when the story was published. It's like watching a TV series, each episode ends in a certain way and you have to wait one week to find out what happens next.


message 14: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 19 comments Charlotte wrote: "Robert seemed to tire out from investigating and wanted to abandone the research. Clara revived his energy.

She seemed sincere to start with, but when she said she was going to Essex, it seemed like a strange coincidence! Did she know something? Was she hiding something? Was she involved already?!!"


Clara going to Essex seems like a strange coincidence indeed. I don't trust her at all, but don't know why and in what way she could be involved.


message 15: by Peter (last edited Mar 06, 2016 06:11PM) (new)

Peter Reading the above comments drives home to me the theme of appearance and reality that seems to be developing in the novel. The Talboy's estate and George's father have much in common, Clara looks like her brother and then we have the letter Robert discovers from George that has "a description in which every feature [of his wife] was minutely catalogued, every grace form or beauty of expression fondly dwelt upon, every charm of manner lovingly depicted." Earlier in the novel George and Robert managed to look at a portrait of Lady Audley where they saw in her portrait "the aspect of a beautiful fiend."

When Robert is able to put the pieces of the puzzle of George's disappearance together the reader will be able to see how Braddon has masterfully created not only many appearances of characters but also revealed the realities behind them as well.


message 16: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Heheh. So looking forward to that!


message 17: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 131 comments I too found this section to be rather longwinded. At the start of the book I really enjoyed the description of the house and grounds, but now I think descriptions are starting to just add to the word count. And while linking nature in surroundings to nature in a person can be a nice touch, I think Braddon is a bit heavy handed. When Robert goes to see George's father I would have noticed the similarities between the weather, the house, and the occupant without the author explicitly stating it multiple times.

Clara's real nature didn't surprise me at all. Robert is occasionally astute, other times really dim. Of course Clara needs to hide all emotion when she is in the same room as a father like that! As for her showing up in Audley, yes that is way too much of a coincidence, but I don't think it is suspicious. I think it's just a handy plot device to force Robert's hand and make him feel like he is being driven "by a force greater than himself".

I quite agree with Veronique as to what Helen's initial secret is. I think she must have been already pregnant when she met George. That would explain why her father was so eager to foist her off on the highest bidder. Helen's father has been unfairly maligned, I think.

I also agree with Everyman that poor Alicia doesn't stand a chance against Clara. If Robert ends up with a woman here, Clara is the one.

I find Robert's musings on women sometimes hilarious, other times preposterous. It is clear that he resents having his leisurely life disturbed by 1) lying, deceiving, murderous women who hurt his family and friends (Helen/Lucy), 2) women who try to get him to marry them (Alicia), and 3) women who call upon his sense of duty and honour, and various other emotions, to make him exert himself and make tough decisions (Clara). And so he singles out actions and character traits and generalises widely in order to make himself feel better. I'd hate to see Robert with a cold. I bet he suffers terribly from man-flu.

The musings surrounding the making of tea was perhaps my favourite part. I know the British are fond of their tea, but I have never thought of it as a tea ceremony akin to the Chinese. These days it's all utterly bland tea bags. I actually laughed out loud when it occurred to me that Robert would blame women's lib for the UK having fallen into the bleak pit of "builder's tea".


message 18: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
Excellent post, Leni! I love your analysis of Robert's musings on women. And on the state of tea in the modern world. It's morning here and I'll go grinning into my day. :D


message 19: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Me too, Leni. Great analysis and lovely humor.


message 20: by Pip (new)

Pip | 817 comments Leni wrote: "I too found this section to be rather longwinded..... while linking nature in surroundings to nature in a person can be a nice touch, I think Braddon is a bit heavy handed."

Oddly enough, I really enjoyed the whole description of Mr Talboys and his surroundings. I think perhaps it stands out in this novel because she doesn't describe everything else in such detail - except, as you say, Audley Court at the very beginning. If these passages were entrenched in a Dickens novel, I doubt anyone would have batted an eyelid ;-) In fact, the continuing references to Junius Brutus (more info here if anyone needs it: http://www.roman-empire.net/articles/...) are quite Dickensian. They almost felt as if Braddon was trying her hand at a little pastiche mid-novel!


message 21: by Pip (new)

Pip | 817 comments ""I hate women," he thought, savagely. "They're bold, brazen, abominable creatures, invented for the annoyance and destruction of their superiors. Look at this business of poor George's! It's all woman's work from one end to the other. He marries a woman, and his father casts him off penniless and professionless. He hears of the woman's death and he breaks his heart—his good honest, manly heart, worth a million of the treacherous lumps of self-interest and mercenary calculation which beats in women's breasts.
.... it seems so deuced lonely to-night. If poor George were sitting opposite to me, or—or even George's sister—she's very like him—existence might be a little more endurable.
"

I'm still convinced Robert has guy-ward leanings. He probably wouldn't recognise it, but for me Braddon does and that is why she puts such venomous (towards women) and melancholy (towards George) thoughts into his mind. This is a looooong passage, and Robert doesn't do an awful lot of self-analysis - so I believe it's there for a very specific purpose. I know I could well be reading too much into it but if I'm right, well, I think it's rather lovely :-) Though not the misogynistic bit.


message 22: by Diane (last edited Mar 07, 2016 07:22PM) (new)

Diane | 152 comments Aww, Robert's in love. His venomous thoughts toward womankind ending with wishing George's sister was sitting opposite him spell love to me. Besides, Alicia will be a much better fit with Sir Harry Towers than she ever would have been with her cousin. They can ride off into the sunset on their horses.
I keep mulling over how Lucy could possibly have killed George, but can only come up with maybe a scuffle (thus the bruises on Lucy's arm) and she pushed him down the well. The one mentioned as stagnant and hidden in a shrubbery behind the garden. The fish pond wouldn't have been deep enough and the body would have eventually been seen.
Any other death would involve a body to hide and she could not possibly have disposed of it in time and by herself. And how could she have killed him anyway except by accident. She was too small and weak to inflict real harm deliberately.


message 23: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1877 comments Mod
I agree that Alicia and Harry may have potential. As for the well idea... I've been looking at images of wells via Google. Some are the hefty, blocky, wishing well types that intend to think of, but others are rather skimpy. Thin-walled or lacking in height. That would help with leverage.

Of course, she may have bashed him with a rock or stabbed him with one of those wicked-looking hairpins. Then pitched him over as he staggered by the edge.

And he would likely have underestimated her, making any action on her part a surprise to him. Perhaps he would have expected shock, tears, explanations, cringing from his little golden doll. Not a frontal attack.

Obviously, I'm warming to the idea. :D


message 24: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 131 comments Some wells are little more than a wooden covering over a deep hole. I guess that would keep the smell in when the body started to decompose? It's not really described in detail in the book, is it? Just "overgrown". Lucy might have laid a trap for George. She was up to something the night before, while Phoebe pretended to be Lady Audley terrified of the storm. Maybe she arranged it so that George simply fell in. Though I guess she couldn't count on the fall killing him... Hm.


message 25: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 923 comments Diane wrote: "Aww, Robert's in love. His venomous thoughts toward womankind ending with wishing George's sister was sitting opposite him spell love to me. Besides, Alicia will be a much better fit with Sir Harry..."

The well stood out to me too as possible burial location.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Leni wrote: "Some wells are little more than a wooden covering over a deep hole. I guess that would keep the smell in when the body started to decompose? It's not really described in detail in the book, is it? ..."

There has to be a reason that Braddon places such emphasis on the well and its isolated location.


message 27: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments The marble legged prince is in "The history of the Young King of the Black Isles" in The Arabian Nights. (Robert compares George being seduced by Lucy in the same way.)


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