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Mary Elizabeth Braddon was born in London on 4th October 1835.
Braddon suffered early family trauma at age five, when her mother, Fanny, separated from her father, Henry, in 1840. When she was aged ten her brother Edward left England for India and later Australia.
However, after being befriended by Clara and Adelaide Biddle she was much taken by acting. For three years she took minor acting roles, which supported both her and her mother, However, her interest in acting began to wane as she began to write. It was to be her true vocation.
In 1860, Mary met John Maxwell, a publisher of periodicals. By the next year they were living together. The situation and the view from polite society was complicated by the fact that Maxwell was already married with five children, and his wife was under care in an Irish asylum. Until 1874 Mary was to act as stepmother to his children as well as to the six offspring their own relationship produced.
Braddon, with a large and growing family, still found time to produce a long and prolific writing career. Her most famous book was a sensational novel published in 1862, ‘Lady Audley's Secret’. It won her both recognition and best-seller status.
Her works in the supernatural genre were equally prolific and brought new menace to the form. Her pact with the devil story ‘Gerald, or the World, the Flesh and the Devil’ (1891), and the ghost stories ‘The Cold Embrace’, ‘The Face in the Glass’ and ‘At Chrighton Abbey’ are regarded as classics.
In 1866 she founded the Belgravia magazine. This presented readers with serialised sensation novels, poems, travel narratives and biographies, as well as essays on fashion, history and science. The magazine was accompanied by lavish illustrations and offered readers an excellent source of literature at an affordable cost. She was also the editor of The Temple Bar magazine.
Maxwell’s wife died in 1874 and the couple who had been together for so long were at last able to wed.
Mary Elizabeth Brandon died on 4th February 1915 in Richmond and is buried in Richmond Cemetery.
After her death her short story masterpieces would be regularly anthologised. But for the rest of her canon her reputation then went into decline. In the past decade her reputation and talent is once more being given the attention it so rightly deserves.