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Although popular in the Victorian era, Mary Elizabeth Braddon is mostly forgotten today -- except for her sensational novel Lady Audley's Secret (1862), which also has been dramatized and adapted into films. She was born in London and her parents separated when she was five years old. Her older brother Edward Braddon left for India and later Australia, where he eventually became Premier of Tasmania. Mary worked as an actress to support herself and her mother. In 1860, she met John Maxwell, a publisher, and began living with him despite the fact that he was married with five children; his wife was in an asylum in Ireland. Mary acted as a stepmother to the children until 1874, when Maxwell's wife died and they were able to marry. They had six children together, including the future writer William Babington (W.B.) Maxwell. Mary was an extremely prolific writer, producing more than 80 novels and numerous short stories. In 1866, she founded Belgravia, a lavishly illustrated magazine that published serialized novels, poems, travel narratives, and essays on fashion, history and science.
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