Jennifer Carnell

Photographs of Beverley by Michael Flowers © 2001

The house where Braddon wrote Three Times Dead (later known as The Trail of the Serpent)

Mary Elizabeth Braddon's earliest writing to be published while she was acting in Yorkshire. The first of her provincial poems were published in the Beverley Recorder and General Advertiser in May 1857, a few days after she had acted at the Assembly Rooms in the town. While there she became friends with the owner of the Beverley Recorder, Mr. Ward, writing to his son H.M. Ward almost fifty years later of 'such kindness and hospitality from your father and mother' and of 'one happy Summer day in the golden time of youth at Beverley'. Over the next few months more of her work was published in Beverley.

While living in Brighton she gained a commission from a printer in Beverley called Charles Robinson Empson to write a lurid novel in penny weekly parts. Braddon described him as 'a blindly-enterprising printer of Beverley, who had seen my little verses in the Beverley Recorder, (and) made me the spirited offer of ten pounds for a serial story, to be set up and printed in Beverley'. An early review of the first two instalments suggested, 'When finished, this will make a capital story for reprint in a Railway book.'

Three Times Dead was issued in penny parts by the printer and bookseller Charles Empson of Toll Gavel. The first page of the Beverley edition of Three Times Dead.

The majority of Three Times Dead was written in Beverley after Braddon left the stage and went to live in Beverley with her mother for six months in 1860, where she lived in Beverley at first and then at Black House in Long Lane at Beverley Parks. The owner of Black House was Mr. Atkinson, a 'gentleman farmer'; a similar house and location near Beverley, owned by a kindly farmer, was used as a setting in The Black Band.

It was not only the writing of the already started locally published and set penny dreadful style serial that took her to live in Beverley, for Beverley was also the home of her literary patron John Gilby. Although Gilby was described by author Charles Reade as a 'simple noble-minded squire' the relationship eventually became stormy. John Gilby had lived in Beverley all his life. His father had been the vicar of the local church, St. Mary's. Gilby was a well-known figure in racing circles and rode with the local hunt.

Read more in the biography by Jennifer Carnell: The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

Black House Farm.

A view of Black House Farm from a distance, with Beverley Minster in the background.

Braddon Grove.

Many thanks to Michael Flowers for taking the photographs. Michael is the owner of the Mrs. Henry Wood website, a link to which can be found on the recommended links page.

Bibliography and Recommended Reading:
Jennifer Carnell, The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Sensation Press, 2000). (The text above is adapted from the biography.)
Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (New York: Garland, 1979).

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