Lady Audley’s Secret: Important quotes with page
1. “Within this moat there was, as I have said, the fish-pond—a sheet of water that extended the whole length of the garden, and bordering which there was an avenue called the lime-tree walk; an avenue so shaded from the sun and sky, so screened from observation by the thick shelter of the over-arching trees that it seemed a chosen place for secret meetings or for stolen interviews; a place in which a conspiracy might have been planned or a lover’s vow registered with equal safety” (Vol. 1, Chapter 1, p. 9). The novel’s first chapter singles out a secluded part of the garden within Audley Court.
When the narrator remarks on this being a perfect place for secret meetings and conspiracies, the reader infers that the novel is going to include—and potentially hinge upon—meetings of this nature.
2. “‘Poverty, poverty, trials, vexations, humiliations, deprivations. You cannot tell; you, who are amongst those for whom life is so smooth and easy; you can never guess what is endured by such as we. Do not ask too much of me, then. I cannot be disinterested; I cannot be blind to the advantages of such an alliance. I cannot, I cannot! ’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 1, p. 15). When Sir Michael proposes to her, Lucy Graham’s sweet, placid nature gives way to an impassioned response. Though she accepts, she does not pretend that she does so out of love. Rather, she tells Sir Michael that she cannot pretend she is not swayed by the luxurious, comfortable lifestyle that he offers.
3. “‘[E]very trace of the old life melted away—every clew to identity buried and forgotten—except these, except these. ’ She had never taken her left hand from the black ribbon at her throat. She drew it from her bosom as she spoke, and looked at the object attached to it. It was neither a locket, a miniature, nor a cross: it was a ring wrapped in an oblong piece of paper—the paper partly printed, partly written, yellow with age, and crumpled with much folding” (Vol. 1, Chapter 1, pp. 16-17).
Having accepted Sir Michael’s proposal, the woman known as Lucy Graham reflects on her past and present. She has now become almost entirely detached from her previous life (which is unknown to the reader at this point), aside from a ring wrapped in an old piece of paper. We later realize that this is Helen Talboys’ wedding ring.
4. “‘And my life has been all action, privation, toil, alternate hope and despair; I have had no time to think upon the chances of anything happening to my darling. What a blind, reckless fool I have been! Three years and a half and not one line, one word from her, or from any mortal creature who knows her. Heaven above! What may not have happened? ’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 2, pp. 25-26). As he sails home, George assumes that his wife will be thrilled and grateful to see him. However, a conversation with a governess aboard the ship causes his mood to turn pensive and anxious. She talks of her own worries about what might have happened while she has been away from home, and George realizes that a lot can happen in three-and-a-half years.
5. “‘What was she but a servant like me? Taking wages and working for them as hard, or harder than I did. You should have seen her shabby clothes, Luke— worn and patched, and darned, and turned and twisted, yet always looking nice upon her, somehow. She gives me more as lady’s-maid here than ever she got from Mr. Dawson then. Why, I’ve seen her come out of the parlor with a few sovereigns and a little silver in her hand, that master had just given her for her quarter’s salary; and now look at her! ’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 3, p. 29).
Unlike Luke, who does not wish rise to a higher social position, Phoebe envies Lady Audley. Not only do the two look alike, the Lady had previously been little more than a servant dressed in shabby clothes. Contrasting her own life with that of the Lady, Phoebe cannot help feeling resentful.
6. “Robert Audley was supposed to be a barrister. As a barrister was his name inscribed in the Law List; as a barrister, he had chambers in Fig-tree Court, Temple; as a barrister he had eaten the allotted number of dinners, which form the sublime ordeal through which the forensic aspirant wades on to fame and fortune. If these things can make a man a barrister, Robert Audley decidedly was one. But he had never either had a brief, or tried to get a brief, or even wished to have a brief in all those five years, during which his name had been painted upon one of the doors in Fig-tree Court” (Vol. 1, Chapter 4, p. 32). This passage gives us an overview of Robert Audley: an idle young man who is a barrister in name but has sufficient money that he does not have to pursue his occupation. Based on this initial description, Robert does not seem the most likely protagonist or amateur sleuth; the novel thus sets up expectations that it later subverts.
7. “One fine spring morning, about three months before the time of which I am writing, the postman brought him the wedding cards of Sir Michael and Lady Audley, together with a very indignant letter from his cousin, setting forth how her father had just married a wax-dollish young person, no older than Alicia herself, with flaxen ringlets, and a perpetual giggle” (Vol. 1, Chapter 4, pp. 33- 34). Unlike the rest of the village, Alicia is unimpressed by her step-mother. This is largely due to her feeling that this woman has usurped her position and stolen her father’s affection. Still, though Alicia fails to be taken in by Lady Audley’s superficial charms, she does not realize the cunning and dangerous nature that lurks beneath this image.
8. “That very childishness had a charm which few could resist. The innocence and candour of an infant beamed in Lady Audley’s fair face, and shone out of her large and liquid blue eyes. The rosy lips, the delicate nose, the profusion of fair ringlets, all contributed to preserve to her beauty the character of extreme youth and freshness” (Vol 1. , Chapter 6, p. 50). This quote sums up the image that Lady Audley presents to the villagers: the archetypal Victorian picture of charming, innocent femininity. It would seem that Lady Audley’s beauty is matched by her delightful nature, but, as we later find out, this is not the case.
9. “But the storm had quite a different effect upon George Talboys. His friend was startled when he looked at the young man’s white face as he sat opposite the open window listening to the thunder, and staring at the black sky, rent every now and then by forked streaks of steel-blue lightning” (Vol. 1, Chapter 9, p. 67). This passage occurs several hours after George and Lady Audley have first met. Robert notices that George seems pale and anxious, though he does not know why. As we learn later, however, his changed demeanor is the result of the shock of seeing her former wife.
10. “‘Do you know, Lucy, that once last night, when you looked out through the dark green bed-curtains, with your poor white face, and the purple rims round your hollow eyes, I had almost a difficulty to recognize my little wife in that terrified, agonised-looking creature, crying out about the storm. Thank God for the morning sun, which has brought back the rosy cheeks and bright smile! ’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 9, p. 70). During the storm of the previous night, Lady Audley had been beset with terror.
Sir Michael had been horrified to see her so frightened (mistakenly believing that it was due to the storm), so he is happy that she seems to be back to her old self. This passage consequently highlights the precariousness of Helen’s psychological state and her horror at having the past return to haunt her. However, it seems that Helen has resolved to keep up her act and do whatever is necessary in the name of self-preservation.
11. “‘I wish I’d never felt any friendliness for the fellow,’ he thought. ‘I feel like a man who has an only son whose life has gone wrong with him. I wish to Heaven I could give him back his wife, and send him down to Ventnor to finish his days in peace’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 11, page 79). Before running into George, Robert had lived a relatively solitary life at his chambers. His friendship with George has changed all that and he wishes that he could bring George some comfort following the tragic news of his wife’s death. So, while George is known for his idleness and eccentricity, it is clear that he feels genuine concern for his friend.
12. “‘A scrap of paper; a shred of some torn garment; the button off a coat; a word dropped incautiously from the over-cautious lips of guilt; the fragment of a letter; the shutting or opening of a door; a shadow on a window-blind; the accuracy of a moment; a thousand circumstances so slight as to be forgotten by the criminal, but links of steel in the wonderful chain forged by the science of the detective officer; and lo! The gallows is built up; the solemn bell tolls through the dismal grey of the early morning; the drop creaks under the guilty feet; and the penalty of crime is paid’” (Vol. 1, Chapter 15, p. 107).
Robert’s discovery of Lady Audley’s true identity and criminal acts is not based on one piece of irrefutable evidence. Such evidence would have made his investigation a lot easier but, like a true detective, he pieces together the truth from a wide variety of objects and fragments. As he explains to Lady Audley, circumstantial evidence consists of many links that form a chain and lead to judgment and punishment of the guilty party.
13. “Indeed, unlikely as it appears at the first glance that such a man as this could have been vain, I have little doubt that vanity was the centre from which radiated all the disagreeable lines in the character of Mr. Harcourt Talboys. I dare say Junius Brutus was vain, and enjoyed the approval of awe-stricken Rome when he ordered his son off for execution” (Vol. 2, Chapter 4, p. 156).
This description sums up the vanity and unpleasantness that Robert observes upon first meeting Mr. Harcourt Talboys. Lacking in modesty and seemingly unconcerned about George, Harcourt Talboys is compared to a Roman politician who relishes wielding his power and sending others to their doom—not least his own son.
14. “Madhouses are large and only too numerous; yet surely it is strange they are not larger, when we think of how many helpless wretches must beat their brains against this hopeless persistency of the orderly outward world, as compared with the storm and tempest, the riot and confusion within—when we remember how many minds must tremble upon the narrow boundary between reason and unreason, mad to-day and sane to-morrow, mad yesterday and sane to-day” (Vol. 2, Chapter 6, p. 176). Though Lady Audley’s back-story has not yet been revealed to the reader, here, the narrator foreshadows later revelations about her childhood, as well as her ultimate fate. It does this via its description of madhouses, expressing surprise that they are not larger given the propensity for the human mind to swing between madness and sanity.
Struggling against the grinding monotony of everyday life, the mind is liable to become restless and unstable. Psychological instability is thus not presented as highly unusual but as a much more common phenomenon.
15. “The Eastern potentate who declared that women were at the bottom of all mischief should have gone a little further and seen why it is so. It is because women are never lazy. They don’t know what it is to be quiet. They are Semiramides, and Cleopatras, and Joan of Arcs, Queen Elizabeths, and Catharines the Seconds, and they riot in battle, and murder, and clamour, and desperation” (Vol. 2, Chapter 6, p. 177). When Robert thinks about the women in his life, such as Alicia or Lady Audley, he starts musing on the faults of women in general. He refers to powerful female figures from history and laments that women create so much noise and disarray rather than staying quiet and maintaining the peace. Robert’s thoughts therefore reflect his views on, and anxieties regarding, the opposite sex.
16. “In those troublesome dreams he saw Audley Court, rooted up from amidst the green pastures and the shady hedgerows of Essex, standing bare and unprotected upon that desolate northern shore, threatened by the rapid rising of a boisterous sea, whose waves seemed gathering upward to descend and crush the house he loved.
As the hurrying waves rolled nearer and nearer to the stately mansion, the sleeper saw a pale, starry face looking out of the silvery foam, and knew that it was my lady, transformed into a mermaid, beckoning his uncle to destruction” (Vol. 2, Chapter 9, pp. 209-210). As he delves further into his investigations, Robert becomes increasingly aware of what his aunt is capable of and becomes plagued by odd dreams. In this instance, he imagines Audley Court uprooted from its former stability, with Lady Audley as a beautiful mermaid beckoning her unwitting second husband to his doom.
17. “‘I believe that he met his death within the boundary of these grounds; and that his body lies hidden below some quiet water, or in some forgotten corner of this place. I will have such a search made as shall level that house to the earth and root up every tree in these gardens, rather than I will fail in finding the grave of my murdered friend’” (Vol. 2, Chapter 11, p. 235). While Robert had already insinuated that he knows of her guilt, he confronts Lady Audley directly here and accuses her of murdering George and buried him in the garden. In vowing to excavate the entire grounds if necessary, Robert shows his persistence and his dedication to his friend.
18. “‘Mr. Audley may be as you say, merely eccentric; but he has talked to me this evening in a manner that has filled me with absolute terror, and I believe that he is going mad. I shall speak very seriously to Sir Michael this very night. ’ ‘Speak to papa,’ exclaimed Alicia; ‘you surely won’t distress papa by suggesting such a possibility! ’ ‘I shall only put him on his guard, my dear Alicia. ’ ‘But he’ll never believe you,” said Miss Audley; ‘he will laugh at such an idea.
’‘No, Alicia; he will believe anything that I tell him,’ answered my lady, with a quiet smile” (Vol. 2, Chapter 11, p. 238). Lady Audley has already threatened Robert, telling him that she will convince Sir Michael that he is mad. Here, she starts putting her plan into action. Though we do not know it as this point, madness is a subject with which she is particularly familiar and it is thus hardly surprising that she arrives at this plan of action. Moreover, the final line shows that she relishes her hold over Sir Michael.
19. “‘I will tell you nothing, except that you are a mad woman,’ answered Lady Audley, in a cold, hard voice. ‘Get up, fool, idiot, coward! Is your husband such a precious bargain that you should be grovelling there, lamenting and groaning for him? What is Robert Audley to you, that you behave like a maniac, because you think he is in danger? ’” (Vol. 3, Chapter 1, p. 278). Here is another instance of Lady Audley calling someone mad. When Phoebe expresses her shock at Lady Audley’s attempt to kill Robert and Luke, Lady Audley is cold and ruthless. The Lady will not admit her actions outright but expresses her lack of caring and her continued claims that those who accuse or obstruct her are “mad. ”
20. “He looked at his nephew as a sample of a very large class of young men, and his daughter as a sample of an equally extensive class of feminine goods; and could not see why the two samples should not make a very respectable match. He ignored all those infinitesimal differences in nature which make the wholesome food of one man the deadly poison of another” (Vol. 3, Chapter 2, p. 283). This passage shows the simplicity and naivety of Sir Michael’s thought process. Because he was besotted with Lady Audley at first sight, he cannot understand why Robert is not besotted with Alicia.
Unlike Robert, he does not understand that attraction can be more complex than that. This outlook characterizes Sir Michael’s thinking; he is taken in by “Lucy Graham” and remains unaware that anything is wrong until Robert forces her to confess.
21. “When you say that I killed George Talboys, you say the truth. When you say that I murdered him treacherously and foully, you lie. I killed him because I AM MAD! because my intellect is a little way upon the wrong side of that narrow boundary-line between sanity and insanity; because, when George Talboys goaded me, as you have goaded me; and reproached me, and threatened me; my mind, never properly balanced, utterly lost its balance, and I was mad! ” (Vol. 3, Chapter 3, p. 294).
Again showing that she is not apologetic, Helen insists that her attempted murder of George was an act of madness. She does not use this term in a throwaway sense but insists that she is mad and thus cannot be responsible for her actions if people goad or threaten her. She maintains that, when George confronted her in the garden, it was he who caused her latent madness to erupt.
22. “A long night’s rest had brought back the delicate rose-tints of her complexion, and the natural lustre of her blue eyes. That unnatural light which had burned so fearfully the day before had gone, and my lady smiled triumphantly as she contemplated the reflection of her beauty. The days were gone in which her enemies could have branded her with white-hot irons, and burned away the loveliness which had done such mischief. Whatever they did to her, they must leave her her beauty, she thought. At the worst, they were powerless to rob her of that” (Vol. 3, Chapter 5, pp. 317-318). It is not only other people who are captivated by Lady Audley’s beauty: as she looks at herself in the mirror the day after her secret has been revealed,
Lady Audley admires her reflection. The distress of the previous day no longer shows on her face, and her radiance has returned. She feels triumphant that, whatever happens to her, no one can take away her beauty.
23. “Remember how much she had perilled for a fine house and gorgeous furniture, for carriages and horses, jewels and laces; and do not wonder if she clings with a desperate tenacity to gauds and gew-gaws, in the hour of her despair. If she had been Judas, she would have held to her thirty pieces of silver to the last moment of her shameful life” (Vol. 3, Chapter 5, p. 318).
Even once she has been found out, Lady Audley clings to the possessions that Sir Michael provided. She has made such an effort to establish a new identity and lift herself out of poverty that she cannot bear for the fruits of her labor to be lost entirely. Without these, everything will have been in vain.
24. “‘She ran away from her home, because her home was not a pleasant one, and she left in the hope of finding a better. There is no madness in that. She committed the crime of bigamy, because by that crime she obtained fortune and position. There is no madness there. When she found herself in a desperate position, she did not grow desperate. She employed intelligent means, and she carried out a conspiracy which required coolness and deliberation in its execution.
There is no madness in that’” (Vol. 3, Chapter 5, p. 321). Whereas Helen insists she is mad and Robert seems inclined to accept this, the visiting physician is not convinced. He believes that she is a criminal who has employed her cunning and knowingly engaged in bigamy. He agrees that she grew desperate, but he points out that desperation is not the same as madness. He therefore provides a counterargument to Helen’s claims of madness.
25. “Has my beauty brought me to this? Have I plotted and schemed to shield myself and laid awake in the long deadly nights, trembling to think of my dangers, for this? I had better have given up at once, since this was to be the end” (Vol. 3, Chapter 6, p. 333). Here, Helen Talboys expresses her despair that her plotting has failed her. Even the beauty that she so relishes has not saved her. If she had known that her past would be exposed and she would be committed to an institution, she would have merely accepted her lot when George returned. As it is, her efforts have been futile.