Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. Would you like to guest blog one of the world’s outstanding women? Let me hear from you. To read previous posts in this segment, there is a menu at the top of my site.
Today an outstanding woman from the world of literature. Meet Daphne Du Maurier.
Daphne Du Maurier
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning (13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989) was a Cornish author and playwright.
Daphne du Maurier was born in London on May 13, 1907. She was the second of three daughters. Her parents were the prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont.
Muriel Beaumont with, from left, Jeanne, Angela and Daphne Right: Gerald du Mauri
Her grandfather was the author and Punch cartoonist George du Maurier, who created the character of Svengali in the novel Trilby.
George du Maurier
George du Maurier cartoons from Punch
George du Maurier cartoons from Punch
These connections helped her in establishing her literary career, and du Maurier published some of her early work in Beaumont’s Bystander magazine. Her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published in 1931.
Daphne du Maurier first novel, The Loving Spirit 1931
Regarded as her masterpiece, the novel Rebecca was published in 1938. In the US, the novel was awarded the National Book Award for favorite novel of 1938. In the UK, it was listed at number 14 of the nation’s best loved novel on the BBC survey, the Big Read. Has there ever been a more scarier woman in a novel, then Mrs. Danvers? She gets my vote.
Many of her novels, including Rebecca have been adapted for stage and screen. Others that have been adapted were Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, Hungry Hill and My Cousin Rachel. In 1963, one of her short stories became the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds.
In later years, she turned her craft to non-fiction including several biographies. Among these were of her own ancestry including Gerald about her father. In addition she wrote a few plays.
Some of du Maurier’s works have had some accusations of plagiarism:
- When Rebecca was published in Brazil, there was an accusation that the 1934 book, A Sucessora by Brazilian writer Carolina Nabuco had the same main plot and sections with the exact dialogue. Du Maurier and her publishers denied the claim, pointing out that the plot was quite common. Du Maurier was accused of having access to the Sucessora when it was sent to France before it was published.
- The short story, The Birds was accused of being plagiarized from a novel by Frank Baker. Du Maurier had been working as a reader for Baker’s publisher, Peter Davies.
- There are similarities between her 1959 short story Ganymede (in the anthology The Breaking Point) and the theme of Thomas Mann’s semi-autobiographical 1912 novella Death in Venice.
She married Major (later Lieutenant-General) Frederick “Boy” Browning in 1932, with whom she had three children:
Daphne du Maurier and children at Menabilly the inspiration for Manderley
- Tessa (b. 1933) married Major Peter de Zulueta, whom she divorced; she later married David Montgomery, 2nd Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1970.
- Flavia (b. 1937) married Captain Alastair Tower, whom she divorced, before marrying General Sir Peter Leng.
- Christian (b. 1940) became a photographer and film-maker. He married Olive White, who was Miss Ireland 1962.
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 at Kilmarth.
To read more about her and for a listing of her literary works, there is a website dedicated to her HERE