*waves hello* Brief into: 20s, female, Scotland; former Lit student (read: dropout). Now on to business...
Has anyone else here read the 1860s sensation novel, Lady Audley's Secret
, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon? When I read it a few years back, it struck me as containing the most obviously gay relationship I could remember encountering in Victorian fiction, and as such seemed well worth a mention here.
An overview of the relationship:
George Talboys has been out of the country for years after quarrelling with both wife and family; upon his return he bumps into his old pal Robert Audley, and immediately afterwards learns that his (George's) wife has just died. Mrs Talboys is described at length at various points; she is the concentrated essence of Victorian "ideal" femininity, beautiful, childish, and doll-like (in short, an obvious target for a young man in denial about his own homosexuality to persuade himself he was in love with...). George is overcome with shock; Robert takes him home and looks after him. The pair are inseparable for a year.
Then George goes missing; Robert believes him to have been murdered. Robert up till now has been an extremely lazy fellow, never lifting a finger for anyone or anything but his own pleasure, sitting around all day smoking and reading naughty French novels. Upon George's disappearance he turns into an active crusader for justice for his "dear friend". While investigating he encounters for the first time George's sister, Clara. Once having established that Clara bears a close physical resemblance to her brother, and that he can talk away to his heart's content with her about their devotion to George, Robert decides to be in love with her.
The novel can be found several places online (such as here
, or here
, to name a couple); and of course the best way to get a real feel for the relationship would be to read the whole thing. Since it's been a while since I read it in full, skimming over it for twenty minutes this evening may not have enabled me to pick out the best examples, but here are a few quick
Robert had almost forgotten the commission he had executed for Lady Audley during his Russian expedition. His mind was so full of George Talboys that he only acknowledged my lady's gratitude by a bow.
"Would you believe it, Sir Michael?" he said. "That foolish chum of mine has gone back to London, leaving me in the lurch."
"Mr. George Talboys returned to town!" exclaimed my lady, lifting her eyebrows.
"What a dreadful catastrophe!" said Alicia maliciously, "since Pythias, in the person of Mr. Robert Audley, cannot exist for half an hour without Damon, commonly known as George Talboys."~*~
The snug rooms in Fig-tree Court seemed dreary in their orderly quiet to Robert Audley upon this particular evening. He had no inclination for his French novels, though there was a packet of uncut romances, comic and sentimental, ordered a month before, waiting his pleasure upon one of the tables. He took his favourite meer-schaum and dropped into his favourite chair with a sigh.
"It's comfortable, but it seems so d -- d lonely to-night. If poor George were sitting opposite to me, or -- or even George's sister -- she's very like him -- existence might be a little more endurable. [...]"~*~
Luke Marks stretched out his left hand -- the right hand had been injured by the fire, and was wrapped in linen -- and groped feebly for that of Mr. Robert Audley.
The young man took the coarse but shrunken hand in both his own, and pressed it cordially.
"I need no thanks, Luke Marks," he said, "I was very glad to be of service to you."
Mr. Marks did not speak immediately. He was lying quietly upon his side, staring reflectingly at Robert Audley.
"You was oncommon fond of that gent as disappeared at the Court, warn't you, sir," he said at last.
Robert started at the mention of his dead friend.
"You was oncommon fond of this Mr. Talboys, I've heerd say, sir," repeated Luke.
"Yes, yes," answered Robert, rather impatiently, "he was my very dear friend.
"I've heerd the servants at the Court say how you took on when you couldn't find him. I've heerd the landlord of the Sun Inn say how cut up you was when you first missed him. 'If the two gents had been brothers,' the landlord said, 'our gent,' meanin' you, sir, 'couldn't have been more cut up when he missed the other.'"
"Yes, yes, I know, I know," said Robert; "pray do not speak any more of this subject; I cannot tell you how much it distresses me."