(1835-1915) Prolific Victorian novelist, notorious both for her private life – before their marriage in 1874 she lived with publisher John Maxwell (1824-1895) and bore two of his children while his first wife was still alive in an insane asylum – and for her sensationalist novels, of which the most successful was Lady Audley's Secret (1862), about bigamy and murder. MEB often flavoured her more sensational work with the supernatural – usually in terms of Vengeance, as in Gerard, or The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1891; vt The World, the Flesh and the Devil 1891 US), a version of the Faust legend, and The Conflict (1903). Her more direct use of the supernatural was more effective in her shorter work – mostly Ghost Stories in which the Haunting usually presages death, either through its being a Portent, as in "At Chrighton Abbey" (1871 Belgravia), or by inflicting guilt that leads to suicide, as in "The Cold Embrace" (1860 The Welcome Guest). Most of MEB's stories appeared anonymously or pseudonymously (as Babbington White) either in Maxwell's Magazines – including Temple Bar (prior to its sale in 1866) and Belgravia, which she edited 1866-1876 – or in other Victorian periodicals, and it is likely that much of her short fiction has yet to be discovered. No single collection brings together all her ghost stories, but several are in Ralph the Bailiff and Other Tales (coll 1862), Weavers and Weft, and Other Tales (coll 1877) and My Sister's Confession (coll 1879 US).
MEB was the mother of the novelist William B Maxwell (1866-1938), who wrote the ghost story "The Last Man In" for Cynthia Asquith's Shudders (anth 1929). [MA]
further reading: Time Gathered (1938) by W B Maxwell.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon