What are some of the suggestions of the title?
Do you find comparisons/contrasts in style or theme with Dombey and Son?
What is added by the London Journal illustrations?
Chapter 1: Lucy
What is the effect of the opening description of Audley Court?
What do we learn of Lucy Graham’s past? Of her manner and effect on others? What aspects of the description or her behavior are designed to make the reader suspicious? (47-48, praise of externals)
What are some features of Braddon’s narrative voice in the novel?
What are some details which seem to foreshadow future unravellings? (the locket around her neck)
How does Lucy respond to Sir Audley’s proposal? Is this a usual response? What does it seem to avoid? (refuses to say she loves him, concerned with externals, 52)
What do we infer from the fact that she wishes to lose her identity? (53)
Chapter 2: On Board the Argus
How is George Talboys presented? How are his responses contrasted with those of the humble governess? (57-58)
What unexpected events from his past does he reveal? From this, what do we learn of Lucy’s background and character? Her father’s character? (60, a thief)
What has motivated George's departure for Australia? (63)
What does the reader expect will happen after landing, and why? (he’s said he will kill himself if his wife has died)
Chapter 3: Hidden Relics
What are some suggestions of the opening descriptions?
How are Phoebe and Luke described? (65-66) What are some differences between them?
What emotions does Phoebe harbor toward her mistress?
What are the "hidden relics" of the title, and how are they discovered? How does each servant/retainer respond to the presence of the gems and baby shoe?
Is Phoebe’s theft surprising, and if so, why? (70)
Chapter 4: In the First Page of “The Times”
How is Robert introduced, and what do we learn about his character?
Under what circumstances does George learn of the alleged fate of his wife? Is it plausible that her death would have been announced on the front page of the London Times?
Chapter 5: The Headstone at Ventnor
What does George learn when he travels to Ventnor to find news of his wife’s death?
What aspect of Helen Talboys's life is emphasized by the tombstone erected on her grave?
Chapter 6: Anywhere, Anywhere Out of the World
What is the significance of the chapter’s title?
What seems strange and/or evasive about the manner of George's father-in-law?
Are there any other details which seem to suggest that the father-in-law and landlady may not be conveying the whole truth? (father wishes him gone; supposed lock of dead woman’s hair isn’t curled; family has become prosperous)
How does his son respond to George? To whom does he seem attached, and why might this not include his mother?
Where do the two young men travel?
What part does Alicia Audley seem to play in the plot through her correspondence? (indicates that there is another view of Lucy; reveals the latter's activities)
Chapter 7: After a Year
After Robert puts Alicia’s letter in his receptacle for papers, what does the narrator tell us about his activities? Does this forewarning alter the reader’s view of the future?
What additional information do we learn about Lady Audley? (she hated books and study; she appears younger than her age [the reader knows by now that she is 23])
What is ominous about the narrator’s descriptions of the countryside? (91) Are these subtle?
Chapter 8: Before the Storm
What prevents George from meeting his friend’s uncle’s wife upon their arrival in Essex? (she leaves on a [manufactured] trip, pretends to be frightened of a storm) What causes the reader to be suspicious?
What seems ominous or suggestive about Lucy’s comments to her maid about the effectiveness of cosmetics? How unusual would the use of cosmetics have been in Victorian England?
What part does Phoebe play in her mistress’s plans? (has sent telegram, as we later surmise)
What do you make of the manner in which Lady Audley locks her room before departure?
Chapter 8: Before the Storm
How does Robert respond to his cousin Alicia’s affection? (scarcely notices)
What emotions does George describe to his friend?
How does Robert respond to Lady Audley’s handwriting, and what prevents George from seeing it? (walks away without interest)
What prevents the planned departure of the young men?
When the men ease their boredom by visiting Audley Court, what do they find? What motivates them to enter Lady Audley’s bedroom, and why does Alicia assist them?
What familiar literary genre is suggested by this scene? (Gothic romance)
What is the effect of Braddon’s use of French phrases and her detailed comments on older and contemporary art?
Can you think of any painting which resembles the one described? (“Sidonia,” by Edward Burne Jones)
Is it important that the each of the men views the portrait alone? What is significant about the fact that George drops his glove?
Is Robert’s conjecture that George has been frightened by the storm likely?
Chapter 9: After the Storm
How is the weather symbolic throughout this section of the novel?
How does Lady Audley claim to react to the storm, and why?
How do you account for her changed mood the next day, and for her mood on returning to her home? (dog growls at her and she demands that it be taken away)
What apparently passes between Lady Audley and her maid after the former returns to the house?
Chapter 10: Missing
How does Robert react to the news that his friend is missing? How does he satisfy himself that George has left for London?
How does Robert respond to his uncle’s wife?
Chapter 11: The Mark Upon My Lady’s Wrist
What implications lie behind Alicia’s remark that Robert and George resemble Damon and Pythias?
What is significant about the conversation in which Robert tells Lucy that George has grieved greatly for his wife? (120) How does the reader interpret her comment that it “seems almost cruel of Mrs. Talboys to die,” and how does he interpret it?
Who notices the mark on Lady Audley’s arm, and how does Robert react to her claim that it has been made by twisting a ribbon? (123)
Chapter 12: Still Missing
On his trip to Southampton, what does Mr. Maldon tell Robert about George? Why does Robert find this implausible?
What puzzling information does little Georgey convey? (confusion between his “mother” who was always crying and the “pretty lady” who had given him a watch)
What does Mr. Maldon seem to do with all the household’s valuable objects?
What message is contained on the telegraphic message Robert finds on the hearthrug?
Chapter 13: Troubled Dreams
What unpleasant conjectures does Robert make about George’s disappearance? (131) Are these plausible?
What does Robert find out in Liverpool about George’s probable departure for Australia?
Do you think he is correct in his conclusions? (later we learn that he was indeed the man with the broken arm, but he had sailed for the US instead)
What purpose is served by the list of events concerning George’s disappearance which he draws up? Is it a good list?
What does the reader conclude from the fact that Robert decides to return to Audley Court?
Chapter 14: Phoebe’s Suitor
How does Lucy respond to the news that Robert has advertised for George in the paper?
What mars the relationship between Alicia Audley and Lucy?
What evidence does Alicia offer for her contention that Lady Audley has a dark side? (alleges cruelties, but we don’t see them, 136; her dog doesn’t like Lucy)
What does Lucy say in her own defense? (she’s not better than others, but pleasanter, 137)
What seems ominous about the French story of a woman criminal who was burned at the stake which Lucy recounts? (139)
What does the narrator seem to suggest about Phoebe’s desire to leave her advantageous employment? (140)
How do Lady Audley and Phoebe disagree on the question of whether Phoebe should marry Luke?
What ominous reason does the former give for her determination to marry him?
How does Luke respond to Lady Audley’s offer of 50 pounds to purchase a public house?
What does she infer from the fact that he asks for a hundred instead?
To what infraction does Phoebe confess?
Chapter 15: On the Watch
What seems unpropitious about Phoebe and Luke’s wedding and its aftermath?
What seems significant about the fact that Robert no longer takes an interest in hunting but spends his time indoors with Lady Audley?
What do we know of Robert’s attitude toward animals, especially dogs?
What conclusion does Robert draw from the fact that his cousin Alicia seems angry at him, and that she enjoys riding horses? (women shouldn’t ride horses! 149)
What remark by Robert seems to alarm Lucy? (a woman might do a great deal to obtain as great a change in situation as she has experienced, 150)
What kind of embroidery and artwork is favored by Lady Audley?
What does he tell Lady Audley he has decided about George’s death? (152, George never went to Southampton or beyond it)
What causes her to faint? (his pointed descriptions of circumstantial evidence)
Chapter 16 Robert Audley Gets His Conge
On what grounds does Alicia reject Sir Harry Towers, and how does Robert respond? Why does the narrator poke gentle fun at Sir Harry? (158)
What observations does Sir Michael make on the relationship between his daughter and Robert? (159)
On what pretext does Lucy persuade her husband to evict Robert from Audley Court? (claims that Alicia is jealous!)
What final significant words does Robert speak as he departs?
Why doesn’t he return to London as might be expected?
Chapter 17 At the Castle Inn
What are some features of the Castle Inn? What does Phoebe do upon his arrival? (sends a messenger to Lady Audley to tell of his arrival, exhibits alarm)
How does Robert respond to Phoebe, with what implications? (would have made a good witness)
What does Robert learn from his first night there? (Phoebe desires to silence her husband; he has gained money for his inn from Lady Audley)
Why does he tell them, especially Phoebe, that he knows that they have power over her? (166)
Chapter 18: Robert Receives a Visitor Whom He Had Scarcely Expected
Under what circumstances does Lady Audley visit Robert, and under what pretext?
What does she reveal in their discussion? (anger that he should attempt to learn information)
What does he reveal to her by indirection? (he knows she is in Luke’s power, 169; their words have double meanings, 172)
What does he tell her will be his next step in investigation? (will look through George’s effects) Why does he not remain silent?
What causes him to follow Lady Audley to London on hearing that she has taken the next train there?
Chapter 19: The Blacksmith’s Mistake
To what does the title refer?
What motivates Robert’s return home to London? What does the reader make of the fact that he meets Lady Audley entering the train home, and in a cheerful mood?
What excuse does she give for making the trip without telling her husband?
How had the blacksmith managed to enter in his absence, and what seems odd about the blacksmith’s behavior when visited?
How does Robert interpret the fact that he and his family are enjoying a festive party? (179)
Book II, Chapter 1: The Writing in the Book
To what does the title refer?
What does Robert find missing from his friend’s trunk? How could these have been removed? (each packet of letters had been carefully labeled with the name of the writer)
What may be significant about Robert’s taste for Balzac’s novels?
Why does Robert feel uncertainty over whether it is his duty to continue to seek information about George’s death? (183)
What religious meanings does the author ascribe to his search? (183)
What does Robert learn from the sample of Helen’s handwriting? (185)
Chapter 2: Mrs. Plowson
How has Harcourt Talboys responded to Robert’s letters to him telling of the disappearance of his son?
What does Robert reveal about his knowledge of Alicia’s preferences as he muses on his life situation? (187) What emotions does he feel concerning George?
What strikes Robert as strange in his visit to the Maldon home? What does Georgey reveal about his life circumstances? (not sent to school) How does the boy seem to be treated?
By contrast, what are Robert’s intentions for him? (to send him to school)
What causes Robert to suspect Mrs. Plowson? What does she seem concerned to prevent? (an account of the “pretty lady” who had given the boy a watch)
Chapter 3: Little Georgey Leaves His Old Home
How does Mr. Maldon respond to the claim that George Talboys is dead? (agitated, denies that it could be possible)
How does Robert let him know that he has discovered his lies, and why does he do this? Does Mr. Maldon deny that a murder may have been committed? (194)
When the old man seems disturbed, what promise does Robert give? (will not attempt to learn more from little Georgey) What motive prompts him (or Braddon) to make a promise which will most likely stall the investigation?
What does he suggest that the old man might want to do? (warn someone else to fly and leave country)
Why does he do this? What threat does he make? (197)
How does Mrs. Plowson respond to the news of Geoge Talboys's death?
What habits has little Georgey learned from his grandfather? What are some humorous aspects of his character and behavior?
What final unexplained hint does he drop at the end? (speaks of Matilda’s little brother Billy)
Chapter 4: Coming to a Standstill
What frustrates Robert about his visit with Harcourt Talboys and his daughter?
How does Mr. Talboys interpret the disappearance of his son? (as a ruse to soften his resolve)
What does Robert ask Mr. Talboys, and why does the latter’s response create a “standstill”?
What seems to be Clara’s response to the news?
Does it seem consistent with Robert’s earlier concern that he should leave the decision about whether to pursue further the case of George’s possible murder to a man he doesn’t like? What do you make of this shifting of responsibility?
Chapter 5: Clara
What motive does Clara reveal in her private conversation with Robert? Is the desire for revenge more admirable in a sister than a friend?
What details does Robert conceal from her, and with what motive?
What effect does Robert’s ambivalence have on the unraveling of the plot?
Chapter 6: George’s Letters
What does his encounter with Clara motivate Robert to do? What views on women (tongue-in-cheek) does he express while eating at a London restaurant? (229)
How is Clara’s handwriting described? (231)
What does he learn from the letters Clara sends him?
Chapter 7: Retrograde Investigation
When Sir Michael’s illness brings Robert to Audley Court, what information does Robert seek to obtain from the medical attendant Mr. Dawson? (name of Lucy’s former employer, Mrs. Vincent)
What comments does the narrator make on female making of tea, and how ironic are these remarks intended to be in context? (242-43)
What reaction does Lady Audley evince to Robert’s presence in Audley Court? (joy at the announcement of his departure, 245)
Chapter 8: So Far and No Farther
To what does the title refer? What investigations does Robert conduct in order to find Mrs. Vincent and her maid? Why has Mrs. Vincent asked no questions when hiring Lucy Graham/Helen Talboys?
What key piece of evidence does Robert find with the help of Miss Tonks and Mrs. Vincent? (labels on band box)
Is it quite fair of him to accuse Miss Tonks of cruelty to a fellow woman for having helped him to this secret? What do his reactions indicate about his emotions at this stage? (256)
What does Robert conclude is the value of the evidence he has found? (will convince his uncle, if not a jury, 257)
Why do you think he feels compelled to continue his investigations after this?
Chapter 9: Beginning at the Other End
To what does the chapter title refer?
What prophetic dream does Robert have in his first night in Wildernsea? (263-64)
What are some things which Robert learns at Wildernsea, and from whom? (Helen had met George there, father may have taken her money for drink, she had deserted father and child)
What physical evidence does he extract from Mrs. Barkamb? What seems unusual about the wording of Helen’s farewell letter to her father? (speaks of “the secret which is the key to my life”)
What are some humorous features of the descriptions in this chapter?
Do you find it probable that all of those whom he questions provide Robert with the information he seeks without questioning his motives?
Chapter 10: Hidden in the Grave
What does Robert deduce from the fact that Alicia reports that Lady Audley hopes he will visit their home again? (269)
How does Robert hope that Lady Audley will respond to his many hints of his awareness of her past? (269) Why does he delay an expedition to Ventnor to uncover the circumstances of Helen Talboys’ feigned “death”? (270)
Why does he delay in breaking to Sir Michael the news of his wife’s deception and bigamy? Why do you think he doesn’t worry that someone who has already committed a murder may not eliminate her husband or himself?
Under what circumstances does Robert again meet Clara Talboys?
What effect is gained by the fact that he is unaware of the organist to whose playing he listens? Is it important that she chooses melancholy music?
What does she enjoin upon him in their brief encounter?
What does Clara learn about Lady Audley from her friend Mrs. Martyn, and of what does this remind her? (277-78)
Chapter 11: In the Lime-Walk
What does Robert tell Lucy in the lime-walk that he has learned, and what does he enjoin her to do? (tells her that he knows that Helen Talboys didn’t die, and he will find the answers in Southampton; has letter she sent when leaving father; labels with her two names were on bandbox; dates of her departure and new employment match; enjoins her to escape quietly)
How does she respond to these accusations? Do her reactions imply an admission of guilt? (291)
With what does Lady Audley threaten Robert? (threatens to kill him, by implication, to bring accusations of madness)
How does she proceed to carry out her threat? How successful does she seem to be in convincing Alicia that Robert is demented?
Do we think she will be able to convince Sir Michael?
Chapter 12: Preparing the Ground
For what is the ground being prepared, and who is doing the preparing?
What “evidence” and wiles does Lucy use to attempt to persuade her husband of Robert’s mental instability? Why does it take her so long to convey (some of) what Robert had actually impliedin their conversation? Do you think she does a good job of acting?
What aspects of her statements about madness strike her husband as reflecting some specific knowledge? (firm and informed tone)
What is her final observation on her chances of destroying Robert? (305)
Chapter 13: Phoebe’s Petition
What point is made about the Pre-Raphaelite beauty of Lady Audley? (299, 308) What sermon and narrative intervention is prompted by the comparison of Lucy Graham with a Pre-Raphaelite beauty? What do we learn about her inner state of mind?
What comparisons does the narrator make between Lady Audley and Phoebe? (313)
What is Phoebe’s petition? What incidental information about the circumstances of Castle Inn does she provide?
Why has Robert been unwilling to sleep at Audley Court that night? What new information does Robert’s letter to Lady Audley provide?
With what ominous resolution does the volume end?
Book III, chapter 1: The Red Light in the Sky
What are some dramatic incidents and descriptions in this chapter?
When she realizes she has been discovered, what motives does Lady Audley give for not fleeing as suggested? (would have to earn her living, 328)
What does she do to ensure that Robert is burned alive?
Why does Phoebe admit her suspicions to her former employer?
Chapter 2: The Bearer of the Tidings
What opinion does Sir Michael hold of his nephew’s character and abilities?
What thoughts does he hold on the desirability and likelihood of a marriage between Robert and his daughter?
With what emotions does Lady Audley await news from Mount Stanning? In what form does it come?
Chapter 3: My Lady Tells the Truth
By what circumstance has Robert escaped death by burning?
What excuse/reason does Lucy give to account for her action? What are some features of the story she tells Sir Michael and Robert? (includes account of her feigned death)
What reason does she give for having loved Sir Michael more than George Talboys? (360)
What “secret” has marred her childhood, and on what occasions did it manifest itself?
How does Sir Michael respond to the news? What does the narrator tell us about his past suspicions of his wife’s character? (had never fully believed in her, 360)
Why does he never learn that his wife has pushed George Talboys into the garden well, or set a fire which could have killed several persons?
Chapter 4: The Hush that Succeeds the Tempest
How does Robert arrange for Sir Michael to be accompanied by his daughter in his travels?
With what emotions do Robert and Alicia bid farewell to one another?
What has happened to Lady Audley after her confession? (lies on floor, meekly asks fate of those in the Inn)
What does Sir Michael entrust to Robert as he leaves?
Does it make sense that a woman who has attempted several murders should quietly await a diagnosis of her medical condition and accept permanent confinement?
Chapter 5: Dr. Mosgrave’s Advice
What assurances does Robert seek and receive from Dr. Mosgrave? Were doctors required to conceal knowledge of criminal actions?
What information does Robert conceal from him, and with what motives? (at first, her attempt to murder George, though he explains this later; her incendiarism)
How long does the doctor spend in interviewing Lady Audley and making his diagnosis? (ten minutes, 384)
Do you think Dr. Mosgrave understands the nature of what has been concealed?
What judgment and advice does he give?
Lady Audley is essentially imprisoned without trial. Would her fate have been possible for a wife in Victorian England?
Would Braddon’s readers have accepted this as a likely or ethical resolution of the problem?
Why do you think Braddon chose this fate for her heroine rather than any alternative?
Chapter 6: Buried Alive
How is Helen Talboys/Lucy Graham/Lady Audley conveyed to her Belgian sanatorium? Does it seem plausible that she would go without resistance?
Under what conditions will she be housed? Is it plausible that Robert should be able to incarcerate his aunt-in-law with solely a letter from an English doctor?
What pseudonym is given her?
In her final interview with Robert, what state of mind does she reveal? (doesn’t repent)
What account does she give of the disappearance of George Talboys?
How does the news affect Robert? Is it plausible that he should be so surprised and affected at this stage of the narrative?
What reason does Helen give for confessing to him a crime? (legal system could do no worse to her, 399) Do you think her claim that no imprisonment could be worse than her present one is accurate?
Chapter 7: Ghost-Haunted
What “ghost” haunts Robert, and why?
In the meantime, what has happened to Alicia and her father?
Why does Robert feel reluctance to visit Luke Marks?
What time does he set out for Mount Stanning? At what time does he leave and arrive at his destination? What do we make of this unusual speed?
What does Luke imply about the secret he has to tell, and why does Robert attempt to silence him?
What anxiety does his unwillingness prompt in the reader? (Luke could die before we know the last part of the puzzle)
Chapter 8: That Which the Dying Man Had to Tell
What does the dying man have to tell, and what is contained in the letters which he produces?
Why has he not conveyed this news earlier, or delivered the letters?
What prompts him to reveal the story of George’s escape before his death?
What do we learn of George’s escape, his emotions, and his departure?
Is it plausible that a dying man should have given such a lengthy and detailed narration?
Chapter 9: Restored
How does Harcourt Talboys respond to the news that his son had survived an attempted murder? Are his reactions consistent with his earlier ones?
How long does Robert stay with the Talboyses in Dorsetshire? What are features of the Talboys residence?
In what context does Robert propose to Clara, and with what result? Why do the couple intend to honeymoon in Australia?
Chapter 10: At Peace
Under what circumstances does George Talboys return? Is it plausible that he should not have written earlier either to Robert or his sister?
What final plot strands are tied up at the conclusion? Are these necessary, or could the story have ended with Lady Audley's confinement to a sanatorium?
What prompts the author to her final biblical quotation in “defense” of a happy ending?
In general what effect do the religious allusions have on the tone and effect of the book?
Does the ending satisfy the reader’s sense of verisimilitude? Of fairness?
What are we supposed to think of Alicia's marriage? What symbolism is present in the fact that Audley Court remains uninhabited, and Robert (the presumptive heir) prefers to live with Clara, George and two children in a cottage?
Who is the novel's protagonist--Lady Audley or Robert? Or could one argue for a double protagonist?
Would the issues of bigamy, adultery and disguise have been an important one to Victorians?
Which aspects of the novel seem to you to satisfy the canons of realism? Which elements are implausible, and do these distract from the novel's final effect?
What forms of humor enliven the plot? To what extent do you think this novel could be described as melodramatic?
Would you say that this novel succeeds in characterization? The fashioning of a coherent plot?
What prompts suspense through the novel? (slow unravelling of the pieces of a story)
What do you make of the narrator's appeals to divine providence and destiny? Is the tone of this book religious?
What part is played throughout the novel by the use of trains, telegrams, and other means of transportation/communication?
Why do you think this book was so popular in its time (and more recently, in ours)?
Why do you think it offended some contemporary critics? What were some of the grounds of their complaints?
Were the writers of sensation fiction correct in claiming that this and other similar novels were "moral" books? Were more realistic than more canonical Victorian fiction?
Is this an early instance of a detective novel? What are some ways in which it differs from a modern detective novel?
How is the reader involved in the act of detection?
What do you make of the close contact between Robert and the criminal he is investigating? Of the fact that she is given constant warnings which would permit her to escape?
Can you think of other works of Victorian literature which play upon the notion of a psychologically revealing portrait?