All Things Daphne

As readers of this blog will know, I've been having an unplanned Daphne du Maurier revival of my own but I've recently found out that others in the book blogosphere had the same idea. Cornflower is hosting a book read of My Cousin Rachel on May 22nd, so I'm saving my review of that book till then. Also Chris at book-a-rama  is hosting a Daphne Du Maurier Challenge running from April 2010 to May 2011 so do check out her blog for more details.

Daphne du Maurier is certainly one case where the author's life is just as fascinating as her books. On the surface, Daphne can be said to have led a charmed life. She was born in 1907 into a lively and artistic family. Her father was the actor/manager Sir Gerald du Maurier who also wrote the classic novel, Trilby. Her mother, Muriel Beaumont, was an actress. Daphne grew up in a large and happy London household where friends such as J.M.Barrie and Edgar Wallace visited often. She was only a teenager when her uncle, a magazine editor, published one of her stories and got her a literary agent.  In 1932 Daphne married Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Browning II, who was knighted for his service in World War II. They were married for thirty-three years and had three children. They lived in a fabulous house in Cornwall called Menabilly which was the inspiration for the Manderley house in Rebecca. Daphne du Maurier was made a dame in 1969 for her literary distinction. She died in 1989.

Though it does seem like she led a charmed life there is evidence that Daphne had an unhappy marriage where both parties were unfaithful. In 1947 Daphne fell in love with Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her American publisher, who remained her lifelong friend, She also had an affair with the actress Gertrude Lawrence. Her bisexuality was only disclosed after her death and is portrayed in the BBC film, Daphne. Interestingly enough, it was also recently revealed that she has a moratorium on her adolescent diaries. They can only be opened fifty years after her death. There's speculation that the diaries expose a young adolescent affair with a married man or maybe not. Kits, Daphne's son, believes that it's just filled with mundane stuff. "I think it's a tease," he said. "She loved mystery." You can read more about this at a Times Online article here.

For those interested, I also found a interesting article about how she wrote Rebecca (link here)  at the Telegraph website. Below are some pictures of Daphne du Maurier.

Daphne at the staircase at her beloved home, Menabilly which was the basis for the Manderley house in Rebecca

Daphne with her son Kits

Daphne with her husband and three children

Daphne writing at her desk in 1944 at Menabilly, the house in Cornwall which was made famous by her 1938 masterpiece Rebecca


  1. She has a stern face doesn't she? Belied by her writing. I love that picture of the children in buttoned up coats with muddy wellingtons. I must revisit her. xoxo

  2. What a fascinating post - I love the pictures. I was a bit disappointed by the BBC film, but I think I am often disappointed by biopics. One of my dreams is to go and visit where she lived in South Cornwall.

  3. I love this post! She is so fascinating to me too. I just picked up Captivated from the library. I hope to learn more about her.

  4. Great post. I quite liked that movie but then again I saw it before I read the book about J.M. Barrie and the du Mauriers. I think she's quite gorgeous.

  5. This is brilliant! I was obsessed with Daphne du Maurier when I was about 14 and read all her books over and over but I never knew anything about her life. I'm going to have to find a copy of the BBC film.
    Tessa - I agree. I particularly love the picture of her in the baggy trousers and waistcoat; she's got style.
    Thanks for this Mrs B! Fascinating stuff.

  6. I haven't read her yet but do want to. I've had Rebecca on the TBR for a couple of years, but maybe will join in for Cornflower's book group for My Cousin Rachel.

    Bummer about her diaries.. 50 years after her death is.. 30 years from now? :(

  7. Lovely words and pictures. 1940's fashions are so stylish. I don't love all her novels, though. Couldn't get into Frenchman's Creek and Jamaica Inn was way too melodramatic. Loved Rebeccan and My Cousin Rachel is my absolute favourite Du Maurier.

  8. Excellent post! Last year I read Myself When Young, her memoir about her childhood and youth, and it was absolutely fascinating, partially because it captured the early twentieth-century so well. Of course, I wonder what she wasn't telling us....


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