Daphne du Maurier Additional Biography


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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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In her fiction, Daphne du Maurier presents a world in which appearances are deceiving, events defy explanation, and essential mysteries go unresolved. Her superb storytelling skills have blinded critics to the fact that the truly frightening element in her fiction is not the superficial mystery but the menace just below the surface. Deception, illusion, and uncertainty are the furies that torment her characters. There is a rebel beneath du Maurier’s romanticism.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Daphne du Maurier (dew MOHR-ee-ay), born in London in 1907, came from a family deeply involved in the arts. Her grandfather, novelist and artist George du Maurier, wrote the well-known novel Trilby (1894). Her parents were both of the theater; her father, Sir Gerald, was a notable actor and manager.{$S[A]Maurier, Daphne du;Du Maurier, Daphne}{$S[A]Browning, Lady Daphne;Du Maurier, Daphne}

The Loving Spirit, du Maurier’s first novel, was published in 1931. It was followed by I’ll Never Be Young Again and The Progress of Julius. Du Maurier’s initial success in the United States was achieved with a series of historical cloak-and-dagger romances, many of which were related from the viewpoint of the belabored heroine. The best remembered of these novels is probably The King’s General. A prolific and compelling storyteller, du Maurier’s other works in this genre include Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, Hungry Hill, and Mary Anne. She is also the author of the plays The Years Between and September Tide; a biography of her father, Gerald: A Portrait; and The du Mauriers, a semifictional account of her ancestors. Her other works include Happy Christmas and The Parasites.

Rebecca is du Maurier’s best-known work, and it has been widely imitated since its publication in 1938. Its success may be credited to the studied blending of a gothic atmosphere of mystery with the more subtle psychological suspense of a modern thriller. Du Maurier employed this formula in such works as My Cousin Rachel, The Scapegoat, and the story “Kiss Me Again, Stranger.” Film adaptations of du Maurier’s work were enthusiastically received. Jamaica Inn was filmed in 1939, and in 1940, Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, won the Academy Award for best motion picture of the year.