Daphne Du Maurier was an English author and playwright. She was born on the 13th May 1907 in London. She came from a very talented and creative family. Both her mother and father were actors, her uncle was a magazine editor, and her grandfather was a writer.
Her very first novel, “The Loving Spirit”, was published in 1931.
When she was a little girl, Du Maurier rubbed shoulders with many famous theatre actors, contacts which arose from her father’s own involvement in the business. One of those prominent actors was Tallulah Bankhead, whom Du Maurier described as the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.
Also known as “Lady Browning”, Daphne Du Maurier has been classed as both a romantic novelist and a thriller writer, whose stories have “paranormal and moody” overtones. Many of her stories have been adapted into films, including the novels “Rebecca”, “Jamaica Inn” and “My Cousin Rachel”. In addition, her short stories “The Birds” and “Don’t Look Now” have been made into movies.
Du Maurier loathed being described as a “romantic” novelist, especially considering the fact that her novels very rarely have a happy ending, not to mention their inclusion of shadows of the supernatural. In this dark style, her books were very similar to the sensation novels of Wilkie Collins, an author for whom she held much admiration. Du Maurier always liked her novels to haunt her readers beyond their endings.
Du Maurier spent a large part of her life in Cornwall, where most of her novels were set. As she grew more and more famous, so her tendency towards a more reclusive lifestyle grew.
Her novel “Rebecca” (1938) was one of Du Maurier’s most successful works, selling around 3 million copies between 1938 and 1965. The novel has always been in print, and has been adapted for both stage and screen several times.
Du Maurier wed Major Frederick “Boy” Browning in 1932, to whom she bore three children: Tessa, Flavia and Christian.
In 2011, a collection of Du Maurier’s forgotten short stories, written when was 21, was discovered. All the stories had a mature style, and some were considered way ahead of their time, in particular “The Doll”.
Daphne Du Maurier died on 19th April 1989, aged 81, at her home in Cornwall. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered off the cliffs at Fowey, Kilmarth, Cornwall.
To honour her memory, The Daphne Du Maurier Festival of Arts and Literature has been held at Fowey, Cornwall annually since 1997.
By Alan Toner