I got in the mood to read some Victorian lit recently and Emmy suggested Lady Audley's Secret
"for EVIL DEMON BLONDE WOMAN who... basically just tries not to get screwed over by victorian england and fails. But the homoerotic subtext is basically text!
As in so many things, Emmy was 100% correct. Lady Audley's Secret
is basically the Tragedy of One Woman Who Really Needed a Divorce. It begins with genial, middle-aged, extremely wealthy Lord Audley proposing to the beautiful, blonde, penniless young governess down the road:
LORD AUDLEY: I love you! Do you love me? I don't want to tie you down or make you unhappy, please only marry me if you love me!
LADY AUDLEY-TO-BE: Actually I am pretty sure I am not capable of love! My motives in marrying you would be completely mercenary! But, I mean, it sounds nice, I'm sure we'll be very happy!
LORD AUDLEY: ... uh, well, OK? Sure. Um. I...appreciate your honesty?
Meanwhile, in a TOTALLY UNRELATED EVENT on a boat back from Australia:
GEORGE TALBOYS: Man, I am so excited to get home and give all my new money to my beautiful, blonde, penniless wife!
A LADY PASSENGER: So, like, you're not nervous that something might happen on the trip? I mean, it's a long way from Australia to England, and instant communication has not yet been invented...
GEORGE TALBOYS: Haha, that is nothing, I haven't heard anything from my wife for five years!
A LADY PASSENGER: ....
GEORGE TALBOYS: Nope, after I ran off without warning and left her and our newborn baby in the middle of the night, leaving only a note saying that I had decided going to Australia to make my fortune or die trying, we haven't exchanged a single word of communication! She's going to be so excited to see me!
A LADY PASSENGER: ...
GEORGE TALBOYS: I mean, she'll probably be pretty much right where I left her, yeah?
A LADY PASSENGER: ...
GEORGE TALBOYS: She's completely penniless with only an alcoholic father for support, so it's not like she had anywhere to go...
A LADY PASSENGER: ....
GEORGE TALBOYS: You know, I have no idea why, but suddenly I'm starting to feel these mysterious feelings of completely unsourced apprehension?
At this point Lord Audley's nephew, Lazy Lawyer Robert Audley, enters into the picture and picks up an extremely depressed George at the point of learning that -- shockingly -- his wife is NOT, in fact, just where he left her. After some shenanigans at Audley Manor, George mysteriously disappears, which sends Robert into an obsessive tailspin trying to track him down.
LORD AUDLEY: Strange boy, Robert. Like a son to me, but strange. Hilariously lazy. No interest in sports or hunting or manly pursuits. No interest in marrying my pretty and wealthy daughter, who's madly in love with him. Inexplicable!
ROBERT AUDLEY: You know, it's funny, I never cared about anything before George, and now he's gone it's like I SEE HIM EVERYWHERE I GO AND MY HEART HAS BEEN RIPPED OUT OF MY CHEST.
LORD AUDLEY: Seriously, I wonder why Robert is not interested in marrying my daughter? So peculiar!
ROBERT AUDLEY: I just, I miss the way he used to angst attractively on the other side of the room. :( :( :( MY BACHELOR PAD SEEMS SO EMPTY.
(For the record, Robert's George-inspired transformation from cheerfully lazy gad-about-town to GRIM SEEKER OF JUSTICE is vastly more interesting and entertaining than anything about George himself, who as previously demonstrated is kind of a tool.)
Anyway, the rest of the book is mostly Robert trudging about putting his hitherto-unused lawyer skills to work at proving what you've all already guessed just from reading this summary, sprinkled through with a few attempted murders and a lot of conversations between Robert and Lady Audley that go pretty much like this:
ROBERT: If I were you I'd run away now before I have time to actually compile evidence that's more decisive than suspicious narrative coincidence.
LADY AUDLEY: BRING IT.
ROBERT: ...so, all-out war, then?
LADY AUDLEY: ALL-OUT WAR.
LORD AUDLEY: Hey, what are you and Robert talking about there, dear?
LADY AUDLEY: Nothing, honey! ^__^
It's a super enjoyable read in a sensationalist Victorian fashion, albeit heavily sprinkled with Victorian misogyny and a very, VERY Victorian ~*~madness in the family~*~ subplot towards the end. I would actually really love to see a modern film version of it too; Lady Audley, who uses every single weapon at her disposal as a Victorian woman in her quest for a half-decent life, would be an amazingly meaty role for a contemporary actress.
On another note, Apathetic Ambiguously Gay Lawyers Who Don't Lawyer appears to be a Victorian trend. I still have to write up my reread of Our Mutual Friend
, but I refuse to believe that Mortimer Lightwood and Robert Audley don't frequently go out to dinner together and trade lazy hipster quips about how little work they do while resolutely avoiding the topic of the other men in their lives.This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/378921.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comments on Dreamwidth.