Lady Audley’s Super Secret Readalong: In which we learn that Robert reads Dumas fils even though Dumas pere is markedly superior


“I am weary of my life here, and wish, if I can, to find a new one. I go out into the world, dissevered from every link which binds me to the hateful past, to seek another home and another fortune. Forgive me if I have been fretful, capricious, changeable. You should forgive me, for you know why I have been so. You know the secret which is the key to my life.”–Helen Talboys

So she already had a secret before she ever went out to be a teacher and governess? All right, Lady Audley, you have my attention again. You apparently have two secrets: bigamy and something else. Since I figured out the bigamy one in the second chapter, I’m hoping the second secret is slightly better concealed and more suspensefully revealed, but my hopes — I’ll be honest — are not that high.

Also, damn, Robert’s investigations indicate that Lady Audley has led quite the itinerant existence. She never stays in one place more than twenty seconds before she’s off to someplace else.

Probable explanation

Upon returning to Audley Court (by the way, I lived in Essex for a year*, which is where Audley Court is located, and it’s fun for me to see all the place names. Chelmsford! I used to go see movies there! Colchester! My old stomping grounds!), Robert hears the heavenly strains of heavenly organ music from heaven. And who should be playing it but CLARA TALBOYS!


Robert’s all, “What am I in the hands of this woman, who has my lost friend’s face and the manner of Pallas Athene.” Shut up, Robert.

I’ve spent a lot of this section imagining an alternate version of the story in which George actually has “taken it into his head to keep out of [Robert’s] way for a few months,” as Lady Audley suggests. Like, George doesn’t want to be this guy?

And he’s trying to let Robert down easy? But instead of taking it like a man, Robert goes insane with this conspiracy idea that his uncle’s pretty young wife murdered George, and he wanders about finding insane evidence to prove it. And he eventually kills Lady Audley even though she’s innocent, and George comes back from Australia to gaze sadly at the graves of people he could have saved if he’d just been straight with Robert about being straight. That would be the, like, Golden Age Detective Story version, where any gay characters have to come to bad ends or go insane or both.

“When my friend, George Talboys, returned to England,” Robert began, gravely, “the thought which was uppermost in his mind was the thought of his wife.”


“Whom he had deserted,” said my lady, quickly.

Again: REALLY GOOD POINT. I feel like Robert isn’t paying enough attention to this important point, but let’s not lose track of it ourselves.

Anyway, the section ends with Lady Audley trying to burn down Luke’s inn with Luke and Robert inside (she’s like, “Oh Phoebe! You don’t want that unpleasant husband anyway!”), but then when she comes down from her bedroom in the hope of learning that Robert Audley has been burnt to a crisp,  who do you think awaits her in the entry hall? ROBERT AUDLEY. NOT DEAD YET. Cue dramatic music.

*Footnote for British people: Let me go ahead and preempt whatever joke you want to make right now about Essex girls being slags. I HAVE HEARD THEM ALL. And if you are too courteous to make those jokes, just know that I still know that you’re thinking about Essex girls being slags. I can tell from your face. I always eventually say, “I know. Essex girls are slags, I know,” and then you always look happy to be relieved of the responsibility of notifying me about regional stereotypes.

  • I like your version of the story better. His unrequited love drove him mad! Yes.

    • Gin Jenny

      Plus it would get Lady Audley off the hook. That would be nice.

  • Oh man, that Regina as George gif. Excellent job and how great would it be if that’s actually what happened.

    NO ONE is paying attention to the fact that George abandoned his wife and 2 week old son. George sucks.

    • Gin Jenny

      At least everyone on the readalong is complaining about it! Because, yeah, Robert is definitely not giving that its full weight. George is a poophead.

  • aliceburton

    “Robert’s all, “What am I in the hands of this woman, who has my lost friend’s face and the manner of Pallas Athene.” Shut up, Robert.”

    Ahahahahaha I like you.

    Q: How does an Essex girl turn the light on after sex?
    A: By kicking the car door open.

    • Gin Jenny


  • Hahahahaha, I wasn’t thinking that about Essex girls at all! *Shifty eyes* HOWEVER there is a tv programme now called The Only Way is Essex (it’s kind of a shitter The Hills) and from what I’ve heard of it, it makes me think all Essex people are kind of thick, so there’s that!

    I definitely feel like no one really appreciates the position Lucy/Helen was left in when George deserted her. I mean, I guess her MURDERING him does kind of cancel that out in the badness stakes, but it’s difficult to feel TOO bad for George because he did that. Unless you’re Robert and you’re hot for him, obviously.

    • Gin Jenny

      It’s okay. I know that you were thinking it. Everyone thinks it.

      Yeah! If George were a more blameless, less irritating fellow, I’d feel differently about the whole affair. But three years is a LONG TIME not to get in touch with your wife at all, and Robert seems totally unfazed by it.

      • I honestly wanted to come and comment on my only exposure about Essex being that people call Essex-residents Slags and that there is a horrible show about Essex on Hulu.

        The “main character” of which was on Nevermind the Buzzcocks a while ago and really… seemed like the British Snooki.

        (Also don’t get your hopes up about that secret).

  • George DID abandon his wife and child, but it wouldn’t have looked that way to Rob or anyone else. In the context of this time period, George did what the man is supposed to do and sought a way to provide for his family. What would have been considered far more villainous is the fact that HELEN abandoned her infant son. That would have been unforgivable. And, really, we still have a lot of that mentality…as seen in the still widespread disapproval of working mothers.

    But Victorian societal opinions aside, Helen was in a shit situation.

    • Gin Jenny

      I GUESS, but I am choosing to bring my own values to the book in order to criticize George and Robert freely. :p

  • Jenny

    I feel quite pleased that unbeknownst to me, while I was out of blog commission, I read this! I am too late to be part of the readalong, but I still feel that I am inadvertently part of the community. Hoorah!

  • Since I figured out the bigamy one in the second chapter, I’m hoping the second secret is slightly better concealed and more suspensefully revealed, but my hopes — I’ll be honest — are not that high.

    Hey, she’s gotten this far without hammering us over the head with what the secret is – it’s a start! I’m hoping for something juicy too, as I haven’t got the faintest idea what it could be. Unless she was just referring to the original secret, of course – that she wasn’t dead and they’d already planned it.

    OH GOD, I LOVE YOUR VERSION. I really, really, really wish it would turn out that way, although my hopes aren’t high.