Dead Love Has Chains: Mary Elizabeth Braddon

“Is that your idea of girls? That they ought to know nothing of the sorrow and shame that some women have to suffer?”

Lady Audley’s Secret is a favourite novel, and it was also my introduction to the considerable work of Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Dead Love Has Chains, the story of a mother’s dilemma, is a far less complex tale, and it did not match the excellence of Lady Audley’s Secret.

Lady Mary Harling, accompanied by Daisy Meredith, a poor relation who is also her companion, is on a ship bound for home from Ceylon when she meets a young woman who has a mysterious secret. It’s a long voyage and there is a great deal of idle time. Lady Mary’s cabin is next to that of a girl who says her name is Jane Brown. Jane, who stays in her cabin and does not go on the deck, is accompanied by a dour, unpleasant maid. Lady Mary hears the girl sobbing at night, and feeling concern, begins to make approaches to her lonely, unhappy fellow traveler.

The girl eventually tells Lady Mary her story: without a mother, and with a careless female relative in charge, she was pursued and seduced by a man in India. He suddenly claims he is “not free” to marry as he is already engaged to an American heiress. “Jane” is ruined, and she sent by her father to stay in Ireland. Jane, after confiding in Lady Mary, regrets her rash confidence. She can see that Lady Mary is horrified and Jane makes her swear to keep her secret.

Lady Mary has an only son, Conrad, who falls in love with an innkeeper’s daughter. When she runs off with another man, Conrad goes mad. Conrad eventually recovers and Lady Mary is more protective than ever. She begins to see Conrad drawing close to Daisy, and considers the match vastly unsuitable. But there are worse options. …

Dead Love Has Chains presents a moral dilemma: how much should Lady Mary interfere in her son’s life? If he chooses an unsuitable woman, is there cause or reason to intervene? If the match is unsuitable due to class or fortune, does that matter when weighed against Conrad’s fragile psyche? But what if Lady Mary considers the match unsuitable due to the bride’s past? If a very young girl is seduced, does this implicate moral failing? And is this indicative of future moral failings? This is not an extravagantly dramatic tale; rather it is maternal and domestic in tone. The characters are subordinate to the dilemma, so not much character development here.

Advertisement

2 Comments

Filed under Braddon M. E., Fiction, posts

2 responses to “Dead Love Has Chains: Mary Elizabeth Braddon

  1. I still have the biography of Mary Braddon that you recommended ages ago. Still here unread, but I think her biography is perhaps more interesting than her books. I’ll get to it.
    Like the cover of this one.

  2. I highly recommend Lady Audley’s Secret. Can’t go through life without reading that one.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.