M.E. Braddon’s early fiction (1860-1868)
The thesis seeks to explore the appeal of M. E. Braddon's extremely popular early fiction, to look at its distinguishing characteristics and Braddon's particular relationship with her audience. Ch.1 looks at contemporary critical reviews as an indication of what was feared to be its appeal and at the personal comments about Braddon which were intended to distance women readers from her writing. The two facets of her novels which bore the brunt of critical outrage were her heroines and the accurate but 'improper' experience she made available to women. Ch. 2 focusses on sensational heroines, fictional and real, and the threat they posed to the ideal of domestic happiness within marriage. Ch. 3 looks at the movement in Braddcn's fiction at the beginning of her career from stories centring on secrecy between wives and husbands to her notorious best-seller, Lady Audley's Secret, where she deliberately gave the secret to 'the angel in the house', who was consequently framed as mad. It explores Braddon's interest in the contemporary debate on insanity and suggests possible reasons for the absence of mcthers in her fiction. Ch. 4 looks at hcw her reading, particularly of French fiction, contributed to the 'knowing' quality of her writing suggests why this may have been especially attractive tb women. 5 concentrates on Braddon's experience of theatre and how informed her writing and her sense of the importance of audience. The last chapter focusses on endings, especially on the memoir which Braddon wrote just before she died and which shows the importance of the women, particularly her mother, who influenced her as a child. It looks at her last novel, at the ending of the 'innocence , which fuelled the creation of 'innocent' sensational heroines, and at the conventional endings of her novels which allowed the 'fantastic space' she provided to be exciting and inspiring.