Although she is classed as a romantic novelist, her stories have been described as "moody and resonant" with overtones of the paranormal. Her bestselling works were not at first taken seriously by critics, but have since earned an enduring reputation for narrative craft. Many have been successfully adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn, and the short stories "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now/Not After Midnight".
Du Maurier spent much of her life in Cornwall, where most of her works are set. As her fame increased, she became more reclusive.
Daphne du Maurier
The young Daphne du Maurier (about 1930)
|Born||13 May 1907|
|Died||19 April 1989 (aged 81)|
Fowey, Cornwall, England
|Notable works||Rebecca |
My Cousin Rachel
|Notable awards||National Book Award (U.S.)|
Lt.-Gen. Sir Frederick Browning
(m. 1932; his death 1965)
|Relatives||Sir Gerald du Maurier (father)|
Muriel, Lady du Maurier (mother)
George du Maurier (grandfather)
Angela du Maurier (sister)
Daphne du Maurier was born in London, the middle of three daughters of prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont. Her mother was a maternal niece of journalist, author, and lecturer William Comyns Beaumont. Her grandfather was author and Punch cartoonist George du Maurier, who created the character of Svengali in the novel Trilby. Her elder sister, Angela du Maurier, also became a writer, and her younger sister Jeanne was a painter.
Du Maurier's family connections helped her establish her literary career, and she published some of her early work in Beaumont's Bystander magazine. Her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published in 1931. Du Maurier was also a cousin of the Llewelyn Davies boys, who served as J. M. Barrie's inspiration for the characters in the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up.
As a young child, Du Maurier met many prominent theatre actors, thanks to the celebrity of her father. On meeting Tallulah Bankhead, Du Maurier was quoted as saying that Bankhead was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.
The novel Rebecca (1938) was one of du Maurier's most successful works. It was an immediate hit, selling nearly 3 million copies between 1938 and 1965. The novel has never gone out of print, and has been adapted for both stage and screen several times. In the U.S. Du Maurier won the National Book Award for favourite novel of 1938, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. In the UK, it was listed at number 14 of the "nation's best-loved novel" on the BBC's 2003 survey The Big Read.
Other significant works include The Scapegoat, The House on the Strand, and The King's General. The last is set in the middle of the first and second English Civil Wars, written from the Royalist perspective of Du Maurier's adopted Cornwall. Unusually for du Maurier it has a female narrator.
Several of Du Maurier's other novels have also been adapted for the screen, including Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, Hungry Hill, and My Cousin Rachel. The Hitchcock film The Birds (1963) is based on a treatment of one of her short stories, as is the film Don't Look Now (1973). Of the films, du Maurier often complained that the only ones she liked were Hitchcock's Rebecca and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now.
Hitchcock's treatment of Jamaica Inn was disavowed by both director and author, due to a complete re-write of the ending to accommodate the ego of its star, Charles Laughton. Du Maurier also felt that Olivia de Havilland was wrongly cast as the anti-heroine of My Cousin Rachel. Frenchman's Creek fared better in a lavish Technicolor version released in 1944. Du Maurier later regretted her choice of Alec Guinness as the lead in the film of The Scapegoat, which she partly financed.
Du Maurier was often categorised as a "romantic novelist", a term that she deplored, given her novels rarely have a happy ending, and often have sinister overtones and shadows of the paranormal. In this light, she has more in common with the "sensation novels" of Wilkie Collins and others, which she admired. The obituarist Kate Kellaway wrote: "Du Maurier was mistress of calculated irresolution. She did not want to put her readers' minds at rest. She wanted her riddles to persist. She wanted the novels to continue to haunt us beyond their endings."
Du Maurier's novel Mary Anne (1954) is a fictionalised account of her great-great-grandmother, Mary Anne Clarke née Thompson (1776–1852), who, from 1803–08, was mistress of Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827). He was the "Grand Old Duke of York" of the nursery rhyme, a son of King George III, and brother of King George IV and King William IV. The central character of her last novel, Rule Britannia, is an aging actress, thought to be based on Gladys Cooper (to whom it is dedicated).
Du Maurier's short stories are darker: "The Birds", "Don't Look Now", "The Apple Tree", and "The Blue Lenses" are finely crafted tales of terror that shocked and surprised her audience in equal measure. As her biographer Margaret Forster wrote, "She satisfied all the questionable criteria of popular fiction, and yet satisfied too the exacting requirements of 'real literature'."
The discovery, in 2011, of a collection of du Maurier's forgotten short stories, written when the author was 21, provides some insight into her mature style. One of them, The Doll, concerns a young woman's obsession with a mechanical male sex doll; it has been deemed by du Maurier's son Kit Browning to be "quite ahead of its time".
In later life, she wrote non-fiction, including several biographies such as Gerald, her father's biography. The Glass-Blowers traces her French Huguenot ancestry and vividly depicts the French Revolution. The du Mauriers traces the family's move from France to England in the 19th century.
The House on the Strand (1969) combines elements of "mental time-travel", a tragic love affair in 14th-century Cornwall, and the dangers of using mind-altering drugs. Her final novel, Rule Britannia (1972), satirises resentment of British people in general and Cornish people in particular at the increasing U.S. dominance of Britain's affairs.
Du Maurier wrote three plays. Her first was an adaptation of her novel Rebecca, which opened at the Queen's Theatre in London on 5 March 1940 in a production by George Devine, starring Celia Johnson and Owen Nares as the De Winters and Margaret Rutherford as Mrs Danvers. After 181 performances, the production transferred to the Strand Theatre, with Jill Furse taking over as the second Mrs De Winter and Mary Merrall as Mrs Danvers, with a further run of 176 performances.
In 1943 she wrote the autobiographically inspired drama The Years Between about the unexpected return of a senior officer, thought killed in action, who finds that his wife has taken his seat as Member of Parliament and has started a romantic relationship with a local farmer. It was first staged at the Manchester Opera House in 1944 and then transferred to London, opening at Wyndham's Theatre on 10 January 1945, starring Nora Swinburne and Clive Brook. The production, directed by Irene Hentschel, became a long-running hit, completing 617 performances. It was revived by Caroline Smith at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond upon Thames on 5 September 2007, starring Karen Ascoe and Mark Tandy.
Her third play, September Tide, portrays a middle-aged woman whose bohemian artist son-in-law falls for her. The central character of Stella was originally based on Ellen Doubleday, the prominent wife of a United States book publisher. It imagined what Ellen might have been in an English setting and in different circumstances. Again directed by Irene Hentschel, it opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 15 December 1948 with Gertrude Lawrence as Stella. It closed in August 1949 after 267 performances.
She was known as Daphne du Maurier from 1907 to 1932, when she married Frederick Browning. Still writing as Daphne du Maurier (1932–46), she was otherwise titled Lady Browning; Daphne du Maurier (1946–69). When she was elevated to the Order of the British Empire as Dame Commander in 1969, she was titled Lady Browning; Dame Daphne du Maurier DBE (1969–89), but she never used the title.
According to her biographer Margaret Forster, she told no one about the honour, so that even her children learned of it only from the newspapers. "She thought of pleading illness for the investiture, until her children insisted it would be a great day for the older grandchildren. So she went through with it, though she slipped out quietly afterwards to avoid the attention of the press."
Shortly after Rebecca was published in Brazil, critic Álvaro Lins (pt) and other readers pointed out many resemblances to the 1934 book, A Sucessora (The Successor), by Brazilian writer Carolina Nabuco. According to Nabuco and her editor, not only the main plot, but also situations and entire dialogues had been copied. Du Maurier denied having copied Nabuco's book, as did her publisher, pointing out that the plot elements used in Rebecca said to have been plagiarized were quite common.
The controversy was examined in a 6 November 2002 article in The New York Times. The article said that according to Nabuco's memoirs, when the Hitchcock film Rebecca was first shown in Brazil, United Artists wanted Nabuco to sign a document stating that the similarities were merely a coincidence but she refused.
The Times quoted Nabuco's memoirs as saying, "When the film version of 'Rebecca' came to Brazil, the producers' lawyer sought out my lawyer to ask him that I sign a document admitting the possibility of there having been a mere coincidence. I would be compensated with a quantity described as 'of considerable value.' I did not consent, naturally." The Times article said, "Ms. Nabuco had translated her novel into French and sent it to a publisher in Paris, who she learned was also Ms. du Maurier's [publisher] only after Rebecca became a worldwide success. The novels have identical plots and even some identical episodes."
Author Frank Baker believed that du Maurier had plagiarised his novel The Birds (1936) in her short story "The Birds" (1952). Du Maurier had been working as a reader for Baker's publisher Peter Davies at the time he submitted the book. When Hitchcock's The Birds was released in 1963, based on du Maurier's story, Baker considered, but was advised against, pursuing costly litigation against Universal Studios.
Biographers have noted that du Maurier's marriage was at times somewhat chilly and that she could be aloof and distant to her children, especially the girls, when immersed in her writing. Her husband died in 1965 and soon after Daphne moved to Kilmarth, near Par, Cornwall, which became the setting for The House on the Strand.
Du Maurier has often been painted as a frostily private recluse who rarely mixed in society or gave interviews. An exception to this came after the release of the film A Bridge Too Far, in which her late husband was portrayed in a less-than-flattering light. Incensed, she wrote to the national newspapers, decrying what she considered unforgivable treatment. Once out of the public spotlight, however, many remembered her as a warm and immensely funny person who was a welcoming hostess to guests at Menabilly, the house which she had leased for many years (from the Rashleigh family) in Cornwall.
After her death in 1989, references were made to her reputed bisexuality; an alleged affair with Gertrude Lawrence, as well as her attraction to Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her U.S. publisher Nelson Doubleday, were cited.[a] Du Maurier stated in her memoirs that her father had wanted a son; being a tomboy, she wished to have been born a boy.
The Daphne du Maurier Companion, edited by Helen Taylor, includes Taylor's claims that du Maurier confessed to her in 1965 that she had had an incestuous relationship with her father and that he had been a violent alcoholic.
In correspondence that her family released to biographer Margaret Forster, du Maurier explained to a trusted few people her own unique slant on her sexuality: her personality comprised two distinct people – the loving wife and mother (the side she showed to the world); and the lover (a "decidedly male energy") hidden from virtually everyone and the power behind her artistic creativity. According to Forster's biography, du Maurier believed the "male energy" propelled her writing. Forster wrote that du Maurier's denial of her bisexuality unveiled a "homophobic" fear of her true nature.
The children of both du Maurier and Gertrude Lawrence have objected strongly to the suggestions about their mothers. Lawrence's daughter Pamela Cahan Clatworthy, who was 34 when Lawrence died, said the following in her old age and it was quoted in a 2009 newspaper profile of Lawrence: "It makes me laugh when I keep hearing stories about my mother supposedly being a lesbian. She was the complete reverse. Her appetite for men verged on nymphomania."
Du Maurier died on 19 April 1989, aged 81, at her home in Cornwall, which had been the setting for many of her books. Her body was cremated and her ashes scattered off the cliffs at Fowey, Kilmarth, Cornwall.
Castle Dor is a 1961 historical novel by Daphne du Maurier (with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch), set in 19th century Cornwall.Frenchman's Creek (film)
Frenchman's Creek is a 1944 adventure film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, about an aristocratic English woman who falls in love with a French pirate. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and starred Joan Fontaine, Arturo de Córdova, Basil Rathbone, Cecil Kellaway, and Nigel Bruce. Filmed in Technicolor, it was directed by Mitchell Leisen. The musical score was by Victor Young, who incorporated the main theme of French composer Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune as the love theme for the film.
The film is a mostly faithful adaptation of the novel, taking place during the reign of Charles II in the mid-17th century, mostly in the Cornish region of England.Fontaine was under contract to independent producer to David O. Selznick, who produced only a few films each year. Typically, he loaned out his contract players and director Alfred Hitchcock (who had a contract with Selznick from 1940 to 1947) to other studios. In this case, Fontaine was loaned to Paramount for this lavish production. She later complained about her work with director Leisen and some of her costars. The film's budget of $3.6 million made it the most expensive production in Paramount history up to that time.Cast members Rathbone and Bruce were well known for appearing together as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively, in the Sherlock Holmes films by Universal Studios. Frenchman's Creek was their only on-screen collaboration besides the Holmes films.The film was released as an on demand DVD August 28, 2014 (Amazon); and has been shown on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies.Frenchman's Creek (novel)
Frenchman's Creek is a 1941 historical novel by Daphne du Maurier. Set in Cornwall during the reign of Charles II, it tells the story of a love affair between an impulsive English lady, Dona, Lady St. Columb, and a French pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubéry.Hungry Hill (film)
Hungry Hill is a 1947 British film directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Margaret Lockwood, Dennis Price and Cecil Parker with a screenplay by Terence Young and Daphne du Maurier, from the novel by Daphne du Maurier.Jamaica Inn (novel)
Jamaica Inn is a novel by the English writer Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1936. It was later made into a film, also called Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a period piece set in Cornwall in 1820. It was inspired by du Maurier's 1930 stay at the real Jamaica Inn, which still exists and is a pub in the middle of Bodmin Moor.
The plot follows a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the cargo.Mary Anne
Daphne du Maurier's novel Mary Anne (1954) is a fictionalised account of the real-life story of her great-grandmother, Mary Anne Clarke née Thompson (1776-1852).
Mary Anne Clarke from 1803 to 1808 was mistress of Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827).
He was "The Grand Old Duke of York" of the nursery rhyme, a son of King George III and brother of the later King George IV.My Cousin Rachel
My Cousin Rachel is a novel by British author Daphne du Maurier, published in 1951. Like the earlier Rebecca, it is a mystery-romance, set primarily on a large estate in Cornwall.
The story has its origins in a portrait of Rachel Carew at Antony House in Cornwall, which du Maurier saw and took as inspiration.Rebecca (1940 film)
Rebecca is a 1940 American romantic psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was Hitchcock's first American project, and his first film under contract with producer David O. Selznick. The screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, and adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan, were based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film stars Laurence Olivier as the brooding, aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the young woman who becomes his second wife, with Judith Anderson, George Sanders and Gladys Cooper in supporting roles. The film won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film is a gothic tale shot in black-and-white. Maxim de Winter's first wife Rebecca, who died before the events of the film, is never seen. Her reputation and recollections of her, however, are a constant presence in the lives of Maxim, his new wife and the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.
Rebecca won two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations. Olivier, Fontaine and Anderson also were Oscar-nominated for their respective roles as were Hitchcock and the screenwriters.Rebecca (novel)
Rebecca is a Gothic novel by English author Dame Daphne du Maurier. A best-seller, Rebecca sold 2,829,313 copies between its publication in 1938 and 1965, and the book has never gone out of print. The novel is remembered especially for the character Mrs Danvers, the fictional estate Manderley, and its opening line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."The Birds (story)
"The Birds" is a horror story by British writer Daphne du Maurier, first published in her 1952 collection The Apple Tree. It is the story of a farmhand, his family, and his community that are attacked by flocks of birds and seabirds in kamikaze fashion. The story is set in du Maurier's native Cornwall shortly after the end of the Second World War. By the end of the story it becomes clear that all of Britain is under aerial assault.
The story was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds, released in 1963, the same year that The Apple Tree was reprinted as The Birds and Other Stories. In 2009, Irish playwright Conor McPherson adapted the story for the stage at Dublin's Gate Theatre.The Birds and Other Stories
The Birds and Other Stories is a collection of stories by the British author Daphne du Maurier. It was originally published by Gollancz in the UK in 1952 as The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Several Long Stories, and was re-issued by Penguin in 1963 under the current title. In the US, an expanded version was published in 1953 under the title Kiss Me Again, Stranger: A Collection of Eight Stories, Long and Short by Doubleday including two additional stories, "The Split Second" and "No Motive".
The lead story in the collection is "The Birds" which was made into a film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock in 1963.The House on the Strand
The House on the Strand is a novel by Daphne du Maurier. First published in the UK in 1969 by Victor Gollancz, with a jacket illustration by her daughter, Flavia Tower,, the US edition was published by Doubleday.
Like many of du Maurier's novels, The House on the Strand has a supernatural element, exploring the ability to mentally travel back in time and experience historical events at first hand - but not to influence them. It has been called a Gothic tale, influenced by writers as diverse as Robert Louis Stevenson, Dante, and the psychologist Carl Jung, in which a sinister potion enables the central character to escape the constraints of his dreary married life by travelling back through time. The narrator agrees to test a drug that transports him back to 14th century Cornwall and becomes absorbed in the lives of people he meets there, to the extent that the two worlds he is living in start to merge.
It is set in and around Kilmarth, where Daphne du Maurier lived from 1967, near the village of Tywardreath, which in Cornish means "House on the Strand".The King's General
The King's General is a novel, published in 1946, by English author and playwright Daphne du Maurier.The Loving Spirit
The Loving Spirit was the first novel of Daphne du Maurier and was published in 1931 by William Heinemann. The book takes its name from a poem by Emily Brontë.
Daphne du Maurier began work on the book in October 1929 at Ferryside, the du Mauriers' holiday home in Bodinnick, Cornwall. Ferryside is close to the harbour town of Polruan and opposite Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall.The Parasites
The Parasites is a novel by Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1949.The Scapegoat (1959 film)
The Scapegoat is a 1959 crime film based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, and starring Alec Guinness, Nicole Maurey and Bette Davis.The Scapegoat (novel)
The Scapegoat is a 1957 novel by Daphne du Maurier. In 1959, it was made into a film of the same name, starring Sir Alec Guinness. It was also the basis of a film broadcast in 2012 starring Matthew Rhys and written and directed by Charles Sturridge.The Years Between (film)
The Years Between (1946) is a British film directed by Compton Bennett and starring Michael Redgrave, Valerie Hobson and Flora Robson in an adaptation of The Years Between by Daphne du Maurier. It was shot at the Riverside Studios.The Years Between (play)
The Years Between is a play by the English writer Daphne du Maurier, better known as a novelist and particularly as the author of Rebecca (which she had adapted for the London stage in 1940). This is one of two original plays that she wrote. The other is September Tide (1948).