Queen’s Gambit: M. E. Braddon, Inspector F., and The Sixpenny Magazine

by Janine Hatter on January 4, 2016

Mary A. Monnin, University of Missouri Kansas City

M. E. Braddon made choices at every stage of her literary career that led to success. Her decisions were neither arbitrary, nor attributable to luck or Providence. Fictional detectives, according to Peter Thoms, act as authors, reducing characters to game pieces to be manipulated, and mysteries a puzzle to be solved and a victory to be won (2). Braddon looked at authorship and her literary career in the same way. Writing detective fiction in the Victorian era, she recognized that as a female writer in a male dominated field, she had to use every tool at her disposal to achieve a successful writing career.

Braddon scholars recognize her ambition, citing her desire to win over middle-class readers, with Wynne crediting the publication of Eleanor’s Victory in Once A Week in 1863 as Braddon’s initial step towards critical acceptance and a wider readership, and Phegley and Pykett noting she raises the bar as editor and chief author of Belgravia in1866 for the same purpose (Wynne115; Phegley 110; Pykett 128).  I propose that Braddon took control of her career even sooner. By examining relative positions within the issues of The Sixpenny Magazine, and highlighting similarities in titles and content, I show that the juxtaposition of Experiences of a Real Detective with Lady Audley’s Secret was a calculated effort to have Lady Audley recognized as a legitimate detective novel to broaden Braddon’s appeal to men in general and fans of detective fiction in particular.

Chess piece
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Learning from a young age that despite Victorian attitudes to the contrary, women were quite capable of taking care of themselves, Braddon took steps early to strengthen the market for her work.  Having aligned herself both professionally and personally with publisher John Maxwell, her next step was to ensure the success of her second book, Lady Audley’s Secret. This was necessary because cutting reviews of her first book, detective novel The Trail of the Serpent, as well as the failure of Maxwell’s magazine Robin Goodfellow, despite containing the popular first eighteen chapters of Lady Audley’s Secret, showed Braddon, as writer, and Maxwell, as publisher, the importance of winning over as many readers as possible. To that end, the serial Experiences of a Real Detective, written by Inspector F., was added to Maxwell’s new endeavor, The Sixpenny Magazine.

Why a detective serial? Written mostly from Robert Audley’s point of view, Lady Audley’s Secret was much more than a sensation novel aimed at a female audience. Panek credits Braddon as “the principal sensation writer who used crime and detectives” (122).  Ousby credits her with originating the combination of amateur detective and romantic lead in Robert Audley (135). Braddon needed to have Lady Audley’s Secret recognized as a detective novel, which would appeal to men, the primary readers of detective fiction, as well as to the women readers of sensation fiction.

In Experiences of a Real Detective, Inspector F. recounts his memoirs in first person, in the same vein as the professional anecdotes popular in decades past (2.9: 325). With a lighter touch than Dickens’s Inspector Wield, more similar in style to Inspector Waters of Recollections of a Policeman fame (not surprisingly, since William Russell authored both works), Inspector F. humorously recounts some of his more memorable cases with wit and an observant eye that isn’t above noticing the fine eyes and elegant figures of female perpetrators (F., C19).

Similar to Robert Audley, who discovers his detective abilities by chance rather than professional choice, Inspector F. first made himself conspicuous as an amateur detective, succeeding where the police did not, and as a result, was requested to join the police force at the rank of Inspector (2.9:325). Friends and relatives often lead him to interesting cases, although at times it is the overindulgence in alcohol, as when, in drinking to Her Majesty’s health on her coronation, “sympathetic affinity between loyalty and malt liquor” leads him into a scrap that earns him disability leave and so into Case No. 8, Mrs. Waldegrave’s Will (F., 3.15: 496).

Victorian periodical scholars have shown that magazine content was carefully laid out to enhance thematic similarities between features (Phegley 12; Wynne 3). Wynne suggests this form was developed on the notion that members of a family had “shared literary taste” and that “readers were likely to have read most, if not all, of a magazine’s contents” (1, 3). Phegley, instead, suggests that “family literary magazines . . . targeted women as the primary consumers of literature” (6).  Without documentation, it’s difficult to ascertain exact reading habits of 150 years ago, but male taste in literature then, as now, most likely didn’t run toward feminine titles without the promise of a literary reward.

Sixpenny Magazine
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The Sixpenny Magazine debuted Lady Audley’s Secret in the February 1862 issue (Table 2.8). In March 1862, Experiences of a Real Detective began its serial run as the first item (Table 2.9). By placing Experiences first, the male reader was immediately caught, and after reading it, was encouraged to browse the magazine for other items of interest. In fact, in each of the issues in which they both appeared, Experiences of a Real Detective always came before Lady Audley’s Secret. This ensured that the detective fan never skipped over Lady Audley to get to Experiences.

The lure for the reader of Experiences to also read Lady Audley’s Secret began with Chapter IV of Lady Audley, the first chapter in the March issue. The title “In the First Page of ‘The Times'”, has a serious tone, rather than a frivolous one, which would be seen as light feminine fare, and was sure to catch the eye of any man aspiring to better himself (Author 386).  If the title alone wasn’t enticing enough to the uninitiated male, the first line, with its mention of a professional man, might have done the trick: “Robert Audley was supposed to be a barrister” (Author 386).  A third device was the repetition of the name Lucy. Not only is it Lady Audley’s name, but also the name of the wrongly accused thief in Inspector F.’s first case (F., 2.9: 325). To some extent, members of the household would have discussed the features they read in the magazine, and Braddon would have been just as aware of Victorian reading habits as she was of Victorian reading taste. If the men didn’t notice similarities between the two serials, the women, as “the disseminators of culture within the home”, were likely to comment on them (Phegley 6).

Once the reader was hooked, other similarities maintained that intertextuality between the two serials. Inspector F.’s case in the April issue, The Gold-Dust Robbery in Barbican, references both gold and a crime committed by a loved one, two points in common with Lady Audley (F. 2.10, Author 2.10).  In July, Mr. James Bunce misleads Inspector F. about the identity and whereabouts of Mr. Carr at the same time Mr. Malden thwarts Robert Audley from learning about George Talboys (F. 2.13, Author 2.13). Circumstantial Evidence, Case No. 7 in the August issue, corresponds to Lady Audley Chapter XV, Retrograde Investigation, in which Robert Audley discusses circumstantial evidence with Mr. Dawson (F. 3.14, Author 3.14). At times, commonalities are found in chapter titles or character names.  In this same issue, Inspector F. deals with Conyers, a name familiar to readers of Aurora Floyd, Braddon’s serial published in Maxwell’s Temple Bar, at the same time (F., 3.14: 356, Pykett 125). This further illustrates Braddon’s and Maxwell’s reliance on intertextuality to broaden readership. In October, the bigamy of Lady Audley is reflected in Inspector F.’s Case No. 9, titled “Bigamy and Child-Stealing” (F. 4.16: 30).

The similarities to Braddon’s work went deeper than titles and names, even harkening back to The Trail of the Serpent and Detective Peters. In “Bigamy and Child Stealing,” F. transposes Peters’ affliction and pretends to be deaf (F. 4.16: 33, Braddon, Trail 29). In September’s Case, Mrs. Waldgrave’s Will, Richard Waldegrave believes his wife meets a lover, reminiscent of the impersonation in The Trail of the Serpent, in which Valerie believes she sees her husband Gaston meet his mistress (F. 3.15,  Braddon, Trail). The Waldgraves don’t wait as long for reconciliation: Inspector F. has earned the goodwill of a thief, (a story in itself involving F.’s incarceration in Jersey), and is given a tip that helps him discover the culprits who try to break up the Waldegraves’s marriage for financial gain (F. 3.15, Braddon, Trail).

While Lady Audley’s Secret continued in The Sixpenny Magazine through January 1863, Experiences of a Real Detective ended its run in November 1862 (Author 4.19, Untitled 4.17). By then, readers were hooked on Braddon. Due not only to her easy, literate style, but also to her early move to capture readers of both sensation and detective fiction, the success of Lady Audley’s Secret secured Braddon’s position as uncontested queen of the sensation novel.

Works Cited

the Author of Lady Lisle, Aurora Floyd. “Lady Audley’s Secret.” The Sixpenny Magazine 2.9 (1862): 386-98. ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

—. “Lady Audley’s Secret.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.10 (1862): 475-90. ProQuest. Web. 21 Dec. 2015. PDF.

—. “Lady Audley’s Secret.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.13 (1862): 306-21. ProQuest. Web. 21 Dec. 2015. PDF.

—. “Lady Audley’s Secret.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.14 (1862): 415-30. ProQuest. Web. 21 Dec. 2015. PDF.

—. “Lady Audley’s Secret.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.19 (1863): 416-32. ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

Blake, Peter. “John Maxwell.” Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism. C-19. Web. 14 December 2015.

Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Eleanor’s Victory. 1863. Kansas City: UMKC, 2015. Print.

—. Lady Audley’s Secret. Ed. Natalie M. Houston. Toronto: Broadview   Press Ltd, 2003. Print.

—. The Trail of the Serpent. Ed. Chris Willis. New York, NY: Modern Library, 2003. Print.

“Chess piece – White queen” by MichaelMaggs – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chess_piece_-_White_queen.jpg#/media/File:Chess_piece_-_White_queen.jpg Web. 19 Dec. 2015. JPG.

“Cover.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.11 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

Dickens, Charles. “Three “Detective” Anecdotes.” Household Words, No. 25. 14 Sep. 1850. pgs 577-80. ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“F., Inspector.” Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalog. C19. Web. 19 December 2015.

F, Inspector. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.9 (1862): 334. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.10 (1862): 470-4. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.11 (1862): 50-60. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.12 (1862): 151-7. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.13 (1862): 244-53. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.14 (1862): 356-63. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.15 (1862): 496-511. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.16 (1862): 30-40. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

—. “Experiences of a Real Detective.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.17 (1862): 128-39. ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2015. PDF.

Ousby, Ian. Bloodhounds of Heaven: The Detective in English Fiction from Godwin to Doyle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976. Print.

Panek, Leroy Lad. Before Sherlock Holmes: How Magazines and Newspapers Invented the Detective Story. McFarland & Co, 2011. Adobe PDF ebook. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. PDF.

Phegley, Jennifer. Educating the Proper Woman Reader: Victorian Family Literary Magazines and the Cultural Health of the Nation. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004. Print.

Pykett, Lyn. “Mary Elizabeth Braddon”. A Companion to Sensation Fiction. Ed. Pamela K. Gilbert. Blackwell, 2011. pgs 123-133. UMKC Blackboard. Web. 1 Sep. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.8 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.9 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 2.10 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.13 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.14 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.15 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.16 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Table of Contents.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.17 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

Thoms, Peter. Introduction. Detection & Its Designs : Narrative & Power In 19Th-Century Detective Fiction. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 November 2015.

“Untitled Item.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.11 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Untitled Item.” The Sixpenny magazine 3.12 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

“Untitled Item.” The Sixpenny magazine 4.18 (1862) ProQuest. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. PDF.

Waters, Thomas. The Recollections of a Policeman. Wentworth and Co, 1856. UMKC Blackboard. Web. 2 September 2015. PDF.

Wynne, Deborah. The Sensation Novel and the Victorian Family Magazine. Houndmills, GBR: Palgrave, 2001. Print.

 

 

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JLH January 4, 2016 at 10:04 am

SO useful and very timely – just sitting here planning out a lesson on witnesses and motive in Lady Audley and this will be a fabulous resource (with your permission and full credit!) Thank you!

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Janine Hatter January 4, 2016 at 10:07 am

Fantastic! So glad our blog is of interest and use – and that Braddon is being taught at A-Level!

Reply

Mary Monnin January 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm

JLH,
Permission granted! This was a lot of fun to research, between exploring The Sixpenny Magazine online and reading Experiences of a Real Detective. I was quite surprised at the number of similarities between the two, and I’m curious about M. E.’s other serialized books and how the magazines were laid out.
Mary Monnin

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