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Childhood disrupted : Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s unfinished autobiography Before the knowledge of evil

Hatter, Janine



As Mary Jean Corbett in Representing Femininity (1992), Linda Peterson in Traditions of Victorian Women’s Autobiography (1999) and David Amigoni in Life Writing and Victorian Culture (2006) have all noted, Victorian women could write about their lives in several ways: autobiographies, diaries, letters, journals, memoirs and disguised within their fiction. Braddon utilised several of these options, including diaries between the years 1880-1914 and an autobiographical account of her childhood that she tellingly entitled ‘Before the Knowledge of Evil’ (Reel 1).1 She began writing this account in 1914, but after one hundred and eighty-five pages of typescript she had only reached the age of nine; presumably she was going to continue to write her entire life history, but she died before its completion. Autobiographies can be used in several ways, and Braddon’s account will be discussed as an example of Victorian women’s autobiography of childhood; as a snapshot of history in the 1830-40s; as an exploration of the inner psychology of a child; as revealing Braddon’s nostalgia for a time past; and finally to explore how she makes a case for a child’s right to have a childhood.


Hatter, J. (2015). Childhood disrupted : Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s unfinished autobiography Before the knowledge of evil. Peer English : the journal of new critical thinking, 11-25

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 4, 2015
Publication Date Sep 28, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 17, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Peer English
Print ISSN 1746-5621
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Issue 10
Pages 11-25
Keywords Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1835-1915. Before the knowledge of evil, Autobiography, Victorian childhood, Women novelists
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of an article published in: Peer English, 2015, issue 10


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