An influential British author, Daphne Du Maurier was an institution within her own right, who came to be respected as a masterful storyteller with a keen eye for both structure and form, something which many have tried to replicate over the intervening years since her death to varying degrees of success. Usually utilizing a moody and foreboding atmosphere, she became well known for her trademarked style that would evoke recognition among readers for years to come. With a somewhat darker feel to her work, she would also bring in elements of the paranormal to help underpin her material, giving it the extra weight it needed to really stand-out at the time.
Early and Personal Life
Born on the 13th of May, 1907, and living until the 19th of April, 1989, Daphne Du Maurier lived a long and fruitful life, building a literary career that is still referenced and drawn from to this day, creating a style all of her own in the process. The second of three daughters, she was born to an actor manager father, Sir Gerald du Maurier, and an actress mother, Muriel Beaumont, with her grandfather being George du Maurier, the famous ‘Punch’ cartoonist. Her elder sister Angela was to also become a writer, whilst Jeanne, her younger sister, went on to become a painter.
Coming from a wellspring of creativity, she was able to form the basis of a literary career all of her own, and one that was to stand out from the rest, despite it being dismissed by many critics during her time as somewhat ‘intellectually light-weight’. This isn’t the case today, as her work continues to live on, with many lauding her ability to structure a strong story, as they become folklore almost in of themselves. This is the mark of the great storyteller, as she was able to craft something all of her own that was unique to her, yet remained indispensable to others.
Her lifestyle was to reflect this as well, as she lived an interesting and vibrant life, despite many seeing her as somewhat of a recluse who would rarely give interviews or speak about her work, save one time when she spoke up about her late husband’s portrayal in the film adaptation of her book ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Known for her sense-of-humor and being a welcoming host, she brought up a family with her husband Frederick Browning. She was also reported to hold bisexual tendencies, some of which she apparently followed through, despite the homophobia that surrounded her during that period.
With a legacy to be proud of, the work of Daphne Du Maurier has stood the test of time, inspiring countless other writers in her wake. Living out her final day in Cornwall, she spent the last years of her life where she set many of her books, as she was cremated and scattered at Kilmarth. As many continue to read her books to this very day, her novels will be read by many for years to come.
Perhaps best known for her novel Rebecca, she was to have many of her novels adapted for the silver screen. One big name that would return to her work on multiple occasions was the none other than the famous director Alfred Hitchcock. Bringing both Rebecca and The Birds onto the big screen, they would make cinematic history with their twists and turns.
Never having gone out of print since its initial release, the novel Rebecca is also one of her most successful books to date as well. Publishing her first novel in 1931, she arrived on the literary scene with ‘The Loving Spirit’, after which she continued with an extensive set of titles in the subsequent years following it. All this helped her to establish herself as one of the most prestigious names in her industry, creating an impact that would last for generations to come.
First published in 1936, this novel was originally brought out through the Gollancz publishing house in the United Kingdom and the Doubleday Doran label in the United States. Later made into a film of the same name in 1939 by Alfred Hitchcock, it was a period piece set in 1820’s Cornwall, inspired by a stay of Daphne’s in a Cornish inn. Evoking an eerie atmosphere which was almost a trademark of Du Maurier, the pub still stands to this day in the middle of Bodmin Moor.
Undertaking the dying request of her mother, Mary Yellan journeys out across the bleak Cornish moorland to reach the Jamaica Inn. Looking to visit her Aunt Patience there, she finds her to be a changed woman who now cowers from her husband Joss Merlyn. Despite her best intentions Mary is drawn into this dark and foreboding world, as the grim deeds of Joss and his acquaintances threaten to consume her. What is the hold this place has over her? Who, or what, is behind all this? Can she ever hope to get away from the Jamaica Inn?
Originally published in 1938, this novel helped set the template for many a Gothic novel to follow, whilst it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century. Furthering its now legendary status was the cinematic adaptations, the most famous one being the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Selling around 2,829,313 copies between the years of 1938 and 1965, it is well known for having never gone out of print during its time.
Starting in Monte Carlo, it begins with the leading heroine Rebecca being swept off her feet by Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower. Coming from a poor background she feels like she has achieved the height of success, due to her background as an orphan and a lady’s maid. Her luck is short-lived though as, after her arrival at his large rural estate, his late wife threatens to haunt her from beyond the grave. Will she ever be free from her shadow to live her life with the ever dashing Maxim de Winter? Can she ever truly be happy in this new life she has found herself in? What does the spirit really want of Rebecca?
Books in order of publication:
|The Loving Spirit||(1931)|
|I’ll Never Be Young Again||(1932)|
|The Progress of Julius||(1933)|
|Come Wind, Come Weather||(1940)|
|The King’s General||(1946)|
|My Cousin Rachel||(1951)|
|The Flight of the Falcon||(1965)|
|The House on the Strand||(1968)|
Short Story Collections
|The Apple Tree||(1952)|
|The Birds and Other Stories||(1952)|
|Kiss Me Again, Stranger||(1953)|
|The Breaking Point and Other Stories||(1959)|
|The Treasury of du Maurier Short Stories||(1960)|
|Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories||(1971)|
|Don’t Look Now and Other Stories||(1973)|
|The Rendezvous and Other Stories||(1980)|
|Split Second and Other Stories||(1981)|
|Daphne du Maurier’s Classics of the Macabre||(1985)|
|Gerald: A Portrait||(1935)|
|The Du Mauriers||(1937)|
|The Young George du Maurier: A Selection of Letters, 1860-67||(1952)|
|The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte||(1960)|
|Golden Lads: Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and Their Friends||(1975)|
|Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer||(1977)|
|Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories||(1981)|
|Enchanted Cornwall: Her Pictoral Memoir||(1989)|
|Letters from Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship||(1993)|