Daphne du Maurier (dew MOR-ee-ay) was born in London, England, on May 13, 1907, the second daughter of Gerald and Muriel (Beaumont) du Maurier. Her father, Sir Gerald du Maurier, was a leading actor of his day, and her grandfather was George du Maurier, author of Trilby (1894), the story of a young girl mesmerized by a sinister Hungarian musician named Svengali. Du Maurier enjoyed a privileged childhood, surrounded by celebrities and protected from life’s harshness. She was instructed by a governess and at private schools until she was sixteen, when she was sent to a finishing school near Paris.
Soon after she returned to England, she developed a crush on an older cousin and then fell in love with film director Carol Reed, experiences that led to the writing of three novels that were moderately successful. Her breakthrough came with the publication of Jamaica Inn (1936), a thoroughly romantic historical novel inspired by her discovery of Cornwall, a rugged, windswept peninsula of southwestern England that was to be the setting for her most popular works. Her marriage in 1932, to Major Frederick A. M. Browning, and her subsequently becoming the mother of three children created a conflict between her duties as wife and mother and her passion for writing. It was a conflict she resolved by spending as much time as she could on her own in Cornwall.
Du Maurier moved to Cornwall permanently in 1943 when she leased Menabilly, a crumbling old mansion on the coast that she had already used as the setting for Rebecca (1938), her best and most famous novel. No sooner...
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