Daphne Du Maurier Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Daphne du Maurier was born May 13, 1907, in London, England. Her grandfather, George du Maurier, wrote the popular novel Trilby (1894). Her parents, Gerald and Muriel du Maurier, were British actors. Du Maurier combined both her grandfather's writing skill and her parents' flair for drama in her own highly dramatic fiction. The author of sixteen novels and many short stories, as well as plays, nonfiction, and poetry, du Maurier's popular acclaim began with her first novel, The Loving Spirit, published in 1931. Sir Frederick Browning liked The Loving Spirit so much that he sought out the young author, and they married shortly after meeting. Du Maurier lived in Menabilly, which she discovered while walking in Cornwall and which became the prototype for Manderley, the setting for Rebecca. Reprinted more than forty times, Rebecca is du Maurier's most famous novel. Du Maurier died April 19, 1989, in Par, Cornwall, England.

Du Maurier specialized in Gothic romance and fantasy. Besides Rebecca, her other popular novels include Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel. Hollywood has added to du Maurier's reputation. Two of Alfred Hitchcock's classic films, Rebecca (1940) and The Birds (1963), are adaptations of du Maurier's fiction. Six of her novels and stories have made the journey to the screen: Jamaica Inn (1939) with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara; Frenchman's Creek (1944) with Joan Fontaine and Basil Rathbone; Hungry Hill (1947) with Margaret Lockwood; My Cousin Rachel (1952) with Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland; The Scapegoat (1959) with Alec Guinness and Bette Davis; and Don't Look Now (1973) with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland and directed by Nicholas Roeg.

Most critics agree that du Maurier had a special ability to create tantalizing, suspenseful plots which makes her books difficult to put down. Her fiction shows melodrama at its best—straining but not breaking the reader's credulity. Rebecca, which has received the most critical acclaim, won the National Book Award in 1938. Some critics find My Cousin Rachel to be a successfully haunting tale similar to Rebecca, while others find the plot unnecessarily long and the writing uneven.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger (1952), a collection of stories that includes "The Birds," has been admired for its suspenseful tales of psychological horror and fantasy. Don't Look Now (1971), another collection of short stories, has been praised for its suspenseful plots and well-developed characterizations. In 1969, du Maurier was granted the title of Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire, in recognition of her literary achievements.


(Novels for Students)

Daphne du Maurier was born in London, on May 13, 1907. Her grandfather was artist and novelist George du Maurier, who drew cartoons for the satiric humor magazine Punch and illustrated books, including a few of Henry James' novels; his own novel Trilby included a mystic character named Svengali, which has since become a common word in the English language. Her father was Sir Gerald du Maurier, one of the most famous actors on the English stage in the 1910s and 1920s, who first performed the role of Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Daphne, along with her sisters, was educated at home. She began publishing short stories in 1928, with the help of her uncle, who was a magazine editor, and her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published in 1931. The following year, she married Major-General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague Browning II. Literary success came quickly. In 1936, she achieved international success with Jamaica Inn, a tale of smuggling along the Cornish coast. It was followed in 1938 by Rebecca, which became a huge bestseller. Alfred Hitchcock filmed both novels in 1939 and 1940, respectively. Hitchcock also made one of his best-known films, 1963's The Birds, from a 1952 du Maurier short story.

For more than twenty-five years, du Maurier lived at Menabilly, a country estate that was the inspiration for Manderley. Her marriage to Browning was a friendly one but not a loving one, and she kept herself...

(The entire section is 1,743 words.)