Mary Elizabeth Braddon Letters

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A collection of letters from the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Most of the letters (DC12/1) were written to her daughter Fanny Selous in 1905. They discuss family, including Mary's late husband John Maxwell; her brother Edward's widow Alice and their daughter May; Mary's son Gerald and Fanny's children Gerald, Mary and Freda (the two Geralds are sometimes referred to by Mary as 'G major' and 'G minor' respectively); Fanny's husband Edmund; Mary's sons Will and Edward ('Ted', who is married to Maud and has a daughter Marjorie); her son-in-law Robert 'Rob' Lachlan and his son Austin; and her two dogs Sam and Squib. The letters also refer to many of Mary's friends, including John Whittle, and her household servants, including butler Robert Hill ('Hill'), coachman Thomas Knight ('Knight'), cook Arabella Lambert, and housemaid Emily Brickle. Mary's social life as described in the letters involves a range of literary, artistic, and aristocratic figures in London, Richmond, and further afield.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Elizabeth Braddon was born in London on 4th October 1835. While working as an actor as a young woman Mary made several lifelong friends, including Bram Stoker, Henry Irving, Lady Monckton, and the publisher John Maxwell whom she fell in love with. Mary and John first lived together in Upper Dunstable House, Sheen Road, Richmond, before moving to Lichfield House, Sheen Road in the winter of 1866. They also acquired other properties in Richmond and Twickenham. Mary and John were married in 1874 after John's first wife died. Mary and John had six children together: Gerald Melbourne (b.1862), Fanny Margaret (b.1863), Francis (b.1863), William Babington 'Will' (b.1866), Winifred Rosalie 'Rosie' (b.1868), and Edward Henry Harrington 'Ted' (b.1870). Mary achieved great success as an author; her best known novel is 'Lady Audley's Secret' published in 1862. Sadly, two of Mary's children predeceased her, Francis in 1866 and Rosie in 1899. John died in 1895. Mary's brother Edward died in 1904, but she remained close with his widow Alice and daughter May. Fanny married Edmund Selous in 1886, and they had three children: Gerald Holgate (b.1887) and twins Mary and Freda (b.1892). Mary's other grandchildren included Austin Lachlan (born to Rosie and her husband Robert) and Marjorie (born to Ted and his wife Maud (nee Hudson)). In 1905, when most of the letters in this collection were written, Mary's sons Gerald and Will were still living with her at Lichfield House. Mary died aged 77 on 4th February 1915, and is buried in Richmond Cemetery, Grove Road, Richmond.

Arrangement

The Mary Elizabeth Braddon collection is arranged in two series:

  • DC12/1 Letters to Fanny Selous, 1904-1906
  • DC12/2 Letters to friends and family, c 1882 - c 1913

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access and can be viewed at Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library and Archive. No appointment is necessary to view archival material.

The opening times and address for Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library and Archive can be found online at: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/localstudies

If you would like further information about accessing this collection or have any other queries, please contact Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library and Archive through any of the contact methods listed at: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/localstudies

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed catalogue of this collection can be found online at https://richmond.spydus.co.uk/spydus.html

Related Material

The Gerald Maxwell play scripts that were donated with Mary's letters are also held at Richmond Local Studies Library (DC14). A collection of Mary's letters to Lord Lytton are held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (DE/K). A collection of her notebooks and manuscripts are at Harvard University - Houghton Library (reference unknown). Letters to Lady Monckton and others are at Princeton University Library (CO171), letters to T.H. Escott are at the British Library Manuscript Collections (Add MS 58786), and letters to Bram Stoker are at Leeds University Library Special Collections (reference unknown). A collection of Braddon/Maxwell family papers are held at the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers at Canterbury Christ Church University (reference unknown), a collection of Mary's diaries and notebooks (Robert Lee Wolff collection) are held at the Harry Ransom Humanities Center, University of Texas (reference unknown), and a collection of manuscripts are held at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (reference unknown).