Lady Audley’s Secret

Lady Audley’s Secret

by

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Lady Audley’s Secret: Volume 2, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lady Audley goes into the library to see Sir Michael, who loves her purely and generously. Sir Michael asks what Lady Audley has been doing since she came home an hour ago. She says that Robert was talking to her but then he suddenly ran off. Sir Michael remarks that Robert must be half-mad, but in truth, Sir Michael only believes his good-natured nephew to be a little incompetent because of his idleness. Lady Audley sees an opportunity to change this opinion and sits down at Sir Michael’s feet.
The purity of Sir Michael’s love contrasts with Lady Audley’s manipulation. Lady Audley sitting at Sir Michael’s feet suggests the submissiveness that Victorian society expected of wives. The reader knows Lady Audley is only pretending to be submissive, when in reality she intends to use her influence over her husband to change his opinion of Robert for her own self-interest.
Themes
Women and Power in Victorian England Theme Icon
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Lady Audley begins to cry, worrying Sir Michael. The very real anguish Lady Audley feels overcomes her and she cannot speak. Her agony moves Sir Michael to the point where he would do anything for her. With much difficulty, Lady Audley says Robert talked to her about horrible subjects and must have inherited madness. Sir Michael says Robert’s family has no madness, but Lady Audley says his mother’s family could have kept hereditary madness a secret.
Again, strong emotion overcomes Lady Audley’s deceptive appearance. One might almost feel sympathy for her agony, if she didn’t then accuse a sane man of madness for her own gain. Ironically, Lady Audley accuses Robert’s family of hiding madness when, as we later learn, her own family hid her mother’s madness.
Themes
Women and Power in Victorian England Theme Icon
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Lady Audley argues that Robert must have lived alone for too long and read too many novels. She says people can hide their madness for years before they are overcome by their insanity and commit some violent crime. She declares Robert is mad because he thinks George was murdered at Audley Court.
Lady Audley reveals a common misconception during the Victorian era, that living outside of conventional society would lead to madness. Ironically, hiding madness until one is overcome is what she will later confess to experiencing herself.
Themes
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Sir Michael is shocked and says he will go to Mount Stanning to determine whether or not Robert is mad. Lady Audley says usually a stranger identifies the first signs of madness in a person. Then she says Sir Michael must not go because he was recently ill.
Lady Audley is using the guise of a caring wife to keep Sir Michael and Robert separate, so that Robert cannot tell Sir Michael all that he knows.
Themes
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
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Sir Michael says Robert will come visit tomorrow. He adds that he really doesn’t believe that Robert is mad. Robert may just be saying such outlandish ideas because everyone struggles to understand the tragedies that fall upon others. He says Lady Audley doesn’t have to see Robert if she doesn’t want to.
Since Sir Michael is still not convinced that Robert is mad, Lady Audley will have to work harder to carry out her plot. Simply never seeing Robert again will not stop him from revealing her secrets.
Themes
Madness Theme Icon
Lady Audley says Robert accused her of being involved in George’s disappearance. Sir Michael finally agrees that Robert must be mad, and says he will send someone to Mount Stanning to talk to him. Lady Audley makes Sir Michael promise that he will never be influenced against his own wife. She leaves the room, certain that she has turned the tables on Robert.
For now, Lady Audley seems to have succeeded in accusing Robert of madness in order to protect her own secrets. She also ensures that she will always be able to use the love of her husband to protect herself from the consequences of her crimes.
Themes
Women and Power in Victorian England Theme Icon
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon